James Madison Papers

Draft of a Message to Congress, [ca. 31 May] 1812

Draft of a Message to Congress

[ca. 31 May 1812]

Ever since the peace of Independence the B. G. instead of regarding the U. S. with the friendly eye which was required by justice magnaminity [sic] & true policy, has yielded to an embarassing mortification at their success & an unworthy jealousy of their commerce. Her delay to send an Ambass. Her monopolizing regulations of navigation, among the proofs.

It was not however, untill the war in which she joined the associated powers of Europe, agst. the French revolution that she commenced an open infracture of our rights as an Independent Nation. Under a pretext as novel as unjust, she issued her Orders of June 1793, prohibiting the Trade of the U. S. as a neutral & Indept. nation, with the Fr Domn. in this great staple.

The remonstrances agst. this incontestible violation of the L. of N. were without effect: so far from it, that that order was followed by others of 1794; ⟨&ca?⟩ and these by others of ⟨Novr?⟩ 1796, having the effect &c. In aggravation both of the principle and of the injury, the orders went into operation, so long before they were promulgated, so as to be a complete surprize & snare, to the neutral commerce invaded by them.

As these wrongs were made the subject of a Conventional provision; tho involving serious sacrifices on the part of the U. S. it would have best accorded with the dispositions & views of the U. S. to have allowed them to have passed into oblivion; if the spirit & principles which had been the source of them had not survived the epoch, & even the war during which the wrongs in question were committed.

Unhappily this was not the case. The ensuing war which commenced in 1803 was marked with an Order which renewed a ground of capture, always contested as a violation of neutral right, & comprizing a new ⟨ingredient?⟩ never before introduced by the pretensions of G. B.1

Ms (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). In the hand of JM. Several deletions and minor changes in the draft have not been noted. Undated; date assigned here on the assumption that JM intended these paragraphs either as part of a first draft of his 1 June 1812 message to Congress or as the opening statement in that message. He then discarded the draft in favor of a shorter summary: “Without going back beyond the renewal in 1803, of the war in which Great Britain is eng[a]ged, and omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude; the conduct of her Government presents a series of acts, hostile to the United States, as an Independent and neutral nation” (see JM to Congress, 1 June 1812).

1JM may have been referring to an order in council, dated 24 June 1803, which applied an apparent relaxation of the “rule of ’56” in ways that made a neutral vessel “on a return voyage … liable to capture by the circumstance of her having, on the outward voyage, conveyed contraband articles to an enemy’s port” (see JM to Jefferson, 25 Jan. 1806 [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, 2:728]). In his 1806 pamphlet attacking the “rule of ’56,” JM had complained bitterly about the retrospective enforcement of this policy, which he claimed had not been officially known in the U.S. before the summer of 1805 (see An Examination of the British Doctrine, Which Subjects to Capture a Neutral Trade, Not Open in Time of Peace, p. 128).

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