James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Morgan Lewis, 15 July 1811

From Morgan Lewis

Staatsberg 15th. July 1811.

Dear Sir,

I take the Liberty to enclose you an Account of a celebration of the fourth of July,1 to shew you the Temper which endeavours are making to excite in this quarter. The Toasts, considered in connection with those given by the Baltimore party at Jones’,2 shew decidedly a concert between the malcontents there and here; and that the present vice president is on the List of those to be abandoned. I am happy to inform you, that Genl. A. was the only one of nine of my family connections, who reside within ten miles of the place of celebration, who attended the fete, the rest declined an Invitation sent with great formality. Chanr. Livingston is your friend, and I presume will so continue. Whether the Clinton Party, as the followers of D. W. C. & Judge Spencer are denominated here, will unite in the Opposition is yet to be decided. Spencer, pronounces Genl. A, on all Occasions the greatest man America ever produced; but a warm personal friend of D. W. C, observed on the Chairman’s Toast, that the old Gentleman was too early in the field.3

The neglect manifested towards Govr. Tompkins is not easily accounted for. They know him to be firmly devoted to the Clinton Interest, and that your friends support him from prudential motives solely, without a particle of confidence in his independence; of which truly he has not a particle. Were I to conjecture, it would be, that their Object is to identify him with your friends, in the Hope that he may by them be supported for the vice presidency; a thing believed to be in contemplation with your friends at Washington. In such an Event they would get rid of him, at an easy rate, and should he be successful, will have a devoted friend at the head of an important Branch of the Government. Time will unfold. With sincerity your friend & hume Servt.

Morgan Lewis.

RC and enclosure (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). RC docketed by JM. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Lewis enclosed a newspaper clipping (probably from the Newburgh Political Index) reporting the events of a dinner held at Loop’s Hotel in Red Hook, New York, on 4 July 1811. The first volunteer toast after the dinner was to Robert Smith, “the late secretary of state; he deserves well of his country.” Other toasts were offered to the defense of American rights at home and abroad and to John Armstrong, which drew cheers from the assembled guests. The Swedish consul in Baltimore, Mr. Aguiton, proposed a toast to the president of the U.S., which, apparently, was not greeted with the cheers normally given on such occasions.

2Lewis referred to the Independence Day celebrations held at the tavern of Benjamin Jones as described in the 5 July 1811 issue of the Baltimore Whig. Among the seventeen toasts proposed on the occasion was one to JM in his capacity as president, but some of the other toasts, such as those drunk to the congressional Republicans who had ensured the defeat of the bill to recharter the Bank of the United States, were tinged with antiadministration politics. Lewis was undoubtedly most concerned about the toast to John Armstrong—“he deserves well of his country; he is no sheep-shearing sycophant”—and that to Robert Smith—“he has honestly exposed delinquincy; let the people make proper use of it.”

3The publication of Robert Smith’s Address, in addition to the controversy it provoked in the nation’s newspapers over the charges that Smith had raised, was also the occasion for some discussion of the next presidential election. The general sense of the prospects canvassed during the summer of 1811 were best summarized in a piece of doggerel, published under the headline of “THE NEXT PRESIDENT” in the Alexandria Daily Gazette, Commercial & Political on 10 July 1811:

“Who will be the next President causes great doubt,

As all parties agree that whiffling Jemmy goes out;

Those who thought of George Clinton their hopes must forgo,

And Armstrong is likely to rival Monroe;

But our late honest minister, true, faithful Bob,

Is determin’d that he’ll have a hand in the job;

And he is the fittest we all must suppose,

For we’re sure he can never be lead by the nose!

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