James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Albert Gallatin, 31 August 1812

From Albert Gallatin

August 31. 1812

Dear Sir

Cleveland being at the mouth of Cayuga,1 the Huron river at the mouth of which the Ohio militia have been landed, is certainly that which empties into Lake Erie between the rivers Cayuga & Sandusky.2 The letter being dated 27th instt., Huntingdon cannot be expected within less than a week.3 In the mean while I am most decidedly of opinion that no information he may bring, can or ought to alter our decision, & that the orders agreed on ought to be transmitted without delay.4

The English general treats our militia as Charles the 12th did the Russians after the battle of Narva; and in like manner we will soon be taught by the enemy how to conquer him.5 With respectful attachment Your’s

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Docketed by JM. A note in JM’s hand at the top of the letter reads: “To be read by Mr. Monroe pro bono publico & returned to J. M.”

1Gallatin probably referred to the Cuyahoga River, which flows into Lake Erie at Cleveland.

2There are two rivers named Huron in the Lake Erie region, one in southeastern Michigan and one in Ohio. Gallatin referred to the latter.

3Gallatin probably referred to Elijah Wadsworth’s 27 Aug. letter to Eustis, in which he noted that he had sent Samuel Huntington and Lewis Cass to Washington on 24 Aug. to inform Eustis of “many particulars” of the situation in the West (Michigan Historical Collections 40 [1929]: 471–74). Huntington arrived in Washington on 3 Sept. to consult with JM’s cabinet on the response to Hull’s surrender (see Monroe to JM, 4 Sept. 1812, and Eustis to JM, 5 Sept. 1812; Huntington to Elijah Wadsworth, 11 Sept. 1812, Letters from the Samuel Huntington Correspondence, 1800–1812, Western Reserve Historical Society, Tract no. 95 [Cleveland, 1915], 149–51).

4Gallatin probably referred to the plan outlined in Eustis’s 1 Sept. 1812 letters to William Henry Harrison and James Winchester. Eustis informed them that JM was determined to “regain the ground which has been lost by the Surrender of Detroit” and to pursue vigorously the objects of the campaign in the Northwest. Harrison was ordered to join Winchester in command of troops intended to reinforce Hull along with additional forces from Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Were Harrison to find himself unable to join Winchester, he was to cooperate as far as possible with him (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).

5On 30 Nov. 1700 the Swedish army under Charles XII besieged the Russian army in the city of Narva, on the Narova River west of St. Petersburg. This action was the first major battle of the Northern War of 1700–1721. Though the Swedes enjoyed a tactical victory at Narva, they were ultimately unable to win the war. Peter the Great regarded the defeat at Narva as a fortunate turn of events in that “compulsion then drove away sloth, and forced us to labour day and night.” Gallatin may have read Voltaire’s account of the siege, in which he quoted the czar as saying “the Swedes will beat us for this some time, but in the end they themselves will teach us to beat them” (Andrew Rothstein, Peter the Great and Marlborough: Politics and Diplomacy in Converging Wars [London, 1986], 35; Voltaire, History of Charles XII, King of Sweden, trans. Winifred Todhunter [London, 1908], 50–54).

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