James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Inhabitants of Troy, New York, 7 May 1812

From the Inhabitants of Troy, New York


TROY, N. Y. May 7, 1812.


The Inhabitants of the town of Troy, feeling in common with their Fellow Citizens the calamities with which the disastrous policy of the Government has overwhelmed our Country, and apprehensive of evils in prospect still more destructive and extensive, and at the same time impressed with a belief that the baneful measures of their Rulers are adopted from a mistaken impression that they are coincident with the wishes and feelings of the great body of the People, have, at this momentous crisis, with an unanimity unexampled for the last thirteen years, assembled and expressed to the Government and World, their most decided disapprobation of the recent measures and views of Congress. Believing that it is only necessary that the voice of the People should be expressed to dispel the illusion which the misrepresentations of our public Journals have occasioned, and arrest the progress of the ruinous measures adopted and projected, we take the liberty to transmit to you the proceedings of this town,1 and invite the aid of your influence and exertions to call forth a manly expression of public sentiment upon these momentous subjects in your vicinity. We are respectfully yours, &c.

Printed copy and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, ML). Signed by Townsend McCoun and fourteen others as a “Committee of Correspondence.” Addressed to JM on verso. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1JM received a one-page printed account of a town meeting held at Troy, New York, on 7 May 1812 to consider “the present embarrassed and calamitous situation of our Country.” The meeting approved ten resolutions. The first affirmed the right of the people to seek redress for government policies that were defeating the purposes for which the Union had been formed. The second declared that the Union had been formed to foster foreign commerce and to protect such commerce by “a suitable naval force.” “To an early dereliction of this wise and salutary policy more than any other cause, in the opinion of this meeting, is the gloomy reverse we now experience to be attributed.” The third resolution asserted that commerce as the “nurse and support of Agriculture” was the basis of the prosperity of the northern and eastern states and that the interdiction of commerce was “an evil which presses with peculiar and unequal weight upon these States.” The fourth resolution condemned the administration’s current embargo policy. The fifth claimed that “defensive war alone” was compatible with the spirit of free government and deplored that “a war of conquest … should be contemplated” as it would, if successful, “lead to the establishment of a permanent military force.” The sixth resolution acknowledged that the European belligerents had committed depredations on American commerce but argued that “a competent naval force” was the only “effectual redress,” whereas a war in “our present unprepared and defenceless situation” would expose “the country to the worst of all possible evils, without affording any rational prospect of substantial benefit.” The seventh resolution expressed regret at Congress’s having postponed consideration of an earlier petition of their grievances, while the eighth criticized those members who had absented themselves and requested that they return to the seat of government. The ninth resolution provided for the committee of correspondence to distribute its proceedings “to our fellow-citizens in other parts of the country” and to seek “their co-operation in measures calculated to change the present gloomy aspect of our publick affairs.” The tenth resolution called for the signing and publication of the meeting proceedings.

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