What Was Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793?

The Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 declared the United States impartial in a war between France and Great Britain that engulfed much of Western Europe at the time. Washington consulted with his cabinet before issuing the proclamation, and the body of advisors agreed neutrality was in the best interests of the fledgling country.

Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson wanted the country to stay neutral, although Hamilton sided with Great Britain and Jefferson favored France. James Madison advised the president to seek congressional approval for the proclamation first. Washington issued the document to warn Americans to stay out of the conflict. Countries involved included Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, the Netherlands and Great Britain, all opposing France.

Washington used the term "impartial" in the proclamation rather than "neutral" so as to not offend the British. America still had business relationships with British firms. The document admonished Americans who might aid either side during the war. Washington made it clear that citizens of the United States would not receive protection from the country if they were caught by any of the warring parties.

Washington issued the proclamation April 22, 1793, in Philadelphia. Congress followed through with the Neutrality Act of 1794 to give weight to Washington's original document.