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To James Madison from Alexander J. Dallas, 13 April 1815

From Alexander J. Dallas

13 April 1815

Dr. Sir.

Genl. Brown has not yet arrived; but the other Generals have been at work, as pioniers, to prepare the way for an immediate report, as soon as he appears. I am assured, that the selection will be impartial, and such as must command the approbation of the Army, and the confidence of the nation. I do not fail, however, to attend to the course pursued in making it. Indeed, such is the jealousy (much inflamed I fear by Genl. Wilkinson) that I am obliged to state explicitly, that the Board is only a medium to collect information; but not to decide upon it.

The Board has stated to me, in writing, that the appointment of Generals Bissel and Smith to Regiments will be in perfect rule.1 Mr. Monroe concurs in the opinion, under the terms of the very general authority, which the Act of Congress gives to the President. I have, therefore, made the offer. Genl. Bissel has accepted it; and I believe Genl. Smith will accept. It is understood, however, that their fall in rank is to be softened, as much as possible, by Brevets as Brigadiers; and I will thank you to authorise me to give the assurance.2 I have brought into veiw Genl. Cushing and Genl. Boyd, as meriting the notice of a similar arrangement; but the former, with expressions of great personal respect, was declared to be incapacitated for field service, by a disease which rendered it impossible for him to mount a horse; and the latter was denounced as totally incompetent from want of talents, and undeserving from the want of actual service, although he had enjoyed the best opportunities.

Col. O’Connor’s charges against General Izard are very strong, and very strange.3 It is impracticable to form a Court Martial for trying the General; but justice requires that he should be informed of the general scope of the accusation. It is not correct, as Col. O.Connor supposes, that every Officer has a right to demand the arrest and trial of another Officer. When the charge is exhibited, it is still the province of the Department to decide on the expediency, or necessity, for a trial. After consulting Genls. Scott & Ripley, therefore, I have directed the Adjutant General to mention to Col. O’Connor, that a trial cannot take place, before the reduction of the Army, if at all; and to state the charges to Gen. Izard. If the General urges for a Court of Inquiry, it will be in order to grant it, unless the discharge of the Officers precludes even that course for investigation. The business, however, is placed, I think, on the best footing for the present.

The Yazoo Claimants are in daily expectation of reports on their claims from the Board of Commissioners.4 I must, therefore, trouble you to sign the inclosed instrument; authorising me to issue the proper Certificates of Stock, as the reports are produced at the Treasury.

A letter has been received from Genl. Jackson, which merely mentions his intention to proceed to Natchez, leaving the District of New Orleans under the command of Genl. Gaines.5 There is no answer, on the offer of retaining those Generals in service. It is probable, that when General Jackson has left the scene of his martial law, the reccollection of his services will either restore him to popularity, or make it impolitic to pursue him with severity. The Newspapers mention a disposition in Tennessee to chuse him for the Governor of the State. If that, or any other cause, should induce him to decline the offer to be retained in service, who will be the next object of your selection?

Mr. Monroe continues indisposed; and I am anxious that Mrs. Monroe and himself should try a change of air. After the Army is organized, I hope he will join you. I am, Dr Sir, most respectfully and faithfully, Yrs.

A. J. Dallas.


1A written statement to this effect dated on or before 13 Apr. 1815 has not been found. In a 22 Apr. 1815 memorandum to Dallas, however, Brig. Gens. Alexander Macomb, Eleazer W. Ripley, and Winfield Scott stated their opinion that “an Officer (with his own consent) may be arranged to a lower Commission than that which he at present holds.” JM submitted a copy of this document to the Senate on 13 Feb. 1816 (DNA: RG 46, Executive Proceedings, Other Records, 14B–D1).

2Brig. Gens. Daniel Bissell and Thomas Adams Smith were retained in the peace establishment army as colonels with brevets of brigadier general (Heitman, Historical Register description begins Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, from Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (2 vols.; 1903; reprint, Baltimore, 1994). description ends , 1:221, 903).

3Maj. John Michael O’Connor had written James Monroe on 12 and 20 Jan. 1815, protesting his conviction by a court-martial despite what he described as self-contradictory testimony given by Maj. Gen. George Izard (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, O-9:8). An assistant adjutant general, O’Connor was tried in January 1815 on a charge of “unofficer-like conduct” for having published general orders for the Northern Army without Izard’s prior approval. One set of orders, according to Izard’s testimony, announced the execution of two privates, Campbell and Smith; Izard intended to have Campbell executed for giving information to the British while a prisoner of war and then to pardon Smith. O’Connor had objected that Monday, 2 Jan. 1815, was not a “good day for a hanging” but stated that Tuesday was. A second set of orders had to do with the publication of promotions. Izard claimed that the first he saw of any of these orders was when he read them in the 10 Jan. 1815 issue of the Buffalo Gazette. He also complained about O’Connor’s spelling, giving the example of “beleaguered” written as “beleagured.” O’Connor maintained that this sort of “degradation and persiflage” was typical of Izard’s tendency to belittle his staff officers. The court nevertheless sentenced O’Connor to two months’ suspension of rank (DNA: RG 153, General Court Martial Case Files, H–20).

On 22 Mar. 1815, O’Connor submitted charges against Izard to the War Department. That document has not been found, but in a 25 Feb. 1815 letter to Adj. Gen. Daniel Parker, O’Connor stated that he planned to charge Izard with disobedience of the “Orders of the President” during the war; unofficerlike and ungentlemanly conduct; neglect of duty and “Imbecility & Incapacity”; and “Drunkeness while on duty & near the Enemy.” Parker transmitted the charges to Izard, who observed in his 7 May reply that the level of detail in the specifications regarding his obedience of orders suggested the involvement of a collaborator with access to the correspondence of former Secretary of War John Armstrong, who had issued most of those orders. He added that his letters explaining his conduct to Armstrong were on record in the War Department, and that if “the competent authority” nevertheless questioned the “Propriety” of his actions, he would “most cheerfully submit” to an “Investigation before a Tribunal … capable of forming a Judgment” on the matter. He further declared the “3d. Charge” (probably that of drunkenness) to be “the genuine Offspring” of O’Connor and “the calumnious Aspersion of a Convict writhing under the Punishment inflicted by a Court-Martial,” and referred Parker to the testimony of his subordinate officers to refute the accusation (O’Connor to Parker, 22 Mar. 1815, and Izard to Parker, 7 May 1815, DNA: RG 94, Letters Received, filed under “Izard”; O’Connor to Parker, 25 Feb. 1815, ibid., filed under “Oconnor”).

4For the Yazoo claims commissioners, see PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (9 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends 8:512 n. 2.

5Dallas probably referred to Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson’s 16 Mar. 1815 letter addressed to James Monroe as secretary of war, although in it Jackson wrote that he was going to Nashville, not Natchez (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, J-233:8; printed in Smith et al., Papers of Andrew Jackson, 3:311).

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