James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Thomas Jefferson, 14 October 1812

To Thomas Jefferson

Washington Ocr. 14. 1812

Dear Sir

I recd. your favor of the 2d. inclosing the letter from Mr. Meigs. The place he wishes, has been long allotted to Mr. Mansfield, who preferred it to that of the Surveyorship held by him; and who has just obtained the exchange; and a Commission for the place vacated, has just been sent to Mr. Meigs, who was long ago recommended for it; and who it was understood wished it. It is the more probable that it will be acceptable to him, as he has connections in the W. Country, particularly the present Govr. of Ohio.

I see so little chance of being able to peruse the lucubrations of Faronda you were so good as to send me, that I replace them, for the present at least in your hands.1

The last intelligence from the Westward left a military crisis near Fort Defiance.2 Winchester with about half the army, was encamped within 3 miles of the encampment of about 300 British troops with some field pieces & a body of Indians stated at 2000, or 2500. It is probable they were destined agst. Fort Wayne; with the general view of finding employment for our forces on their way to Detroit untill the Season should be spent, or Brock could send troops from below. Of our affairs at Niagara & the neighborhood of Montreal, it is difficult to judge, the force of the Enemy being imperfectly known, & that under General Dearborn, depending so much on circumstances. Our best hopes for the campaign rest on Harrison; and if no disaster, always to be feared from Indian combats, befall him, there is a probability that he will regain Detroit, and perhaps do more. He has a force of 8 or 10,000 men at least, enthusiastically confiding in him, and a prospect of adequate supplies of every sort, unless it be Cannon, which tho’ on the way, may possibly encounter fatal delays. This article however he appears not to make a sine qua non; nor will it be wanted for Detroit, if it be true as is reported that every piece has been withdrawn by the British.

The latest accts. from Europe are in the Newspapers.3 The ideas of which Foster & Russel are put in possession, will soon draw from the B. Govt. some evidence of their views as to peace. From France we hear nothing; and shall probably meet Congs. under the perplexity of that situation.

The current Elections bring the popularity of the War or of the administration, or both, to the Experimentum Crucis.4 In this State the issue is not favorable, tho’ less otherwise than would appear. In the Congressional Districts the Republicans I believe, have not lost ground at all, notwithstanding the auxiliaries to federalism. In the State Legislature, they will be in a minority on a joint vote.5 Penna. altho’ admitted to be shaken, is represented to be safe.6 New Jersey is doubtful at least. The same is the case with New Hampshire.7 North Carolina also is reported to be in considerable vibration.8 The other States, remain pretty decided on one hand or on the other.

You will be amused with the little work of the Author of several humurous [sic] publications, Irvine9 of N. York. It sinks occasionally into low & local phrases, and sometimes forgets the allegorical character. But is in general good painting on substantial Canvas. Affece. respects.

James Madison

RC (DLC). Docketed by Jefferson as received 17 Oct.

2On 15 Oct. 1812 the National Intelligencer printed extracts of several letters from the Northwest describing Winchester’s impending encounter with British troops and Indians near Fort Defiance. JM probably also derived his opinions from Elijah Wadsworth’s 27 Sept. 1812 letter to Eustis, which specified the number of British troops and Indians involved (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, W-330:6). Harrison’s 13 Oct. 1812 letter to Eustis gives a full account of these events (Esarey, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, Indiana Historical Collections, 2:173–78).

3On 29 Sept. 1812 and for four subsequent issues, the National Intelligencer printed summaries of the arguments heard in Parliament in favor of repeal of the orders in council. On 15 Oct. the National Intelligencer reprinted William Cobbett’s address to the prince regent, originally published in the 4 Aug. 1812 edition of Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register. Defending the U.S. decision to prosecute the war, Cobbett argued that the repeal of the orders in council was not sufficient to ensure peace and that impressment and possession of the Floridas still remained to be addressed.

4Experimentum crucis: crucial experiment.

5JM probably referred to the Maryland election results, which were printed in the National Intelligencer on 8, 10, and 15 Oct. 1812. The paper reported that fifty-two Federalists and twenty-eight Republicans had been elected to the House of Delegates, “So that there will be a sufficiently large majority in the House of Representatives to outweigh the Republican Senate, and ensure the election of a Federal Governor and Senator in Congress, at the next meeting of the Legislature.” Maryland sent six Republicans and three Federalists to both the Twelfth and Thirteenth Congresses (Parsons et al., U.S. Congressional Districts, 1788–1841, 92–95, 158–60).

6In spite of intense Clintonian activity before the election, Pennsylvania’s 25 electoral votes for JM proved decisive in his victory over Clinton by a margin of 128 to 89. The state sent twenty-two Republicans and one Federalist to Congress and maintained a Republican majority in the state legislature as well (Niles’ Weekly Register 4 [1813]: 268; Higginbotham, Keystone in the Democratic Arch, 265–68).

7JM was rightly concerned about New Jersey. The state sent two Republicans and four Federalists to the Thirteenth Congress, gave its electoral votes to Clinton, and elected a Federalist majority in the state legislature. Similarly, New Hampshire elected six Federalists to the Thirteenth Congress and gave its electoral votes to Clinton (Niles’ Weekly Register 4 [1813]: 268).

8Sometime in the fall of 1812, JM received the following note from William Blackledge relating to politics in North Carolina: “Nothing which art and intrigue can effect, is or will be left undone in this State by the Clintns. & F. d’s. A proposition I am informed has been made by Govr. Tomkins to Govr. Hawkins, that the Cltons. will support the late Govr. Stone for Vice, if the vote of this State can be secured to Clinton for President. The knowledge which we have however of Stones character I think will justify the Conclusion that he will treat the overture with the disdain it merits. I shall write him by the first mail on the subject what is said & request an answer addressed to me at Washington.

“Under cover of another package I will send a copy of a letter to Cap Taylor and his answer if he has kept one—on the subject of the Presidency recd. from one of the Cltns. at New York” (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers; 1 p.; unsigned; undated; filed at 30 Sept. 1812). North Carolina, however, remained Republican, supporting JM’s reelection, sending a predominantly Republican delegation to the Thirteenth Congress, and electing a Republican state legislature (Niles’ Weekly Register 4 [1813]: 268).

9JM later placed an asterisk before this name and wrote at the foot of the page, “‘John Bull & brother Jonathan’ rather by Paulding.” He probably enclosed a copy of James Kirke Paulding’s The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, by Hector Bull-us (New York, 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 26392).

Index Entries