George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Baltimore Citizens, 27 July 1795

From Baltimore Citizens

[27 July 1795]1

To the President of the United States.

We the undersigned Citizens of the United States, inhabitants of Baltimore Town, beg leave respectfully to represent. That the Treaty lately negotiated with Great Britain, and anounced to us thro the public prints, has Excited in our minds the most serious apprehension and alarm, for the Interest and Safety of our commerce, the rights of our fellow citizens, and the dignity of our Government.2 Under these impressions, convinced as we are of your unremitting concern for the Interest and happiness of America, we think it our duty to disclose to you freely our Sentiments, on the subject, lest our Silence might be interpreted into an approval of the act, and to prevent as far as the influence of our opinions may operate, a ratification of it.

A Treaty that professes to establish a firm lasting and inviolable peace, and Sincere friendship between the contracting parties, without referring to their respective complaints, and as far as may be removing them, wants that evidence of a pacific and friendly disposition which is necessary to give it effect; and leaves room for doubts and Jealousies incompatible with its object: in this respect the Treaty with great Britain appears essentially defective. our complaints are not redressed, nor is Such effectual provision made for removing them, as might have been under every circumstance of the case, and which Justice and good faith required Should have been made. Our Territory and Frontier posts, the Subject of frequent reclamation, and held in violation of a Former Treaty, are to be Surrendered at an unnecessarily distant period.3 A remote hope of recovery after much expence and perplexity, in the usual mode of legal proceedings, and much injury from the deprivation of their capitals; is the only compensation procured for our Suffering Merchants, who have been unjustly deprived of their property in the prosecution of a fair trade;4 nor has any effectual provision been made to remedy the evil, or prevent future Spoliations of our commerce, under like frivolous pretexts—no restitution whatever is made, or contemplated to be made, for a large amount of property carried off from the Southern States, contrary to the treaty of peace—our Seamen, citizens of the United states, arbitrarily and unjustly taken from our Ships and detained on board British Ships of War, are not restored; nor is any Security contemplated against future aggressions of the same kind. proper concessions on these points, and provisions of adequate remedy for these evils, would have been indicative of a just and friendly disposition; and ought, we conceive, to have accompanied the act of pacification. But we have other objections to the treaty: it contemplates an inconsistant establishment, or colony of men, within the Territory and Jurisdiction of the united States, injoying Some of the most important priveleges of citizens, but exempt from the burthens, and owing no allegiance to its government—many mischiefs we concieve might result from such an establishment; among which from the evident want of reciprocity in the advantages of Navigation ceded in the lakes and other Western Waters, may Justly be apprehended, the monopoly of a lucrative fur trade, by this discription of settlers.5 from the admission of British Ships to be the carriers of our bulky products, on terms of perfect equality with our own, we anticipate a material loss in the value of our Shipping, and consequently great injury to a numerous class of people imployed in Ship building, and in the manufacture of Cordage, Iron, and other articles necessary to this extensive branch of business; and we fear what is contemplated as an equivalent for this important Sacrifice, will not be found Such in fact6—we cannot view, but with the most lively concern and regret, an article of the Treaty which authorizes the Seizure of Enemies property in Neutral Ships;7 this is a cession of Vast importance to America as a trading nation Situate as She is, remote from the powers of Europe, pacific in the temper and disposition of her Citizens and in the principles of her Government, she is not likely to be embroiled in Wars; the advantages then, that would result from her being the carrier of property for the contending nations, are too evident to require elucidation, and too important to be given up without an equivalent; the principle of free Ships making free goods, has been formally acknowledged by the government of the United States, to other neutral powers, when She was engaged in War; it has been granted to us by treaties with different nations, it has been long contended for, and has been acknowledged by Several of the respectable powers of Europe—by giving up this power to a Nation So frequently engaged in Wars, we give our consent to the most vexatious and injurious restrictions on our commerce, and of our Natural rights as a neutral nation, without any thing that can be called an equivalent: America is not in a condition to benefit, by the apparent reciprocity in this article of the Treaty, or likely Soon to be in a Situation that will require it—we have doubts of the policy on our part, of agreeing to that article which precludes the United States from entering into Treaties, inconsistant with some of its provisions,8 whereby America would be prevented from a renewal of her beneficial treaties, existing with the French republic and other European powers; and from making Such other treaties at any future period as might be deemed Advisable.

To enumerate minutely, the many evils which may be apprehended from a treaty So partial and unequal in its provisions, and wherein many of our just complaints are intirely unnoticed; would be unnecessarily to trespass on your time, and to point out defects, which we are persuaded will not have escaped your notice; we therefore content ourselves, with the observations we have already made; adding only that we retain the most gratefull remembrance of your Steady enlightened patriotism, which has Saved our republic from impending ruin, on many memorable occasions; and that we look to you, as our only hope of deliverance from the evils we anticipate in an adoption of the proposed Treaty; earnestly intreating you to withold the Sanction of your name from a compact So evidently unjust and So Derogatory to the Interest and dignity of America.9

[signed by 1,154 citizens]


A cover letter, dated 30 July and signed by the seven men designated to forward the document to GW, accompanied the address. The letter states: “At a period so eventful, when the affairs of America have assumed an aspect so serious and perplexing we doubt not it will afford you pleasure to learn, that the Citizens of Baltimore, look to the Constitution of the united States, as the Palladium of their liberty; and the Directory of their Political conduct in whatever event may ensue” (LS, DLC:GW).

A reaction to this address soon appeared in the Baltimore Telegraphe: “From an opinion that many respectable citizens of Baltimore Town, do not incline to intrude their advice to the President, and do not wish, if in their power, to influence his opinion, whether he shall ratify the treaty,” a correspondent using the signature “A.B.” drafted a memorial to GW “for the deliberation and dispassionate consideration of my fellow-citzens.” The memorial labeled the anti-treaty address as “highly improper and unnecessary.” The memorialists added that they “do not consider themselves sufficiently informed on the subject to decide on the propriety of rejecting,” but that “an address to the President by any body of the people not to ratify the treaty … publishes to the world a want of confidence in the integrity and wisdom” of the Senate “and has a natural tendency to weaken the national government.” The memorialists, to the contrary, “repose the highest confidence in the wisdom and patriotism of the senate.” They urged GW to exercise his constitutional role “according to your own judgment” (reprinted in the Columbian Mirror and Alexandria Gazette, 6 Aug.).

1The date is based on the minutes of the 27 July meeting which state that the participants approved of an address to GW on that day.

2A copy of the treaty had appeared in the Federal Intelligencer, and Baltimore Daily Gazette of 3 July. On 8 July the paper printed a letter from “A Citizen” to the citizens of Baltimore suggesting “the propriety of a Address to the President on the subject, with a view to arrest his assent.” On Monday, 27 July, the Federal Intelligencer printed an announcement dated 25 July: “MANY respectable characters having signified a desire, that an ADDRESS should be preferred to the President of the United States, expressive of their Disapprobation of the proposed Treaty with Great-Britain—the Citizens of Baltimore-Town and Fell’s Point are therefore informed, that such an Address will be produced at the Court-House, on MONDAY next, at 10 o’clock, for the signature of those who may approve of the measure. All who feel themselves interested in the subject are invited to attend.” The message was reinforced by a letter of 27 July from “A Baltimorean,” who warned that if citizens would “not step forward on this IMPORTANT OCCASION, the time may come, when you will bewail the loss of your Rights as men, and Privileges as Citizens.”

At the meeting on that date, Baltimore citizens also approved several resolutions later submitted to GW. “Resolved unanimously, That the citizens now assembled do disapprove of the Treaty of amity, commerce and navigation, lately negociated with Great Britain, as assented to by the Senate of the United States.

“Resolved unanimously, As the sense of this meeting, that an address be preferred to the President of the United States, expressive of their disapprobation of said Treaty, and requesting that it may not be ratified.” The attendees also resolved to express their appreciation “to the virtuous minority in the Senate, for their opposition to the proposed treaty, and to S. T. Mason, for the patriotic service rendered his country” by his disclosure of the treaty’s contents (DS, DLC:GW; LB, DLC:GW. The letter-book copyist recorded only the three resolutions approved at the meeting).

An announcement appeared in the Federal Intelligencer, and Baltimore Daily Gazette for 28 July: “THE Citizens of Baltimore-Town are informed that the Address to the President … agreed on at the Town-Meeting of yesterday, will be laid on the Table at the Exchange, THIS DAY, at 11 o’clock, for the Signature of those who may approve thereof.”

3These complaints involve Article II of the Jay Treaty and Article VII of the definitive treaty of peace with Great Britain of September 1783 (see Miller, Treaties, description begins Hunter Miller, ed. Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America. Vol. 2, 1776-1818. Washington, D.C., 1931. description ends 155).

4The citizens were referring to Article VII of the Jay Treaty.

5This objection refers to articles II and III.

6Articles XI through XV regulated trade between the United States and Great Britain.

7This objection refers to Article XVII.

8This objection refers to Article XXV.

9The letter-book copyist wrote, “The same answer was returned to the foregoing as to the Selectmen of Boston 12th Augt 1795” (see GW to Boston Selectmen, 28 July, and Edmund Randolph to GW, 31 July, n.1). GW’s reply of 12 Aug. was printed in the Federal Intelligencer, and Baltimore Daily Gazette, 17 August.

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