George Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality was designed to keep
America out of further wars. In the early 1790's Europe was at war. The
sides consisted of Great Britain and its allies on one hand and France on the other. Americans
were divided in their loyalties. Many supported the French cause
because they considered the French resistance to be similar to their
own fight during the Revolutionary War. Others were on England's side.
George Washington was President at this time and he was trying to hold
the new nation together. He believed that if they got involved in the
European war, on either side, it could mean destruction to the United
States through division or bringing the war to American shores.
Consequently, he chose a position of neutrality, which he maintained
throughout his presidency. He believed that America should not get
entangled in the internal affairs of other nations and issued this
Proclamation of Neutrality to state the position of his government.
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