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One of the major actions taken by President George Washington intended to insulate the brand-new nation was the issuance of the Proclamation of Neutrality on April 22, 1793. Deeply concerned that the United States would be dragged into the conflict developing in Europe between revolutionary France on one side and Austria, Prussia, Great Britain and others on the other side – with the role of the recently-evicted but still threatening colonial power of Great Britain being particularly noteworthy – Washington was desperate to avoid any appearance of partiality towards either of those two great powers. Towards that goal, he drafted the proclamation declaring the impartiality of the United States:
“I have . . . 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.”
That Washington was worried that the acts of individuals or of collections of U.S. citizens would exacerbate the situation – in effect, that troublesome meddling on the part of activist American politicians could inadvertently or deliberately entangle the United States in a conflict across the Atlantic – he included in this brief proclamation a warning against any such meddling:
“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 other words, Washington was telling the rest of the nation, "stay out of this issue or else."
A second action taken by the president, or, more accurately, by those around him, to avert U.S. involvement in a European war was the conclusion of treaties with each of the two main European powers, both of which continued to loom large and threateningly on the North American continent. The first such treaty was the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation Between His Britannic Majesty and the United States of America, commonly known as the “Jay Treaty,” for the Founder and principle negotiator of the agreement John Jay. That treaty with Great Britain was intended to formalize the relationship between the former colonial power and the newly-established United States of America. Article I states:
“There shall be a firm, inviolable and universal peace, and a true and sincere friendship between His Britannic Majesty, his heirs and successors, and the United States of America; and between their respective countries, territories, cities, towns and people of every degree, without exception of persons or places.”
The second treaty signed by the Washington Administration was the so-called Pinkney Treaty, named for the American diplomat, Thomas Pinkney, who negotiated the treaty’s terms with the government of Spain. Formally known as The Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the United States, this agreement solidified the relationship between the U.S. and another major European and colonial power, conflict with which President Washington was eager to avoid. The contents of that treaty, a link to the text of which is provided below, include a detailed description of the boundaries separating each nation’s North American possessions. By formalizing that relationship and acknowledging each other’s territorial integrity, Washington was able to minimize the potential for an inadvertent clash with Spain.
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