James Madison Papers

From James Madison to John Armstrong, 24 May 1814

To John Armstrong

Montpelier May 24th 1814

Dear Sir,

I have received yours of the 20th. inst. The sufferings of the Troops from want of clothing & pay is the worse1 to be lamented as they cannot fail to damp the recruiting service, & particularly the reenlistment of the men who are soon to be discharged. It seems strange that arrears of pay should run back for more than a year; & that supplies of clothing should have been so deficient that the Troops at our station should have got none, & others those at another not enough.2 It is always fair however that explination should precede censure. That is necessary in this case, at least for a just destribution of the censure among the responsible agents. It would be a circumstance of regret if either the state of Tennessee or Gen’l Jackson should be dissatisfied at the course taken in the peace with the Indians. I am not sure that I understand your remarks on what took place previous to the departure of Gen’l Pinckney. It is to be considered now that the appointment of Commissioners to treat will not refer to a military capitulation, but, to a regular treaty to be submitted to the Senate.

The commission by brevet for Gen’l Jackson is not accompanied by the preliminary one of Brigadier, as the resignation of Gen’l Harrison renders that circuit unnecessary, the better way would be3 to send at once a Major Generals commission. I suspend a final decision however untill I see you which will be in two or three days after the arrival of this.4 The decision as to Gen’l Howard may also be delayed. If the power of France be broken down which is more than probable, for a time at least, & the Allies of England can be prevailed on to acqueise in her measures ag’t us, which is possible, we may calculate on the utmost extention she can give them; both on our Atlantic & inland Frontier. I observe that her exertions for L. Ontario correspond with our anticipations; among them appears the project of sending ships from England in frames. If these arrive & the conveyence of them up the St. Laurence cannot be prevented, there will be but little hope of our obtaining or keeping the command on that water.

The complaints against Burbeck have been so multiplied & pointed that his longer continuance where he is, is highly inexpedient.5 Transfer him to some other theatre which you think less unsuitable for him, and be so good as to hand the letter from Mr Chaney6 after perusal to the Sec’y of the Treasury who will communicate it to the P. Master Gen’l. It contains matter which the pay M. Gen’l also may properly see. If the case of Lt. Gore inclosed calls for the interposition represented let a pardon be provided in the customary form. Accept my respects & best wishes

(Signed) J.M.

P.S. May 25. I observe in the Nat: Intelligencer, just now recd., a consolidation of 4 regts. into 2, has been finally carried into effect & made public.7 You must have inferred more from my communications8 than I could have meant to convey by any thing in them on the subject. The question of exercising such a power made discretionary by law, the designation of the Reg’t. to be consolidated, and the descrimination between the Officers to be returned9 & disbanded involves so many considerations of importance of peculiar delicacy, & of10 that I should not have considered myself as satisfying my responsibility without weighing well the whole proceeding. It may be doubted also, whether as the exercise of the power was limited to the event of a failure to fill the rank & file of the Regts. the condition has yet occurred, the period between the passage of the law & the act of consolidation having admitted so scanty an opp’y for an adequate trial of the means of recruiting.

(Signed) J.M

FC (DLC); Tr (DLC, series 3). FC in an unidentified hand. Minor differences between the copies have not been noted. Enclosures not found, but see n. 4.

1Tr has “more.”

2Tr has “and those at another not enough.”

3Tr has “will be.”

4Armstrong had already informed Tennessee militia Maj. Gen. Andrew Jackson, on 22 May 1814, that because the vacancy caused by Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s resignation could not be “supplied constitutionally” during the recess of the Senate, Jackson would receive a commission as “Brigadier of the line, with the Brevet of major general” (DNA: RG 107, LSMA). Jackson replied on 8 June 1814, stating that he would accept the commissions with the understanding that the Senate would make him a major general when it met (DNA: RG 107, LRRS, J-27:8), and JM obtained a transcription of the letter (DLC). Armstrong wrote Jackson again on 28 May 1814: “Since the date of my letter of the 24th. inst. Major General Harrison has resigned his commission in the army & thus is created a vacancy in that grade, which I hasten to fill with your name” (DNA: RG 107, LSMA).

5For complaints about Brig. Gen. Henry Burbeck and other federal officials in New London, see Nicoll Fosdick and others to JM, 6 Jan. 1814, and nn., and Henry Channing to JM, 6 May 1814, and n. 2.

6Tr has “Chauncy.”

7Daily National Intelligencer, 23 May 1814.

8Tr has “conversations.”

9Tr has “retained.”

10Tr has “considerations of importance, of justice and of delicacy.”

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