George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Thomas Jefferson, 12 April 1793

To Thomas Jefferson

Mount Vernon April 12th 1793.

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 7th instant was brought to me by the last Post. War having actually commenced between France and Great Britain, it behoves the Government of this Country to use every means in it’s power to prevent the citizens thereof from embroiling us with either of those powers, by endeavouring to maintain a strict neutrality. I therefore require that you will give the subject mature consideration, that such measures as shall be deemed most likely to effect this desirable purpose may be adopted1 without delay; for I have understood that vessels are already designated as Privateers, & preparing accordingly.

Such other measures as may be necessary for us to pursue against2 events which it may not be in our Power to avoid or controul you will also think of, and lay them before me at my arrival in Philadelphia, for which place I shall set out Tomorrow; but will leave it to the advices which I may receive to night by the Post, to determine whether it is to be by the most direct Rout, or by the one I proposed to have come—that is, by Reading, the Canals between the Rivers of Pennsylvania, Harrisburgh, Carlisle &ca.3 With very great esteem & regard I am, Dear Sir, Your mo: humble Servant

Go: Washington

LS, in Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr.’s writing, DLC: Jefferson Papers; ADfS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters; LB, DNA: RG 59, George Washington’s Correspondence with His Secretaries of State; LB (photocopy), DLC:GW.

1In the draft this phrase reads, “most likely to effect us may be point.” GW then crossed out “us” and “point” and inserted “this desirable purpose” at the appropriate place above the line.

2On the draft GW first wrote “take for”; he then struck these words and inserted “pursue against” above the line.

3On this date GW sent a similar request to Alexander Hamilton. GW arrived in Philadelphia on 17 April (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 107). On 18 April the president sent to the cabinet a list of questions regarding the maintenance of U.S. neutrality. Although cabinet members differed over the details, they agreed to adopt a policy of neutrality (Minutes of a Cabinet Meeting, 19 April, Neutrality Proclamation, 22 April, Jefferson to GW, 28 April, Hamilton and Henry Knox to GW, 2 May, Edmund Randolph to GW, 6 May). For GW’s proposed alternate route, see GW to Tobias Lear, 8 April, and note 6.

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