James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, 13 August 1812

From Albert Gallatin

New York 13th Augt. 1812

Dear Sir

I received yours, of 7th1 only by yesterday’s mail. What I can do at this time here with respect to money is nearly completed. But I had intended before my return to Washington, to go to Albany in order to see Gen. Dearborn & Govr. Tompkins together and to be able to give you a better account of the situation & prospect of our affairs there. It is also necessary that I should spend one week longer in Philada. in fiscal arrangemts.

The tenor of your letter, your intended departure, the magnitude of the questions to be immediately decided at Washington & the account of the capture of Michillimakinac2 have however induced me to alter my plan. Being indisposed and obliged to take medicine, I cannot with all possible diligence reach Washington before Thursday 20th inst., as I must necessarily spend Monday in Philada. I presume that the actual revocation of the orders in Council, and the necessity of deciding on the important questions connected with that act, will as well as the critical situation of Gen. Hull keep you in the city till my arrival.

I will only state with respect to the first subject, that independent of the answer to Gr. Britain & of the measures proper to be adopted with that country, eight or ten millions of Dollars worth of British merchandize may be shortly expected, & that some general rule must be pursued towards that unexpected mass of goods.3

As to Gen. Hull, hemmed as he is, behind by the Indian & Canadian force (in the employment of the ⟨fur?⟩ companies) which has taken Michillimakinac, and in front by the mixed force at Malden which may in a few days be strengthened by that near Niagara; it appears to me that, unless he shall have taken Malden before he is attacked by the Indians & succours from Niagara, the utmost he can do is to keep on the defensive; and that he can only be extricated by an immediate concentration of all our disposible troops & militia at Niagara, and by the capture of the British fort & settlements there. An attack upon Montreal must probably be delayed. It is true that the communication from that quarter with the Indians cannot be completely cut off without taking Montreal itself. But once complete masters of Niagara & of the settlements along Lake Erie to Malden, a corps may be marched to the Ottowa river from Niagara & obstruct if not interrupt altogether that communication.

From Queenstown opposite to Niagara, the distance to York near the western extremity of Lake Ontario is about 35 miles; & thence northwardly there is an indian road to the Ottowa river distant about 70 miles. By that road, expresses go from York to Fort St Joseph on Lake Huron in four or five days. With sincere respect & attachment Your obedt. Servt.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM.

1Gallatin probably referred to JM’s letter of 8 Aug.

2On 29 July 1812 Hull informed Eustis that he had received a report from two Chippewa that a British force supported by nearly a thousand Indian troops had taken the American post at Michilimackinac (or Mackinac). Hull expressed his belief that as a result of the fall of the post, “a large body of hostile Indians may soon be expected here from the north.” On 4 Aug., after receiving confirmation that the fort had surrendered on 17 July, Hull wrote again to emphasize that his situation at Detroit had become perilous (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, H-331:6, H-336:6).

3On 26 Aug. 1812 Gallatin attempted to resolve this issue by releasing a circular concerning the status of ships and cargoes that had left Great Britain on the assumption that the repeal of the orders in council would lead to the termination of nonimportation. Gallatin stated, “The Non-importation Act being still in force, must, in every respect, be carried into effect.” He directed customs collectors “to seize and libel British merchandize in whatever manner and by whomsoever it may be brought or sent into the United States, with the exception only of property captured from the enemy; the importation of which is permitted by the fourteenth section of the act concerning letters of marque, prizes and prize goods.” Relief, he noted, could be obtained only by a special act of Congress or by “application for a remission of the forfeiture in the manner prescribed by law” (National Intelligencer, 8 Sept. 1812).

This proved to be only a temporary solution. The second session of the Twelfth Congress reversed the policy by passing on 2 Jan. 1813 an act which stipulated that in cases where goods owned by U.S. citizens had been shipped from Great Britain, bound for the U.S., between 23 June and 15 Sept. 1812, the secretary of the treasury was directed to remit all fines, penalties, and forfeitures incurred under the terms of the Nonintercourse Act, provided that the usual duties had been paid. The law also required that all legal proceedings concerning those shipments be discontinued (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , 2:789–90). For the debate, see Annals of Congress description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends , 12th Cong., 2d sess., 28, 31, 33, 35, 36, 394–402, 403–4, 432–36, 441–43, 450–51, 1250–76.

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