From the issue of the Columbian Centinel, May 4, 1793
When France declared war on England on February 1, 1793, the United States faced a thorny political problem. France was America’s ally during the Revolutionary War, yet Great Britain’s financial support was important to American shipowners.
Nonetheless, Washington issued the proclamation, warning American citizens to avoid involvement in the hostilities, a strictly European war. This admonition proved to be a harbinger of one of Washington’s themes in his Farewell Address to the Nation, three and a half years later in which he would warn against America’s involvement in “permanent alliances.” President Washington met with members of his cabinet who agreed with him that a policy of neutrality was in the best interests of the country. Although both Hamilton and Jefferson favored a neutral position, Hamilton sided with Britain and Jefferson with France. And James Madison questioned the president’s authority to issue the proclamation without congressional approval.
Notice that nowhere in his proclamation does Washington use the word “neutrality.” It was omitted in order not to offend Great Britain, with whom America had ongoing business relationships.
The proclamation was signed on April 22, 1793, in Philadelphia by Washington.
Read The Proclamation of Neutrality
By THE PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES of America,
Whereas it appears that a state of war exists between Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, Great Britain, and the United Netherlands, of the one part, and France on the other; and the duty and interest of the United States require, that they should with sincerity and good faith adopt and pursue a conduct friendly and impartial toward the belligerant Powers;
I have therefore thought fit by these presents to declare the disposition of the United States to observe the conduct aforesaid towards those Powers respectfully; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsoever, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.
And I do hereby also make known, that whatsoever of the citizens of the United States shall render himself liable to punishment or forfeiture under the law of nations, by committing, aiding, or abetting hostilities against any of the said Powers, or by carrying to any of them those articles which are deemed contraband by the modern usage of nations, will not receive the protection of the United States, against such punishment or forfeiture; and further, that I have given instructions to those officers, to whom it belongs, to cause prosecutions to be instituted against all persons, who shall, within the cognizance of the courts of the United States, violate the law of nations, with respect to the Powers at war, or any of them.
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-second day of April, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, and of the Independence of the United States of America the seventeenth.
April 22, 1793
Source: The Columbian Centinel, May 4, 1793.