James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Crawford, 2 May 1812

From William Crawford

Washington May 2d. 1812


Such frequent obtrusion, on your notice, may be deemed equally presuming & impertinent. Rectitude of intention towards you & the public can alone plead in my vindication. Your candor will induce you to meet that motive with indulgence.

On a former occasion I took the liberty of intimating that the responsibility, of any present adjournment of the two houses of Congress, should rest wholly on them:1 least advantage should be taken, by those who are unfriendly to the views & measures of the administration, of such measure, from executive interference. I, at that time, dreaded the uses which might be made of the measure itself. Subsequent observation & reflection have led me to question the propriety of that opinion. Permit me to offer, to your consideration, the reasons which have induced me to consider that opinion as problematical.

Witnessing the irritation produced, by the length of their absence from home, on the minds of many of the members; I dread least their impatience should precipitate us into measures for which we do not as yet appear to be mature.

The languid & fluctuating excitement of the public mind, while kept in a state of suspence, during the preparation for a more decisive course may operate unfavorably on that course when taken.

At the time when it becomes necessary to take such course the two houses may be found much thinner than would justify, to the nation, the course to be taken; from the impatience of members to visit their homes & inspect their private affairs.

Would not a short recess, such as that proposed by the Senate,2 with an injunction on the members to be punctual in their attendance, on the day fix’d for meeting, offer a remedy for all these inconveniencies? and prepare the public mind to meet with renovated vigor the ultimate measures which the public exigencies would then call for.

Uninformed of the views & determinations of the executive—my own view, of this subject, must necessarily be partial & limited. An anxiety, to perform what appears to be my duty, has induced me to lay it before you, confidentially; trusting that it will be as candidly received as it is honestly intended. With Sentiments of high consideration & sincere respect I am Sir Your fellow citizen

Wm. Crawford

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1If Crawford communicated these ideas to JM by letter, the letter has not been found.

2Crawford was referring to the proposal for a recess made by Sen. Michael Leib on 28 Apr. and adopted by the Senate the next day (see JM to Jefferson, 24 Apr. 1812, and n. 2). After failing to pass any of the proposals for a recess, the House of Representatives on 13 May 1812 considered a motion offered by David R. Williams of South Carolina to direct the Speaker “to address a letter to each member of the House now absent, requesting his attendance prior to the first day of June.” The motion was approved in an amended form to request the “attendance of the members forthwith.” The change in wording was made to calm the fears of some members that Williams’s motion might seem to commit the House to some “decisive” action on 1 June as well as to remove the pretext for other members “near home” to “take the opportunity of the interval to visit their homes, and leave the House without a quorum” (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 1424–27).

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