James Madison Papers

To James Madison from William Montgomery, 13 January 1813

From William Montgomery

Philadelphia Jany. 13th. 1813


As an American born citizen I view, with lively interest every passing event. I cannot conceive that much benefit will result from the acquisition of the Canadas—but while in the possession of the British, we may consider them some security for their proper treatment of the rights of our country. As to the Indians, in time of peace they must see that they are at the mercy of the U. States, which will secure us their friendship.

Our country is much divided now with respect to carrying on the war, and it cannot be done without incurring an immense expense—money to a very considerable amount, cannot be obtained on Loan, & taxes, in some parts of the U. States cannot be collected. I observed the extent of the offers of Mr Russell and the reply1—Sailors under our Flag and on the Ocean ought to be exempt from impressment, to render our Commerce secure; but not to cover the subjects of any country, when called for. If our Govt. were to pass a Law, with suitable penalties, prohibiting the employment in our service of British Seamen, including those naturalized hereafter, and provide a mode of furnishing our Sailors with a proof of their having been born in such a place, and when naturalized, I say, if this were done, in good sincerity—no more British seamen would come to the U. States to follow the sea, and really we do not want them, but could do better without them.2 If all our merchant vessels were compelled to take a certain number of apprentices—in a few years we might have a sufficient number of seamen, on whom we could rely. As our language is the same with theirs: the more our commerce is extended, the more our interests will clash. A liberal adjustment of this critical business, may secure the future peace of both countries with each other. If our Govt. were fairly to pursue such a course, and a peace could not be made, then, I presume the war would be supported by a majority in all parts of the Union. A cessation of hostilities, to come at such a settlement, cannot injure us, as it will require five months to collect such an army, on the borders of Canada⟨,⟩ as we ought and must have, to insure succe⟨ss⟩ to our arms—and very little can be done by cruizer⟨s⟩ at this season of the year—indeed I fear that we shall lose more than we shall gain during the winter months. If, sir, you can make a peace on some such terms, I am confident that you will be applauded by 9/10ths. of all the reflecting people of this country. These are my views, dictated in a plain manner, but with feelings warm for the good of my country. If the war must be continued God only knows, what will be the result. My motive in troubling you with my sentiments on this occasion, is love of country, which only actuates—Your Hble. Servt.

Wm. Montgomery3

RC (DNA: RG 59, ML). Damaged by removal of seal.

2The Seamen’s Bill was first introduced into the House on 29 Jan. 1813 and passed on 12 Feb. before being sent to the Senate, where it passed on 27 Feb. “An Act for the regulation of seamen on board the public and private vessels of the United States” was approved on 3 Mar. 1813. It stipulated that only U.S. citizens and “persons of colour, natives of the United States,” were to be employed on board public or private U.S. vessels and that naturalized citizens could be employed only if they exhibited certified copies of their naturalization papers to a customs collector. The law also gave the president the authority to issue supplemental regulations and directions respecting seamen employed on public vessels. The law additionally imposed penalties or fines on commanders and shipowners for employing persons not qualified according to its terms and punished persons guilty of forging citizenship certificates (Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 2d sess., 83, 84, 85, 92, 108, 111, 937, 1022–55; 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 , 2:809–11).

3William Montgomery (1736–1816) was a representative from Pennsylvania in the Third Congress, 1793–95. He was commissioned a major general of the Pennsylvania militia in 1793 and served for fourteen years. In 1808 he was a presidential elector for the Madison-Clinton ticket.

Index Entries