James Madison Papers

Draft of a Message to Congress, [ca. 8 December] 1812

Draft of a Message to Congress

[ca. 8 December 1812]

Considering that the U. S have a just claim on Spain for indemnities to a large amt. the justice of which has been admitted & for the satisfaction of which the Spanish possessions on the S Borders of the U. S. were brought into negociation; that these possessions, under the existing Circumstances of the Spanish Monarchy are every day liable to be occupied by the Enemy of the U. S. whence that security for the payment of the debt due to them must be endangered & may be eventually lost; that in the mean time they are rendered by the peculiarity of their geographical relations auxiliaries to the British schemes for a clandestine & corrupting intercourse with the inhabitants of the U. S. whilst an extensive territory appertaining as a part of Louisiana, continues to be witheld from the U. S. and finally, it being ascertained that the Spanish authorities in those possessions not only violate their neutral obligations by unlawful privileges in their ports to G. B. but have armed & excited different Tribes of Savages to a merciless war agst. the U. S. thus making themselves parties thereto introducing at the same time into their garrisons troops of a character & colour well calculated to [illegible] revolt among tha⟨t⟩ [illegible] of the Cont[i]guous [illegible] of the U. S I recommend to the consideration of Congress the justice & expediency of authorizing an immediate occupancy of the Spanish Territory Eastward of the river Perdido not as act [sic] of hostility but subject to future amicable negociations for adjusting all differences between Spain & the U. S.1

Draft (DLC). Undated; date assigned here on the basis of evidence presented in n. 1.

1JM appears to have drafted this message in response to developments in Spanish East Florida sometime between 21 Nov. and 10 Dec. 1812. On the former date the National Intelligencer published Gov. David B. Mitchell’s 3 Nov. 1812 address to the Georgia legislature, complaining of Spain’s employment of Seminole Indian auxiliaries against the U.S. forces in the province and predicting that the president, if authorized by Congress, would respond by occupying East Florida (see John Williams to JM, 3 Dec. 1812, and n. 1). On 8 Dec. 1812 Monroe informed Maj. Gen. Thomas Pinckney that because of the “connection between Great Britain and the Spanish regency … East Florida has become essentially a British province,” and he insinuated that the U.S. would not tolerate this state of affairs indefinitely. In the interim Pinckney was to concentrate his troops for the purposes of “chastising the savages who have committed hostilities” and “watching the movements of England, and of the Spanish forces acting under English influence” (State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States from the Accession of George Washington to the Presidency, 2d ed. [10 vols.; Boston, 1815–17; 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 36007], 9:188–91). JM may well have composed this draft at this time but did not send it to Congress, probably because Sen. Joseph Anderson of Tennessee, on 10 Dec. 1812, introduced a resolution calling for a committee to consider legislation “to authorize the President of the United States to occupy and hold the whole or any part of East Florida, including Amelia Island, and also those parts of West Florida which are not now in the possession and under the jurisdiction of the United States” (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., 124).

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