Thomas Jefferson to Jean Baptiste Ternant, George Hammond, and F. P. Van Berckel, 23 Apr. 1793

To Jean Baptiste Ternant, George Hammond, and F. P. Van Berckel


As far as the public Gazettes are to be credited, we may presume that war has taken place among several of the Nations of Europe, in which, France, England, Holland and Prussia, are particularly engaged. Disposed as the U.S. areto pursue steadily the ways of Peace, and to remain in Friendship with all Nations, the President has thought it expedient, by Proclamation,2 of which I enclose you a copy, to notify this disposition to our Citizens, in order to intimate to them the Line of conduct for which they are to prepare: and this he has done without waiting for a formal notification from the belligerent powers. He hopes that those powers, and your Nation in particular, will consider this early precaution as a proof, the more candid, as it has been unasked, of the sincere and impartial intentions of our Country, and that what is meant merely as a general intimation to our Citizens, shall not be construed to their prejudice in any Courts of Admiralty, as if it were conclusive evidence of their Knowledge of the existence of war, and of the Powers engaged in it. Of this we could not give them conclusive information, because we have it not ourselves; and till it is given to us in form, and so communicated to them, we must consider all their acts as lawful which would have been lawful in a state of Peace. I have the honor to be, with great respect Sir, Your most obedient and most humble servant,

PrC (DLC); in the hand of George Taylor, Jr., unsigned, with additions by TJ; at foot of text in ink by TJ: “M. de Ternant.” PrC (DLC); in a clerk's hand, unsigned; at foot of text in ink by TJ: “Mr. Hammond.” PrC (DLC); in a clerk's hand, unsigned; at foot of text in ink by TJ: “Mr. Van Berkel.” FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); at head of text: “The Ministers of France and Great Britain and the Resident of the United Netherlands”; at foot of text: “Copy of this sent to all our Ministers.” Tr (NjP: Andre deCoppet Collection); in a clerk's hand, except for note at foot of text by TJ: “Mr. Ternant Mr. Van Berkel Mr. Hammond.” Tr (DLC: Short Papers); in a clerk's hand, except for note at foot of text by Taylor: “Mr. Ternant Mr. Van Berckel Mr. Hammond.” PrC of another Tr (DLC); in a clerk's hand; at foot of text: (by Taylor) “Mr. Ternant [Mr.] Van Berckel [Mr.] Hammond” and (by TJ in ink) “copy sent to all our ministers.” Tr (Lb in PRO: FO 116/3). Tr (same, 5/1). Enclosure: Proclamation of Neutrality, 22 Apr. 1793 (Fitzpatrick, Writings , xxxii, 430–1). Enclosed in TJ to Gouverneur Morris, Thomas Pinckney, and William Short, 26 Apr. 1793, and TJ to William Carmichael and David Humphreys, 26 Apr. 1793.

TJ submitted a draft of the above letter with a brief covering note to Washington of this date (RC in DNA: RG 59, MLR, addressed “The President […],” endorsed by Tobias Lear; Tr in Lb in same, SDC). See also Washington, Journal , 118; and Notes on the Sinking Fund and the Proclamation of Neutrality, 7 May 1793.

  1. Preceding four words interlined in ink by TJ in place of “ourselves,” a change made or reflected in all other texts except the FC and the Trs in NjP and DLC.
  2. FC, Trs in NjP and DLC, and PrC of another Tr in DLC: “President of the United States has thought it expedient, by the proclamation.”