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Rules on Neutrality, 3 August 1793

Rules on Neutrality

1.1 The original arming and equipping of vessels in the ports of the United States by any of the belligerent parties, for military service offensive or defensive, is deemed unlawful.

2. Equipments of merchant vessels2 by either of the belligerent parties in the ports of the United States, purely for the accommodation of them as such, is deemed lawful.

3. Equipments in the ports of the United States3 of vessels of war in the immediate4 service of the Government of any of the belligerent parties, which if done to other vessels would be of a5 doubtful nature, as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful; except those which shall have made prize of the subjects, people, or property of France coming with their prizes into the Ports of the United States pursuant to the seventeenth Article of our Treaty of Amity and commerce with France.

4. Equipments in the Ports of the united States,6 by any of the parties at war with France,7 of vessels fitted for Merchandize and war, whether with or without Commissions, which are doubtful in their nature as being applicable either to commerce or war, are deemed lawful; except those which shall have made prize, &c.8

5. Equipments9 of any of the vessels of France, in the Ports of the United States, which are doubtful in their nature, as being applicable to commerce or war, are deemed lawful.

6. Equipments of every kind in the Ports of the United States, of privateers of the Powers at war with France, are deemed unlawful.

7. Equipments10 of vessels in the Ports of the United States, which are of a nature solely adapted to war,11 are deemed unlawful; except those stranded or12 wrecked, as mentioned in the eighteenth Article of our Treaty with France, the sixteenth of our Treaty with the United Netherlands, the ninth of our Treaty with Prussia, and except those13 mentioned in the nineteenth Article of our Treaty with France, the seventeenth of our Treaty with the United Netherlands, the eighteenth of our Treaty with Prussia.

8. Vessels of either of the parties not armed, or armed previous to their coming into the ports of the United States, which shall not have infringed any of the foregoing rules, may lawfully engage or inlist therein14 their own Subjects or15 Citizens, not being inhabitants of the United States; except privateers of the Powers at War with France, and except those vessels which shall have made prize, &c.16

August 3. 1793

The foregoing rules having been considered by us at several meetings, and being now unanimously approved, they are submitted to the President of the United States.

Th: Jefferson
Alexander Hamilton
H. Knox
Edm: Randolph

MS (DLC: Washington Papers); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., signed by TJ, Hamilton, Knox, and Randolph, with date and final paragraph in Randolph’s hand; endorsed by Tobias Lear. PrC (DLC); undated and unsigned; lacks final paragraph. Dft (DLC: TJ Papers, 91: 15625); undated; in Hamilton’s hand, with some revisions subsequently made by him in a darker ink and a marginal note by Randolph (see note 6 below), only the most important alterations being recorded below. PrC of Tr (DLC: Washington Papers); in Taylor’s hand. Recorded in SJPL under 1 Aug. 1793: “Hamilton’s rough draught of rules.—fair copy.”

Designed to address problems that had arisen at various times after the issuance of the Proclamation of Neutrality, these rules emerged from a series of Cabinet meetings that began on 29 July 1793. On that day the Cabinet approved five of six general neutrality rules proposed by Edmund Randolph and Alexander Hamilton, and on the following day it agreed in principle to a proposal by TJ to include mention of the treaty provisions that formed exceptions to them (Notes of Cabinet Meeting on Neutrality, 29, 30 July 1793). On the basis of these decisions, Hamilton produced a draft consisting of eight rules that he later amended, partly in response to suggestions made by members of the Cabinet. On instructions from the President, the Cabinet met this day and approved a text of the rules made from Hamilton’s revised draft by George Taylor, Jr., TJ’s chief clerk, to which Randolph added a final paragraph. TJ submitted the signed document to the President, who approved it on 4 Aug. 1793. Hamilton enclosed the rules in a circular letter to United States customs collectors dated 4 Aug. 1793, but not before it was approved by the Cabinet, including one important modification suggested by TJ, and received the President’s sanction on 9 Aug. 1793 (Tr in DLC; entirely in a clerk’s hand, unsigned, with clerk’s note in margin recording suggestions made by TJ; at foot of text in clerk’s hand: “Approved H Knox” and “approved with the alteration of armed vessel for Privateer Th: Jefferson”; recorded in SJPL; variant text printed in Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xv, 178–81, alterations made in response to TJ’s suggestion being described on 179n, and another modification, in a different text, agreed to and signed by Knox, TJ, and Randolph being recorded on 180n). Washington also approved that same day a circular letter of 7 Aug. 1793 from Knox to the state governors informing them of the rules (Notes of Cabinet Meeting on Neutrality, 3 Aug. 1793; Washington to TJ, 4 Aug. 1793; and Washington, Journal description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed., The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797, Charlottesville, 1981 description ends , 212, 213, 216,218n).

1Dft begins in Hamilton’s hand: “At a Meeting of the Secretary of State The Secretary of the Treasury The Secretary at War and the Attorney General at the The following rules were agreed to.”

2Remainder of clause interlined by Hamilton in Dft.

3Preceding seven words interlined by Hamilton in Dft.

4Word interlined by Hamilton in Dft.

5Preceding nine words interlined in a darker ink by Hamilton in Dft in place of “are of a.”

6In Dft Hamilton originally wrote the next two clauses as “of vessels armed for Merchandize and War” before revising the passage as above.

7Preceding four words interlined in Dft by Hamilton in a darker ink after revising the passage described in the preceding note. He made this change in response to a note Edmund Randolph wrote in the margin next to this rule: “qu: if not better to say something here to distinguish vessels of France; altho’ taken up in the next article.”

8In Dft Hamilton here canceled his original fifth rule, which he later used in slightly variant form as rule 6.

9Remainder of clause interlined by Hamilton in Dft.

10“All” canceled by Hamilton with darker ink before this word in Dft.

11Preceding word altered by Hamilton in Dft from “warlike purposes.”

12Word interlined by Hamilton in a darker ink in Dft in place of “and.”

13In Dft Hamilton here canceled with darker ink “putting into the Ports of the UStates through stress of weather pursuit of pirates or [enemies] or other urgent necessity or accident as.”

14Word interlined by Hamilton in Dft.

15Preceding two words interlined by Hamilton in a darker ink in Dft.

16On a small sheet filed with the Dft, Hamilton wrote “The following rules were proposed but not agreed to.” These rules have not been identified.

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