George Washington Papers

Enclosure: Resolutions from Williamsburg, Virginia, Citizens, 11 September 1793


Resolutions from Williamsburg, Virginia, Citizens

[11 September 1793]

At a Meeting of the Citizens of Williamsburg convened at the Courthouse of the said City on Wednesday the Eleventh day of September 1793.

Resolved that William Russell be appointed Clerk to the meeting.1

Resolved that the Honorable Joseph Prentis be appointed President of the meeting.

Resolved that a Committee be appointed to take into consideration the Proclamation of the President of the United States recommending a strict Neutrality towards the several European powers now at War. And a Committee was appointed consisting of The Reverend John Bracken John C. Byrd, Benjamin C. Waller, Samuel Griffin, Robert H. Waller, James Southall, Robert Greenhow, and Charles Hunt esquires, who retired and after some time Mr Bracken from the said Committee Reported that they had come to several Resolutions which being read were agreed to and are as follows to wit,2

Resolved that the conduct of the President of the United States hath been uniformly marked with that disinterested and unwearied attention to the duties of his Office and that prudent and persevering zeal for the welfare and liberties of his Country which give additional dignity and lustre to his former merits, and justly demands the approbation and gratitude of his fellow Citizens.

Resolved that the late Proclamation of the President recommending the observance of a strict Neutrality by the Citizens of the United States towards the several European powers now at War was a prudent and wise measure, and furnishes a further proof of his vigilant attention to the interests of our Country.3

Resolved that we consider the original Arming and fitting out Privateers within any of the Ports of the United States as inconsistent with that Neutrality which we are bound to observe, and that we particularly consider it as a violation of duty in any Citizen to be concerned in or enter on board such Privateers.

Resolved that the Executive is the Organ or medium through which Foreign Ministers ought to hold any communication of a publick nature with these United States; and that every attempt of any such Foreign Minister by himself or his Agents directly or indirectly to interfere in the concerns of the said States, or to prosecute the business on which he may be appointed to negotiate through any other medium, would be a daring insult on the sovereignty of the Union and call forth the warmest resentment and indignation of every good Citizen.4

Resolved that the several late publications which were intended to censure the conduct, or to asperse the reputation of our worthy fellow Citizen the President of thee United States, we consider as illiberal, and deserving our utmost contempt and detestation.5

Resolved that it is the duty of the constituted authorities of these United States, to observe with the most punctual fidelity, all their public engagements to foreign Powers, and particularly towards France, their generous Ally, whose real and disinterested friendship they have so often, and so effectually experienced.

Resolved that the President of this meeting be requested to transmit to the President of the United States, a Copy of the foregoing Resolutions.6 Signed by Order of the Meeting

Joseph Prentis Pr.

Will: Russell Clerk

D, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. These resolutions were printed in the Virginia Gazette, and General Advertiser (Richmond), 25 September.

1William Russell (d. 1812) served as clerk of the James City County Court and as clerk of the Williamsburg General Court.

2John Bracken (c.1747–1818), rector of Bruton Parish in Williamsburg from 1773 to 1818, served on the faculty of the grammar school at William and Mary College from 1775 to 1779 and was again appointed to the faculty when the grammar school was revived in 1792. He became president of the college in 1812 and served in that position until 1814. He also served during the 1790s as a mayor of Williamsburg. Williamsburg lawyer Samuel Griffin (1746–1810) served as a Virginia representative to Congress, 1789–95. Charles Hunt (c.1753–1794) was a Williamsburg merchant. Benjamin Carter Waller (1757–1820) and Robert Hall Waller (b. 1764) were sons of Judge Benjamin Waller (1716–1786). Benjamin Carter Waller represented York County in the 1792 session of the Virginia House and later represented Williamsburg for two sessions, 1799–1801. Robert Hall Waller was county clerk for York and James City counties. James Southall was probably James Barrett Southall (1726–1801), proprietor of the Raleigh Tavern at Williamsburg. Robert Greenhow (1761–1840) was a Williamsburg merchant who represented James City County in two sessions of the Virginia House, 1806–8. He later moved to Richmond, where he served for a time as mayor during the War of 1812. John C. Byrd was probably John Carter Byrd (b. 1751), son of William Byrd III of Westover.

3GW’s Neutrality Proclamation was dated 22 April.

4For the charge that French minister Edmond Genet had threatened to appeal some of GW’s decisions to the American people, see Genet to GW, 13 Aug., and n.4.

5While GW received criticism in a number of publications, the most well-known and damning critique of the president and his neutrality policy appeared under the pseudonym “Veritas” in the National Gazette (Philadelphia) on 1, 5, 8, and 12 June (three letters to GW, dated 30 May, 3 June, and 6 June, and an essay complaining of the “idolatry” of those “sycophants” who would attempt to silence criticism). Throughout the summer, the National Gazette, in particular, published other letters criticizing GW or defending Genet and denouncing his accusers (see, for example, “A CITIZEN” to GW, 4 July, and “AN AMERICAN” to GW, 14 Aug.).

6GW replied to these resolutions in a letter to Prentis of 23 September.

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