To William Hill Wells
Thursday, June 17, 1813.
James Madison being too much indisposed to see the committee this morning, is obliged to postpone it until to-morrow, at 11 o’clock.1
Printed copy (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 13th Cong., 1st sess., 97).
1. During the second half of June 1813, JM suffered from a life-threatening attack of “bilious fever.” On 14 June, Dolley Madison informed Elbridge Gerry that “the President was sick in his chamber & could not meet his friends that day,” and that JM “had been worried, by the opposition given to his nomination of Mr Gallatin, & his apprehension for the fate of his foreign negotiations” (Gerry to Ann Gerry, 15 June 1813 [NjMoHP]). Word of the president’s illness and its seriousness spread quickly, and on 21 June, Louis Sérurier, French minister to the United States, wrote to the duc de Bassano: “All good Americans pray for the recovery of Mr. Madison.” As JM’s indisposition continued, James Monroe informed Wells’s committee on 23 June that in order to prevent further delay in the Senate’s consideration of Jonathan Russell’s nomination, the president had authorized Monroe to convey any information the committee might wish to obtain from the executive on that topic. On 24 June, Wells declined the offer, stating that the committee would “wait with pleasure for the conference they have been ordered by the Senate to request of the President, until the restoration of his health takes place” (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 13th Cong., 1st sess., 97). Daniel Webster of the House of Representatives was not so patient, however, and on 21 June insisted on delivering to JM five House resolutions demanding that the president answer various questions about the U.S. response to the purported repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. Webster found JM too sick to read the resolutions. Amidst rumors such as that reported by John Adams that JM “lives by laudanum and could not hold out four months” (Adams to Richard Rush, 6 Sept. 1813 [Letters and Papers of Richard Rush (microfilm ed.), reel 3]), conspiracy theories emerged as to how the presidency might be filled if both JM and the elderly vice-president Gerry were to die. These speculations became moot, however, as JM’s fever abated and he gained strength during the first days of July. On 7 July, the Daily National Intelligencer ended its coverage of the president’s illness with the announcement that he had “so far recovered as to have attended to some of the most urgent public business” (Brant, Madison description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis and New York, 1941–61). description ends , 6:184–88).