James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Tench Coxe, [ca. 17 November 1814]

From Tench Coxe

[ca. 17 November 1814]

The admission of new states, and particularly of Louisiana, and the representation, on consideration of slaves having been incorrectly used to create eastern dissatisfaction, in this Crisis of our country, it has appeared to be a duty to give those two points a careful examination.1 The inclosed paper relates to one of them, but it takes one more to do bare justice to that perverted topic.2 It has appeared best so to discuss it, as to cause men of Character as statesmen to refrain from supporting the complaint in future.

The 11th. article of the confederation,3 the ordinance of the old Congress of July 17874 &c &c—will be brought into view. The latter is a most conclusive piece of evidence not only of the intention of the old States, but of a compact between them & future territorial settlers.

RC (DLC). Undated; unsigned; docketed “Coxe Tench 1814” by JM. Dated 1814 in the Index to the James Madison Papers; conjectural date assigned here based on the docket and evidence in nn. 1–2. Enclosure not found, but see n. 2.

1New England Federalists had long complained that their power in Congress was unfairly diminished by the rule of counting slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of state representation, and by the admission of new states to the union. When rising popular disaffection with the war demanded action of the Massachusetts legislature in the fall of 1814, that body approved a committee report calling for a conference of New England states to propose constitutional amendments that would enhance the region’s national influence by rectifying the above issues, among others. (For an example of the pressure placed on the legislature to act, see David Jones to JM, 8 Oct. 1814, n. 1.) The report was published in the Boston Columbian Centinel on 12 Oct. 1814, and on 19 Oct. that paper carried an account of the legislature’s selection of delegates for the convention. The Connecticut and Rhode Island governments followed suit, several Vermont counties named delegates, and the meeting convened at Hartford in mid-December. Amidst calls for secession from the more radical of the region’s Federalists and widespread speculation that the convention would endorse these demands or plot to establish a separate peace with Great Britain, JM sent Col. Thomas S. Jesup to Connecticut to observe the proceedings and prepare to quell an uprising using New York troops if necessary. The convention, however, followed the lead of the Massachusetts legislature and recommended constitutional amendments rather than disunion, and with the publication of its report early in January 1815, JM and the rest of the country were largely relieved from the apprehension of state-supported secession or accommodation with the British from this quarter (Banner, To the Hartford Convention, 321–45; Brant, Madison, description begins Irving Brant, James Madison (6 vols.; Indianapolis, 1941–61). description ends 6:358–61).

2Coxe evidently enclosed the manuscript of a 17 Nov. 1814 essay entitled “The Eastern Malcontents,” which appeared in the Daily National Intelligencer on 21 Nov. 1814 under the pseudonym “Hosmer” (Cooke, Tench Coxe, 485 n. 43). In it, he recommended that the U.S. government impose economic sanctions on any New England states that attempted to secede from the union. Such measures, he argued, would lead to rapid depopulation of the refractory states, as their “industrious, enterprising people” moved to areas of greater economic opportunity in “states which shall not attempt to violate the constitution.” Coxe linked this line of reasoning to New England’s complaints about slave representation and the admission of new states in a second “Hosmer” essay, dated 3 Dec. 1814 and published in the Daily National Intelligencer on 7 Dec. 1814. There, he implied that such protestations were both disingenuous and ill-founded for reasons having to do with population loss in New England. The region was actually gaining political power, he asserted, through its emigrants who entered political office in other states. Against this advantage, however, stood the fact that the white population of the “Eastern” states was only a third as large as the white population of the remaining states, which rendered the southern gain from slave representation merely nominal and explained why New England’s leaders had never advocated basing congressional representation on population alone.

3Article 11 of the Articles of Confederation stipulated that “Canada acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into and entitled to all the advantages of this union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine states” (Ford et al., Journals of the Continental Congress, 9:907, 924).

4Coxe referred to “An Ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States North West of the river Ohio,” adopted by the Continental Congress on 13 July 1787, which provided that the territory should be formed into three to five states, and that any of these states would be admitted into the union “on an equal footing with the original States, in all respects whatever” when it had attained a population of sixty thousand free persons, or earlier, “so far as it can be consistent with the general interest of the Confederacy” (ibid., 32:334, 342).

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