Front Page Titles (by Subject) Report and Resolutions of the Hartford Convention 4 January 1815 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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Report and Resolutions of the Hartford Convention 4 January 1815 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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Report and Resolutions of the Hartford Convention 4 January 1815
Alienated by years of Republican experiments with commercial coercion, much of New England resented and resisted the war. Disaffection included legislative addresses condemning the war and discouraging volunteering, refusal by the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to permit their militias to be used outside their states, trading with the enemy, and, in December 1814, the convocation at Hartford, Connecticut, of a convention to consider the section’s grievances against the course of federal affairs. Listing these, the meeting’s resolutions proceeded to demand a lengthy set of constitutional amendments.
First.—A deliberate and extensive system for effecting a combination among certain states, by exciting local jealousies and ambition, so as to secure to popular leaders in one section of the Union the control of public affairs in perpetual succession. To which primary object most other characteristics of the system may be reconciled.
Secondly.—The political intolerance displayed and avowed in excluding from office men of unexceptionable merit for want of adherence to the executive creed.
Thirdly.—The infraction of the judiciary authority and rights, by depriving judges of their offices in violation of the constitution.
Fourthly.—The abolition of existing taxes requisite to prepare the country for those changes to which nations are always exposed, with a view to the acquisition of popular favor.
Fifthly.—The influence of patronage in the distribution of offices, which in these states has been almost invariably made among men the least entitled to such distinction, and who have sold themselves as ready instruments for distracting public opinion and encouraging administration to hold in contempt the wishes and remonstrances of a people thus apparently divided.
Sixthly.—The admission of new states into the Union, formed at pleasure in the western region, has destroyed the balance of power which existed among the original states and deeply affected their interest.
Seventhly.—The easy admission of naturalized foreigners to places of trust, honor, or profit, operating as an inducement to the malcontent subjects of the old world to come to these states in quest of executive patronage and to repay it by an abject devotion to executive measures.
Eighthly.—Hostility to Great Britain and partiality to the late government of France, adopted as coincident with popular prejudice and subservient to the main object, party power. Connected with these must be ranked erroneous and distorted estimates of the power and resources of those nations, of the probable results of their controversies, and of our political relations to them respectively.
Lastly and principally.—A visionary and superficial theory in regard to commerce, accompanied by a real hatred but a feigned regard to its interests, and a ruinous perseverance in efforts to render it an instrument of coercion and war.
But it is not conceivable that the obliquity of any administration could, in so short a period, have so nearly consummated the work of national ruin, unless favored by defects in the Constitution.
To enumerate all the improvements of which that instrument is susceptible and to propose such amendments as might render it in all respects perfect, would be a task which this convention has not thought proper to assume. They have confined their attention to such as experience has demonstrated to be essential, and even among these, some are considered entitled to a more serious attention than others. They are suggested without any intentional disrespect to other states and are meant to be such as all shall find an interest in promoting. Their object is to strengthen, and if possible to perpetuate, the union of the states, by removing the grounds of existing jealousies and providing for a fair and equal representation and a limitation of powers, which have been misused… .
That it be and hereby is recommended to the legislatures of the several states represented in this Convention to adopt all such measures as may be necessary effectually to protect the citizens of said states from the operation and effects of all acts which have been or may be passed by the Congress of the United States which shall contain provisions subjecting the militia or other citizens to forcible drafts, conscriptions, or impressments, not authorized by the Constitution of the United States.
Resolved, That it be and hereby is recommended to the said legislatures to authorize an immediate and earnest application to be made to the government of the United States, requesting their consent to some arrangement whereby the said states may, separately or in concert, be empowered to assume upon themselves the defense of their territory against the enemy; and a reasonable portion of the taxes collected within said states may be paid into the respective treasuries thereof, and appropriated to the payment of the balance due said states and to the future defense of the same. The amount so paid into the said treasuries to be credited and the disbursements made as aforesaid to be charged to the United States.
Resolved, That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the aforesaid states to pass laws (where it has not already been done) authorizing the governors or commanders-in-chief of their militia to make detachments from the same or to form voluntary corps, as shall be most convenient and conformable to their constitutions, and to cause the same to be well armed, equipped, and disci-plined, and held in readiness for service; and upon the request of the governor of either of the other states to employ the whole of such detachment or corps, as well as the regular forces of the state, or such part thereof as may be required and can be spared consistently with the safety of the state, in assisting the state, making such request to repel any invasion thereof which shall be made or attempted by the public enemy.
Resolved, That the following amendments of the Constitution of the United States be recommended to the states represented as aforesaid, to be proposed by them for adoption by the state legislatures and in such cases as may be deemed expedient by a convention chosen by the people of each state.
And it is further recommended that the said states shall persevere in their efforts to obtain such amendments until the same shall be effected.
First. Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union according to their respective numbers of free persons, including those bound to serve for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, and all other persons.
Second. No new state shall be admitted into the Union by Congress in virtue of the power granted by the Constitution without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses.
Third. Congress shall not have power to lay any embargo on the ships or vessels of the citizens of the United States, in the ports or harbors thereof, for more than sixty days.
Fourth. Congress shall not have power, without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses, to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and any foreign nation or the dependencies thereof.
Fifth. Congress shall not make or declare war or authorize acts of hostility against any foreign nation without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses, except such acts of hostility be in defense of the territories of the United States when actually invaded.
Sixth. No person who shall hereafter be naturalized shall be eligible as a member of the Senate or House of Representatives of the United States, nor capable of holding any civil office under the authority of the United States.
Seventh. The same person shall not be elected president of the United States a second time; nor shall the president be elected from the same state two terms in succession.
Resolved, That if the application of these states to the government of the United States, recommended in a foregoing resolution, should be unsuccessful and peace should not be concluded, and the defense of these states should be neglected, as it has since the commencement of the war, it will, in the opinion of this convention, be expedient for the legislatures of the several states to appoint delegates to another convention, to meet at Boston … with such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis so momentous may require.
The End of an Era
In spite of New England’s resistance—and very mixed success on the battlefields in most of the campaigns—the War of 1812 was brought to a conclusion without significant concessions by either side. Indeed, an interesting succession of events allowed Americans to feel that they had won. News of Andrew Jackson’s smashing victory in the battle of New Orleans (8 January 1815) reached the East shortly before the news of the Treaty of Ghent, which had in fact been signed in Belgium on Christmas Eve, 1814, two weeks before the battle was fought. Commissioners carrying the report of the Hartford Convention reached the capital just in time for the celebration of the news from New Orleans, and the attempt to extort constitutional amendments under pressure of war damaged the reputation of the Federalist party beyond repair. Within four years, for practical purposes, the Republicans were the only party left. Moreover, the lessons from the war and from the years of unsuccessful efforts to coerce the European powers encouraged a considerable revision of Republican ideas. In his final year in office, Madison would recommend, and Congress would approve, a program going very far toward marking the conclusion of the first party war.
Madison’s Seventh Annual Message 5 December 1815
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives
… The treaty of peace with Great Britain has been succeeded by a convention on the subject of commerce concluded by the plenipotentiaries of the two countries. In this result a disposition is manifested on the part of that nation corresponding with the disposition of the United States, which it may be hoped will be improved into liberal arrangements on other subjects on which the parties have mutual interests, or which might endanger their future harmony. Congress will decide on the expediency of promoting such a sequel by giving effect to the measure of confining the American navigation to American seamen—a measure which, at the same time that it might have that conciliatory tendency, would have the further advantage of increasing the independence of our navigation and the resources for our maritime defense.
In conformity with the articles in the Treaty of Ghent relating to the Indians, as well as with a view to the tranquillity of our western and northwestern frontiers, measures were taken to establish an immediate peace with the several tribes who had been engaged in hostilities against the United States. Such of them as were invited to Detroit acceded readily to a renewal of the former treaties of friendship. Of the other tribes who were invited to a station on the Mississippi the greater number have also accepted the peace offered to them. The residue, consisting of the more distant tribes or parts of tribes, remain to be brought over by further explanations, or by such other measures as may be adapted to the dispositions they may finally disclose… .
Although the embarrassments arising from the want of a uniform national currency have not been diminished since the adjournment of Congress, great satisfaction has been derived in contemplating the revival of the public credit and the efficiency of the public resources… .
… It is true that the improved condition of the public revenue will not only afford the means of maintaining the faith of the government with its creditors inviolate, and of prosecuting successfully the measures of the most liberal policy, but will also justify an immediate alleviation of the burdens imposed by the necessities of the war. It is, however, essential to every modification of the finances that the benefits of a uniform national currency should be restored to the community. The absence of the precious metals will, it is believed, be a temporary evil, but until they can again be rendered the general medium of exchange it devolves on the wisdom of Congress to provide a substitute which shall equally engage the confidence and accommodate the wants of the citizens throughout the Union. If the operation of the state banks cannot produce this result, the probable operation of a national bank will merit consideration; and if neither of these expedients be deemed effectual it may become necessary to ascertain the terms upon which the notes of the government (no longer required as an instrument of credit) shall be issued upon motives of general policy as a common medium of circulation.
Notwithstanding the security for future repose which the United States ought to find in their love of peace and their constant respect for the rights of other nations, the character of the times particularly inculcates the lesson that, whether to prevent or repel danger, we ought not to be unprepared for it. This consideration will sufficiently recommend to Congress a liberal provision for the immediate extension and gradual completion of the works of defense, both fixed and floating, on our maritime frontier, and an adequate provision for guarding our inland frontier against dangers to which certain portions of it may continue to be exposed.
As an improvement in our military establishment, it will deserve the consideration of Congress whether a corps of invalids might not be so organized and employed as at once to aid in the support of meritorious individuals excluded by age or infirmities from the existing establishment, and to procure to the public the benefit of their stationary services and of their exemplary discipline. I recommend also an enlargement of the Military Academy already established, and the establishment of others in other sections of the Union; and I cannot press too much on the attention of Congress such a classification and organization of the militia as will most effectually render it the safeguard of a free state. If the experience has shown in the recent splendid achievements of militia the value of this resource for the public defense, it has shown also the importance of that skill in the use of arms and that familiarity with the essential rules of discipline which cannot be expected from the regulations now in force. With this subject is intimately connected the necessity of accommodating the laws in every respect to the great object of enabling the political authority of the Union to employ promptly and effectually the physical power of the Union in the cases designated by the Constitution.
The signal services which have been rendered by our Navy and the capacities it has developed for successful cooperation in the national defense will give to that portion of the public force its full value in the eyes of Congress, at an epoch which calls for the constant vigilance of all governments. To preserve the ships now in a sound state, to complete those already contemplated, to provide amply the imperishable materials for prompt augmentations, and to improve the existing arrangements into more advantageous establishments for the construction, the repairs, and the security of vessels of war is dictated by the soundest policy.
In adjusting the duties on imports to the object of revenue the influence of the tariff on manufactures will necessarily present itself for consideration. However wise the theory may be which leaves to the sagacity and interest of individuals the application of their industry and resources, there are in this as in other cases exceptions to the general rule. Besides the condition which the theory itself implies of a reciprocal adoption by other nations, experience teaches that so many circumstances must concur in introducing and maturing manufacturing establishments, especially of the more complicated kinds, that a country may remain long without them, although sufficiently advanced and in some respects even peculiarly fitted for carrying them on with success. Under circumstances giving a powerful impulse to manufacturing industry, it has made among us a progress and exhibited an efficiency which justify the belief that with a protection not more than is due to the enterprising citizens whose interests are now at stake it will become at an early day not only safe against occasional competitions from abroad, but a source of domestic wealth and even of external commerce. In selecting the branches more especially entitled to the public patronage a preference is obviously claimed by such as will relieve the United States from a dependence on foreign supplies, ever subject to casual failures, for articles necessary for the public defense or connected with the primary wants of individuals. It will be an additional recommendation of particular manufactures where the materials for them are extensively drawn from our agriculture and consequently impart and insure to that great fund of national prosperity and independence an encouragement which cannot fail to be rewarded.
Among the means of advancing the public interest the occasion is a proper one for recalling the attention of Congress to the great importance of establishing throughout our country the roads and canals which can best be executed under the national authority. No objects within the circle of political economy so richly repay the expense bestowed on them, there are none the utility of which is more universally ascertained and acknowledged; none that do more honor to the governments whose wise and enlarged patriotism duly appreciates them. Nor is there any country which presents a field where nature invites more the art of man to complete her own work for his accommodation and benefit. These considerations are strengthened, moreover, by the political effect of these facilities for intercommunication in bringing and binding more closely together the various parts of our extended confederacy. Whilst the states individually, with a laudable enterprise and emulation, avail themselves of their local advantages by new roads, by navigable canals, and by improving the streams susceptible of navigation, the General Government is the more urged to similar undertakings, requiring a national jurisdiction and national means, by the prospect of thus systematically completing so inestimable a work; and it is a happy reflection that any defect of constitutional authority which may be encountered can be supplied in a mode which the Constitution itself has providently pointed out.
The present is a favorable season also for bringing again into view the establishment of a national seminary of learning within the District of Columbia, and with means drawn from the property therein, subject to the authority of the General Government. Such an institution claims the patronage of Congress as a monument of their solicitude for the advancement of knowledge, without which the blessings of liberty cannot be fully enjoyed or long preserved; as a model instructive in the formation of other seminaries; as a nursery of enlightened preceptors; and as a central resort of youth and genius from every part of their country, diffusing on their return examples of those national feelings, those liberal sentiments, and those congenial manners which contribute cement to our Union and strength to the great political fabric of which that is the foundation.
In closing this communication I ought not to repress a sensibility, in which you will unite, to the happy lot of our country and to the goodness of a superintending Providence, to which we are indebted for it. Whilst other portions of mankind are laboring under the distresses of war or struggling with adversity in other forms, the United States are in the tranquil enjoyment of prosperous and honorable peace. In reviewing the scenes through which it has been attained we can rejoice in the proofs given that our political institutions, founded in human rights and framed for their preservation, are equal to the severest trials of war, as well as adapted to the ordinary periods of repose. As fruits of this experience and of the reputation acquired by the American arms on the land and on the water, the nation finds itself possessed of a growing respect abroad and of a just confidence in itself, which are among the best pledges for its peaceful career. Under other aspects of our country the strongest features of its flourishing condition are seen in a population rapidly increasing on a territory as productive as it is extensive; in a general industry and fertile ingenuity which find their ample rewards; and in an affluent revenue which admits a reduction of the public burdens without withdrawing the means of sustaining the public credit, of gradually discharging the public debt, of providing for the necessary defensive and precautionary establishments, and of patronizing in every authorized mode undertakings conducive to the aggregate wealth and individual comfort of our citizens.
It remains for the guardians of the public welfare to persevere in that justice and good will toward other nations which invite a return of these sentiments toward the United States; to cherish institutions which guarantee their safety and their liberties, civil and religious; and to combine with a liberal system of foreign commerce an improvement of the national advantages and a protection and extension of the independent resources of our highly favored and happy country.
In all measures having such objects my faithful cooperation will be afforded.
Madison’s Veto of the Internal Improvements Bill 3 March 1817
Among the recommendations of December 1815, few were clearer than initiation of a program to support internal improvements, which Jefferson’s and Madison’s administrations had had in mind since Gallatin prepared his great report of 1808. In his last days in office, nevertheless, Madison left a vivid reminder that the measures of 1815 were hardly a surrender to the Federalists’ ideas.
To the House of Representatives of the United States
Having considered the bill this day presented to me entitled “An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements,” and which sets apart and pledges funds “for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses, in order to facilitate, promote, and give security to internal commerce among the several states, and to render more easy and less expensive the means and provisions for the common defense,” I am constrained by the insuperable difficulty I feel in reconciling the bill with the Constitution of the United States to return it with that objection to the House of Representatives, in which it originated.
The legislative powers vested in Congress are specified and enumerated in the eighth section of the first article of the Constitution, and it does not appear that the power proposed to be exercised by the bill is among the enumerated powers, or that it falls by any just interpretation within the power to make laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution those or other powers vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States.
“The power to regulate commerce among the several states” cannot include a power to construct roads and canals and to improve the navigation of water courses in order to facilitate, promote, and secure such a commerce without a latitude of construction departing from the ordinary import of the terms strengthened by the known inconveniences which doubtless led to the grant of this remedial power to Congress.
To refer the power in question to the clause “to provide for the common defense and general welfare” would be contrary to the established and consistent rules of interpretation, as rendering the special and careful enumeration of powers which follow the clause nugatory and improper. Such a view of the Constitution would have the effect of giving to Congress a general power of legislation instead of the defined and limited one hitherto understood to belong to them, the terms “common defense and general welfare” embracing every object and act within the purview of a legislative trust. It would have the effect of subjecting both the Constitution and laws of the several states in all cases not specifically exempted to be superseded by laws of Congress, it being expressly declared “that the Constitution of the United States and laws made in pursuance thereof shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges of every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.” Such a view of the Constitution, finally, would have the effect of excluding the judicial authority of the United States from its participation in guarding the boundary between the legislative powers of the general and the state governments, inasmuch as questions relating to the general welfare, being questions of policy and expediency, are unsusceptible of judicial cognizance and decision.
A restriction of the power “to provide for the common defense and general welfare” to cases which are to be provided for by the expenditure of money would still leave within the legislative power of Congress all the great and most important measures of government, money being the ordinary and necessary means of carrying them into execution.
If a general power to construct roads and canals and to improve the navigation of water courses, with the train of powers incident thereto, be not possessed by Congress, the assent of the states in the mode provided in the bill cannot confer the power. The only cases in which the consent and cession of particular states can extend the power of Congress are those specified and provided for in the Constitution.
I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the national legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it cannot be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and a reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the general and the state governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.
Alexander Hamilton was mortally wounded on 11 July 1804, in a duel with Aaron Burr. The disruption in 1791 of the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was not repaired until early in 1812, thanks in great part to the determination of Dr. Benjamin Rush to bring about a reconciliation between his two old friends and fellow signers of the Declaration. After Rush’s intercession, Adams wrote to Jefferson that he believed the two of them ought not to die before they had explained themselves to one another. A rich correspondence ensued and continued until their deaths, both of them on 4 July 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of Independence. These famous letters were occupied more with philosophical matters than with the great events in which the two had been allies and opponents. From time to time, however, Adams insisted on bringing the subject back to their collaborations and collisions. Jefferson usually resisted the reopening of old debates, but Jefferson’s other correspondence suggests that he never changed his mind about the issues that had been at stake or about the dangers of the constitutional interpretations promulgated by the Marshall court. Those issues were still on his mind when Jefferson and Madison said their last farewells.