James Madison Papers

From James Madison to Congress, 10 October 1814

To Congress

Washington October 10th 1814

I lay before Congress communications just received from the Plenipotentiaries of the United States charged with negotiating peace with Great Britain; shewing the conditions on which alone that Government is willing to put an end to the war.1

The Instructions to those Plenipotentiaries disclosing the grounds on which they were authorized to negotiate and conclude a Treaty of peace will be the subject of another communication.

James Madison

RC and enclosures, two copies (DNA: RG 233, President’s Messages, 13A–E1; and DNA: RG 46, Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages, 13A–E2); Tr and partial Tr of enclosures (PHi: William Jones Papers). Each RC in Edward Coles’s hand; signed by JM. Tr and partial Tr of enclosures vary extensively from RCs and enclosures in phrasing. For enclosures (printed in ASP description begins American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States … (38 vols.; Washington, 1832–61). description ends , Foreign Relations, 3:705–10), see n. 1.

1JM forwarded copies of a 12 Aug. 1814 letter to James Monroe from John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell (16 pp.), and a 19 Aug. 1814 letter to Monroe from all five commissioners, including Albert Gallatin (9 pp.). In the first the four commissioners reported on their initial meetings with the British commissioners— Lord Gambier, Henry Goulburn, and William Adams—on 8, 9, and 10 Aug. 1814. The British commissioners began by stating that they had instructions on and expected to discuss the topics of impressment, a revision of the boundary between the United States and Canada, and a settlement with Great Britain’s Indian allies that included a guarantee of Indian territory within the United States. The last item, the British said, was an absolute requirement if peace were to take place. They added that Americans would no longer be allowed to fish in the Canadian Maritimes if an equivalent privilege was not granted by the United States. The following day, the U.S. commissioners informed the British that they were prepared to discuss impressment and U.S.-Canadian boundaries, as well as blockade definitions and indemnity claims, but had no instructions regarding Great Britain’s Indian allies or U.S. fishing rights. Further discussion of the Indian question revealed that the British envisioned an agreement whereby neither their country nor the United States would be allowed to purchase Indian territory now within U.S. boundaries; the Indians, however, would retain the right to sell to a “third party.” The U.S. commissioners noted in their report to Monroe that this “proposition … amounted to nothing less than a demand of the absolute cession of the rights both of Sovereignty and of soil” by the United States. They told the British that they did not expect to be able to reach even a provisional agreement on this topic, to which the British replied that since this was a sine qua non, they would have to consult with their government before continuing discussions. Finally, the parties agreed that a record of the meetings should be kept, and met the next day to compare drafts and adopt an official version. The U.S. commissioners enclosed a copy of their draft (5 pp.) along with the statement ultimately agreed on (4 pp.), so that Monroe could see “the passages to which the British Commissioners objected.”

In their 19 Aug. 1814 letter, the commissioners informed Monroe that they had met that day with the British commissioners, who reported that their government still demanded at least a provisional statement regarding peace with their Indian allies and the establishment of a permanent Indian boundary corresponding approximately to that specified in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville. On the topic of boundaries between the United States and Canada, the British said they were instructed to require that the United States relinquish all naval and military force on the Great Lakes and their shores while allowing Great Britain to maintain such a force; that the boundary line from Lake Superior to the Mississippi River be re-drawn and that Great Britain retain the right of navigation on that river; and that the United States cede the northern part of Maine to Great Britain in order to eliminate U.S. territory between New Brunswick and Quebec. They declined to answer the American commissioners’ query as to whether the conditions regarding military force on the lakes were also nonnegotiable. To Monroe, the U.S. commissioners wrote that they would meet the British demands with a “unanimous and decided negative,” and that they therefore expected the negotiations to end without a peace treaty. They enclosed a copy of a written statement of the proposed conditions (7 pp.), dated 19 Aug. 1814 and received from the British the following day.

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