James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Geddes, 20 May 1812 (Abstract)

§ From John Geddes

20 May 1812, Charleston. Transmits the proceedings of a meeting of the citizens of Charleston held this day.1

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, ML). RC 1 p. For enclosure, see n. 1.

1Filed with the RC are two copies of a report containing five resolutions approved by a public meeting in Charleston chaired by Geddes. One copy (3 pp.) is in the hand of John D. Heath, secretary to the meeting; the other (1 p.) is a printed circular of the same document. The citizens expressed their “united determination” to resist the conduct of the “two great powers of Europe” but deemed it unnecessary to go into “a detailed recital of the unprovoked wrongs which we have borne, nor the multiplied indignities to which we have submitted.” After noting the benefits accruing to the U.S. from a policy of peace with all nations, the meeting passed five resolutions. The first declared that the conduct of the European belligerents toward the U.S. had been such “as would justify an immediate Declaration of War.” The second approved the “wise and energetic measures” of Congress as supported by the state’s delegation “for the maintenance of the national honor” and pledged the citizens’ lives and fortunes in defense of the country’s rights and independence. The third resolution requested the state congressional delegation to take steps to improve the security of Charleston and the seacoast of South Carolina. The fourth directed the governor of South Carolina to organize the local militia so as to enable them “to defend the parts most exposed to attack.” The fifth required that a copy of the proceedings of the meeting be sent to the president, to the state congressional delegation, and to the governor.

JM was to receive two further copies of the same report and resolutions in two letters written to him by Thomas Lehré on 20 and 21 May 1812 (DLC, with JM’s docket on the copy of the resolutions enclosed in the 20 May letter). In the first of these letters Lehré stated that the resolutions had been “carried with great unanimity, enthusiasm, and applause.” The only “indecorous expression … was made by a young Federalist” who “was instantly hissed by the meeting.” Lehré also wrote that he was glad that the predictions made in his last letter to JM (of 30 Mar. 1812) that his “Countrymen would act very different from our Eastern Brethren upon the occasion” had been verified. Lehré’s second letter repeated the substance of the first, adding the observations that the resolutions had been made “as mild as possible, so as not to hurt the feelings of our opponents,” and that the Federalists had initially tried to have all the resolutions rejected but without success. Lehré may have enclosed in this second letter a printed copy of the resolutions clipped from a Charleston newspaper (see DLC, series 7). The proceedings and resolutions were also printed in the National Intelligencer on 2 June 1812.

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