George Washington Papers

To George Washington from the Citizens of Norfolk, Virginia, 31 August 1793

From the Citizens of Norfolk, Virginia

[31 August 1793]

At a respectable meeting of the Citizens of the Borough of Norfolk, convened at the Town Hall on the 31st of Augt agreeably to notification, for the purpose of taking under their consideration the late Proclamation of the President of the United States.1

Robert Taylor Esqr. Mayor was called to the Chair, & John Nivison Esqr. was appointed Secretary to the meeting.2

The proclamation being read, the following Resolutions were proposed, debated and unanimously agreed to.

  • 1st That the blessings which peace & tranquility have afforded the United States, have been so sensibly enjoyed under the auspices of our happy constitution, & the present wise and virtuous administration; that a continuance thereof ought to be anxiously desired by all good Citizens, in as much as their wellfare, and happiness cannot fail being promoted thereby.
  • 2nd That the honor of the United States, as well as their interest and duty, require the strictest observance of their national compacts. that an interference on their part, between the European powers now at war,3 otherwise than as required by those engagements, would have an evident tendency to involve them therein, & consequently materially to affect their political ease & prosperity.
  • 3rd That for the preservation of the foregoing interesting and important considerations, the regard and attention of our illustrious Citizen the President, to the true interests of his fellow Citizens and the happiness of our Country have been wisely manifested by his Proclamation enjoining “a strict neutrality on the part of the United States towards the belligerent powers, according to the modern usage of nations.” that the expediency & policy of the measure thus adopted by Him, have obtained our warmest approbation & shall meet on our part the most uniform and steady support; considering it as a further testimony of that unabating zeal & esteem for our common benefit & promotion, & of the exertion of those talents & virtues, which have been so often and so eminently displayed by Him, in the most perilous & important situations.
  • 4th That the constitution of the United States having provided adequate authority to communicate with foreign Nations, & to negociate with their Ministers on all subjects of national concern, a deviation by any such Ministers from the regular mode of communication thus constituted, is offensive to the dignity of our Nation.4

Resolved that the Chairman be requested to transmit a copy of the forgoing resolutions attested by the Secretary, to the President of the United States.5

signed Robert Taylor Chairman
a Copy Test. John Nivison Secry

DS, in John Nivison’s writing, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW.

1GW issued the Neutrality Proclamation on 22 April 1793.

2Robert Taylor (1749–1826) was currently serving the last of three terms as mayor (1784, 1789, and April 1793–April 1794). In 1801 he was president of a bank at 7 Main Street in Norfolk. He should not be confused with Robert B. Taylor, an attorney and notary public at 134 Main Street. Attorney John Nivison (1760–1820), who married Sarah Stratton (1760–1830) in 1781, was an attorney and notary public at 4 Main Street in 1801 (Charles Heath Simmons, Simmon’s Norfolk Directory [Norfolk: Augustus C. Jordan, 1801). Nivison, along with GW, was among the original share holders in the Dismal Swamp Company.

3France was currently at war with Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Spain.

4Article II, section 3, of the U.S. Constitution states that the president “shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers.” The French minister Edmond Genet had apparently threatened to circumvent GW’s authority in foreign affairs by appealing to the general populace (Memorandum from Alexander Hamilton and Henry Knox, 8 July, n.9).

5Taylor enclosed this address in a cover letter to GW of 31 Aug. 1793. This letter, which is in the writing of Nivison, reads: “Having had the honor to preside at a respectable assemblage of the Citizens of this Corporation, my duty and inclination supported by their instructions, render it necessary that I should transmit those resolutions which were unanimously adopted by Them.

“The motives which influenc’d this meeting, were, that They might indulge that honest indignation against those invidious, illiberal, and groundless publications pointed at a measure which your wisdom and virtue have suggested, as essential, at this important era of American politics, and on which they consider their happiness in a great degree depends; and that They might evince the fond wish which actuates Them, in affording that tribute which is so deservedly due to the first Magistrate of the United States, by making known to Him, that his Conduct on this interesting occasion, has justly secured their entire satisfaction, & that the happy recollection of his uniform patriotic & virtuous exertions for their prosperity both in war & peace, has established those impressions of gratitude, confidence & esteem, which will ever prompt Them to the pleasing duty of affording their aid in the support of those measures which may be adopted to perpetuate the liberty and Safety of the United States” (DLC:GW).

GW replied to Taylor on 9 September: “In acknowledging the receipt of your letter of the 31st ultimo, enclosing sundry resolutions entered into by the Citizens of the borough of Norfolk, it is with much sensibility I declare to you, and thro’ you beg leave to make known to them, the satisfaction I derive from their approbation of, & steady and zealous determination to support measures of the Government of the U.S. arising from pure motives, & a conviction that they are essential to the welfare & happiness of our Country.

“Aided by the good sense & virtuous exertions of the enlightened Citizens of these States, I enjoy the pleasing hope that we shall be able to preserve to our Country the invaluable blessing of peace at this interesting period. whilst the Citizens of Norfolk express their serious resolution to maintain this desirable state, it gives me pleasure to find them regarding, as becomes free-men, any improper interferences which might be offensive to the dignity of our Nation.

“For the marks of personal respect & attachment, which the Citizens of Norfolk are pleased to express towards me, I beg you to present to them my warmest gratitude” (LB, DLC:GW). Both the resolutions and GW’s reply to Taylor were printed in the Virginia Chronicle And, Norfolk & Portsmouth General Advertiser, 21 Sept. 1793.

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