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1812 - TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. mad. mss. - James Madison, The Writings, vol. 8 (1808-1819) 
The Writings of James Madison, comprising his Public Papers and his Private Correspondence, including his numerous letters and documents now for the first time printed, ed. Gaillard Hunt (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1900). Vol. 8.
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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington, Feby. 7, 1812.
I have recd. several letters from you which not requiring special answers, I now beg leave to acknowledge in the lump. I have delayed it in the hope that I might add something on our public affairs not uninteresting. If there be any thing at present of this character it will be found in the inclosed paper from N. York. We have no late official information from Europe; but all that we see from G. B. indicates an adherence to her mad policy towards the U. S. The Newspapers give you a sufficient insight into the measures of Congress. With a view to enable the Executive to step at once into Canada they have provided after two months delay, for a regular force1 requiring 12 to raise it, and after 3 months for a volunteer force, on terms not likely to raise it at all for that object. The mixture of good & bad, avowed & disguised motives accounting for these things is curious eno’ but not to be explained in the compass of a letter. Among other jobbs on my hands is the case of Wilkinson.2 His defence fills 6 or 700 pages of the most collossal paper. The minutes of the Court, oral written & printed testimony, are all in proportion. A month has not yet carried me thro’ the whole.
We have had of late a hard winter & much Ice which still lies on the water in view. The reiteration of Earthquakes continues to be reported from various quarters. They have slightly reached the State of N. Y. and been severely felt W. and S. Westwardly. There was one here this morning at 5 or 6 minutes after 4 o’C. It was rather stronger than any preceding one, & lasted several minutes; with sensible tho’ very slight repetitions throughout the succeeding hour.
Be assured of my best affections.
TO JOEL BARLOW.mad. mss.
Washington Feby. 24, 1812.
Mr. Morris delivered yesterday morning the dispatches committed to him, including your letters to me.
The reasons for hastening the departure of the vessel now ordered to France, will not permit the Secy. of State to do much more than acknowledge the receipt of your communications. The instructions you wish relative to the question of a Commercial Treaty with F. at this time, as well as the requisite terms, should such an one be admissible, will be subjects of due consideration and early communication.
I see with pleasure the auspicious attentions which have distinguished your intercourse with the F. Govt., and the convincing views presented, on your part, of the commercial policy which it ought to adopt towards the U. S. From these sources encouragement is drawn. In other respects the prospect suggests distrust rather than expectation. The delay in answering your note, the vagueness of the answer when given; the refusal to sign the contents of the paper presented by you, even in the ordinary & unexceptionable form proposed; and the substitution of a verbal for a written notification of the orders to the Custom Houses, &c &c, by which our merchants were to be invited to the F. Market, are circumstances which necessarily attract serious notice. The reserve manifested on the subject of the paper alluded to is the more remarkable as a written sanction to it would have so little committed them. Beyond a freedom of the French ports to the products of the U. S. under all the existing limitations & incumbrances, it pledged nothing more than a melioration of formalities as to ownership and origin; leaving Colonial produce on the old footing of special licences. The liberation of the remaining Ships & Cargoes could surely have created no difficulty, if any real purpose of friendship or good faith be entertained. It would seem therefore that the objection must have lain against the clause forbidding captures & seizures, for other cause than forged papers. The recent condemnations in the Baltic cases, and the avowal of the F. Consul in Denmark that all vessels, whithersoever bound, with Colonial produce were within the orders to capture, favor this conjecture; and if it be the true one, adjustment is hopeless; and the consequences obvious. I do not forget that your understanding of all these particulars was better than mine can be, and that my constructions may be merely colorable. I wish this may be the case, but we find so little of explicit dealing or substantial redress mingled with the compliments and encouragements which cost nothing because they may mean nothing, that suspicions are unavoidable; and if they be erroneous, the fault does not lie with those who entertain them.
From the scanty attention I can now give to the subject of a commercial Treaty with F. I am at a loss for the necessity of it, or the motives of F. to set it on foot, if it be not meant to gain time, and be guided by events.1 On our side we have nothing to stipulate, which is not secured to her, as long as she merits it, by our general system which leaves our exports & imports free, without any duties on the former, and with moderate ones on the latter. It is on her side that changes & securities are necessary to a friendly reciprocity; and these will for the present be satisfactory to us in the form of stable regulations fairly executed. Among them a reduced tarif favoring all our great Staples, and a transit thro’ F. ports to inland markets, are indispensable to a continued admission of F. staples. The system of licences must be abolished, if not by F. by us. The neglect of the subject by Congs. is remarkable, but the event cannot be doubtful. Such a mode of commerce corrupts one class of Citizens and disgusts all the rest; & when the trade licensed is in foreign, not native articles, the evil preponderates still more over the profit. The F. Govt. seems to have taken up a radical error with regard to the commercial interests of the two Countries. It overrates our desire of her commodities. The present footing of the commerce is intolerable to the U. S. and it will be prohibited, if no essential change takes place. At all times it will be a barter of food & raw materials for superfluities, in great part; and altogether so (with the temporary exception of colonial re-exports) as long as a balance in money is prevented by the existing policy of France, and a return of useful fabrics by the war. Why might not certificates of origin from F. Consuls, or still better of direct shipments from our ports, take the place of licenses. The advantages of the change are numerous & obvious. Mr. Gallatin promises to say something to Mr. Lee on this head.
I am concerned that the prospect of indemnity for the Rambouillet and other spoliations is so discouraging as to have led to the idea of seeking it thro’ King Joseph. Were there no other objection than the effect on the public mind here, this would be an insuperable one. The gratification of the sufferers by the result would be lost in the general feeling agst the measure. But Joseph is not yet settled on the Spanish Throne; When so, defacto, he will be sovereign neither de facto, nor de jure, of any Spanish part of this Continent; the whole of which, if it had not on other accounts a right to separate from the peninsula, would derive it from the usurpation of Joseph. So evident is it that he can never be Kg of a Spanish Province, either by conquest or consent, that the Independence of all of them, is avowedly favored by the policy which rules him. Nor would a purchase under Joseph, place us an inch nearer our object. He could give us neither right, nor possession; and we should be obliged to acquire the latter by means which a grant from him would be more likely to embarrass than promote. I hope therefore that the French Government will be brought to feel the obligation & the necessity of repairing the wrongs, the flagrant wrongs in question, either by payments from the Treasury or negotiable substitutes. Without one or other or some fair equivalent there can be neither cordiality nor confidence here; nor any restraint from self redress in any justifiable mode of effecting it; nor any formal Treaty on any subject. With Justice on this subject, formal stipulations on others might be combinable.
As the Hornet had reached F. before the sailing of the Constitution, and the latter had not a very short passage, we shall soon look for further communications from you. I hope they will correspond equally with your patriotic exertions, and the public calculations. If they do not exhibit the conduct of the F. Govt. in better colors than it has yet assumed, there will be but one sentiment in this country, & I need not say what that will be.
Be assured of my affectionate esteem.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington, Mar. 6, 1812.
I return the letter from Foronda inclosed in yours of the 19th. Feby. I find I shall not be able to read his lucubrations in print. The letter from Dr. Guantt[?] is in the hands of the Secy. of war, and will not be unheeded; but the course the nominations have taken makes it doubtful whether the wishes in behalf of his son can be fulfilled. You will see that Congs., or rather the H. of Rs., have got down the dose of taxes.1 It is the strongest proof they could give that they do not mean to flinch from the contest to which the mad conduct of G. B. drives them. Her perseverance in this seems to be sufficiently attested by the language of Ld. Liverpoole & Mr. Perceval in their parliamentary comments on the Regent’s message. The information from F. is pretty justly described in the paragraph inserted in the Natl. Intelligencer after the arrival of the Constitution. The prints herewith inclosed are forwarded to you at the request of Thoms Gimbrede, (of N. York,) the author.
SPECIAL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
March 9, 1812.
I lay before Congress copies of certain documents which remain in the Department of State.1 They prove that at a recent period, whilst the United States, notwithstanding the wrongs sustained by them, ceased not to observe the laws of peace and neutrality toward Great Britain, and in the midst of amicable professions and negotiations on the part of the British Government, through its public minister here, a secret agent of that Government was employed in certain States, more especially at the seat of government in Massachusetts, in fomenting disaffection to the constituted authorities of the nation, and in intrigues with the disaffected, for the purpose of bringing about resistance to the laws, and eventually, in concert with a British force, of destroying the Union and forming the eastern part thereof into a political connection with Great Britain.
In addition to the effect which the discovery of such a procedure ought to have on the public councils, it will not fail to render more dear to the hearts of all good citizens that happy union of these States which, under Divine Providence, is the guaranty of their liberties, their safety, their tranquillity, and their prosperity.
TO JONATHAN DAYTON.chic. hist. soc. mss.
[March 17, 1812.]
In the latter end of the year 1808, and spring of 1809, two anonymous letters were addressed, one to the Hon Secy. of State, the other to the P. of the U. S.1 They related to a projected severance of the Union, brought to the knowledge of the writer, which was to be undertaken in case of a rupture with G. B. under the managemt. of men of high standing; but was obviated for the time by the accomodation settled with Mr. Erskine. The writer justly estimating the importance of bringing to pub. view the guilty associates, signified his intention to resume his disclosures, shd a future occasion call for them; and to give such evidences of their machinations as wd be conclusive. Such an occasion is formed by existing circumstances. The British designs agst our Union have been happily detected & exposed: But no evidence is produced, having like effect as to domestic plotters; who in the event of war, may be expected to avail themselves of that advantage, in seizing any favorable moment for renewing their machinations. As the motives to the communications & purposes alluded to are doubtless unchanged & as to the want of name & dates to the letters conveying them, is supplied by the handwriting, & post marks, this note may recall the subject to the writer, at a moment singularly critical. A Come. of investigation, under the title of Come. of For relations, having been appd. by the H. of Reps. any name & proofs, or the sources of them may be either pointed out to that body, or otherwise made known as may be thought proper.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington April 3, 1812.
I have recd. your favor of the 26th, and have made to the members of the Cabinet the communication you suggest with respect to your printed Memoir on the Batture. I learn from the Department of State that some books were recd. for you, and duly forwarded. What they were was not ascertained or remembered. If they do not on their arrival correspond with your expectation, let me know, & further enquiry will be made. Meantime there is in my possession, a very large packet, addressed to you, which is probably a Continuation of Humboldts draughts, or other Maps. It was accompanied by no letter to me, and being unfit for the mail, waits for the patronage of some trusty traveller, bound in the stage towards Monticello. A late arrival from G. B. brings dates subsequent to the maturity of the Prince Regent’s authority. It appears that Percival, &c, are to retain their places, and that they prefer war with us, to a repeal of their Orders in Council. We have nothing left therefore, but to make ready for it. As a step to it an embargo for 60 days was recommended to Congs on Wednesday, and agreed to in the H. of Reps. by about 70 to 40.1 The Bill was before the Senate yesterday, who adjourned about 4 or 5 o’Clock without a decision. Whether this result was produced by the rule which arms a single member with a veto agst. a decision in one day on a bill, or foretells a rejection of the Bill I have not yet heard. The temper of that body is known to be equivocal. Such a measure, even for a limited and short time, is always liable to adverse as well as favorable considerations; and its operations at this moment, will add fuel to party discontent, and interested clamor. But it is a rational & provident measure, and will be relished by a greater portion of the Nation, than an omission of it. If it could have been taken sooner and for a period of 3 or 4 months, it might have enlisted an alarm of the B. Cabinet, for their Peninsular System on the side of Concessions to us; and wd. have shaken their obstinacy, if to be shaken at all; the successes on that Theatre being evidently their hold on the P. Regt. and the hold of both on the vanity & prejudices of the Nation. Whether if adopted for 60 days, it may beget apprehensions of a protraction, and thence lead to admissible overtures, before the sword is stained with blood, cannot be foreknown with certainty. Such an effect is not to be counted upon. You will observe that Liverpool was Secy. for the Foreign Dept. ad interim, & that Castlereagh is the definitive successor of Wellesley. The resignation of this last, who has recd. no other appt. is a little mysterious. There is some reason for believing that he is at variance with Percival, or that he distrusts the stability of the existing Cabinet, and courts an alliance with the Grenville party, as likely to overset it. If none of that party desert their colours, the calculation cannot be a very bad one; especially in case of war with the U. S., in addition to the distress of Br trade & manufactures, and the inflammation in Ireland; to say nothing of possible reverses in Spain & Portugal, which alone would cut up the Percival ascendency by the roots. From France we hear nothing. The delay of the Hornet is inexplicable, but on the reproachful supposition that the F. Govt. is waiting for the final turn of things at London, before it takes its course, which justice alone ought to prescribe towards us. If this be found to be its game, it will impair the value of concessions if made, and give to a refusal of them, consequences it may little dream of.
Be assured of my constant and sincerest attachment.
I understand the Embargo will pass the Senate to-day, and possibly with an extension of the period to 75 or 90 days.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington, Apl 24, 1812.
I have just recd. your favor of the 17th. The same mail brings me the “Proceedings of the Govt. of the U. S. relative to the Batture,” for which you will accept my thanks.
I had not supposed that so great a proportion of produce, particularly of Wheat & flour, was still in the hands of the farmers. In Penna. it was known to be the case. In N. Y. almost the whole of the last crop, is in the Country, though chiefly in the hands of the Merchants & Millers. The measure of the Embargo was made a difficult one, both as to its duration & its date, by the conflict of opinions here, and of local interests elsewhere; and to these causes are to be added, that invariable opposition, open with some & covert with others, which have perplexed & impeded the whole course of our public measures. You will have noticed that the Embargo as recommended to Congs. was limited to 60 days. Its extension to 90 proceeded from the united votes of those who wished to make it a negotiating instead of a war measure, of those who wished to put off the day of war as long as possible, if ultimately to be met, & of those whose mercantile constituents had ships abroad, which would be favored in their chance of getting safely home. Some also who wished & hoped to anticipate the expiration of the terms, calculated on the ostensible postponement of the war question as a ruse agst the Enemy. At present great differences of opinion exist, as to the time & form of entering into hostilities; whether at a very early or later day, or not before the end of the 90 days, and whether by a general declaration, or by a commencement with letters of M. & Reprisal. The question is also to be brought forward for an adjournment for 15 or 18 days. Whatever may be the decision on all these points, it can scarcely be doubted that patience in the holders of Wheat & flour at least, will secure them good prices; Such is the scarcity all over Europe, and the dependence of the W. Indies on our supplies. Mr. Maury writes me, on the 21st of March, that flour had suddenly risen to 16½ dollars, and a further rise looked for. And it is foreseen, that in a State of War, the Spanish & Portuguese flags & papers real or counterfeit, will afford a neutral cover to our produce as far as wanted, in ports in the favor of G. B. Licences therefore on our part will not be necessary; which tho’ in some respects mitigating the evils of war, are so pregnant with abuses of the worst sort, as to be liable in others to strong objections. As managed by the belligerents of Europe they are sources of the most iniquitous & detestable practices.
The Hornet still loiters. A letter from Barlow to Granger, fills us with serious apprehensions, that he is burning his fingers with matters which will work great embarrassment & mischief here; and which his instructions could not have suggested.1 In E. Florida, Mathews has been playing a strange comedy, in the face of common sense, as well as of his instructions.1 His extravagances place us in the most distressing dilemma.
Always & affey. Yrs.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington May 25, 1812.
The inclosed letters came under cover to me, by the Hornet. France has done nothing towards adjusting our differences with her. It is understood that the B. & M. Decrees are not in force agst. the U. S. and no contravention of them can be established agst her. On the contrary positive cases rebut the allegation. Still the manner of the F. Govt. betrays the design of leaving G. B. a pretext for enforcing her O. in C. And in all other respects, the grounds of our complaints remain the same. The utmost address has been played off on Mr. Barlow’s wishes & hopes; in much that at the Departure of the Hornet which had been so long detained for a final answer without its being obtained, he looked to the return of the Wasp which had just arrived, without despair of making her the Bearer of some satisfactory arrangement. Our calculations differ widely. In the mean time, the business is become more than ever puzzling. To go to war with Engd and not with France arms the federalists with new matter, and divides the Republicans some of whom with the Quids make a display of impartiality. To go to war agst both, presents a thousand difficulties, above all, that of shutting all the ports of the Continent of Europe agst our Cruisers who can do little without the use of them. It is pretty certain also, that it would not gain over the Federalists, who wd. turn all those difficulties agst the Administration.1 The only consideration of weight in favor of this triangular war as it is called, is that it might hasten thro’ a peace with G. B. or F. a termination, for a while at least, of the obstinate questions now depending with both.
But even this advantage is not certain. For a prolongation of such a war might be viewed by both Belligts. as desirable, with as little reason for the opinion, as has prevailed in the past conduct of both.
SPECIAL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
Washington, June 1, 1812.1
I communicate to Congress certain documents, being a continuation of those heretofore laid before them on the subject of our affairs with Great Britain.
Without going back beyond the renewal in 1803 of the war in which Great Britain is engaged, and omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude, the conduct of her Government presents a series of acts hostile to the United States as an independent and neutral nation.
British cruisers have been in the continued practice of violating the American flag on the great highway of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it, not in the exercise of a belligerent right founded on the law of nations against an enemy, but of a municipal prerogative over British subjects. British jurisdiction is thus extended to neutral vessels in a situation where no laws can operate but the law of nations and the laws of the country to which the vessels belong, and a self-redress is assumed which, if British subjects were wrongfully detained and alone concerned, is that substitution of force for a resort to the responsible sovereign which falls within the definition of war. Could the seizure of British subjects in such cases be regarded as within the exercise of a belligerent right, the acknowledged laws of war, which forbid an article of captured property to be adjudged without a regular investigation before a competent tribunal, would imperiously demand the fairest trial where the sacred rights of persons were at issue. In place of such a trial these rights are subjected to the will of every petty commander.
The practice, hence, is so far from affecting British subjects alone that, under the pretext of searching for these, thousands of American citizens, under the safeguard of public law and of their national flag, have been torn from their country and from everything dear to them; have been dragged on board ships of war of a foreign nation and exposed, under the severities of their discipline, to be exiled to the most distant and deadly climes, to risk their lives in the battles of their oppressors, and to be the melancholy instruments of taking away those of their own brethren.
Against this crying enormity, which Great Britain would be so prompt to avenge if committed against herself, the United States have in vain exhausted remonstrances and expostulations, and that no proof might be wanting of their conciliatory dispositions, and no pretext left for a continuance of the practice, the British Government was formally assured of the readiness of the United States to enter into arrangements such as could not be rejected if the recovery of British subjects were the real and the sole object. The communication passed without effect.
British cruisers have been in the practice also of violating the rights and the peace of our coasts. They hover over and harass our entering and departing commerce. To the most insulting pretensions they have added the most lawless proceedings in our very harbors, and have wantonly spilt American blood within the sanctuary of our territorial jurisdiction. The principles and rules enforced by that nation, when a neutral nation, against armed vessels of belligerents hovering near her coasts and disturbing her commerce are well known. When called on, nevertheless, by the United States to punish the greater offenses committed by her own vessels, her Government has bestowed on their commanders additional marks of honor and confidence.
Under pretended blockades, without the presence of an adequate force and sometimes without the practicability of applying one, our commerce has been plundered in every sea, the great staples of our country have been cut off from their legitimate markets, and a destructive blow aimed at our agricultural and maritime interests. In aggravation of these predatory measures they have been considered as in force from the dates of their notification, a retrospective effect being thus added, as has been done in other important cases, to the unlawfulness of the course pursued. And to render the outrage the more signal these mock blockades have been reiterated and enforced in the face of official communications from the British Government declaring as the true definition of a legal blockade “that particular ports must be actually invested and previous warning given to vessels bound to them not to enter.”
Not content with these occasional expedients for laying waste our neutral trade, the cabinet of Britain resorted at length to the sweeping system of blockades, under the name of orders in council, which has been molded and managed as might best suit its political views, its commercial jealousies, or the avidity of British cruisers.
To our remonstrances against the complicated and transcendent injustice of this innovation the first reply was that the orders were reluctantly adopted by Great Britain as a necessary retaliation on decrees of her enemy proclaiming a general blockade of the British Isles at a time when the naval force of that enemy dared not issue from his own ports. She was reminded without effect that her own prior blockades, unsupported by an adequate naval force actually applied and continued, were a bar to this plea; that executed edicts against millions of our property could not be retaliation on edicts confessedly impossible to be executed; that retaliation, to be just, should fall on the party setting the guilty example, not on an innocent party which was not even chargeable with an acquiescence in it.
When deprived of this flimsy veil for a prohibition of our trade with her enemy by the repeal of his prohibition of our trade with Great Britain, her cabinet, instead of a corresponding repeal or a practical discontinuance of its orders, formally avowed a determination to persist in them against the United States until the markets of her enemy should be laid open to British products, thus asserting an obligation on a neutral power to require one belligerent to encourage by its internal regulations the trade of another belligerent, contradicting her own practice toward all nations, in peace as well as in war, and betraying the insincerity of those professions which inculcated a belief that, having resorted to her orders with regret, she was anxious to find an occasion for putting an end to them.
Abandoning still more all respect for the neutral rights of the United States and for its own consistency, the British Government now demands as prerequisites to a repeal of its orders as they relate to the United States that a formality should be observed in the repeal of the French decrees nowise necessary to their termination nor exemplified by British usage, and that the French repeal, besides including that portion of the decrees which operates within a territorial jurisdiction, as well as that which operates on the high seas, against the commerce of the United States should not be a single and special repeal in relation to the United States, but should be extended to whatever other neutral nations unconnected with them may be affected by those decrees. And as an additional insult, they are called on for a formal disavowal of conditions and pretensions advanced by the French Government for which the United States are so far from having made themselves responsible that, in official explanations which have been published to the world, and in a correspondence of the American minister at London with the British minister for foreign affairs such a responsibility was explicitly and emphatically disclaimed.
It has become, indeed, sufficiently certain that the commerce of the United States is to be sacrificed, not as interfering with the belligerent rights of Great Britain; not as supplying the wants of her enemies, which she herself supplies; but as interfering with the monopoly which she covets for her own commerce and navigation. She carries on a war against the lawful commerce of a friend that she may the better carry on a commerce with an enemy — a commerce polluted by the forgeries and perjuries which are for the most part the only passports by which it can succeed.
Anxious to make every experiment short of the last resort of injured nations, the United States have withheld from Great Britain, under successive modifications, the benefits of a free intercourse with their market, the loss of which could not but outweigh the profits accruing from her restrictions of our commerce with other nations. And to entitle these experiments to the more favorable consideration they were so framed as to enable her to place her adversary under the exclusive operation of them. To these appeals her Government has been equally inflexible, as if willing to make sacrifices of every sort rather than yield to the claims of justice or renounce the errors of a false pride. Nay, so far were the attempts carried to overcome the attachment of the British cabinet to its unjust edicts that it received every encouragement within the competency of the executive branch of our Government to expect that a repeal of them would be followed by a war between the United States and France, unless the French edicts should also be repealed. Even this communication, although silencing forever the plea of a disposition in the United States to acquiesce in those edicts originally the sole plea for them, received no attention.
If no other proof existed of a predetermination of the British Government against a repeal of its orders, it might be found in the correspondence of the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at London and the British secretary for foreign affairs in 1810, on the question whether the blockade of May, 1806, was considered as in force or as not in force. It had been ascertained that the French Government, which urged this blockade as the ground of its Berlin decree, was willing in the event of its removal, to repeal that decree, which, being followed by alternate repeals of the other offensive edicts, might abolish the whole system on both sides. This inviting opportunity for accomplishing an object so important to the United States, and professed so often to be the desire of both the belligerents, was made known to the British Government. As that Government admits that an actual application of an adequate force is necessary to the existence of a legal blockade, and it was notorious that if such a force had ever been applied its long discontinuance had annulled the blockade in question, there could be no sufficient objection on the part of Great Britain to a formal revocation of it, and no imaginable objection to a declaration of the fact that the blockade did not exist. The declaration would have been consistent with her avowed principles of blockade, and would have enabled the United States to demand from France the pledged repeal of her decrees, either with success, in which case the way would have been opened for a general repeal of the belligerent edicts, or without success, in which case the United States would have been justified in turning their measures exclusively against France. The British Government would, however, neither rescind the blockade nor declare its nonexistence, nor permit its non-existence to be inferred and affirmed by the American plenipotentiary. On the contrary, by representing the blockade to be comprehended in the orders in council, the United States were compelled so to regard it in their subsequent proceedings.
There was a period when a favorable change in the policy of the British cabinet was justly considered as established. The minister plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty here proposed an adjustment of the differences more immediately endangering the harmony of the two countries. The proposition was accepted with the promptitude and cordiality corresponding with the invariable professions of this Government. A foundation appeared to be laid for a sincere and lasting reconciliation. The prospect, however, quickly vanished. The whole proceeding was disavowed by the British Government without any explanations which could at that time repress the belief that the disavowal proceeded from a spirit of hostility to the commercial rights and prosperity of the United States; and it has since come into proof that at the very moment when the public minister was holding the language of friendship and inspiring confidence in the sincerity of the negotiation with which he was charged a secret agent of his Government was employed in intrigues having for their object a subversion of our Government and a dismemberment of our happy union.
In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain toward the United States our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers—a warfare which is known to spare neither age nor sex and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to humanity. It is difficult to account for the activity and combinations which have for some time been developing themselves among tribes in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons without connecting their hostility with that influence and without recollecting the authenticated examples of such interpositions heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that Government.
Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country, and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert. It might at least have been expected that an enlightened nation, if less urged by moral obligations or invited by friendly dispositions on the part of the United States, would have found its true interest alone a sufficient motive to respect their rights and their tranquillity on the high seas; that an enlarged policy would have favored that free and general circulation of commerce in which the British nation is at all times interested, and which in times of war is the best alleviation of its calamities to herself as well as to other belligerents; and more especially that the British cabinet would not, for the sake of a precarious and surreptitious intercourse with hostile markets, have persevered in a course of measures which necessarily put at hazard the invaluable market of a great and growing country, disposed to cultivate the mutual advantages of an active commerce.
Other counsels have prevailed. Our moderation and conciliation have had no other effect than to encourage perseverance and to enlarge pretensions. We behold our seafaring citizens still the daily victims of lawless violence, committed on the great common and highway of nations, even within sight of the country which owes them protection. We behold our vessels, freighted with the products of our soil and industry, or returning with the honest proceeds of them, wrested from their lawful destinations, confiscated by prize courts no longer the organs of public law but the instruments of arbitrary edicts, and their unfortunate crews dispersed and lost, or forced or inveigled in British ports into British fleets, whilst arguments are employed in support of these aggressions which have no foundation but in a principle equally supporting a claim to regulate our external commerce in all cases whatsoever.
We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.
Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contest or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government. In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.
Having presented this view of the relations of the United States with Great Britain and of the solemn alternative growing out of them, I proceed to remark that the communications last made to Congress on the subject of our relations with France will have shewn that since the revocation of her decrees, as they violated the neutral rights of the United States, her Government has authorized illegal captures by its privateers and public ships, and that other outrages have been practised on our vessels and our citizens. It will have been seen also that no indemnity had been provided or satisfactorily pledged for the extensive spoliations committed under the violent and retrospective orders of the French Government against the property of our citizens seized within the jurisdiction of France. I abstain at this time from recommending to the consideration of Congress definitive measures with respect to that nation, in the expectation that the result of unclosed discussions between our minister plenipotentiary at Paris and the French Government will speedily enable Congress to decide with greater advantage on the course due to the rights, the interests, and the honor of our country.
Whereas the Congress of the United States, by virtue of the constituted authority vested in them, have declared by their act bearing date the 18th day of the present month that war exists between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof and the United States of America and their Territories:
Now, therefore, I, James Madison, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the same to all whom it may concern; and I do specially enjoin on all persons holding offices, civil or military, under the authority of the United States that they be vigilant and zealous in discharging the duties respectively incident thereto; and I do moreover exhort all the good people of the United States, as they love their country, as they value the precious heritage derived from the virtue and valor of their fathers, as they feel the wrongs which have forced on them the last resort of injured nations, and as they consult the best means under the blessing of Divine Providence of abridging its calamities, that they exert themselves in preserving order, in promoting concord, in maintaining the authority and efficacy of the laws, and in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted authorities for obtaining a speedy, a just, and an honorable peace.
In testimony, etc.
Done etc. the 19th day of June, 1812, etc.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATEERS.1d. of s. mss.
To Capt: — Commander of the private armed — called the —:
For the private armed vessels of the U. States
1. The tenor of your Commission and of the act of Congs entitled “An act, &c. &c. a copy of which is hereto annexed, will be kept constantly in your view. By The high seas referred to in your Commission, you will understand generally, to extend to low water mark; But with the exception of the space within one league or three miles of the shore of countries at peace both with G. B. and with the U. S. you may, nevertheless execute your commission within that distance of the shore of a nation at war with G. B. and even on the waters within the jurisdiction of such nation, if permitted so to do.
2. You are to pay the strictest regard to the rights of neutral powers, & the usages of Civilized nations; and in all your proceedings towards neutral vessels, you are to give them as little molestation or interruption as will consist with the right of ascertaining their neutral character, and of detaining and bringing them in for regular adjudication in the proper cases. You are particularly to avoid even the appearance of using force or seduction with a view to deprive such vessels of their crews, or of their passengers, other than persons in the military service of the enemy.
3. Towards enemy vessels & their crews, you are to proceed, in exercising the rights of war, with all the justice & humanity which characterize the nation of which you are members.
4. The Master & one or more of the principal persons belonging to captured vessels, are to be sent, as soon after the capture as may be, to the Judge or Judges of the proper court in the U. S. to be examined upon oath, touching the interest or property of the captured vessel & her lading; and at the same time are to be delivered to the Judge or Judges, all passes, Charter-parties, bills of lading, invoices, letters & other documents & writings found on board; the s papers to be proved by the affidavit of the Commander of the capturing vessel or some other person present at the capture, to be produced as they were recd without fraud, addition, subduction or embezzlement.
TO —mad. mss.
Washington July 25, 1812.
I have recd. the address from “The Convention of Republican Delegates from the several Counties of the State of New Jersey,” explaining the sentiments entertained, at this crisis, by that portion of my Constituents. The sentiments are worthy the character of Citizens, who know the value of the National rights at stake in the present contest; and who are willing to do justice to the sincere & persevering efforts which have been employed to obtain respect to them without a resort to arms.
The conduct of the nation agst whom this resort has been proclaimed left no choice but between that & the greater evil of a surrender of our Sovereignty on the Element, on which all nations have equal rights, and in the free use of which, the U. S. as a nation whose agriculture & commerce are so closely allied, have an essential interest.
The appeal to force in opposition to the force so long continued against us, had become the more urgent, as every endeavor short of it, had not only been fruitless; but had been followed by fresh usurpations & oppressions. The intolerable outrages committed agst the crews of our vessels which at one time were the result of alledged searches for deserters from British Ships of War, had grown into a like pretension, first as to all British Seamen, and next, as to all British subjects; with the invariable practice of seizing on all neutral seamen of every Nation, and on all such of our own seamen as British officers interested in the abuse might please to demand.
The blockading orders in Council, commencing on the plea of retaliating injuries indirectly done to G. Britain, through the direct operation of French Decrees agst. the trade of the U. S. with her, and on a professed disposition to proceed step by step with France in revoking them, have been since bottomed on pretensions more & more extended and arbitrary; till at length it is openly avowed, as indispensable to a repeal of the Orders as they affect the U. States, that the French Decrees, be repealed as they affect G. Britain directly, and all other neutrals, as well as the U. States. To this extraordinary avowal is superadded abundant evidence that the real object of the orders is, not to restore freedom to the American Commerce with G. B. which could indeed be little interrupted by the decrees of France, but to destroy our lawful commerce, as interfering with her own unlawful commerce with her enemies. The only foundation of this attempt to banish the American flag from the highway of Nations, or to render it wholly subservient to the commercial views of the B. Govt. is the absurd and exploded doctrine that the ocean not less than the land is susceptible of occupancy & dominion; that this dominion is in the hands of G. Britain; and that her laws, not the law of nations, which is ours as well as hers, are to regulate our maritime intercourse with the rest of the world.
When the U. S. assumed & established their rank among the Nations of the Earth, they assumed & established a common Sovereignty on the high seas, as well as an exclusive sovereignty within their territorial limits. The one is as essential as the other to their Character as an Independent Nation. However conceding they may have been on controvertible points, or forbearing under casual and limited injuries, they can never submit to wrongs irreparable in their kind, enormous in their amount, and indefinite in their duration; and which are avowed and justified on principles degrading the U. States from the rank of a sovereign & independent Power. In attaining this high rank, and the inestimable blessings attached to it, no part of the American people, had a more meritorious share than the people of N. Jersey. From none therefore may more reasonably be expected a patriotic zeal in maintaining by the sword the unquestionable & unalienable rights acquired by it; and which it is found can no otherwise be maintained.
TO HENRY DEARBORN.1mad. mss.
Washington, Aug. 9th 1812.
The last of your favors which I have to acknowledge is that of the 3d Ult: from Boston. I am glad to find that you are again at Albany; where your presence will aid much in doing all that can be done for the reputation of the campaign. The lapse of time and the unproductiveness of the laws contemplating a regular force, and volunteers for an entire year & under federal commissions, compel us to moderate some of our expectations. It was much to have been desired that simultaneous invasions of Canada at several points, particularly in relation to Malden and Montreal, might have secured the great object of bringing all Upper Canada, and the channels communicating with the Indians, under our command; with ulterior prospects towards Quebec flattering to our arms. This systematic operation having been frustrated, it only remains to pursue the course that will diminish the disappointment as much as possible. Hull,1 as you will have learnt, is preparing a force for the attack of Malden; and that he may descend towards Niagara, with greater effect and be the more secure agst Indian dangers, a reinforcement of 1,500 men is ordered which will be promptly supplied by the overflowing zeal of the detached militia of Ohio & Kentucky. We hope that your arrangements with Govr. Tomkins will have provided an effective co-operation for subduing the hostile force opposite ours at Niagara; and preparing the way for taking possession of the Country at the other extremity of Lake Ontario. In these events we shall have in our hand not only all the most valuable parts of the Upper province, but the important command of the Lakes. It appears that Hull was making an effort to overpower the British force on Lake Erie, his success in which will be critically useful in several respects.
In addition to these measures, it is essential, notwithstanding the advance of the season, and the difficulties thrown in our way, that the expedition agst Montreal should be forwarded by all the means in your power. The number of regulars that can be procured for it cannot even yet be ascertained; but it is sufficiently ascertained that an extensive auxiliary force will be wanted; and it is nearly as certain that this will not be furnished by the Volunteer Act of Feby unless a sudden ardor overcoming the objections to it, should be inspired by the vicinity of the object and the previous conquests. The last resource therefore on which we are to depend, is that portion of the detached & other Militia which may be within reach, will comply with the call, and voluntarily unite with their officers in rejecting geographical limits to their patriotism. To this resource I hope you will turn your full attention, with a view to the immediate steps proper to be taken to enable it to supply the deficit of regulars & volunteers; with respect to the latter of which as far as they are within a practicable distance, the number known here to be in readiness is very inconsiderable. From the Vermont & New Hampshire Militia favorable expectations are indulged, the State authorities being well disposed to promote the service. As to Massts & Connecticut, even, notwithstanding the obstructions created by the Govrs it is not yet decided that the spirit of some of the detached & other corps may not give effect to your requisitions. Should an adequate force be attainable from the whole or part of the sources referred to, you will be the best judge how far a demonstration towards Quebec will be proper in aid of the measures agst. Montreal, which if we can take by means of any sort we shall find the means of holding. Shd. it be found impracticable to take it this campaign, will it be possible to occupy any other post that will cut off the intercourse with the Indians thro’ the Ottowas river?
You will have noticed the arrival of a Dispatch vessel from the B. Govt.. Nothing is disclosed from that quarter that ought in the slightest degree to slacken our military exertions.
The Secy. of State is on a visit to his farm where he will leave his family. On his return, which will take place in a few days, I propose a like respite. I find myself much worn down, and in need of an antidote to the accumulating bile of which I am sensible; and which I have never escaped in August on tide water.
TO JOEL BARLOW.mad. mss.
Washington August 11, 1812.
As I write on short notice and in cypher, I must be very brief.
The conduct of the F. Govt, explained in yours of the —1 on the subject of the decree of April 1811, will be an everlasting reproach to it. It is the more shameful, as, departing from the declaration to Genl. Armstrong, of which the enforcement of the non-importation was the affect, the revoking decree assumes this as the cause, and itself as the effect; and thus transfers to this Govt the inconsistency of its author.
The decree of April, may nevertheless be used by G. B. as a pretext for revoking her orders; notwithstanding the contrary language of Ld Castlereagh in Parlt. An authentic, tho’ informal communication has just arrived in a despatch vessel from G. B. importing that the orders were to be revoked on the 1st of Augst, subject to renewal if required by the conduct of F. & the U. S. particularly, if the non-importation act should not be forthwith rescinded on the arrival of the act of revocation. As this pledge was given before the declaration of war was known, it may not be adhered to. It is not improbable however that it was hurried off, as a chance for preventing an apprehended war; and the same dislike to the war may possibly produce advances for terminating it, which if the terms be admissible, will be readily embraced.
In the event of a pacification with G. B. the full tide of indignation with which the public mind here is boiling will be directed agst. France, if not obviated by a due reparation of her wrongs. War will be called for by the Nation almost una voce. Even without a peace with England, the further refusal or prevarications of F. on the subject of redress may be expected to produce measures of hostility agst. her at the ensuing session of Congs. This result is the more probable, as the general exasperation will coincide with the calculations of not a few, that a double war, is the shortest road to peace.
I have been the more disposed to furnish you with these prospects, that you may turn them to account, if possible, in prosecuting your discussions with the F. Govt. and be not unprepared to retire from them altogether, on a sudden notice so to do. Your return home, may possibly be directed even before the meeting of Congs. if the intermediate information should continue to present the French conduct in the provoking light in which it has hitherto appeared.
The Secy. of State is absent. But you will receive from Mr. Graham, the usual supply of current intelligence, to which I refer you. I have not time to write to Genl. Fayette. With my best regards to him, tell him that Congs. rose witht deciding as to the validity of the remaining locations near Pt Coupee.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington Aug. 17, 1812.
I have recd yours of the 10th, and return as you request, the letter of Mr. Higginbotham. He will probably have understood from Col: Monroe that the Consulate of Lisbon is the object of numerous & respectable candidates.
The seditious opposition in Mass & Cont. with the intrigues elsewhere insidiously co-operating with it, have so clogged the wheels of the war that I fear the campaign will not accomplish the object of it. With the most united efforts, in stimulating volunteers, they would have probably fallen much short of the number required by the deficiency of regular enlistments. But under the discouragements substituted, and the little attraction contained in the volunteer Act, the two classes together, leave us dependent for every primary operation, on militia, either as volunteers or draughts for six months. We are nevertheless doing as well as we can, in securing the maritime frontier, and in providing for an effective penetration into Upper Canada. It would probably have been best, if it had been practicable in time, to have concentrated a force which could have seized on Montreal, & thus at one stroke, have secured the upper Province, and cut off the sap that nourished Indian hostilities. But this could not be attempted, without sacrificing the Western & N. W. Frontier, threatened with an inundation of savages under the influence of the British establishment near Detroit. Another reason for the expedition of Hull was that the unanimity and ardor of Kentucky & Ohio, promised the requisite force at once for that service, whilst it was too distant from the other points to be assailed. We just learn, but from what cause remains to be known, that the important post of Machilimackinac has fallen into the hands of the Enemy. If the reinforcement of about 2000 ordered from the Ohio, and on the way to Hull, should not enable him to take Malden, and awe the savages emboldened by the British success, his situation will be very ineligible. It is hoped that he will either be strong eno’ as he has cannon & mortars, to reduce that Fort, or to leave a force that will justify him in passing on towards the other end of Lake Erie, and place the British troops there, between him, and those embodied under arrangements of Dearborn & Tomkins at Niagara, for the purpose of occupying the central part of Upper Canada. In the mean time the preparations agst Montreal are going on, and perhaps may furnish a feint towards it, that may conspire with the other plan. I find that Kingston at the East End of L. Ontario is an object with Genl D. The multiplication of these offensive measures has grown out of the defensive precautions for the Frontiers of N. York.
We have no information from England since the war was known there, or even, seriously suspected, by the public. I think it not improbable that the sudden change in relation to the Orders in Council, first in yielding to a qualified suspension, & then a repeal, was the effect of apprehensions in the Cabinet that the deliberations of Congs. would have that issue, and that the Ministry could not stand agst the popular torrent agst the Orders in Council, swelled as it would be by the addition of a war with the U. S. to the pressure of the non-importation Act. What course will be taken when the declaration here, shall be known, is uncertain, both in reference to the American shipments instituted under the repeal of the Orders, and to the question between vindictive efforts for pushing the war agst us, and early advances for terminating it. A very informal & as it has turned out erroneous communication of the intended change in the Orders, was hurried over, evidently with a view to prevent a declaration of war, if it should arrive in time. And the communication was accompanied by a proposal from the local authorities at Halifax sanctioned by Foster, to suspend hostilities both at sea & on land. The late message of Prevost to Dearborn, noticed in the Newspapers has this for its object. The insuperable objections to a concurrence of the Executive in the project are obvious. Without alluding to others, drawn from a limited authority, & from the effect on patriotic ardor, The advantage over us in captures wd. be past, before it could take effect. As we do not apprehend invasion by land, and preparations on each side were to be unrestrained, nothing could be gained by us, whilst arrangements & reinforcements adverse to Hull might be decisive; and on every supposition the Indians wd. continue to be active agst. our frontiers, the more so in consequence of the fall of Machilimackinac. Nothing but triumphant operations on the Theatre which forms their connection with the Enemy will controul their bloody inroads.
I have been indulging my hopes of getting away from this place, in the course of the present week. It is quite possible however that my stay here may be indispensable. As yet I have less of bilious sensations than I could have expected.
Your two letters to Kosciuzco have been duly attended to.
TO S. SPRING.mad. mss.
Montpellier, Sept. 6th, 1812.
I have received your favor of Aug 26. I recollect our Collegiate friendship with the same impressions which it gives me pleasure to find you still retain. Nor have I forgotten the pleasant hours that passed between us, at a much later day under my own roof.
We all feel the weight of the times; and it is to be regretted that all cannot unite in the measures opposed to them. If it were proper for me, it might not be agreeable to you, to discuss the subject, But I will not conceal the surprize and the pain I feel at declarations from any portion of the American people that measures resulting from the National will constitutionally pronounced, and carrying with them the most solemn sanctions, are not to be pursued into effect, without the hazard of civil war. This is surely not the legitimate course. Neither is it the language on other occasions, heard from the same quarter; nor a course consistent with the duration or efficacy of any Government.1
Permit me to express equal surprise, that this extraordinary opposition to the war declared against Great Britain, is most emphatically rested on an alliance or a connection with France; presumed to exist, or be intended, in the face of demonstrations to the contrary, with which the slightest degree of candor ought to be satisfied.
Without entering into comparisons between different districts of the Union, with respect to the suffering which led to the war, or the objects at stake in it; it is clear that every district felt more or less the evils which produced it, and is more or less deeply interested in the success of it. It is equally certain that the way to make it both short and successful, would be to convince the Enemy that he has to contend with the whole and not a part of the Nation. Can it be doubted that if, under the pressure added by the war to that previously felt by G. B. her Government declines an accommodation on terms dictated by justice and compatible with, or rather conducive to her interest, it will be owing to calculations drawn from our internal divisions. If she be disposed to such an accommodation, it will be evinced in due time, to the most prejudiced and misinformed, that the earliest and fairest opportunities, are not withheld.
I need scarcely remark that this is a letter, altogether private and written in confidence that it will be so received.
Mrs M. acknowledges your kind enquiry after her health. Hers and mine are at present both tolerably good. We hope that yours has been entirely reestablished.
Accept our friendly respects
TO WILLIAM DEARBORN.mad. mss.
Washington October 7, 1812.
I have recd. your favor of Sepr 30. I am glad to find that you have succeeded in producing such apprehensions at Montreal as to prevent reinforcements from that quarter to the posts above. It would have been fortunate if you could have derived such Militia & Volunteer aids from Vermont & Eastward of it, as might have substantially have a like controul on Prevost, and thereby have augmented the regular force ordered to Niagara. Appearances denote a better spirit or rather perhaps a better use of it, in the Eastern Quarter; but it may be too late & too distant to answer immediate purposes; unless indeed the Volunteers of Maine, and the Militia Volunteers of N. H. should be, in sufficient numbers and forwardness to prevent descents on our maritime frontier by a show towards Nova Scotia which would excite defensive attention at Halifax. The advance of the season, would I presume, render a measure of that sort unavailing at Quebec. Yet there is undubitably the Sensorium, to which projects of alarm may be most successfully addressed, when not too palpably chimerical. You will receive from the War Office, the last information from Harrison. He has a prospect of doing something towards retrieving the campaign. The promptitude and numbers of the force under his command, will at least save the military character of that part of the nation; will satisfy G. B. that the tendency of defeat is to rouse not depress the American Spirit, & will stamp deep on the Indian mind, the little security they have in British protection. As Harrison seems to be making sure of food for his army, & the measures taken promise seasonable supplies of other necessaries, I see nothing to prevent his reaching Detroit early in this month. And if the great exertions on foot to give him cannon should not fail, it may be hoped he will not only be in possession of that place, but of Malden also; and proceed towards a still more effectual co-operation with the forces at Niagara. Nor do we despair of his success, should the cannon not reach him in time, if the B. Garrisons be such as are represented & he can carry with him the force he has in view; since he will be able to proceed with a very impressive portion, & leave sufficient investments & precautions behind. The artillery sent from this place had travelled nearly to Pittsburg at a rate which promised a good chance for its reaching Detroit before November, if not by the 20th of this month. As Hull’s army was lost, it is to be regretted that the misfortune did not take place a little earlier; and allow more time, of course, for repairing it, within the present season. This regret is particularly applicable to the Great Lakes. What is now doing for the command of them proves what may be done. And the same means would have been used in the 1st instance if the easy conquest of them by land held out to us, had not misled our calculation. The command of ye. Lakes, by a superior force on the Water, ought to have been a fundamental point in the national policy from the moment the peace took place. Whatever may be the future situation of Canada, it ought to be maintained, without regard to expence. We have more means for the purpose & can better afford the expence than G. B. Without the ascendency over those waters we can never have it over the savages, nor be able to secure such posts as Makinaw. With this ascendency we command the Indians, can controul the companies trading with them; and hold Canada, whilst in Foreign hands, as a hostage for peace & justice.
I do not wonder you are oppressed with labor, as well from the extent of your command rendered necessary by the mutual relations between its objects, As from the deficiency of General Officers; and particularly the difficulty and delay in bringing the Staff Department even into its present state. The effect of these circumstances in burdening you with details, has been severely felt here, in throwing them where they as little belonged. To carry on the war with due advantage; more effectual inducements at least must be put into the hands of recruiting Officers. The volunteer system must be essentially improved; the use of the Militia secured to the constitutional authority; and an addition made to the Genl. Officers both Divisions & Brigades. It will be equally essential, to discriminate better the functions of the several Staff Departments, and to have heads of them in immediate contact with the war department. Experience enforces these truths; and nothing but that will ever sufficiently inculcate them. We have nothing important from abroad but what is in the Newspapers.
Health & success with friendly respects
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Washington Octr 14, 1812.
I recd your favor of the 2d, inclosing the letter from Mr. Meigs. The place he wishes has been long allotted to Mr. Mansfield, who preferred it to that of the Surveyorship held by him, and who has just obtained the exchange; and a Commission for the place vacated, has just been sent to Mr. Meigs, who was long ago recommended for it; and who it was understood wished it. It is the more probable that it will be acceptable to him, as he has connections in the W. Country, particularly the Govr of Ohio.
I see so little chance of being able to peruse the lucubrations of Faronde you were so good as to send me, that I replace them, for the present at least in your hands.
The last intelligence from the Westward left a military crisis near Fort Defiance. Winchester with about half the army, was encamped within 3 miles of the encampment of about 300 British troops with some field pieces & a body of Indians stated at 2000 or 2500. It is probable they were destined agst. Fort Wayne, with the general view of finding employment for our forces on their way to Detroit, until the Season should be spent, or Brock could send troops from below. Of our affairs at Niagara & the neighbourhood of Montreal, it is difficult to judge, the force of the Enemy being imperfectly known, & that under General Dearborn, depending so much on circumstances. Our best hopes for the campaign rest on Harrison; and if no disaster, always to be feared from Indian combats, befall him, there is a probability that he will regain Detroit, and perhaps do more. He has a force of 8 or 10,000 men at least, enthusiastically confiding in him, and a prospect of adequate supplies of every sort, unless it be Cannon, which tho’ on the way, may possibly encounter fatal delays. This article however he appears not to make a sine qua non; nor will it be wanted for Detroit, if it be true as is reported that every piece has been withdrawn by the British.
The latest accts from Europe are in the Newspapers. The ideas of which Foster & Russel are put in possession will soon draw from the B. Govt some evidence of their views as to peace. From France we hear nothing; and shall probably meet Congs. under the perplexity of that situation.
The current Elections bring the popularity of the War or of the Administration, or both, to the Experimentum crucis. In this State the issue is not favorable, tho’ less otherwise than would appear. In the Congressional Districts the Republicans I believe, have not lost ground at all, notwithstanding the auxiliaries to federalism. In the State Legislature, they will be in a minority on a joint vote. Penna., altho’ admitted to be shaken, is represented to be safe. New Jersey is doubtful at least. The same is the case with New Hampshire. North Carolina also is reported to be in considerable vibration. The other States remain pretty decided on one hand or on the other.
You will be amused with the little work of the Author of several humorous publications, Irvine1 of N. York. It sinks occasionally into low & local phrases, and some times forgets Allegorical character. But is in general good painting on substantial Canvas.
FOURTH ANNUAL MESSAGE.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
Washington, November 4, 1812.
On our present meeting it is my first duty to invite your attention to the providential favors which our country has experienced in the unusual degree of health dispensed to its inhabitants, and in the rich abundance with which the earth has rewarded the labors bestowed on it. In the successful cultivation of other branches of industry, and in the progress of general improvement favorable to the national prosperity, there is just occasion also for our mutual congratulations and thankfulness.
With these blessings are necessarily mingled the pressures and vicissitudes incident to the state of war into which the United States have been forced by the perseverance of a foreign power in its system of injustice and aggression.
Previous to its declaration it was deemed proper, as a measure of precaution and forecast, that a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan Territory with a general view to its security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain coöperating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employed against other parts. Brigadier-General Hull was charged with this provisional service, having under his command a body of troops composed of regulars and of volunteers from the State of Ohio. Having reached his destination after his knowledge of the war, and possessing discretionary authority to act offensively, he passed into the neighboring territory of the enemy with a prospect of easy and victorious progress. The expedition, nevertheless, terminated unfortunately, not only in a retreat to the town and fort of Detroit, but in the surrender of both and of the gallant corps commanded by that officer. The causes of this painful reverse will be investigated by a military tribunal.
A distinguishing feature in the operations which preceded and followed this adverse event is the use made by the enemy of the merciless savages under their influence. Whilst the benevolent policy of the United States invariably recommended peace and promoted civilization among that wretched portion of the human race, and was making exertions to dissuade them from taking either side in the war, the enemy has not scrupled to call to his aid their ruthless ferocity, armed with the horror of those instruments of carnage and torture which are known to spare neither age nor sex. In this outrage against the laws of honorable war and against the feelings sacred to humanity the British commanders can not resort to a plea of retaliation, for it is committed in the face of our example. They can not mitigate it by calling it a self-defense against men in arms, for it embraces the most shocking butcheries of defenseless families. Nor can it be pretended that they are not answerable for the atrocities perpetrated, since the savages are employed with a knowledge, and even with menaces, that their fury could not be controlled. Such is the spectacle which the deputed authorities of a nation boasting its religion and morality have not been restrained from presenting to an enlightened age.
The misfortune at Detroit was not, however, without a consoling effect. It was followed by signal proofs that the national spirit rises according to the pressure on it. The loss of an important post and of the brave men surrendered with it inspired everywhere new ardor and determination. In the States and districts least remote it was no sooner known than every citizen was ready to fly with his arms at once to protect his brethren against the blood-thirsty savages let loose by the enemy on an extensive frontier, and to convert a partial calamity into a course of invigorated efforts. This patriotic zeal, which it was necessary rather to limit than excite, has embodied an ample force from the States of Kentucky and Ohio and from parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is placed, with the addition of a few regulars, under the command of Brigadier-General Harrison, who possesses the entire confidence of his fellow-soldiers, among whom are citizens, some of them volunteers in the ranks, not less distinguished by their political stations than by their personal merits.
The greater portion of this force is proceeding on its destination toward the Michigan Territory, having succeeded in relieving an important frontier post, and in several incidental operations against hostile tribes of savages, rendered indispensable by the subserviency into which they had been seduced by the enemy—a seduction the more cruel as it could not fail to impose a necessity of precautionary severities against those who yielded to it.
At a recent date an attack was made on a post of the enemy near Niagara by a detachment of the regular and other forces under the command of Major-General Van Rensselaer, of the militia of the State of New York. The attack, it appears, was ordered in compliance with the ardor of the troops, who executed it with distinguished gallantry, and were for a time victorious; but not receiving the expected support, they were compelled to yield to reenforcements of British regulars and savages. Our loss has been considerable, and is deeply to be lamented. That of the enemy, less ascertained, will be the more felt, as it includes among the killed the commanding general, who was also the governor of the Province, and was sustained by veteran troops from unexperienced soldiers, who must daily improve in the duties of the field.
Our expectation of gaining the command of the Lakes by the invasion of Canada from Detroit having been disappointed, measures were instantly taken to provide on them a naval force superior to that of the enemy. From the talents and activity of the officer charged with this object everything that can be done may be expected. Should the present season not admit of complete success, the progress made will insure for the next a naval ascendency where it is essential to our permanent peace with and control over the savages.
Among the incidents to the measures of the war I am constrained to advert to the refusal of the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to furnish the required detachments of militia toward the defense of the maritime frontier. The refusal was founded on a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the Constitution relating to the militia. The correspondences which will be laid before you contain the requisite information on the subject. It is obvious that if the authority of the United States to call into service and command the militia for the public defense can be thus frustrated, even in a state of declared war and of course under apprehensions of invasion preceding war, they are not one nation for the purpose most of all requiring it, and that the public safety may have no other resource than in those large and permanent military establishments which are forbidden by the principles of our free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.
On the coasts and on the ocean the war has been as successful as circumstances inseparable from its early stages could promise. Our public ships and private cruisers, by their activity, and, where there was occasion, by their intrepidity, have made the enemy sensible of the difference between a reciprocity of captures and the long confinement of them to their side. Our trade, with little exception, has safely reached our ports, having been much favored in it by the course pursued by a squadron of our frigates under the command of Commodore Rodgers, and in the instance in which skill and bravery were more particularly tried with those of the enemy the American flag had an auspicious triumph. The frigate Constitution, commanded by Captain Hull, after a close and short engagement completely disabled and captured a British frigate, gaining for that officer and all on board a praise which can not be too liberally bestowed, not merely for the victory actually achieved, but for that prompt and cool exertion of commanding talents which, giving to courage its highest character, and to the force applied its full effect, proved that more could have been done in a contest requiring more.
Anxious to abridge the evils from which a state of war can not be exempt, I lost no time after it was declared in conveying to the British Government the terms on which its progress might be arrested, without awaiting the delays of a formal and final pacification, and our chargé d’affaires at London was at the same time authorized to agree to an armistice founded upon them. These terms required that the orders in council should be repealed as they affected the United States, without a revival of blockades violating acknowledged rules, and that there should be an immediate discharge of American seamen from British ships, and a stop to impressment from American ships, with an understanding that an exclusion of the seamen of each nation from the ships of the other should be stipulated, and that the armistice should be improved into a definite and comprehensive adjustment of depending controversies. Although a repeal of the orders susceptible of explanations meeting the views of this Government had taken place before this pacific advance was communicated to that of Great Britain, the advance was declined from an avowed repugnance to a suspension of the practice of impressments during the armistice, and without any intimation that the arrangement proposed with respect to seamen would be accepted. Whether the subsequent communications from this Government, affording an occasion for reconsidering the subject on the part of Great Britain, will be viewed in a more favorable light or received in a more accommodating spirit remains to be known. It would be unwise to relax our measures in any respect on a presumption of such a result.
The documents from the Department of State which relate to this subject will give a view also of the propositions for an armistice which have been received here, one of them from the authorities at Halifax and in Canada, the other from the British Government itself through Admiral Warren, and of the grounds on which neither of them could be accepted.
Our affairs with France retain the posture which they held at my last communications to you. Notwithstanding the authorized expectations of an early as well as favorable issue to the discussions on foot, these have been procrastinated to the latest date. The only intervening occurrence meriting attention is the promulgation of a French decree purporting to be a definitive repeal to the Berlin and Milan decrees. This proceeding, although made the ground of the repeal of the British orders in council, is rendered by the time and manner of it liable to many objections.
The final communications from our special minister to Denmark afford further proofs of the good effects of his mission, and of the amicable disposition of the Danish Government. From Russia we have the satisfaction to receive assurances of continued friendship, and that it will not be affected by the rupture between the United States and Great Britain. Sweden also professes sentiments favorable to the subsisting harmony.
With the Barbary Powers, excepting that of Algiers, our affairs remain on the ordinary footing. The consul-general residing with that Regency has suddenly and without cause been banished, together with all the American citizens found there. Whether this was the transitory effect of capricious despotism or the first act of predetermined hostility is not ascertained. Precautions were taken by the consul on the latter supposition.
The Indian tribes not under foreign instigations remain at peace, and receive the civilizing attentions which have proved so beneficial to them.
With a view to that vigorous prosecution of the war to which our national faculties are adequate, the attention of Congress will be particularly drawn to the insufficiency of existing provisions for filling up the military establishment. Such is the happy condition of our country, arising from the facility of subsistence and the high wages for every species of occupation, that notwithstanding the augmented inducements provided at the last session, a partial success only has attended the recruiting service. The deficiency has been necessarily supplied during the campaign by other than regular troops, with all the inconveniences and expense incident to them. The remedy lies in establishing more favorably for the private soldier the proportion between this recompense and the term of his enlistment, and it is a subject which can not too soon or too seriously be taken into consideration.
The same insufficiency has been experienced in the provisions for volunteers made by an act of the last session. The recompense for the service required in this case is still less attractive than in the other, and although patriotism alone has sent into the field some valuable corps of that description, those alone who can afford the sacrifice can be reasonably expected to yield to that impulse.
It will merit consideration also whether as auxiliary to the security of our frontier corps may not be advantageously organized with a restriction of their services to particular districts convenient to them, and whether the local and occasional services of mariners and others in the seaport towns under a similar organization would not be a provident addition to the means of their defense.
I recommend a provision for an increase of the general officers of the Army, the deficiency of which has been illustrated by the number and distance of separate commands which the course of the war and the advantage of the service have required.
And I cannot press too strongly on the earliest attention of the Legislature the importance of the reorganization of the staff establishment with a view to render more distinct and definite the relations and responsibilities of its several departments. That there is room for improvements which will materially promote both economy and success in what appertains to the Army and the war is equally inculcated by the examples of other countries and by the experience of our own.
A revision of the militia laws for the purpose of rendering them more systematic and better adapting them to emergencies of the war is at this time particularly desirable.
Of the additional ships authorized to be fitted for service, two will be shortly ready to sail, a third is under repair, and delay will be avoided in the repair of the residue. Of the appropriations for the purchase of materials for shipbuilding, the greater part has been applied to that object and the purchase will be continued with the balance.
The enterprising spirit which has characterized our naval force and its success, both in restraining insults and depredations on our coasts and in reprisals on the enemy, will not fail to recommend an enlargement of it.
There being reason to believe that the act prohibiting the acceptance of British licences is not a sufficient guard against the use of them, for purposes favorable to the interests and views of the enemy, further provisions on that subject are highly important. Nor is it less so that penal enactments should be provided for cases of corrupt and perfidious intercourse with the enemy, not amounting to treason nor yet embraced by any statutory provisions.
A considerable number of American vessels which were in England when the revocation of the orders in council took place were laden with British manufactures under the erroneous impression that the nonimportation act would immediately cease to operate, and have arrived in the United States. It did not appear proper to exercise on unforeseen cases of such magnitude the ordinary powers vested in the Treasury Department to mitigate forfeitures without previously affording to Congress an opportunity of making on the subject such provision as they may think proper. In their decision they will doubtless equally consult what is due to equitable considerations and to the public interest.
The receipts into the Treasury during the year ending on the 30th of September last have exceeded $16,500,000, which have been sufficient to defray all the demands on the Treasury to that day, including a necessary reimbursement of near three millions of the principal of the public debt. In these receipts is included a sum of near $5,850,000, received on account of the loans authorized by the acts of the last session; the whole sum actually obtained on loan amounts to $11,000,000, the residue of which, being receivable subsequent to the 30th of September last, will, together with the current revenue, enable us to defray all the expenses of this year.
The duties on the late unexpected importations of British manufactures will render the revenue of the ensuing year more productive than could have been anticipated.
The situation of our country, fellow-citizens, is not without its difficulties, though it abounds in animating considerations, of which the view here presented of our pecuniary resources is an example. With more than one nation we have serious and unsettled controversies, and with one, powerful in the means and habits of war, we are at war. The spirit and strength of the nation are nevertheless equal to the support of all its rights, and to carry it through all its trials. They can be met in that confidence. Above all, we have the inestimable consolation of knowing that the war in which we are actually engaged is a war neither of ambition nor of vainglory; that it is waged not in violation of the rights of others, but in the maintenance of our own; that it was preceded by a patience without example under wrongs accumulating without end, and that it was finally not declared until every hope of averting it was extinguished by the transfer of the British scepter into new hands clinging to former councils, and until declarations were reiterated to the last hour, through the British envoy here, that the hostile edicts against our commercial rights and our maritime independence would not be revoked; nay, that they could not be revoked without violating the obligations of Great Britain to other powers, as well as to her own interests. To have shrunk under such circumstances from manly resistance would have been a degradation blasting our best and proudest hopes; it would have struck us from the high rank where the virtuous struggles of our fathers had placed us, and have betrayed the magnificent legacy which we hold in trust for future generations. It would have acknowledged that on the element which forms three-fourths of the globe we inhabit, and where all independent nations have equal and common rights, the American people were not an independent people, but colonists and vassals. It was at this moment and with such an alternative that war was chosen. The nation felt the necessity of it, and called for it. The appeal was accordingly made, in a just cause, to the Just and All-powerful Being who holds in His hand the chain of events and the destiny of nations. It remains only that, faithful to ourselves, entangled in no connections with the views of other powers, and ever ready to accept peace from the hand of justice, we prosecute the war with united counsels and with the ample faculties of the nation until peace be so obtained and as the only means under the Divine blessing of speedily obtaining it.
TO JONAS GALUSHA.1mad. mss.
Washington, November 30, 1812.
I have recd. your letter of the 7th instant communicating a Resolution of the General Assembly of Vermont, pledging their co-operation with the General Govt & with the Nation, in the present contest with a Foreign Power. Had this Contest originated in causes, appealing with a less indiscriminate force to the common interests & honorable feelings of every portion of our fellow Citizens, that respect for the will of the majority, regularly proclaimed, which is the vital principle of our free Constitution, would have imposed on all, the sacred duty which is thus laudably recognised by the State of Vermont; and the discharge of which is enforced by the powerful consideration, that nothing can more contribute to prolong the contest and embarrass the attainment of its just objects, than the encouragement afforded to the hopes of the Enemy, by appearances of discord & discontent among ourselves.
In doing justice to the patriotism which dictated the Resolution transmitted, I take a pleasure in remarking that it is heightened by the particular exposure of Vermont to the pressure which the war necessarily brings with it, and in assuring myself that proportionate exertions of her Citizens will add new lustre to their character. In the war which made us an Independent Nation their valor had a conspicuous share. In a war which maintains the rights and attributes of Independence on the Ocean, where they are not less the gift of nature and of nature’s God than on the land, the same zeal & perseverance may be confidently expected from the same pride of liberty & love of Country.
Accept the assurances of my high respect & best wishes.
TO WILLIAM EUSTIS.1mad. mss.
Decr 4, 1812.
I have recd. your letter of yesterday with the impressions wch. could not but result from your purpose of retiring from an Office so nearly related to that which has been entrusted to me, in which your services have been coeval with mine, & in which I have witnessed the zeal and constancy of your exertions for the public good under difficulties peculiarly arduous & trying. In bearing this testimony, I indulge my own feelings as well as pay a tribute which is so justly due.
I take the liberty of adding a hope that it will not be inconsistent with your arrangements, to continue your official attentions untill they can be replaced by a successor.
I thank you for the kind wishes you have expressed, and I offer the best of mine for your welfare & happiness.
TO PAUL HAMILTON.1mad. mss.
December 31, 1812.
I have recd. your letter of yesterday, signifying your purpose to retire from the Dept. which has been under your care.
On an occasion which is to terminate the relation in wch. it placed us, I cannot satisfy my own feelings, or the tribute due to your patriotic merits & private virtues, without bearing testimony to the faithful zeal, the uniform exertions, and unimpeachable integrity, with which you have discharged that important trust; and without expressing the value I have always placed on that personal intercourse, the pleasure of which I am now to lose.
With these recollections & impressions I tender you assurances of my affecte esteem, and of my sincerest wishes for your welfare & happiness.
SPECIAL MESSAGE TO CONGRESS.
[1 ]The act of January 11th provided for raising immediately ten regiments of infantry, two of artillery and one of light dragoons for five years unless sooner discharged. The act of February 6th authorized the President to accept volunteers to the number of 50,000, to do duty whenever he should deem proper and to be bound to remain in the service for twelve months after arriving at a rendezvous. They were to retain their own officers and receive the same pay and allowances as regular troops.—Annals of Cong. 12th Cong., Part 2, 2230 et seq.
[2 ]James Wilkinson was Senior Brigadier-General in the army. He was tried by court-martial September 2d to December 25th on eight charges—being a pensioner of Spain, treasonable projects for the dismemberment of the United States, conspiracy with Aaron Burr, connivance at treasonable designs, conspiracy against a friendly nation, disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, misapplication and waste of public funds. His acquittal was because there was not sufficient evidence to convict. February 14th, Madison approved the finding with this memorandum:
[1 ]Nevertheless, Barlow brought the subject before the French government and submitted the full draft of a commercial treaty. Barlow to Monroe, December 31, 1811.—D. of. S. MSS. Despatches.
[1 ]The vote was 56 to 34, passed Mar. 4th..—Annals of Cong, 12th Cong, Part 1, p. 1155.
[1 ]This was the famous Henry correspondence which showed that a secret agent of the British government had been engaged in reporting the extent of the disaffection towards the government in the New England States. The correspondence may be read in the Annals of Cong., 12th Cong., Part 1, p. 1162. For an account of the whole transaction see Henry Adams, v., 14 and 86, and vi., 176, et seq.
[1 ]The anonymous letters cannot be found. Jonathan Dayton was a revolutionary veteran, Senator from New Jersey 1799 to 1805, speaker of the House of Representatives 1795 to 1799. He was arrested for alleged conspiracy with Aaron Burr, but never tried.
[1 ]On April 1 Madison sent the following message to Congress: “Considering it expedient under existing circumstances and prospects, that a general embargo be laid on all vessels now in port, or hereafter arriving, for the period of sixty days, I recommend the immediate passage of a law to that effect.” (Annals of Cong., 12th Cong., Part 2, p. 1587.) He intended it as a war measure, but the Senate, in altering the period to ninety days, made it rather a measure of negotiation.
[1 ]The allusion is to Barlow’s efforts to negotiate a full commercial convention. April 23, Monroe wrote to him: “I will observe generally that the project is thought to be liable to objections which would delay if it did not defeat here, a Treaty corresponding with it. A formal Treaty was not contemplated by your instructions. The objects contemplated by them were 1st, The admission of our productions into France on beneficial terms. 2nd, security for our neutral and national rights on the high seas, and 3dly, provision for the Rambouillet and other spoliations; and these objects it was expected might be obtained by Decrees or Acts of the French Government adopted separately and independently by itself.”—D. of S. MSS. Instr.
[1 ]The instructions were to take possession of East Florida, if the Spanish governor was disposed to surrender it. If a foreign power should attempt to take possession he was to take effective measures for its occupation.—Annals of Cong., 12th Cong., Part 2, p. 1687. Matthews, however, organized a force and took possession of Amelia Island. See Henry Adams, vi, 237, et seq.
[1 ]J. G. Jackson, a Representative from Virginia, a connection by marriage of Madison’s, wrote to him from Clarksburg, Va., March 30, 1812, that the hostility of the opposition was inveterate, and that the damning proof of British perfidy submitted in the Henry correspondence had not moved them. “My voice is for war,” he added. Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts, wrote confidentially April 12, that three division commanders of Massachusetts troops and three brigadiers were friends of the national government. He had been obliged to appoint officers who were federalists because he could not find others, but he thought they would do their duty and the Major-Generals could be depended upon to correct them if they were guilty of misconduct. On May 19, he wrote again to say that the opposition increased with delay and that war would help matters. “By war we shall be purified as by fire,” he said.—Mad. MSS. These are only examples of many letters to the same effect received by Madison at this time.
[1 ]“More than six months had passed since Congress met, and the question of actual war was still in suspense. At length, after private conference, a deputation of Members of Congress, with Mr. Clay at their head, waited upon the President, and upon the representations of the readiness of a majority of Congress to vote the war if recommended, the Presdnt, on the first Monday in June, transmitted to Congress his message submitting that question to their decision.”—Joseph Gale’s account, Am. Hist. Rev., xiii, 309. Here is the true account of the visit to Madison, which has been so often represented as the occasion when he was promised a renomination for the Presidency if he would send Congress a war message. See Hildreth, vi., 298; McMaster, iii., 445; Von Holst, i., 230; Gay’s Madison, 308. The message being referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House, John C. Calhoun brought in the famous war manifesto June 3, but this paper had really been written by James Monroe. See Joseph Gales on the “War Manifesto of 1812,” Am Hist. Rev., xiii, 303.
[1 ]This is endorsed: Instructions for private armed vessels, drawn up by President Madison. It is in Madison’s hand and is among the War of 1812 MSS., Letters of Marque.
[1 ]He had been appointed Senior Major-General in the army, January 27, and assigned to the command of the northern department.
[1 ]William Hull, appointed to command the northwestern army, surrendered on August 16.
[1 ]May 12, which followed his of May 2. They are printed in part in State Papers, Foreign Relations, vol. iii., 602.
[1 ]September 4, 1812, Richard Rush wrote to Madison, from Washington, that the effect of Hull’s defeat had been disastrous. Would Monroe consent to lead the army? Would Jefferson emerge from his retirement and lend the administration the weight of his counsels?—Chic. Hist. Soc. MSS.
[1 ]The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, New York, 1812, is referred to. It was by James Kirke Paulding, not by Washington Irving; but Paulding and Irving had been collaborating in their Salmagundi and the mistake was a natural one.
[1 ]Governor of Vermont, a Republican, now serving his second term. Vermont was the only New England State which cast its vote for Madison for President at this time. By the following year, however, it became Federalist.
[1 ]Eustis’s retirement as Secretary of War was probably voluntary, he himself recognizing that Congress had no confidence in his ability to cope with the situation. Monroe was appointed Secretary of War pro tempore January 1, 1813, and served till February 4.
[1 ]Hamilton’s resignation was probably on a hint from Madison. On January 12, 1813, William Jones, of Pennsylvania, succeeded him.