Thomas Jefferson Papers

Enclosure: Questions on Neutrality and the Alliance with France, 18 April 1793

Questions on Neutrality and the
Alliance with France

Question I. Shall a proclamation issue for the purpose of preventing interferences of the Citizens of the United States in the War between France and Great Britain &ca.? Shall it contain a declaration of Neutrality or not? What shall it contain?
Question II. Shall a Minister from the Republic of France be received?
Question III. If received shall it be absolutely or with qualifications—and if with qualifications, of what kind?
Question IV. Are the United States obliged by good faith to consider the Treaties heretofore made with France as applying to the present situation of the parties. May they either renounce them, or hold them suspended ‘till the Government of France shall be established.
Question V. If they have the right is it expedient to do either—and which?
Question VI. If they have an option—would it be a breach of Neutrality to consider the Treaties still in operation?
Question VII. If the Treaties are to be considered as now in operation, is the Guarantee in the Treaty of Alliance applicable to a defensive war only, or to War either offensive or defensive?
VIII. Does the War in which France is engaged appear to be offensive or defensive on her part?—or of a mixed and equivocal character?
IX. If of a mixed and equivocal character does the Guarantee in any event apply to such a War?
X. What is the effect of a Guarantee such as that to be found in the Treaty of Alliance between the United States and France?
XI. Does any Article in either of the Treaties prevent Ships of War, other than Privateers, of the Powers opposed to France, from coming into the Ports of the United States to act as Convoys to their own Merchantmen?—or does it lay any other restraints upon them more than would apply to the Ships of War of France?
Question XII. Should the future Regent of France send a minister to the United States ought he to be received?
XIII. Is it necessary or advisable to call together the two Houses of Congress with a view to the present posture of European Affairs? If it is, what should be the particular objects of such a call?

Philada. April 18th. 1793.

Go: Washington

MS (DLC); entirely in Washington’s hand. PrC (DLC: Washington Papers); endorsed by Tobias Lear. FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, SDC). Tr (AMAE: CPEU, xxxvii); in French; at foot of text: “pour traduction fidelle, Signé P. A. Adet.” For the provenance in 1796 of the French Trs of this document and the accompanying circular letter, see Turner, CFM description begins Frederick Jackson Turner, “Correspondence of French Ministers, 1791–1797,” American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1903, II description ends , 815.

TJ immediately detected the fine hand of Alexander Hamilton behind these questions, and the weight of the evidence generally supports his suspicion of Hamiltonian authorship. On 9 Apr. 1793, shortly after the arrival in Philadelphia of reliable news of the French declaration of war on Great Britain, Hamilton wrote two letters to Chief Justice John Jay in New York about measures necessary for preserving American neutrality in this epochal conflict. In them Hamilton touched upon the points raised in questions 1–6 and 12 above, often in almost the same language as that employed by the President, and two days later Jay even sent him a draft declaration of neutrality, though it does not seem to have had any direct bearing on the one issued by the President on 22 Apr. 1793. Moreover, Attorney General Randolph subsequently informed TJ that on the day before Washington transmitted these questions to the Cabinet (and presumably prior to Washington’s return to Philadelphia late that day from a visit to Mount Vernon) Hamilton had discussed with him “the whole chain of reasoning of which these questions are the skeleton.” Randolph deduced from this that Hamilton was the author of the questions, a judgment in which TJ concurred on the basis of their literary style and implied reservations about the French alliance (Notes on Relations with France, 6 May 1793; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xiv, 297–300, 307–10). Although it now seems indisputable that Hamilton inspired the form and content of the President’s queries on neutrality, especially in view of the complete lack of evidence of similar advance preparations on the part of other Cabinet members, it is still impossible to determine whether he did so in conversation with Washington or by actually providing him with a now missing draft of the questions (Thomas, Neutrality description begins Charles M. Thomas, American Neutrality in 1793: A Study in Cabinet Government, New York, 1931. description ends , 26–30, 41–50; Freeman, Washington description begins Douglas Southall Freeman, George Washington, New York, 1948–57, 7 vols.; 7th volume by J. A. Carroll and M. W. Ashworth description ends , vii, 43–7). See also the following document.

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