James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Elbridge Gerry, 3 June 1812

To Elbridge Gerry

Washington June 3. 1812

Dear Sir

I have been so intensely occupied since I was favored with your two letters of the 19th. & 20th. May, that I could not snatch an earlier moment to acknowledge them. It gives me much pleasure to learn that you retain so much confidence in the soundness & firmness of the great body of the friends to republican principles, with respect to an assertion of the national rights, in the only mode now remaining. In the Country at large, the same spirit seems to be rising as the crisis appealing to it approaches. I have this morning recd. the Resolutions at Annapolis & Richmond, the last of which I inclose as a specimen.1 Congress have been in sessions with closed doors, on a message from the Executive, since Monday.2 Be assured my dear sir of the interest I take in your welfare & of my great esteem & regard

James Madison

RC (NjP: Crane Collection).

1JM no doubt enclosed a copy of the message to him from the inhabitants of Richmond, Manchester, and vicinity, 30 May 1812. For the Annapolis resolutions, see William Kilty to JM, 2 June 1812, n. 2.

2On 1 June both the House of Representatives and the Senate, on receipt of JM’s message of that date, cleared their galleries and sat in secret session for several days thereafter. The House referred JM’s message to the select committee on foreign relations, on behalf of whose members John C. Calhoun presented a report on 3 June “stating at large the causes and reasons of a war with Great Britain.” After the House had ordered that the report lie on the table, Calhoun introduced a bill declaring war between “Great Britain and her dependencies and the United States and their territories.” The House then read the bill twice in a Committee of the Whole. The next day, 4 June, the war bill received a third reading and was passed by a vote of 79 to 49 (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., 1624–38). The Senate, however, proceeded rather more slowly. After referring JM’s message to a committee of seven on 1 June, the senators by 3 June had agreed on little more than that JM’s message should be printed under an injunction of secrecy for their own deliberations. They received the House bill declaring war on 5 June and finally passed it, after much debate and in an amended form, on 17 June by a vote of 19 to 13 (ibid., 265–98). For a discussion of the debate in the Senate, see Johnson, “The Suspense Was Hell,” Indiana Magazine of History, 65:247–67.

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