James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 13 March 1812 (Abstract)

§ To Congress

13 March 1812. Transmits a letter from the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Great Britain to the secretary of state.1

RC and enclosure, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 12A-D1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, 12A-E3). Each RC 1 p.; in the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM. For enclosure (printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:554–55), see n. 1.

1JM forwarded a copy of an 11 Mar. 1812 letter from Foster to Monroe (2 pp.), in which the former expressed “the deepest concern” about JM’s release of the letters of John Henry. Foster proclaimed his “utter ignorance” of any of the circumstances described in the letters, disclaimed any knowledge that Henry’s mission had even occurred, and stated his opinion that in those “branches of His Majesty’s Government with which he is in the habit of having intercourse, no countenance whatever was given by them to any schemes hostile to the internal tranquility of the UStates.” The minister also requested that the administration and Congress “take into consideration the character of the individual who has made the communication in question, and … suspend any further judgment on its merits until the circumstances shall have been made known to His Majesty’s Government.”

On the same day that he wrote to Monroe, Foster also called on JM “in order to learn what language he would hold to me in consequence of Captain Henry’s deposition.” He reported that JM “would admit of no doubts as to the authenticity of the papers which he conceived from the internal evidence alone to be all genuine.” The president “readily expressed his confidence” that Foster had had “no participation in the business,” but in response to the minister’s lament that the Henry affair only added a “new cause of difference” in Anglo-American relations, JM retorted that “perhaps it might produce a good effect by bringing matters in a more peremptory manner before His Majesty’s Government” (Foster to Wellesley, 12 Mar. 1812 [PRO: Foreign Office, ser. 5, vol. 84]). In commenting on these episodes on 17 Mar. 1812, the National Intelligencer sympathized with Foster’s predicament, both as a minister and as “a patriotic Briton, a man of honor,” but added that his aspersions on Henry’s character were unwarranted given the agent’s dealings with Sir James Craig and Lord Liverpool. These transactions suggested, the editorial hinted, that Henry enjoyed more of the confidence of the British government than did its minister to the U.S.

Index Entries