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Washington to Cabinet

Washington to Cabinet



The Thomas Jefferson Papers Series 1, General Correspondence, 1651–1827. Library of Congress, Manuscript Division.

In 1793, France was at war with Great Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands. President Washington proclaimed American neutrality. However, the French government sent ambassador Citizen Edmond Charles Genêt to the U.S to promote American support for France. Washington wrote this letter to his Cabinet on August 3, 1793 to ask for advice in establishing fixed rules of neutrality.


To the Heads of Departments and Attorney-General

Gentlemen, Fresh occurrences, but communicated through private channels, make it indispensable that the general principles, which have already been the subject of discussion, should be fixed and made known for the government of all concerned as soon as they can be with propriety.

To fix rules on substantial and impartial ground, conformably to treaties and the Laws of Nations, is extremely desirable.

The verdict of the late jury in the case of Henfield, and the decision of yesterday respecting the French minister, added to the situation of Indian affairs and the general complexion of public matters, induce me to ask your advice whether it be proper—or not—to convene the Legislature at an earlier period than that at which it is to meet by Law?—And if it be thought advisable, at what time?

Philadelphia                                                                                                                                                                                                         G. Washington


Answer the following questions on a separate sheet of paper

  1. To whom did PresidentWashingtonwrite this letter?
  2. From what city didWashingtonwrite this letter?
  3. What event or issue promptedWashingtonto write this letter?
  4. What doesWashingtonmean when he writes that he wants to establish rules of neutrality “on substantial and solid ground”?
  5. What actions doesWashingtonencourage the recipients of his letter to take?
  6. What does the letter tell us aboutWashington’s relationship with hiscabinet and Attorney General?
  7. In this letter,Washingtonasks his cabinet members for their counsel. What does this letter indicate about his understanding of checks and balances in the newly formed government?


Washington to Cabinet