George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Citizens of Richmond, Virginia, 17 August 1793

From the Citizens of Richmond, Virginia

Richmond August 17th 1793


Impress’d with a full conviction of the wisdom of your administration in general, and especially approving that system of conduct which you have adopted, and steadily observed towards the belligerent powers of Europe, we, the inhabitants of Richmond and its vicinity in the Commonwealth of Virginia, are happy in an opportunity of conveying to you these our genuine sentiments.1

When propitious Heaven had crown’d with victory the efforts of your country and yourself, while rejoicing America enumerated the blessings to be derived from so important a revolution, it was not reckon’d among the least of them, that, in future, the people of this favor’d land might in peace pursue their own happiness, tho’ war and violence shou’d desolate the European world, or drench it in human blood. So too, when the good genius of America had devis’d that change in our government, which her wisdom has since adopted, it was held an argument of some weight against the necessity of this change, and all in opposition to it with one voice declar’d, that situated as this country is, no madness or folly cou’d ever be so supreme as to involve us again in European contests. Nor was this opinion, so uniform and universal, in favor of peace, deriv’d from any other source than a knowledge of the real situation, and a conviction of the real interests of America. It is impossible for the eye of cool and temperate reason to survey these United States without perceiving, that, however dreadful the calamities of war may be to other nations, they are still more dreadful to us, and however important the benefits of peace to others, to us it must be still more beneficial.

From those whose province it is to make war, we expect every effort to avoid it consistent with the honor interest and good-faith of America; from you, Sir, to whom is assigned the important task of “taking care that the laws be faithfully executed”2 we have already experienc’d the most active and watchful attention to our dearest interests.

Ever since the period when a just respect for the voice of your country induc’d you to abandon the retirement you lov’d, for that high station which your fellow citizens unanimously call’d you, your conduct has been uniformly calculated to promote their happiness and welfare. And in no instance has this been more remarkable, or your vigilant attention to the duties of your office more clearly discover’d than in your proclamation respecting the neutrality of the United States. As genuine Americans, with no other interest at heart but that of our country, unbiass’d by foreign influence which history informs us has been the bane of more than one Republic, our minds are open to a due sense of the propriety, justice, and wisdom of this measure, and we cannot refrain from expressing our pleasure at its adoption.

We recollect too well the calamities of war, not to use our best endeavours to restrain any wicked citizen, if such indeed can be found among us, who, disregarding his own duty and the happiness of the United States, in violation of the law of the land and the wish of the people, shall dare to gratify his paltry passions at the risk of his countrys welfare, perhaps of her existence.

We pray Heaven to manifest its providential care of these States by prolonging to them the blessing of your administration; And may the pure spirit of it continue to animate the government of America through a succession of ages.3 Signed by desire and on behalf of the Meeting,

G. Wythe.

Test., Aw Dunscomb Secy4


1The citizens of Richmond met at the Capitol on 17 Aug., “agreeable to notification.” Following a reading of GW’s Neutrality Proclamation of 22 April 1793, John Marshall proposed the following three resolutions: “1st. That it is in the interest and duty of these United States to confirm to their several subsisting treaties and maintain a strict neutrality … 2dly. That our illustrious fellow citizen, GEORGE WASHINGTON … has given an additional proof [of] his watchful attention to his own duty and the welfare of his country by his Proclamation … 3dly. That it is our duty as well as our interest, to conduct ourselves conformably to the principals expressed in the said Proclamation, and to use our endeavours to prevent any infringement of them by others.” After these resolutions were discussed and approved unanimously, John Marshall, C. Braxton, A. Ronald, J. McClurg, A. Campbell, and J. Steele were designated to draw up an address, which was unanimously approved. Three more resolutions were offered: “1st. That the constitution of our country has provided a proper and adequate mode of communication between these United States and foreign nations or their ministers … 2dly. That if at any time this constitutional authority should be abused, and the Supreme Executive … should misconstrue treaties, violate the laws or oppose the sense of the Union, there exists, among the people of America without the intervention of Foreign ministers, discernment to detect the abuse, and ability to correct the mischief. 3dly. That any communication of foreign Ministers on national subjects, with the citizens of these United States or any of them otherwise than through the constituted authority, any interference of a foreign minister with our internal government or administration, any intriguing of a foreign minister with the political parties of this country, would violate the laws and usages of nations, would be a high indignity to the government and people of America, and would be a great and just cause of alarm, as it would be at once a dangerous introduction of foreign influence, and might, too probably, lead to the introduction of foreign gold and foreign armies, with their fatal consequences, dismemberment and partition” (Virginia Chronicle and, Norfolk & Portsmouth General Advertiser [Norfolk], 24 Aug. 1793).

2For this presidential responsibility, see Article II, section 3 of the Constitution.

3GW enclosed this address in a letter to Alexander Hamilton of 27 Aug. and asked him to draft an answer. For GW’s reply, see his address to the Citizens of Richmond, c.28 Aug. 1793.

4Andrew Dunscomb was elected mayor of Richmond, Va., in 1795.

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