Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 7 February 1812

From James Madison

Washington Feby 7. 1812

Dear Sir

I have recd several letters from you which not requiring special answers, I now beg leave to acknowledge in the lump. I have delayed it in the hope that I might add something on our public affairs not uninteresting. If there be any thing at present of this character it will be found in the inclosed paper from N. York. We have no late1 official information from Europe; but all that we see from G.B. indicates an adherence to her mad policy towards the U.S. The Newspapers give you a Sufficient insight into the measures of Congress. With a view to enable the Executive to step at once into Canada they have provided after two months delay, for a regular force requiring 12 to raise it, and after 3 months for a volunteer force, on terms not likely to raise it at all for that object. The mixture of good & bad, avowed & disguised motives accounting for these things is curious2 eno’, but not to be explained in the compass of a letter. Among other jobbs on my hands is the case of Wilkinsons. His defence fills 6 or 700 pages of the most collossal paper. The minutes of the Court, oral written & printed testimony, are all in proportion. A month has not yet carried me thro’ the whole.

We have had of late a hard winter & much Ice which still lies on the water in view. The re-iterations of Earthquakes continue to be reported from various quarters. They have slightly reached the State of N.Y. and been severely felt W. & S. Westwardly. There was one here this morning at 5 or 6 minutes after 4 OC. It was rather stronger than any preceding one, & lasted several minutes, with sensible tho very slight repetitions throughout the succeeding hour.

Be assured of my best affections

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); endorsed by TJ as received 15 Feb. and so recorded (as a letter of 12 Feb.) in SJL. Enclosure not identified.

On 6 Feb. 1812 Madison signed a bill authorizing the president to raise and organize a volunteer force. A supplement to the bill was approved on 6 July 1812 (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States . . . 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1855–56, 8 vols. description ends , 2:676–7, 785–6). General James wilkinsons court-martial proceedings concluded on 25 Dec. 1811. On 14 Feb. 1812 Madison publicly stated that Wilkinson’s conduct had been objectionable, but he nonetheless approved the general’s acquittal and ordered that his sword be returned to him (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States . . . Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (all editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers) description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 2125–37; DNA: RG 94 and 153, Records relating to Wilkinson’s 1811 and 1815 Courts-Martial).

1Word interlined.

2Word copied above the line for clarity.

Index Entries

  • Canada; U.S. policy toward search
  • earthquakes; near New Madrid search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Madison, James; and J. Wilkinson search
  • Madison, James; and preparations for war search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on British government search
  • military; expansion of search
  • weather; ice search
  • Wilkinson, James; court-martial of search