James Madison Papers

To James Madison from James Monroe, 31 January 1813

From James Monroe

Jany 31. [1813]

By the enclosed communication from General Dearborn, it appears, that Genl Prevost declines the proposed exchange of Genl Hull, & the officers designated here, for a reason, which is not warranted by any fact known to us.1 I suspect, it is a sequel, of the ⟨arbritary?⟩ exchanges made at Halifax without our consent. The letter to Genl Dearborn, written in haste, wh. I leave open for your inspection, notices the subject.2

I send him a copy of the exply observations relative to late acts on military affrs.,3 which appeard to be necessary, as he declines coming here.

If you see no objection to the letters going on be so good as seal, & deliver to bearer.

RC (DLC: Rives Collection, Madison Papers). Unsigned; dated “Jany 31.”; docketed by JM “Jany. 31. 1813.” For enclosures, see nn.

1The enclosure was an extract from Dearborn to Monroe, 25 Jan. 1813 (DNA: RG 45, Area File 7; 1 p.), which forwarded a four-page extract from Sir George Prevost to Dearborn, 11 Jan. 1813, in response to Dearborn’s 2 Jan. 1813 letter, which had transmitted to Prevost “a List of American prisoners of war” considered by Monroe and Dearborn “as exchanged in conformity to the principles agreed on and put in practice by the British admiral at Halifax, and requesting [Prevost’s] approbation to that schedule, which was annexed, being an account for the exchange of Brigr. Genl. Hull, and certain officers named, belonging to the army of the U. States, for the officers, non-commissioned officers, and private soldiers of his majesty’s first regiment of foot, captured on board the Samuel and Sarah Transport, by the United States frigate the Essex, capt. Porter” (ibid.).

Prevost expressed “some surprize at receiving this communication” and regretted “that circumstances will not allow me to afford my concurrence.” By way of explanation, Prevost alluded to a dispatch he had received in September 1812 from Sir John Coape Sherbrooke in Halifax, from which “it must be inferred that the receipts from the American Agent for the crew of the United States Sloop Nautilus, and a sufficient number of other seamen belonging to the United States, have expressed [sic] as being in exchange for the British soldiers taken on board the Samuel and Sarah Transport, by the United States frigate Essex.” For details of the capture of the Nautilus by a British squadron on 16 July 1812 and Porter’s seizure of the Samuel and Sarah, see Dudley, Naval War of 1812, 1:209–11, 217, 255–56, 446, 487 n., 558–59

2In his 31 Jan. 1813 letter to Dearborn, Monroe acknowledged receipt of Dearborn’s letter of 25 Jan. (see n. 1, above) and expressed astonishment at Prevost’s conduct, adding that “we had no knowledge of any such exchange of the men taken at sea by the Essex, as he suggests” (Hamilton, Writings of Monroe, 5:241–42).

3Monroe referred to his “Explanatory Observations,” sent to George Washington Campbell, chairman of the Senate select committee on military affairs, on 23 Dec. 1812. Upon Monroe’s assumption of the duties of the War Department in December 1812, he was given a congressional directive to report on the manpower requirements for the war. Monroe outlined the forces needed for coastal defense, especially to prevent a British seizure of Florida, and for offensive operations in Canada in 1813. He called for the expansion of the army beyond the authorized strength of 35,000 and proposed a bill to recruit an additional 20,000 men for twelve months’ service with the intention that such a bill would replace the volunteer laws of 1812. Monroe also recommended that the president be given authority to appoint all officers below the rank of field grade in the latter force rather than let the men choose them, as had been the policy under the 1812 legislation. Congress approved Monroe’s recommendations, altering only the amount of the bounty for enlistments from the suggested $40 to $16. The bill became law on 29 Jan. 1813, although the Senate insisted on its right to confirm all officer appointments and several congressmen doubted whether the term of one year of service was adequate (Ammon, James Monroe, 315–16; Hamilton, Writings of Monroe, 5:227–35; 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 , 2:794–96).

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