George Washington Papers

Proclamation, 1 January 1795


[1 Jan. 1795]

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

When we review the calamities which afflict so many other Nations,1 the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that2 exemption, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our Citizens3—are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine Beneficence towards us. In such a state of things it is, in an especial manner, our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience.4

Deeply penetrated with this sentiment I George Washington President of the United States do recommend to all Religious Societies and Denominations and to all persons whomsoever within the United States to set apart and observe thursday the nineteenth day of February5 next as a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer; and on that day to meet together and render their sincere and hearty thanks to the great ruler of Nations for the manifold and signal mercies, which distinguish our lot as a Nation; particularly for the possession of Constitutions of Government which unite and by their union establish liberty with order,6 for the preservation of our peace foreign and domestic, for the seasonable controul which has been given to a spirit of disorder in the suppression of the late insurrection, and generally for the prosperous course of our affairs public and private; and at the same time humbly and fervently to beseech the kind author of these blessings graciously to prolong them to us—to imprint on our hearts a deep and solemn sense of our obligations to him for them—to teach us rightly to estimate their immense value—to preserve us from the arrogance7 of prosperity and from hazarding the advantages we enjoy by delusive pursuits8—to dispose us to merit the continuance of his favors, by not abusing them, by our gratitude for them, and by a correspondent conduct as citizens and as men—to render this Country more and more a safe and propitious asylum for the unfortunate of other Countries9—to extend among us true and useful knowledge—to diffuse and establish habits of sobriety, order, morality, and piety and finally to impart all the blessings we possess, or ask for ourselves, to the whole family of mankind.10

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 First day of January one thousand seven hundred and ninety five, and of the Independence of the United States of America the nineteenth.

Go: Washington
By the President
Edm: Randolph

DS, DNA: RG 11, Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders, and Other Presidential Documents; Df in Alexander Hamilton’s writing, DNA: RG 11, Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders, and Other Presidential Documents; Df in Hamilton’s writing, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers; copy, DLC: Alexander Hamilton Papers. This proclamation was published in Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser (Philadelphia), 1 Jan. 1795, and other newspapers, and it also was issued as a broadside.

The draft in Hamilton’s papers (for which, see Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 18:2–3) evidently was the first, or an early draft, and is marked up with many alterations, some of which are themselves struck out as Hamilton experimented with language. The copy was made from that draft and reproduces the text at some point prior to the creation of the draft in DNA. After consideration of that second draft (discussed in the paragraph below), Hamilton returned to the first draft and marked with brackets passages that would be deleted in the final version.

The second draft, which—even before alterations were made on it—more closely approximates the language of the final proclamation, was reviewed by Edmund Randolph, who wrote comments in the margin to explain some of his suggestions. Hamilton responded with marginal notes of his own and marked the draft in accord with his views. The draft is accompanied by a page on which is written: “Mr Hamilton pressed this morning with some urgent business begs the permission of The President to wait upon him tomorrow rather than to day as he mentioned.

“I have struck the pen through as well such part of the proposed alterations on the original draft as I think best consists with the views of both without admitti[n]g changes for the worse. A.H.

“Being so near the 1st of Jany 1795 had it not better then issue?”

The marginal notes and significant differences between the second draft and the final text are discussed in the notes below.

On this date Massachusetts congressman David Cobb noted in his diary that after Congress rose for the day, “most of the members call’d on the President and offer’d the compliments of the season, eat his cake, drank his wine and came off” (Allis, William Bingham’s Maine Lands description begins Frederick S. Allis, Jr., ed. William Bingham’s Maine Lands 1790–1820. 2 vols. Boston, 1954. In Publications of The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, vols. 36-37. description ends , 1:483).

1At this point on the second draft, the following text was struck out: “and trouble the sources of individual quiet security and happiness.”

2The word “precious” appeared at this point on the second draft but was stricken. Randolph’s marginal note reads: “is not this too fine a word here?”

3Randolph’s marginal note on the second draft, most likely referring to this sentence, reads: “ought not these two last members of the sentence to be transposed? Or rather ought not the last to be omitted? The plundered merchants and others will doubt ⟨t⟩he universality of the fact.” No significant change was made.

4On the first draft, there are two versions of the preceding sentence. What probably is the final version (incorporating the marginal text) reads: “In such a state of things it becomes us in an especial manner as a People, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude to bow down before the Majesty of the Almighty to acknowlege our numerous obligations to him & to implore under a deep sense of his past goodness a continuance and confirmation of the blessings we experience.” A mark references a footnote that begins “The Paragraph as printed runs thus” and quotes the sentence as it appears here. The copy has a similar sentence and footnote.

5On the DS, the words “thursday,” “nineteenth,” and “February” are in the writing of Edmund Randolph.

6On the second draft, Randolph suggested alteration of this sentence; his marginal note reads: “The constitution of Virginia Maryland and the three southern states never did and never will unite liberty with order.” Hamilton’s note in response reads: “The Truth is general enough, if there are any exceptions, to warrant the phraseology & by changing it an important sentiment is lost.” No change was made.

7On both drafts the word “wantonness” was used here. Randolph changed it on the second draft and wrote in the margin: “Wantonly is a word susceptible of a considerable play on it—The adverb is already at the beginning of the paper.”

8The two words preceding were inserted by Randolph on the second draft to replace the following text: “delusive or culpable projects.”

9On the second draft, Randolph took issue with the preceding text, writing in a marginal note: “The prosperity of the country produces a safe asylum. If this only be meant, the passage seems unnecessary. If it be meant, as an invitation to foreigners, the policy is too doubtful. In short this proclamation ought to savour as much as possible of religion; and not too much of having a political object.” Hamilton responded with his own note: “A proclamation by a government which is a national Act naturaly embraces objects which are political—This is a mere benevolent sentiment or union with public feeling which without inviting wishes a state of things propitious to those who come.” The text was not changed.

10On the indicated date, GW attended Christ Church in Philadelphia, where he heard a sermon by Episcopal bishop William White. White had that sermon published in March, with a dedication to GW in the form of a letter to him dated 28 February. In the dedication, White explained that he had chosen the dedication not to “add to a reputation, so high as his, in our own country and throughout the world; but for a use, which arises out of my argument.

“The relation which I have asserted of religion to civil policy, is well known to be considered as chimerical by some; while it is contemplated by others, as involved in whatever relates to the prosperity of the commonwealth. . . . When … we hear the voice of our country calling on us to assemble, for the express design, of offering our acknowledgments to the Almighty Ruler of the Universe, for his prospering of its counsels, and of invoking the continuance of his mercies; it is another sanction of the latter opinion, which the advocates of it cannot fail to notice, as being to their purpose. . . .

“It cannot have escaped the notice of any, that, since your elevation to the seat of supreme Executive authority, you have, in your official capacity, on all fit occasions, directed the public attention to the Being and the Providence of God: And this implies a sense, as well of the relation, which nations, in their collective capacities, bear to him, their Supreme Ruler; as of the responsibility to him of earthly Governors, for the execution of the trusts committed to them. . . . We have a right, to apply the testimony of such a character, as the result of an enlightened conscience; and to think it an advantage to our cause, to pronounce, that a mind, which has embraced all the civil interests of the American people, has not overlooked the relation which they all bear, to the great truths of religion and of morals. . . .

“The time, Sir, may come … when … it will be no small part of the praise of the chief magistrate of the present day, that, as a result of his own judgment and consistently with his own practice, he made acknowledgments, which are in contrarity to a theory, that sets open the flood-gates of immorality.

“What is more, the time will assuredly come in another state of being; and I cannot suppose that the personage whom I am addressing has a doubt of the certainty of it; when the recollection of having upheld the interests of religion and of virtue will be a more substantial consolation, than any now arising from the merited gratitude of fellow citizens and the applauses of distant nations” (William White, A Sermon, on the Reciprocal Influence of Civil Policy and Religious Duty. Delivered in Christ Church, in the City of Philadelphia, on Thursday, the 19th of February, 1795, Being a Day of General Thanksgiving [Philadelphia, 1795], 3–7).

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