March 31st 1814
Taking into view the mutual interest which the United States and the foreign nations in amity with them, have in a liberal commercial intercourse, and the extensive changes favorable thereto which have recently taken place; Taking into view also, the important advantages which may otherwise result, from adapting the state of our commercial laws to the circumstances now existing:
I recommend to the consideration of congress the expediency of authorizing after a convenient day, exportations, specia excepted, from the United States, in vessels of the United States and in vessels owned and navigated by the subjects of powers at peace with them; and a repeal of so much of our laws as prohibits the importation of articles, not the property of Enemies, but produced or manufactured only within their dominions.1
I recommend also as a more effectual safeguard and encouragement to our growing manufactures, that the additional duties on imports, which are to expire at the end of one year after a peace with Great Britain, be prolonged to the end of two years after that event; and that, in favor of our moneyed Institutions, the exportation of specia be prohibited throughout the same period.2
RC, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A-E1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages, 13A-E2). Each RC in Edward Coles’s hand, signed by JM.
1. In late March 1814 word reached the United States that France had been invaded by the allied European forces. This unexpected development raised the possibility of Napoleon’s total defeat and the opening of trade with countries previously controlled by France. Legalizing such commerce seemed likely to strengthen the United States’ position against Great Britain; furthermore, it would alleviate the growing domestic pressure against the trade restrictions imposed by the 17 Dec. 1813 embargo law and the Nonintercourse acts of 1809 and 1811. JM accordingly proposed the change to his cabinet on 30 Mar. 1814, received its approval, and sent the message to Congress “abruptly and without having in the least prepared their minds.” Most of the administration’s allies, who to that point had supported the restrictive laws, executed an about-face and voted to repeal them. The measure passed in the House of Representatives on 7 Apr. by a vote of one hundred and fifteen to thirty-seven; the latter group included two Federalists, Elisha Potter of Rhode Island and John Reed of Massachusetts. Five days later the Senate approved the bill, twenty-six to four, with the opposing votes cast by Republicans Jeremiah B. Howell of Rhode Island, Abner Lacock of Pennsylvania, James Turner of North Carolina, and Joseph B. Varnum of Massachusetts. JM signed the repeal into law on 14 Apr. (Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny, “The American Press and the Fall of Napoleon in 1814,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 98 : 338–40; Brant, Madison, description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis, 1941–61). description ends 6:248–49; Annals of Congress, description begins Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … (42 vols.; Washington, 1834–56). description ends 13th Cong., 2d sess., 740–41, 1984–85, 2001–2; Martis, Historical Atlas of Political Parties, 82; 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 3:123).
2. JM referred to the doubled taxes instituted by “An Act for imposing additional duties upon all goods, wares, and merchandise imported from any foreign port or place, and for other purposes,” 1 July 1812. His recommendation that they be maintained was aimed at conciliating domestic manufacturers who would be adversely affected by the competition from foreign goods resulting from a repeal of the nonimportation laws. Congress, however, passed no legislation during this session addressing the duties or the exportation of specie (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 2:768–69; Brant, Madison, description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis, 1941–61). description ends 248–49).