Thomas Jefferson Papers

James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 10 March 1813

From James Madison

Washington Mar. 10. 1813

Dear Sir

I have recd your two favors of the 8 & 21. Ult: The conduct & character of the late Commander at Niagara, as pourtrayed in the narrative inclosed in the first, had been before sufficiently brought to our knowledge. Some of his disqualifications for such a trust were indeed understood when he was appointed Inspector General. General Dearborn seems not to have been apprized of some of the sides of his character; tho’ he has an apology for what he did in the paucity of General Officers provided for the army at that time and the difficulty of making a satisfactory selection. The narrative is returned as you desire. It gives me pleasure to receive a confirmation of the unchanged dispositions of those whose sympathies with R. S. could not fail to be most excited. The opportunity of proving to one of them, that I have not permitted my belief or my dispositions to be affected by reports or presumptions inconsistent with his penetration, candor, and justice, has been promptly embraced as you will see by the late military appointments. His son has just red the rank of Major. You will see also that I have taken the liberty of naming Mr Randolph to the Senate for the command of a Regiment, & that it is now within his acceptance. I was aware of all the considerations &c embracing those around him,1 which were mingled with the subject: But knowing his superiority in the talents2 and military acquirements so much needed in our army, and that they had occurred to others of his friends as well as myself, I could not do less than give the public a chance of having the benefit of them. I should indeed have taken the same liberty in the original nominations, but for the less decided State of things than that now existing.

If you do not receive the N.Y. Mercantile advertiser, the inclosed will give you the Russian acct of the Catastrophe of the French Army. It is doubtless much exaggerated; but there is no doubt that the losses are beyond example. Whether they can be replaced so as to prevent the defection of allies, and to present another formidable countenance to the North, is uncertain. It does not appear that any thing like despondence is felt at Paris, and so many interests on the Continent have become associated with the3 Ascendancy of Napoleon, that it will not be surprizing, if with the terrors of his name, he should surmount his difficulties. In England the usual exultation is indulged, on the recent events; and united with the rage & jealousy produced by our little naval triumphs, account for the gigantic force she is bringing agst us on the water. In the meantime Russia, as you will observe, is tendering her mediating friendship; with the collateral view, there is reason to believe, of deriving advantage from our neutral interference with British monopoly in the trade with her. We shall endeavor to turn the good will of Russia to the proper acct. Whether England will accede to the mediation, or do so with evasive purposes remains to be seen. That she has brought it about, I cannot readily suppose, because I think she would not promote our political intercourse with the Baltic, where she apprehends a sympathy with our maritime doctrines, and not with hers. The present occasion proves the good policy of having cultivated the favorable dispositions of the Emperor Alexander. We have good reason to believe that Sweden is as well inclined towards us as Russia.

Accept my affectionate respects

James Madison

RC (DLC: Madison Papers); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 12 Mar. 1813 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosure: Isaac A. Coles to a Young Friend in Virginia, 30 Dec. 1812, printed above at Coles to TJ, 8 Jan. 1813.

The late commander at niagara was Alexander Smyth. Henry dearborn offered his resignation in the wake of the failed Niagara campaign, during which Smyth was “not as popular as could have been wished” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 5:504–5). r. s.: Robert Smith. one of them: Wilson Cary Nicholas. On 3 and 2 Mar., respectively, Madison nominated Robert Carter Nicholas a major in the 12th Infantry Regiment and Thomas Mann randolph colonel of the 20th Infantry, with both men winning confirmation on 3 Mar. 1813 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 2:331–4). The 6 Mar. 1813 issue of the New York Mercantile Advertiser contained Russian army accounts of the destruction of the bulk of the retreating french army. On 9 Mar. 1813 the Washington Daily National Intelligencer reported on an offer of Alexander I, emperor of Russia, for mediating peace between the United States and Great Britain.

1Preceding five words interlined.

2Reworked from “superior talents.”

3Madison here canceled “French.”

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and U.S. search
  • Coles, Isaac A.; account of Niagara Campaign search
  • Dearborn, Henry; as secretary of war search
  • Madison, James; letters from search
  • Madison, James; on R. Smith’s dismissal search
  • Mercantile Advertiser (New York City newspaper) search
  • newspapers; New York Mercantile Advertiser search
  • New York (city); newspapers search
  • Nicholas, Robert Carter (ca.1788–1856); seeks military appointment search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); and R. Smith’s dismissal search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and military appointment search
  • Russia; Napoleon defeated in search
  • Smith, Robert; dismissed as secretary of state search
  • Smyth, Alexander; and Niagara Campaign search
  • Sweden; relations with U.S. search
  • War of1812; Niagara Campaign search