James Madison Papers

Henry Lee to James Madison, 2 February 1827

Chesterfield Ct. H. 2nd Feby 1827


In examining the events of the late war I believe I have ascertained that when in the fall of 1813, it became obvious that the campaign in the North would terminate in the disgrace of promising much and doing nothing, the govt projected a plan for the operations of the ensuing year, of which the principal feature was to assemble a large force just within the limits of Canada, and near the point where our N. boundary touches the St. Laurence.+ Among other advantages this position would menace forcibly the enemy—on every point of his line from Montreal to Kingston, as well as of that from the former place to Isle aux Noix. It would secure too our military proceedings from the espionage and interruption of the local civil authorities. Thus far the lights before me had; but I am not able to conjecture the causes: which produced the abandonment of this good-looking prospect, for the brilliant but ineffective operations which took place on the Niagara. Were the capture of Fort Niagara, & the foray of Drummond, sufficient to create such a cardinal, & as I think, unfortunate change of measures, or was there really no such plan as I have sketched. The inefficient and embarrassing connection, which operations in upper Canada, required to be maintained between our ill managed Ontario fleet and the army, was one of the evils which this plan had it been <proceeded> in, would have removed. That of itself was a great advantage. The mention of the lake fleets, calls to my mind a reflection that frequently occurs to me<,> & never without giving me uneasiness. Nor can I without much <sensi>bility and deference mention it to you. I shall have frequently to advert to the Character & constitution of your cabinet—and I do not know in what way I shall account for the singular infelicity of many of your appointments. I do not know that I shall go back as far as Robert Smith—But Mr. Jones, Mr. Campbell, Mr. Crowningshield, Genl. Hull, Genl. Dearbourn, and Genl. Smyth—are probably phenomina, in the history of apparent and actual unfitness, that no other administration in any country can equal. I am at a loss to imagine & cannot presume to say, whether these men were recieved from the pressure of certain political causes, or owed their appointments to the erroneous estimate of your own mind. I state this matter with candour, but I merely state it, that you may or may not condescend to furnish any explanation of it, or make that explanation full or limited, as you may see proper.

Allow me to ask a question on a <formerly> and less important subject—which probably your memory will <easily> answer. In <Eustis> Life of Henry P. 397. he says "a federal member of the House" moved the resolution for a marble Bust to be procured of Henry & placed in the Capitol. Who was the member? By the by—Col Taylor of Caroline shortly before his death told me this life of Henry, was "no more the life of Henry, than it was the life of Robinson Crusoe". He insisted that the motion made by H. to resist G. Britain no longer, was to his own knowledge a sincere intention and a sincere attempt; not a fient as <Eustis> describes it; & that the fient was in Henrys pretending afterwards that it was a fient. With great respect I remain Sir yr. most obt. srt

H. Lee

+ See the orders of Armstrong to Hampton to prepare tents for 10.000 men in that neighbourhood.

RC (DLC). Docketed by JM.

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