James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Elbridge Gerry, 20 May 1812

From Elbridge Gerry


Cambridge 20th May 1812

Dear Sir,

In a letter which I addressed to You yesterday, I omitted to mention, that you have the entire confidence of the republicans in this quarter. They veiw with deep regret, every attempt of a few of the republican party to supplant you;1 with indignation, the proffered support of the federalists to your competitor; & with grief, the division, small as it is, which has been the result: but you may be assured of every republican vote in this section. I also might have stated, that in regard to our election, notwithstanding the untoward events mentioned in my last; the unfortunate destruction of our property by the french Ships of war;2 & the neglect of the patriotic Newspapers in this Commonwealth, on which subject I frequently cautioned our friends, there will not, as it is beleived, be above 500 majority, or 1000 plurality of Votes, for the federal Gubernatorial Candidate. And according to reports several thousand of the federal votes were undoubtedly attained by bringing for a short period, from the neighbouring States, as labourers men to vote, & dismissing them immediately after they had voted; and To this fraud, were added those, of refusing the votes of qualified republican voters; of admitting illegal federal voters; of permitting these to vote repeatedly in the same town, & in some instances, in two or more towns; & of overcounting the votes. These are alarming circumstances, & destructive of elective rights. Very respectfully & sincerely Your friend

E. Gerry

RC (DLC); FC (NjMoHP). RC docketed by JM.

1Gerry was referring to the efforts of DeWitt Clinton to arrange his nomination for the presidency in order to oppose JM’s reelection. Rumors had been circulating since December 1811 about Clinton’s intentions, and it was widely believed that he might be nominated sometime in March 1812 by the Republican caucus in the New York state legislature. The decision of New York governor Daniel D. Tompkins to prorogue the legislature for sixty days on 27 Mar., however, effectively prevented Clinton’s supporters from implementing their plans before the end of May. During that period JM was nominated for reelection by the Republican congressional caucus in Washington on 18 May, while Clinton’s nomination in Albany was delayed until 31 May. Thereafter there was abundant evidence of the organizing activities of Clinton’s supporters throughout the summer and fall. Among the plans imputed to them was one involving the detachment of three Republicans in the Massachusetts Senate in order to unite them with the Federalists in the lower house for the purpose of choosing Clintonian electors (see Steven E. Siry, De Witt Clinton and the American Political Economy: Sectionalism, Politics, and Republican Ideology, 1787–1828 [New York, 1990], pp. 155–61; “Statement in R. King’s Handwriting,” 27 July 1812, in King, Life and Correspondence of Rufus King, 5:265–66).

2News had reached Washington in late March 1812 that French frigates had recently burned at sea two American merchantmen bound for Spain. The embarrassing nature of this incident was underlined by Secretary of State Monroe when he predicted to the French minister that all the opponents of the administration would “rise up en masse and ask why we insist on making war on England over her maintenance of the orders in council when we have such a terrible and recent proof that the French decrees are not withdrawn” (editors’ translation). JM also complained to Sérurier about the episode, but to no avail (Sérurier to Bassano, 23 Mar. and 24 Apr. 1812 [AAE: Political Correspondence, U.S., vol. 67]).

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