George Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality

April 22, 1793

President George Washington issued the Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793, in response to actions taken by French Ambassador Edmond-Charles Genêt that led to the French Neutrality Crisis.

George Washington, Portrait, Stuart

George Washington issued the Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793. Image Source: Wikipedia.

Summary of the 1793 Proclamation of Neutrality

The French Neutrality Crisis — also known as the Citizen Genêt Affair — was a diplomatic incident between France and the United States that took place from 1793–1794. At the time, France was caught up in the French Revolution, which was popular in America. In 1793, France declared war on Britain and Spain and then sent Edmond Charles Genêt to the United States to negotiate with Congress and raise volunteers to fight against Britain and Spain. Instead of meeting with President George Washington and his Cabinet, Genêt started gathering volunteers to fight France’s enemies. The United States was at peace with all three nations, but Genêt’s actions threatened to pull the country into the European conflict, which would undoubtedly carry over into North America. In an effort to warn Americans from becoming involved, President Washington decided to protect the interests of the United States and issued the Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793.

Edmond Charles Genet, Citizen Genet Affair
Edmond-Charles Genet. Portrait by Ezra Ames. Image Source: Albany Institute of History & Art.

Text of Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality — April 22, 1793

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 belligerent 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 respectively; and to exhort and warn the citizens of the United States carefully to avoid all acts and proceedings whatsover, which may in any manner tend to contravene such disposition.

And I do hereby also make known that whosoever 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.

Facts About George Washington’s Proclamation of Neutrality

What was the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793, and why did George Washington issue it?

The Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 was a declaration by President George Washington that the United States would remain neutral in any war between other nations, specifically mentioning France and Great Britain. The proclamation was issued on April 22, 1793, in response to the outbreak of the French Revolution and the potential for war between France and Great Britain. George Washington issued the proclamation to avoid involving the United States in European conflicts and to preserve its neutrality in international relations.

What was the situation in Europe that led to the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793?

The situation in Europe that led to the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 was the outbreak of the French Revolution and the resulting potential for war between France and Great Britain. The United States had an alliance with France dating back to the Revolutionary War, and France had also lent money and sent armed forces to aid the United States during that time. However, the Treaty of 1778 that established the alliance had been made with the King of France, who had been executed during the French Revolution. This put the United States in a difficult position, as it did not want to abandon its alliance with France but also did not want to become embroiled in European conflicts.

How did the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 impact US foreign policy?

The Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 had a significant impact on American foreign policy. It established a tradition of neutrality that would guide US foreign relations for many years to come. It also helped the United States navigate its alliance with France during a difficult time in European history, and it helped prevent the United States from being drawn into potentially costly and dangerous conflicts. It strained relations with France, which saw the United States abandoning its alliance. However, it also helped the United States maintain good relations with Great Britain, which was an important trading partner. The proclamation also set a precedent for the United States to remain neutral in future conflicts, which helped establish it as a peaceful and neutral nation on the international stage.

What was the reaction in the United States to the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793?

The reaction to the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 within the US government was mixed. Some politicians supported the proclamation as a way to maintain neutrality and avoid costly conflicts. However, others, such as Thomas Jefferson, felt that the United States should honor its alliance with France and take a more aggressive stance against Great Britain. These politicians argued that the proclamation favored Northern commercial interests over Southern agricultural interests and would harm the economy of the United States.

Did the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 achieve its intended purpose?

The Neutrality Proclamation of 1793 did achieve its intended purpose of keeping the United States out of European conflicts and maintaining neutrality in international relations. It helped the United States navigate its alliance with France during a difficult time in European history and helped prevent it from being drawn into costly and dangerous conflicts. The proclamation set a precedent for the United States to remain neutral in future conflicts, which helped establish it as a peaceful and neutral nation on the international stage. However, the proclamation did strain relations with France and did not prevent future conflicts, such as the War of 1812.

Significance of the Proclamation of Neutrality

The Proclamation of Neutrality is important to the history of the United States because it established the concept that American citizens cannot become involved in wars with nations the United States is at peace. Washington’s Cabinet further clarified the idea when it agreed to the “Rules of Neutrality” on August 3, 1793. Further, Congress made it a law when it passed the Neutrality Act of 1794.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title George Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality
  • Date April 22, 1793
  • Author
  • Keywords Citizen Genet Affair, French Neutrality Crisis, Edmond Genet, George Washington
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date February 27, 2024
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 15, 2023

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