James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Samuel Carswell, 29 August 1812

From Samuel Carswell

Philada. August 29th. 1812

Dear Sir

On my return from Bath, my health was so much improved, that I was induced to accept the Office of Comm. Genl. to which I was appointed, thro your favor & friendship. But the sanguine hopes which I then indulged, that it would be reestablished, being dissipated by a return of my complaint, with its former violence, I was constrained to recall the determination I had made & communicated to the Secy. at War.1 The same reason prevented me from then acknowledging to you, the favor you confered on me, in nominating me to the Senate, & I now tender to you my thanks for it. I was very sorry to decline taking a part, in the service of our Country, at the present time, when it so much requires, all the support & assistance which its friends can give it. Nothing, but the nature of the duties which would have devolved on me, rendered particularly dangerous, both to my person & property, by the delicate state of my health, could have induced me to do so. Death might have made my tenure of the office very short, & in that case, my estate would probably be involved, & I would have left to my family trouble, without having served our Country.

With respect to domestic politics—It is lamentable, that now, when union amongst the friends of the Government, & support of the constituted authorities in the necessary system which they have adopted, is so necessary, to give success to the common cause, & bring about a speedy, & an honorable peace, there should be any division, in the republican ranks. It is unfortunate, both for himself, & the party, that Mr Clinton who held such an honorable & conspicuous place in it, & in whom so much confidence was reposed, should so far loose sight of his own & its Interest, as to suffer himself to be made the instrument of dividing it.2 Even should he succeed in his views, & attain the object to which he aspires, his reputation would want that lustre, which consistency of character, gives to distinguished talents. However good his chance, of succeeding you in the honorable station which you fill, may have been; by advancing his pretensions at this time, he has done himself an irreparable injury, & I do not think he will ever occupy it. His Commissioners to this City pretend they are willing to continue the policy which you have adopted, pledging themselves, that the war with England shall be prosecuted, till every object shall be attained, for which we fight her. But thinking men take these assurances for what they really are—deceptive—& view with a distrustful eye, the man who is supported by a party, whose principles & policy are totally opposite, to what he professes. If he were a friend to your measures, he would be careful not to divide the party which approves of them. I feel happy in the belief that he will have the support of but a small section of the republicans, & that your election, will be carried by a large majority. Still it is unfortunate, that we should loose any from our ranks. The visit of his Commissioners to this State, has been of little service to him, except in the neighbourhood of Reading, & I am in hopes, that the people there, will return to their old principles, previous to the ensueing election. We are making every exertion here, to promote the common cause. Ten thousand copies of a narrative of the late disturbances in Baltimore, with such remarks as are suitable to the subject, are in preparation, & when ready, will be distributed thro this State & Jersey.3

I enclose for your perusal, a letter from my friend Mr. English, dated in London, which will be interesting to you.4 At the close of it, there are some observations connected with the mention of Mr. Russel which, being of a confidential nature, will of course rest with us. When you have done with the letter, you will please have it returned to me under cover.

Present my compliments to Mrs. Madison, & accept my assurances of respectful consideration. I am very Respectfully Your obliged friend & Hbe. Sert.

Saml Carswell

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

1Carswell to Eustis, 5 Aug. 1812 (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, C–415:6).

2Even after JM was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate by the congressional caucus on 18 May 1812, Republican malcontent DeWitt Clinton retained a great deal of support in his home state of New York. A 29 May caucus of the state legislature nominated Clinton as a presidential candidate with near unanimity, sending a message to Federalists on the lookout for a candidate to defeat JM in November. Hoping to fuse the Federalist party with Republican dissenters in the coming election, Federalists sounded out Clinton as early as July 1812. On 5 Aug., Clinton met with New York Federalists at the home of Gouverneur Morris, where Clinton pledged support for Federalist principles but recommended that an announcement of his plans to accept Federalist backing be delayed in the hope that support for the war would decline. Clinton’s agents then began a campaign that capitalized on antiwar sentiment in New York and New Jersey, where the Republican party seemed vulnerable. In pro-war Pennsylvania, however, Clintonians argued that the war had been mishandled and would be pursued more vigorously and successfully under Clinton’s leadership (Norman K. Risjord, “Election of 1812,” in Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., ed., History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–1968 [4 vols.; New York, 1971], 1:252–54, 257–59).

3Carswell probably referred to An Exact and Authentic Narrative, of the Events Which Took Place in Baltimore, on the 27th and 28th of July Last: Carefully Collected from Some of the Sufferers and Eye-Witnesses: To Which Is Added a Narrative of Mr. John Thomson, One of the Unfortunate Sufferers … (n.p., 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 25376). The pamphlet was dated 1 Sept. 1812, and its contents were printed in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Gazette on 19 and 26 Aug. and 2 Sept. 1812.

4Enclosure not found.

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