James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 4 August 1812

From James Monroe

Albemarle Augt. 4. 1812

Dear Sir

We arrived here on sunday last, & had the good fortune to meet Mr Hay1 & our daughter on their way to the springs. Mrs. Monroe had intended to accompany them there, but will remain here, with the younger part, being not far from indisposition, & too much fatigued to pursue the journey. We took the Dumfries route, & breakfastd at Lansdowne’s, the worst house we ever saw. The upper route by Fauquier cthouse is far preferable to this. I intend to set out back, the beginning of the ensuing week.

We hear nothing certain of Com: Rogers,2 & the accounts of the affair at Baltimore3 still leave it in much obscurity. However much to be regretted & censur’d popular movments of this kind always are, nothing can be said in favor of a party organised for the purpose of its combating the mob, unknown to the law, equally in defiance of it, and which could not fail, by the excitment it was sure to produce, to bring on the contest. Mobs however must be prevented, & the punishment even of such men as the Editors of that paper must be inflicted by law, not mob movments. It would do credit to the Executi⟨ve⟩ of Maryland to reestablish that paper, and the credit wod. be in proportion to its past & future excesses. I fear that if some distinguished effort is not made, in favor of the authority of the law, there is danger of a civil war, which may undermine our free system of govt. I am dear Sir very sincerely & respectfully your friend.

Jas Monroe

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers).

1George Hay (1765–1830), Monroe’s son-in-law, was appointed U.S. attorney for the district of Virginia in 1803 and was the prosecutor in the treason trial of Aaron Burr. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates from 1816 to 1817 and spent four years in the state senate before receiving an appointment in 1825 to the U.S. District Court of Eastern Virginia (PJM description begins William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (1st ser., vols. 1–10, Chicago, 1962–77, vols. 11–17, Charlottesville, Va., 1977–91). description ends , 7:75 n. 12).

2For Rodgers’s pursuit of the British fleet, see PJM-PS description begins Robert A. Rutland et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison: Presidential Series (5 vols. to date; Charlottesville, Va., 1984–). description ends , 4:503 n. 2.

3Monroe referred to the Baltimore Riots. On 22 June 1812 Republicans destroyed the Gay Street office of the Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, a Federalist newspaper that had published editorials in opposition to the war. On 27 July the editor of the Federal Republican, Alexander Hanson, put out an edition featuring a scathing critique of the hostile climate in the city, under a masthead with a new address at 45 Charles Street. A crowd soon gathered in front of the paper’s new offices, threatening to charge the building. Hanson and his supporters, anticipating trouble, had gathered inside and armed themselves. A militia company barely kept peace through the night. Finally, Baltimore’s mayor, Edward Johnson, negotiated a compromise whereby the Federalists were escorted from the building and held in protective custody in jail on the promise of causing no further trouble. However, the crowd destroyed the house and gathered at the jail. By the evening of 28 July, the crowd took on the character of a lynch mob. Calling for blood, they pulled Federalists from the jail and beat them severely, killing Gen. James M. Lingan and wounding at least nine others, among them Light-Horse Harry Lee. In the weeks that followed, Federalists demanded government protection while Republicans persisted in their quest to rid the city of “tories.” Hanson published another edition of the paper on 3 Aug., which he intended to distribute by mail. A crowd gathered at the post office to prevent the paper from being delivered. This time, however, the city’s officials acted swiftly to prevent further violence, calling out the militia and conducting a cavalry charge to disperse the crowd. Increased patrolling then brought a tentative peace (Report of the Committee of Grievances and Courts of Justice of the House of Delegates of Maryland, on the Subject of the Recent Mobs and Riots in the City of Baltimore, Together with the Depositions Taken before the Committee [Annapolis, 1813; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 29064]; Interesting Papers relative to the Recent Riots at Baltimore [Philadelphia, 1812; Shaw and Shoemaker description begins R. R. Shaw and R. H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801–1819 (22 vols.; New York, 1958–66). description ends 25720]). See also Frank A. Cassell, “The Great Baltimore Riot of 1812,” Maryland Historical Magazine 70 (1975): 241–59; Donald R. Hickey, “The Darker Side of Democracy: The Baltimore Riots of 1812,” Maryland Historian 7 (1976): 1–19; and Paul A. Gilje, “The Baltimore Riots of 1812 and the Breakdown of the Anglo-American Mob Tradition,” Journal of Social History 13 (1979): 547–64.

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