James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Elbridge Gerry, 13 July 1812

From Elbridge Gerry


Cambridge 13th July 1812

My dear Sir,

I addressed a line to you on the 5th,2 & am happy to learn that Colo Porter has the command of Fort Independence; that he has upwards of three hundred men; & that he is daily receiving reinforcements. Sure I am, that nothing will be wanting on the part of the Republicans in this State, to aid General Dearborn, & to promote the veiws & orders of the national Government.

It is impossible to say, what are the objects of Governor Strong, in regard to the line of conduct he is pursuing. But this is so extraordinary, & wears such an aspect, as to leave no doubt in my mind, of the expediency & policy, on the part of the friends of Government to provide for the worst. I have therefore urged the Republicans, in their private capacitees to such measures as shall be warrantable, for ascertaining with precision, every man in the State, who will enroll himself, for supporting at all hazards the national Gove[r]nment, in conducting the war, & also every recusant; for having the former armed & equipped, to repair with proper officers at a moments warning to the respective places of Rendezvous; for having regular returns thereof; & for having the men so enrolled, officered & equipped, at the command, when requisite, of an officer who may be entrusted for defence. The conduct of Governor Strong, under a pretext, in changing two of the Major Generals who were Republicans (& appointed for commanding two of the divisions of the detachments, by the former Executive) for two high federal Major Generals;3 in reserving to himself, the command of the whole militia of the State, including the detachments;4 & in manifesting an intention of placing it, in case of an invasion, under the command of a veteran federal Major General; in forming with Governor Griswold, who has departed from his declared intentions, respecting the detachments of that State, a coalition for opposing the national administration;5 & in its using such an extraordinary proclamation for a fast,6 justifies apprehensions of the most inimical nature, in case of an attack by the british, & authorizes measures for guarding against every possible hostile event. It appears to me, that it would be an unpardonable neglect, for the republicans in this State, with folded arms, to leave it in the power of such a disaffected Executive, to deliver up our fortresses to the Enemy; to enable those, who may be disposed to rebel, to unite with our foes; to aid them, in making a diversion, of our western army & to subject the State to be overawed by a few traitors; for I verily beleive, that the friends of the national Government in Massachusetts, are sufficiently powerful, to drive every malecontent out of the State; & before the trial is made, I think the republicans would be very unwilling to call on any of our Sister States for aid. Notwithstanding this, it may be well to have in them a commanding force, & to let this be known, in order to keep in check the tories & tory federalists on this Quarter. I beleive their number to be very small, when compared with the whole number of federalists.

Of the final result of these measures, I cannot judge at present; but the republicans of Boston & the Vicinity, who are to meet this evening, will probably come to some decision.7 I pray your Excellency to be assured of my highest esteem & respect, & that I have the honor to remain, Dear Sir, yours very sincerely

E. Gerry

RC (DLC); FC (MHi: Elbridge Gerry Papers). RC docketed by JM.

1JM added “& important” here.

2PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:560.

3Strong appointed Ebenezer Malton and Henry Sewall (Strong to Dearborn, 3 July 1812, enclosed in Dearborn to Eustis, 5 July 1812 [DNA: RG 107, LRRS, D-105:6]). For the major generals originally appointed by Gerry, see Gerry to JM, 25 Apr. 1812, PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:349–50.

4For Strong’s refusal to detach the militia, see Memorandum from an Unidentified Correspondent, post 1 July 1812, and Dearborn to JM, 3 July 1812, ibid., 4:538, 541 n. 1, 543, 544 n. 1.

5Connecticut governor Roger Griswold had written to Eustis on 17 June promising to comply with presidential requests made through Dearborn to supply detached militia. He then convened a special meeting of the governor’s council on 29 June in Hartford to receive advice. Lt. Gov. John Cotton Smith informed Eustis on 2 July that Griswold had decided not to supply the militia. Griswold argued that the promise of compliance was made on the assumption that it would not violate the U.S. Constitution (ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Military Affairs, 1:325–26).

6On 26 June 1812 Governor Strong issued a proclamation calling for a day of public fasting, humiliation, and prayer in Massachusetts. The proclamation treated the declaration of war as divine punishment and called upon the citizens to seek forgiveness and pray for peace (Boston Columbian Centinel, 27 June 1812).

7The Republican meeting scheduled for 13 July was held at the Exchange Coffee House, but so many Federalists turned out that the room was too small to contain the crowd. The meeting adjourned and reconvened on 15 July, when Federalists took it over and passed a series of antiwar resolutions (ibid., 15 and 18 July 1812).

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