James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Alexander J. Dallas, May 1815

Department of War. May 1815.

The Act of Congress of the 3d. of March 1815 declares, "that the Military peace establishment of the United States shall consist of such proportions of Artillery, Infantry, and Riflemen, not exceeding in the whole ten thousand men, as the President of the United States shall judge proper; that the Corps of Engineers, as at present established, be retained; that the President of the United States cause to be arranged the Officers, non-commissioned Officers, musicians and privates, of the Several Corps of Troops in the service of the United States, in such manners as to form and complete out of the same, the Corps authorized by this Act; and that he cause the supernumerary Officers, non-commissioned Officers, musicians, and privates, to be discharged from the service of the United States, from and after the first day of May next, or as soon as circumstances may permit".

The President of the United States, having performed the duty which the law assigned to him, has directed that the organization of the Military peace establishment be announced in General Orders; and that the supernumerary Officers, non-commissioned Officers, musicians, and privates, be discharged from the service of the United States, as soon as the circumstances, which are necessary for the payment and discharge of the Troops, will permit.

But on this important and interesting occasion, the President of the United States is aware, that he owes to the feelings of the Nation, as well as to his own feelings, an expression of the high sense entertained of the services of the American Army. Leaving the scenes of private life, the Citizens became the Soldiers of the United States; the spirit of a general patriotism quickly pervaded the military establishment; and the events of the war have conspicuously developed the moral, as well as the physical, character of an Army, in which every man seems to have deemed himself, the chosen champion of his country.

The pacific policy of the American Government, the domestic habits of the people, and a long sequestration from the use of arms, will justly account for the want of warlike preparation, for an imperfect state of discipline, and for various other sources of embarrassment, or disaster, which existed at the commencement of hostilities: but to account for the achievements of the American Army, in all their splendor; and for its efficient acquirements in every important branch of the military art, during a war of little more than two years continuance; it is necessary to resort to that principle of action, which, in a free country, identifies the Citizen with his Government; impels each individual to seek the Knowledge, that is requisite for the performance of his duty; and renders every Soldier, in effect, a combatant in his own cause.

The President of the United States anticipated from the carreer of an Army thus constituted, all the glory and the fruits of victory; and it has been his happiness to see a just war terminated by an honorable peace, after such demonstrations of valor, genius, and enterprize, as secure for the land and naval forces of the United States, an imperishable renown; for the Citizens, the best prospect of an undisturbed enjoyment of their rights; and for the Government, the respect and confidence of the world.

To the American Army, which has so nobly contributed to these results, the President of the United States presents this public testimonial of approbation and applause, at the moment, when many of its gallant officers and men must, unavoidably, be separated from the Standard of their country. Under all Governments, and especially under all free Governments, the restoration of peace has uniformly produced, a reduction of the military establishment. The United States disbanded in 1801, the Troops which had been raised on account of the differences with France; and the memorable peace of 1783, was followed by a discharge of the illustrious Army of the revolution. The frequency, or the necessity, of the occurence does not, however, deprive it of its interest; and the dispersion of the military Family, at this juncture under circumstances peculiarly affecting, cannot fail to awaken all the sympathies of the generous and the just

The difficulty of accomplishing a satisfactory organization of the military peace establishment, has been anxiously felt. The Act of Congress contemplates a small, but an effective, force; and, consequently, the honorable men, whose years, or infirmities, or wounds, render them incapable of further service, in active warfare, are necessarily excluded from the establishment. The Act contemplates a reduction of the Army from many, to a few, Regiments; and, consequently, a long list of meritorious Officers must, inevitably, be laid aside. But the attempt has been assiduously made to collect authentic information from every source, as a foundation for an impartial judgment on the various claims to attention; and even while a decision is pronounced, the President of the United States desires it may be distinctly understood, that from the designation of the Officers, who are retained in service, nothing more is to be inferred, than his approbation of the designated individuals, without derogating, in any degree, from the fame and worth of those, whose lot it is to retire.

The American Army of the war of 1812 has hitherto successfully emulated, the patriotism and the valour of the Army of the war of 1776. The closing scene of the example remains alone to be performed. Having, established the independence of their Country, the revolutionary warriors chearfully returned to the walks of civil life; many of them became the benefactors and ornaments of society, in the prosecution of various arts and professions; and all of them, as well as the veteran few, who survive the lapse of time, have been the objects of grateful recollection, and constant regard. It is for the American Army, now dissolved, to pursue the same honorable course, in order to enjoy the same inestimable ⟨   ⟩

DNA: RG 93—War Department.

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