George Washington Papers

Proclamation on Expeditions Against Spanish Territory, 24 March 1794

Proclamation on Expeditions Against Spanish Territory

[Philadelphia, 24 March 1794]

by the PRESIDENT of the

WHEREAS I have received information that certain persons in violation of the laws, presumed under colour of a foreign authority to enlist citizens of the United States and others within the state of Kentucky, and have there assembled an armed force for the purpose of invading and plundering the territories of a nation at peace with the said United States:2 And whereas such unwarrantable measures, being contrary to the laws of nations and to the duties incumbent on every citizen of the United States, tend to disturb the tranquility of the same, and to involve them in the calamities of war: And whereas it is the duty of the Executive to take care that such criminal proceedings should be suppressed, the offenders brought to justice, and all good citizens cautioned against measures likely to prove so pernicious to their country and themselves, should they be seduced into similar infractions of the laws;

I have therefore thought proper to issue this proclamation hereby3 solemnly warning every person not authorised by the laws, against enlisting any citizen or citizens of the United States, or levying troops, or assembling any persons within the United States for the purposes aforesaid, or proceeding in any manner to the execution thereof, as they will answer the same at their peril: And I do also admonish and require all citizens to refrain from enlisting, enrolling or assembling themselves for such unlawful purposes and from being in any wise concerned, aiding or abetting therein, as they tender their own welfare, in as much as all lawful means will be strictly put in execution for securing obedience to the laws, and for punishing such dangerous and daring violations4 thereof.

I do moreover charge and require all courts magistrates and other officers, whom it may concern, according to their respective duties, to exert the powers in them severally vested to prevent and suppress all such unlawful assemblages and proceedings and to bring to condign punishment those who may have been guilty thereof, as they regard the due authority of Government, and the peace and welfare of the United States.

In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand. Done at the City of Philadelphia, the twenty fourth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four, and of the Independence of the United States of America, the eighteenth.


By the President,

Edm: Randolph,

Printed, Gazette of the United States and Evening Advertiser (Philadelphia), 27 March 1794; Df, CSmH; Df, PHi: Wallace Collection. The draft at CSmH is in the writing of William Bradford, has interlineations by Alexander Hamilton and Edmund Randolph, and is signed by Hamilton, Randolph, and Henry Knox (see Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 16:162–64). For Bradford’s submission of the draft at CSmH for approval by the other cabinet members, see Randolph to GW, 19 March (first letter). The draft at PHi, which is also in Bradford’s handwriting, precedes the draft at CSmH.

1On the decision to issue this proclamation, see Cabinet Opinion, 10 March. Randolph enclosed this proclamation in his letter to GW of 24 March.

2On the proposed expedition against Spanish territory, see Randolph’s fourth letter to GW of 27 Feb. and its enclosed extract.

3Randolph, Hamilton, and Knox indicated on the draft at CSmH that GW might not want to use the original wording at this point. Therefore, GW substituted the following four words for “strictly prohibit and forbid any person or persons.”

4In response to a suggestion offered by Randolph, GW changed the original word “infractions” to this one.

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