The crucial goal of Washington’s Neutrality Proclamation was to claim the US position of non-interference in the European wars at the end of the 18th century.
The revolution in France of 1789 became a significant event not only in the history of the country but also in the field of diplomacy and international relations. Its influence quickly reached the New World, where the American government and society were forced to respond to the rapid and fundamental changes in Europe. The United States was bounded to France by military and political alliance treaties of 1778, as well as an important trade treaty. The Washington administration’s response to the global political crisis was the signing on April 22, 1793, the Neutrality Proclamation, which claimed a policy of non-interference in European affairs and impartiality towards the warring parties.
The mentioned revolution did not threat the alliance between France and the US. The war between France on one side and Prussia and Austria on another that started in April 1792 did not influence American diplomacy or trade as this confrontation did not have a whole-Europe sale. However, in 1793, the situation escalated, and it was clear that the conflict was likely to involve Spain, Netherlands, and Great Britain. With France, these mighty countries were the main trade partners for the United States that faced the risk of being a participant of the escalation.
The neutrality act was unanimously supported by members of the presidential administration and established policy of non-interference and political isolationism. The definition of this document might be a domestic declaration adopted to give a clear message to the American public on how to percept the events in Europe. It might be suggested that “the Proclamation warned Americans that the federal government would prosecute any violations of this policy by its citizens.” Thus, the main respondent of the Proclamation were people living in the US. It should also be mentioned that the document does not have any legal power; hence, it cannot oblige anyone to act in accordance with its provisions. It is only a warning and explanation of the policy of the executive branch, issued on behalf of the president.
Washington did his best to structure his ideas in the text. The Proclamation can be divided into three coherent and consistent parts. The first one states the state of war between France, on the one hand, and Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, the United Provinces, and Great Britain, on the other. The second part explains that the decision taken by the president was adequate to the circumstances. The third says that the US citizens who violated the law of the mentioned countries and undertook any contraband affairs could not get any assistance from the United States to mitigate the punishment.
The US did not have enough power to intervene in European wars to gain any benefits from them. However, the United States could influence the balance of power in Europe by access to trade with the US. The Proclamation demonstrates the principles of the emerging American foreign policy doctrine. Thus, the original idea of the need for mutually beneficial relations with the Old World and non-interference in its political affairs, which appeared during the War of Independence, was also confirmed in the 1790s. The Neutrality Proclamation allowed the United States to maintain relative independence in its foreign policy founded on the principles of non-interference in European affairs and free trade. It seems reasonable to say that the Proclamation is one of the most crucial documents of the United States at the end of the 18th century.