James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 20 April 1812

To Congress

April 20th 1812.

Among the incidents to the unexampled increase and expanding interests of the American nation, under the fostering influence of free constitutions and just laws, has been a corresponding accumulation of duties in the several Departments of the Government: And this has been necessarily the greater, in consequence of the peculiar State of our foreign relations, and the connection of these with our internal administration.

The extensive and multiplied preparations into which the United States are at length driven, for maintaining their violated rights, have caused this augmentation of business to press, on the Department of War particularly, with a weight disproportionate to the powers of any single Officer, with no other aids than are authorized by existing laws. With a view to a more adequate arrangement for the essential objects of that Department, I recommend to the early consideration of Congress, a provision for two subordinate appointments therein, with such compensations annexed, as may be reasonably expected by Citizens duly qualified for the important functions which may be properly assigned to them.1

James Madison

RC, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 12A-D1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, 12A-E2). Both RCs in the hand of Edward Coles, signed by JM.

1The Senate began consideration of JM’s message on 24 Apr. and five days later passed a bill that met the requirements of both JM and Eustis (see Eustis to JM, 9 Apr. 1812). The House of Representatives debated the Senate bill at length between 29 Apr. and 1 May. The House debate centered on two issues. One was whether the expanding duties of the secretary of war were, in fact, great enough to justify the reform of his department or whether JM’s request for reforms simply reflected the inadequacies of the present incumbent for the position. The other was whether the two proposed assistant secretaries of war—who were to receive salaries of $3,000 per annum—were to be mere clerical assistants or officers of greater consequence whose work would transform the department into a board of war similar to that which had operated under the Continental Congress. On 1 May the House passed the bill in an amended form, but the Senate, at the suggestion of Michael Leib of Pennsylvania, twice postponed consideration of the amended bill. The second postponement, on 11 June 1812, was, in effect, indefinite and thus killed the bill (Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 1st sess., 209, 210, 212, 216, 218, 219, 226, 228, 258, 1347, 1354–66, 1367–76).

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