James Madison Papers

To James Madison from the Citizens of Cecil County, 13 June 1812 (Abstract)

§ From the Citizens of Cecil County

13 June 1812, Elkton. Enclose “certain resolutions of the Citizens of Cecil County expressive of their sentiments and feelings on the present State of our public Affairs.”1

RC and enclosure (DNA: RG 59, ML). RC 1 p.; signed by David Smith and John Partridge as chairman and secretary of the meeting, respectively. For enclosure (7 pp.), see n. 1.

1The enclosure was a record of a meeting held at Elkton Courthouse on 6 June 1812. A committee of seven members was formed which presented a preamble and eight resolutions subsequently approved by the meeting. The preamble declared that the political situation of the country “at this important and perilous moment” called for “the undivided and united exertions of every patriotic Citizen to support and preserve the principles declared and established by our glorious revolution.”

The first resolution expressed the fullest support for the “wisdom patriotism and spirit” of the constituted authorities in their conduct of foreign affairs and in their efforts to obtain peaceable redress from the European belligerents. The second resolution deplored the British orders in council as “a gross and flagrant outrage upon our commercial rights and an open and direct infraction of the public law of Nations.” The meeting also condemned the practice of impressment, rejecting the distinction made by Great Britain between “our native and naturalized Citizens” and approving legislation currently before Congress that would result in “instantaneous death” for the “first Manstealer be he of what nation he may who dares to lay the offending hand of impressment upon an american Citizen.” The third resolution approved the administration’s forbearance in negotiations with Great Britain and declared that that nation’s “renewed insults and repeated injuries and her late declaration upon the subject of her Orders in Council if persisted in puts an end to all hopes of amicable accomodation and plainly shews that those iniquitous orders originated not in the manly spirit of warlike resistance to her enemy but from the odious and groveling temper of a counting house calculation and in the envious spirit of a mean mercantile monopoly.”

The fourth resolution stated that peace was “the dearest of all national blessings” but that the U.S. now had to resort to arms as “her last resource.” “We now will as our spirited ancestors did in the year 1776 prepare for an appeal to the right of resistance; feeling a well justified Confidence that by the protecting arm of the God of Justice and of battles our appeal will be crowned with a desserved success.” The fifth resolution promised that, in the event of war, “we will one and all aid and assist in our Country’s Cause to the utmost of our means power and ability; and we … pledge ourselves our lives liberties properties and sacred honor that when the time comes that ‘tries mens souls’ we will not fail her in the day of distress nor desert her in the hour of tremendous danger.” The sixth resolution described French “aggressions” on American commerce as “most violent and unjustifiable” and declared that France’s refusal to make restitution for property seized “demands from our Goverment (unless the State of our pending negotiations forbid) the immediate seizure and sequestration of all property of the French government within our reach.” “The burning of our vessels at Sea by the national armed ships of France since she has held out to us proffered terms of Amity and Commerce (hollow ones indeed) have roused in our breasts the sacred spirit of Vengeance and just retaliation and we declare that unless honorable amends and satisfactory retribution are soon fully made for those violations of our properties and infractions of our rights we are for open and decided war with France.”

The seventh and eighth resolutions, respectively, thanked the majorities in both houses of Congress for “their Integrity Energy and perseverence … in support of their countrys rights” and called for the proceedings of the meeting to be forwarded to the president and “published in the republican papers of Baltimore.”

Index Entries