Lossing's Field Book of the War of 1812, Chapter XI - A War Spirit Aroused. - Declaration of War against Great Britain.






Meeting of the Twelfth Congress. – Strength of Parties in that Body. – Henry Clay chosen Speaker. – The President’s feeble War-trumpet. – History of the Gerry-mander. – Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations. – Its Charges against Great Britain and warlike Tone. – Resolutions of the Committee on Foreign Relations. – The first railway Traveler and telegraphic Dispatch. – Supposed Republican Proclivities of British Colonies. – John Randolph on the Danger of enlightening the Slaves. – Randolph scolds the Democrats. – John C. Calhoun. – Sketches of Randolph and Calhoun. – Calhoun’s Reply to Randolph’s Speech. – The Policy of the Federalists. – Preparations for War. – Augmentation of the Army. – Patriotism of leading Federalists. – Reasons of Quincy and Emott for their Course. – Voices of the State Legislatures. – A Pittance for the Navy. – Unsuccessful Efforts for its Increase. – Madison threatened with Desertion by the War Party. – He recommends an Embargo. – A British Plot discovered. – The Mission of John Henry in New England. – An Attempt to destroy the Republic by Disunion. – Henry’s Correspondence in Madison’s Possession. – The President’s Message on the Subject. – Henry’s Disclosures make Political Capital. – The British Ministry suppress the Correspondence. – Embargo proposed. – Efforts to alarm the People. – War predicted. – The Sins of France. – Embargo Act proposed. – Supplementary Embargo Act. – Opposition to the Embargo. – Delusive Hopes of Justice. – British Orders and French Decrees unrepealed. – A preliminary War Measure. – Madison renominated. – George Clinton. – The President’s accusatory Message. – Calhoun’s Report on Causes and Reasons for War. – Action of the House of Representatives in Secret Session. – Action of the Senate on a Declaration of War. – Declaration of War. – The President proclaims the Fact. – A Protest. – "Josiah the First." – Substance of the Protest of the Minority. – Names of those who signed it. – The Issue fairly before the Country. – Organization of a Peace Party. – Its unpatriotic Course. – Measures for raising Funds for War Purposes. – Belligerent Preparations. – A Fast Day proclaimed. – How the Fast Day was observed. – William Ellery Channing’s Discourse. – Webster’s Oration and Bryant’s Ode.


"Hark! the peal of war is rung;
Hark! the song for battle’s sung;
Firm be every bosom strung,

And every soldier ready.
On to Quebec’s embattled halls!
Who will pause when glory calls?
Charge, soldiers! charge its lofty walls,
And storm its strong artillery!
Firm as our native hills we’ll stand,
And should the lords of Europe land,
We’ll meet them on the farthest strand;
We’ll conquer or we’ll die!"


Intelligence of the battle of Tippecanoe reached Washington City soon after the Twelfth Congress had assembled, and produced a profound sensation in that body. They had been convened by proclamation a month earlier [November 4, 1811.] than the regular day of meeting. The affairs of the country were approaching a crisis, and this session was to be the most important of any since the establishment of the nation. Both political parties came fully armed and well prepared for a desperate conflict. The Federalists were in a hopeless minority in both houses, but were strong in materials. They had but six members in the Senate, where even Massachusetts, the home of the "Essex Junto," was represented by a Democrat in the person of the veteran Joseph B. Varnum, the speaker of the last House, who had been chosen to supersede Timothy Pickering. 1 Giles, of Virginia, having joined a faction similar to Randolph’s "Quids" in its relations to the administration, Wm. H. Crawford, of Georgia, became the leader in the Senate of the dominant party proper, and was ably supported by Campbell, of Tennessee.

In the lower House the Federalists had but thirty-six members, whose great leader was Quincy, of Massachusetts, ably supported by Key, of Maryland, Chittenden, of Vermont, and Emott, of New York. Connecticut and Rhode Island were still numbered among the Federal states; but in the remainder of New England and the State of New York the Democrats had a decided majority. There were but ten Federalists for all the states south of Pennsylvania and Delaware. The more radical members of the last Congress had been re-elected; and in Cheves, Calhoun and Lowndes, of South Carolina, Clay, of Kentucky, and Grundy, of Tennessee – all young men and full of vigor – appeared not only Democratic members of ability, but enthusiastic champions of war with Great Britain. With these came the veteran Sevier, the hero of King’s Mountain, and first Governor of Tennessee – "stiff and grim as an Indian arrow; not speaking, but looking daggers." 2

The young and ardent members, with the imperious Clay at their head, immediately took the lead; and the warlike temper of the House was manifested by the election of Mr. Clay to the speakership {original text has "speakershp".} by the decided vote of seventy-five, against thirty-eight given for William Bibb, the peace candidate, and a dozen scattering votes. 3 A determination that inactivity and indecision should no longer be the policy of the administration was soon manifested, and the timid President Madison found himself, as the standard-bearer of his party, surrounded, like a cautious sachem, with irrepressible young warriors eager for a fray.

The President, in his annual November message [November 5, 1811.], sounded a war-trumpet, though rather feebly. After alluding to the condition of the national defenses, he said, "I must now add, that the period has arrived which claims from the legislative guardians of the national rights a system of more ample provision for maintaining them. Notwithstanding the scrupulous justice, the protracted moderation, and the multiplied efforts on the part of the United States, to substitute for the accumulating dangers to the peace of the two countries all the mutual advantages of re-established friendship and confidence, we have seen that the British Cabinet perseveres not only in withholding a remedy for other wrongs, so long and so loudly calling for it, but in the execution, brought home to the threshold of our territory, of measures which, under existing circumstances, have the character as well as the effects of war on our lawful commerce. With this evidence of hostile inflexibility in trampling on rights which no independent nation can relinquish, Congress will feel the duty of putting the United States into an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national spirit and expectations." Yet Mr. Madison, like Mr. Jefferson, was anxious to avoid war, if possible.

A war-note in a higher key was speedily sounded by the Committee on Foreign Relations, of which Peter B. Porter {original text has "Peter P. Porter".}, of New York, was chairman. They made a short but energetic report on the 29th of November [1811.]. They referred in severe terms to the wrongs which for more than five years the commerce of the United States had suffered from the operations of the conflict for power between England and France – wrongs inaugurated by British orders in Council, and imitated, in retaliation, by French decrees. They charged Great Britain with the crime of persisting in the infliction of these wrongs after France, by abandoning her decrees, so far as the United States were concerned, had led the way toward justice to neutrals. They then arraigned Great Britain upon a more serious charge – that of continued impressment of American seamen into the British service. While they pleaded for the protection of commerce, they were not, they said, "of that sect whose worship is at the shrine of a calculating avarice. . . . . Although the groans of those victims of barbarity for the loss of (what should be dearer to Americans than life) their liberty – although the cries of their wives and children, in the privation of protectors and parents, have of late been drowned in the louder clamors of the loss of property, yet is the practice of forcing our mariners into the British navy, in violation of the rights of our flag, carried on with unabated rigor and severity. If it be our duty to encourage the fair and legitimate commerce of this country by protecting the property of the merchant, then, indeed, by as much as life and liberty are more estimable than ships and goods, so much more impressive is the duty to shield the persons of our seamen, whose hard and honest services are employed, equally with those of the merchants, in advancing, under the mantle of its laws, the interests of their country. To sum up, in a word, the great cause of complaint against Great Britain, your committee need only say, that the United States, as a sovereign and independent power, claim the right to use the ocean, which is the common and acknowledged highway of nations, for the purposes of transporting, in their own vessels, the products of their own soils and the acquisitions of their own industry to a market in the ports of friendly nations, and to bring home, in return, such articles as their necessities or convenience may require, always regarding the rights of belligerents as defined by the established laws of nations. Great Britain, in defiance of this incontestable right, captures every American vessel bound to or returning from a port where her commerce is not favored; enslaves our seamen, and, in spite of our remonstrances, perseveres in these aggressions. To wrongs so daring in character and so disgraceful in their execution, it is impossible that the people of the United States should remain indifferent. We must now tamely and quietly submit, or we must resist by those means which God has placed within our reach.

"Your committee would not cast a shade over the American name by the expression of a doubt which branch of this alternative will be embraced. The occasion is now presented when the national character, misunderstood and traduced for a time by foreign and domestic enemies, should be vindicated. If we have not rushed to the field of battle like the nations who are led by the mad ambition of a single chief in the avarice of a corrupted court, it has not proceeded from the fear of war, but from our love of justice and humanity. That proud spirit of liberty and independence which sustained our fathers in the successful assertion of rights against foreign aggression is not yet sunk. The patriotic fire of the Revolution still lives in the American breast with a holy and unextinguishable flame, and will conduct this nation to those high destinies which are not less the reward of dignified moderation than of exalted valor. But we have borne with injury until forbearance has ceased to be a virtue. The sovereignty and independence of these states, purchased and sanctified by the blood of our fathers, from whom we received them, not for ourselves only, but as the inheritance of our posterity, are deliberately and systematically violated. And the period has arrived when, in the opinion of your committee, it is the sacred duty of Congress to call forth the patriotism and resources of the country. By the aid of these, and with the blessing of God, we confidently trust we shall be able to procure that redress which has been sought for by justice, by remonstrance, and forbearance in vain."

The committee, "reserving for a future report those ulterior measures which, in their opinion, ought to be pursued," earnestly recommended Congress to second the proposition of the President by immediately putting the United States "into an armor and attitude demanded by the crisis, and corresponding with the national spirit and expectations." In a series of resolutions they recommended the immediate completion of the military establishment as authorized by law, by filling up the ranks and prolonging the enlistments; the authorization of an additional force of ten thousand regular troops to serve for three years, and the acceptance by the President, under proper regulations, of any number of volunteers not exceeding fifty thousand, to be organized, trained, and held in readiness; giving the President authority to order out detachments of militia when the interests of the country should require; the immediate repairing of all national vessels and fitting them for service, and the allowing merchant ships to arm in their own defense. 4

This report, spread upon the wings of the press, went over the country swiftly – not so swiftly as now, for railways and telegraphs were unknown 5 – and produced a powerful impression upon the American mind and heart. No one could deny the truthfulness of its statements, and few well-informed persons doubted the wisdom and justice of its conclusions. While great indignation was felt toward France for her past and present aggressions upon the rights of neutrals, much stronger was the feeling against Great Britain, because it had been her settled policy and her practice for more than half a century, and had been used with cruel rigor long before France, in retaliation, adopted the same instrument for warfare. This indignation was more vehement because England, with haughty persistence, and in violation of the sovereignty and independence of the United States, continued her nefarious practice of impressing American seamen into the British naval service. Upon such burning feelings throughout the land, just then stimulated to great intensity by the intelligence from the Indian country, fell the fuel of this trumpet-toned report. It was short, perspicuous, and pungent. It was read by every body; and every measure proposed in Congress, looking to hostilities with Great Britain, was applauded by a large majority of the people.

In Congress warm debates followed on the resolutions appended to the report. It was admitted that the United States could not meet Great Britain on the ocean fleet to fleet, but it was believed that when an army from the States should appear on the soil of Canada, or of the other British provinces in the farther East, the people, then tired of being ruled as colonies, would gladly join fortunes with the young Giant of the West. It was believed that their bosoms swelled with desires since embodied in these words of an English poet:

"There’s a star in the West that shall never go down

’Till the records of valor decay;
We must worship its light, though ’tis not our own,
For liberty bursts in its ray."

It was also believed that American privateers would speedily ruin British commerce and fisheries, and that, by sea and land expeditions, the people of the United States would be remunerated tenfold for all the spoliations inflicted on their commerce, and thus compel the British government to act justly and respectfully. 6

Most of the Southern and Western members were in favor of war. But John Randolph, always happy in his element of universal opposition, battled against the men of his own section in his peculiar way, sometimes with ability, always discursorily, and frequently with the keenest satire. He endeavored to excite the fears of the members of the slave-labor states by warning them that an invasion of Canada might be retorted upon Southern soil with fearful effect. He declared that the slaves had already become polluted by that French democracy which animated the administration party, who were so eager to go to war with the enemy of Napoleon, whom he ranked, as a scourge of mankind, with Tamerlane and Genghis Khan – "malefactors of the human race, who grind down men into mere material of their impious and bloody ambition." He said the negroes were rapidly gaining notions of freedom, destructive alike to their own happiness and the safety and interests of their masters. He denounced as a "butcher" a member of Congress who had proposed the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. He said men had broached on that very floor the doctrine of imprescriptible rights to a crowded audience of blacks in the galleries, teaching them that they were equal to their masters. "Similar doctrines," he said, "are spread throughout the South by Yankee peddlers; and there are even owners of slaves so infatuated as, by the general tenor of their conversation, by contempt of order, morality, religion, unthinkingly to cherish these seeds of destruction. And what has been the consequence? Within the last ten years repeated alarms of slave insurrections, some of them awful indeed. By the spreading of this infernal doctrine the whole South has been thrown into a state of insecurity. . . . . You have deprived the slave of all moral restraint," he continued, addressing the Democratic members; "you have tempted him to eat of the tree of knowledge just enough to perfect him in wickedness; you have opened his eyes to his nakedness. God forbid that the Southern States should ever see an enemy on these shores with their infernal principles of French fraternity in the van! While talking of Canada, we have too much reason to shudder for our own safety at home. I speak from facts when I say that the night-bell never tolls for fire in Richmond that the frightened mother does not hug her infant the more closely to her bosom, not knowing what may have happened. I have myself witnessed some of these alarms in the capital of Virginia."

Randolph 7 then gave the Democrats some severe words concerning the adverse policy advocated by their party in 1798, when the Federal administration was preparing for a war with France. He taunted them with being preachers of reform and economy heretofore, but now, in their blind zeal to serve their French master, were willing to create a heavy national debt by rushing into an unnecessary and wicked war with a fraternal people – fraternal in blood, language, religion, laws, arts, and literature. 8

Randolph’s speech had but little effect upon his auditors other than to irritate the more sensitive and amuse the more philosophic. A few members, at the risk of poisoned arrows from his tongue, ventured to give him some home thrusts, while Calhoun, then less than thirty years of age, made this the occasion of his first oratorical effort in that great theatre of legislative strife wherein he so long and so valiantly contested. 9 With that dexterous use of subtle logic which never failed to give him ingenious arguments in favor of any views he might desire to enforce, he replied to Randolph at some length, insisting that it was a principle as applicable to nations as to individuals to repel a first insult, and thus command the respect, if not the fear of the assailant. "Sir," he said, "I might prove the war, should it ensue, justifiable by the express admission of the gentleman from Virginia; and necessary, by facts undoubted and universally admitted, such as that gentleman did not pretend to controvert. The extent, duration, and character of the injuries received; the failure of those peaceful means heretofore resorted to for the redress of our wrongs, is my proof that it is necessary. Why should I mention the impressment of our seamen; depredation on every branch of our commerce, including the direct export trade, continued for years, and made under laws which professedly undertake to regulate our trade with other nations; 10 negotiation resorted to time after time till it became hopeless; the restrictive systems persisted in to avoid war and in the vain expectation of returning justice? The evil still grows, and in each succeeding year swells in extent and pretension beyond the preceding. The question, even in the opinion and admission of our opponents, is reduced to this single point, Which shall we do, abandon or defend our own commercial and maritime rights, and the personal liberties of our citizens in exercising them? These rights are essentially attacked, and war is the only means of redress. The gentleman from Virginia has suggested none, unless we consider the whole of his speech as recommending patient and resigned submission as the best remedy. Sir, which alternative this house ought to sustain is not for me to say. I hope the decision is made already by a higher authority than the voice of any man. It is not for the human tongue to instill the sense of independence and honor. This is the work of nature – a generous nature that disdains tame submission to wrongs. This part of the subject is so imposing as to enforce silence even on the gentleman from Virginia. He dared not deny his country’s wrongs, or vindicate the conduct of her enemy."

In this dignified strain Mr. Calhoun charmed his listeners, steadying the vacillating, convincing the doubting, and commanding the respectful attention of the opponents of the resolutions. He treated Randolph’s bugbear of slave insurrection with lofty contempt. "However the gentleman may frighten himself" he said, "with the disorganizing effects of French principles, I can not think our ignorant blacks have felt much of their baleful influence. I dare say more than one half of them never heard of the French Revolution." 11

The Federalists said very little on this occasion. It had always been their policy to be prepared for war. The resolutions appended to the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations were adopted [December 16, 1811.], and bills were speedily prepared and passed for augmenting the army. Additional regulars to the number of twenty-five thousand were authorized by a vote of the House early in January [January 4, 1812.]. The bill also provided for the appointment of two major generals and five additional brigadiers; also for a bounty to new recruits of sixteen dollars, and, at the time of discharge, three months’ extra pay and a certificate for one hundred and sixty acres of land. 12 On the 14th of the month another act was passed, appropriating a million of dollars for the purchase of arms, ordnance, camp equipage, and quarter-master’s stores; and four hundred thousand dollars for powder, ordnance, and small-arms for the navy. Thus, in a brief space of time, the little army of the peace establishment, which had been comparatively inactive, was swelled in prospective from about three thousand men to more than seventy thousand regulars and volunteers. The President was authorized to call upon the governors of states each to furnish his respective quota of one hundred thousand militia, to be held in readiness to instantly obey the call of the chief magistrate. For the expense of this reserve one million of dollars were appropriated.

The State Legislatures, meanwhile, spoke out emphatically for war if necessary. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and Ohio, resolved to stand by the general government when decisive measures should be adopted; and, in their reply to the annual message of Governor Gerry, the House of Representatives of Massachusetts exhibited the same sentiments, denouncing Great Britain as a "piratical state," and her practice of impressment "man-stealing."

The navy, important as it proved to be in the war that followed, was neglected. Cheves, of South Carolina, made a report in favor of its augmentation; and he and Lowndes, in supporting speeches, hinted at the expediency of constructing forty frigates and twenty-five ships of the line. It was urged by these members, in direct opposition to the narrow views of Williams from the same state a year before, that "protection to commerce was protection to agriculture." Quincy also argued that protection to commerce was essential to the preservation of the Union, and, with a covert but significant threat, he gave as a reason that the commercial states could not be expected to submit to the deliberate and systematic sacrifice of their most important interests. 13 Their pleas were in vain. A bill, containing only an appropriation of four hundred and eighty thousand dollars for repairing three frigates – Constellation, Chesapeake, and Adams – and two hundred thousand dollars annually for three years, to purchase timber for the purpose of refitting three others, was passed, and sent to the Senate, where Lloyd, of Massachusetts, moved to insert an appropriation for thirty new frigates [January 17, 1812.]. "Let us have the frigates," he said; "powerful as Great Britain is, she could not blockade them. With our hazardous shores and tempestuous northwesterly gales from November to March, all the navies in the world could not blockade them. Divide them into six squadrons. Place those squadrons in the northern ports ready for sea, and at favorable moments we would pounce upon her West India Islands, repeating the game of De Grasse and D’Estaing in ’79 and ’80. By the time she was ready to meet us there, we would be round Cape Horn cutting up her whalemen. Pursued thither, we would skim away to the Indian Seas, and would give an account of her China and India ships very different from that of the French cruisers. Now we would follow her Quebec, now her Jamaica convoys; sometimes make our appearance in the chops of the Channel, and even sometimes wind north almost into the Baltic. It would require a hundred British frigates to watch the movements of these thirty. Such are the means by which I would bring Great Britain to her senses. By harassing her commerce with this fleet, we could make the people ask the government why they continued to violate our rights."

Crawford, of Georgia, replied at some length, and the Senate, unmoved by the glowing pictures of naval achievements drawn by the senator from Massachusetts, not only refused to sanction Lloyd’s amendment, but reduced the appropriation for repairs to three hundred thousand dollars.

While the war party, strong in Congress and throughout the country, were energetic in action and impatient of delay, Mr. Madison showed great timidity. It was owing, doubtless, in a great degree, to the character of his Cabinet, which unfortunately surrounded him at that momentous crisis. Mr. Monroe, the Secretary of State, was the only member who had any military taste and experience, and he had seen only limited service in the Revolution. Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, was a civilian, and was avowedly opposed to the war with Great Britain. Eustis, the Secretary of War, knew very little about military affairs. Hamilton, the Secretary of the Navy, had no practical knowledge of naval affairs to qualify him for the station and Mr. Madison himself was utterly unable, though by virtue of his office commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States, to grasp with vigor the conduct of public affairs in a time of war. Consciousness of this made him timid and vacillating.

The administration members of Congress at length resolved to take a bold and decided stand with the President. His first term of office was drawing to a close, and it was known that he was anxious for re-election. The leading Democrats in the State of New York, whose voices were potential in the matter at that time, dissatisfied with Mr. Madison’s weak course, contemplated nominating De Witt Clinton, then mayor of the city of New York, for the Presidency of the United States. His pretensions were sustained by Gideon Granger, the postmaster general, who doubted the propriety of a war with Madison as leader. Other influential Democrats in different parts of the country held similar views.

In this state of things, Mr. Madison was waited upon [March 2, 1812.] by several of the leading Democratic members of Congress, and informed, in substance, that war with England was now resolved upon by the dominant party, the supporters of his administration; that the people would no longer consent to a dilatory and inefficient course on the part of the national government; that, unless a declaration of war took place previous to the Presidential election, the success of the Democratic party might be endangered, and the government thrown into the hands of the Federalists; that, unless Mr. Madison consented to act with his friends, and accede to a declaration of war with Great Britain, neither his nomination nor his re-election to the Presidency could be relied on. Thus situated, Mr. Madison concluded to waive his own objections to the course determined on by his political friends, and to do all he could for the prosecution of a war for which he had neither taste nor practical ability. 14

Mr. Madison’s first step in the prescribed direction after this interview was in the form of a confidential message to Congress on the 1st of April, recommending, as preliminary to a declaration of war, the immediate passage of a law laying a general embargo on all vessels then in the ports of the United States, or that might thereafter enter, for the period of sixty days. Meanwhile another subject had produced very great excitement throughout the country. An Irishman, named John Henry, who had become a naturalized citizen of the United States, and had lived several years in Canada, appeared at the Presidential mansion one dark and stormy evening early in February [February 2.], 1812. He bore a letter of introduction to Mr. Madison from Governor Gerry, of Massachusetts, who seemed to be impressed with the truthfulness of Henry, and the great importance of the information which he proposed to lay before the President. 15 An interview was arranged for the following evening, when Henry divulged to the President what appeared to be most astounding secrets concerning efforts that had been in progress for two years on the part of the British authorities in Canada, sanctioned by the home government, to effect a separation of the Eastern States from the Union, and to attach them to Great Britain. He told Mr. Madison that, up to the year 1809, he had been living for five years on his farm in Vermont, near the Canada line, and amused himself in writing essays for the newspapers against republican governments, which he detested.

Those essays, he said, had arrested the attention of Sir James Craig, then Governor General of Canada, who invited him to Montreal at the close of 1808. At that time the violent demonstrations of the Federalists in New England against the embargo induced the English to believe that there was deep-seated disaffection to the government of the United States on the part of the people of that section. Under that impression Henry was commissioned by Sir James Craig to proceed to Boston, and ascertain the true state of affairs there, and the temper of the people in that part of the Union. His instructions directed him especially to ascertain whether the Federalists of Massachusetts would, in the event of their success at the approaching election, be disposed to separate from the Union, or enter into any connection with England. "The earliest information on this subject," said Sir James, "may be of great consequence to our government; as it may also be, that it should be informed how far, in such an event, they would look to England for assistance, or be disposed to enter into a connection with us." 16 Henry was authorized to intimate to the Federalist leaders, if the supposed state of things should be found to exist, that they might communicate to the British government through him. 17

According to Henry’s statement, he passed through Vermont after receiving these instructions, and arrived at Boston on the 5th of March. There he remained about three months, spending his time in coffee-houses and disreputable places, until Erskine’s arrangement and a recall by Ryland [May 4, 1809.], Craig’s Secretary, put an end to his mission. During that time Henry had addressed fourteen letters to Sir James over the initials "A. B.," most of them written at Boston. The earlier ones were filled with the most encouraging accounts of the extreme disaffection of the Eastern people, especially those of Massachusetts, on account of the commercial restrictions. He expressed his belief that, in the event of a declaration of war against Great Britain by the United States, the Legislature of Massachusetts would take the lead in establishing a separate Northern Confederacy, which might, in some way, end in a political connection with Great Britain. The grand idea of destroying the Union was the theme of all the letters, expressed or implied. "If a war between America and France," he wrote, "be a grand desideratum, something more must be done; an indulgent, conciliating policy must be adopted. . . . To bring about a separation of the states under distinct and independent governments is an affair of more uncertainty, and, however desirable, can not be effected but by a series of acts and long-continued policy tending to irritate the Southern and conciliate the Northern people. . . . This, I am aware, is an object of much interest in Great Britain, as it would forever insure the integrity of his majesty’s possessions on this continent, and make the two governments, or whatever member the present confederacy might join with, as useful and as much subject to the influence of Great Britain as her colonies can be rendered." 18

Henry soon perceived that his estimate of New England disloyalty was simply absurd, and he came to the conclusion that the idea of a withdrawal from the Union was unpopular; that, as matters stood, the Federalists would confine themselves to the ordinary resistance of political opposition. "Weak men," he wrote, "are sure to temporize when great events call upon them for decision."

Henry’s performances seem to have pleased Sir James Craig, who promised him employment in Canada worth at least a thousand pounds ($5000) per annum. Henry waited long for the fulfillment of that promise, and finally Sir James died. In June, 1811, the British spy was in London humbly petitioning the government for remuneration for his services in Boston. There he was at first treated with great consideration by the government. "I was received in the highest circles," he said to his friend, the Count Edward de Crillon. "I was complimented with a ticket as member of the PITT CLUB without being balloted for." 19 But when he had spent all his money, and presented his claims for retribution, the government attempted to cheapen his services. He claimed thirty thousand pounds, but speedily lowered his demands. He would be content, he said, with the office of Judge Advocate of Lower Canada, with a salary of five hundred pounds a year, or a consulate in the United States. Robert Peel, the Earl of Liverpool’s under secretary, in behalf of that official, politely referred Henry to Sir James Craig’s successor in Canada, Sir George Prevost. The spy was exasperated, and sailed for Boston instead of for Quebec, full of wrath, and a determination to be revenged by divulging the whole secret of his mission to the United States government, and, if possible, receive from it the remuneration which he had vainly sought in England. He was successful. Mr. Madison was satisfied of the great value of Henry’s disclosures at that crisis, when war against England was about to be declared. They gave overwhelming proof of the secret designs of the British government to destroy the new republic in the West. Out of the secret service fund in his possession he gave Henry fifty thousand dollars for the entire correspondence of the parties to the affair in this country and in England.

After receiving the money 20 Henry went to Philadelphia, where he wrote a letter to the President [February 20, 1812.] as a preface to his disclosures. On the 9th of March the United States sloop-of-war Wasp, Captain Jones, sailed from Sandy Hook with dispatches for Mr. Barlow, the American minister at Paris, bearing away Henry to sunny France, where he would be safe from British vengeance. On the same day the President laid the Henry documents 21 before Congress, with a message, in which he said, "They prove that at a recent period, while the United States, notwithstanding the wrongs sustained by them, ceased not to observe the laws of neutrality toward Great Britain, and in the midst of amicable professions and negotiations on the part of the British government through its public minister here [Mr. Erskine], a secret agent of that government was employed in certain states – more especially at the seat of government in Massachusetts – in fomenting disaffection to the constituted authorities of the nation, and in intrigues with the disaffected for the purpose of bringing about resistance to the laws, and eventually, in concert with a British force, of destroying the Union, and forming the eastern part thereof into a political connection with Great Britain."

The indignation against Great Britain was intensified by these disclosures, and the inhabitants of New England felt deeply annoyed by this implied disparagement of the patriotism of their section. Both political parties endeavored to make capital out of the affair. The Democrats vehemently reiterated the charge that the Federalists were a "British party," and "disunionists;" 22 while the opposition alleged that the affair was a political trick of the administration to damage their party, insure the re-election of Madison, and to offer an excuse for war. The feeling excited in New England against the administration was intense, and the indignation of the people was almost equally divided between the President and the British sovereign. It was charged that the whole matter was a fraud; that Monroe wrote the letter purporting to have been sent by Henry from Philadelphia to the government, and that the paper on which Lord Liverpool’s communication to Henry, through Robert Peel, was written, bore the mark of a Philadelphia paper manufacturer.

These charges were all untrue. Every thing about the matter was genuine. The British minister at Washington (Mr. Foster), two days after the President’s message was published, declared in the public prints [March 11, 1812.] his entire ignorance of any transaction of the kind, and asked the United States government to consider the character of the individual 23 who had made these disclosures, and to "suspend any farther judgment on its merits until the circumstances shall have been made known to his majesty’s government." That government was called upon for an explanation, early in May, by Lord Holland, who gave notice [May 5.] that he should make a motion to call for the correspondence in relation to the intrigue. Ministers were alarmed, and their guilt was apparent in their efforts to suppress inquiry. Every pretext was brought to bear to oppose the motion. When they could no longer deny the facts, they endeavored to throw the obloquy of the act upon the dead Sir James Craig. The ministerial party in the House of Lords, when the motion was made, prevailed, and, by a vote of seventy-three against twenty-seven, refused to have the correspondence produced. Lord Holland declared in his closing speech that, until such investigation should be had, the fact that Great Britain had entered into a dishonorable and atrocious intrigue against a friendly power would stand unrefuted. And it does stand unrefuted to this day. It was so palpable, that Madison, in his war message on the 1st of June, made this intrigue one of the serious charges against Great Britain as justifying war.

The President, as we have observed, sent a confidential message to Congress on the 1st of April, recommending the laying of an embargo for sixty days. It was avowedly a precursor of war; and Mr. Calhoun immediately presented a bill in Committee of the Whole in accordance with the recommendation. 24 The opposition sounded an alarm. The weakness of the country, and its utter want of preparation for war, became the themes of impassioned appeals to the fears of the people. The continued aggressions of France – equal, they said, to those of England 25 – were pointed to as causes for war with that nation, and it might be necessary to encounter both at the same time.

To these alarmists Clay vehemently responded. He charged them with having cast obstacles in the way of preparation, and now made that lack of preparation an excuse for longer submission to great wrongs. Weak as we are, he said, we could fight France too, if necessary, in a good cause – the cause of honor and independence. He had no doubt that the late Indian war on the Wabash had been excited by the British; 26 and he alluded to the employment of Henry, as a spy and fomentor of disunion, as another gross offense. "We have complete proof" he said, "that England would do every thing to destroy us. Resolution and spirit are our only security." He viewed the Embargo as a war measure, and "war we shall have in sixty days," he said.

John Randolph implored the House to act with great caution. He said the President dared not plunge the country into a war while in its present unprepared state. There would be no war within sixty days. He believed the spirit of the people was not up to war, or the provocation of an Embargo Act would not be needed.

Other remarks were heard from both sides. The bill, by the aid of the previous question, was passed that evening [April 1, 1812.] by a vote of seventy against forty-one. It was sent to the Senate the next morning. That body suspended the rules, took up the bill, and carried it through all the stages but the last, with an amendment increasing the time to ninety days. It was sent back to the House the next morning [April 3.], where it was concurred in, and on Saturday, the 4th of April, it became a law by the signature of the President. It had been violently assailed by Quincy, when it came back from the Senate, as an attempt to escape war, not as a preliminary to it. It was absurd to think of creating a sufficient army and navy in ninety days to commence war. He coincided with Randolph in the belief that the Embargo was only intended to aid Bonaparte, by stopping the shipment of provisions to Spain, where the British armies were then beginning to win victories. 27 It was called, in ridicule, "a Terrapin War." 28

The Embargo Act (which prohibited the sailing of any vessel for any foreign port, except foreign vessels, with such cargoes as they had on board when notified of the act) was speedily followed by a supplement [April 14, 1812.] prohibiting exportations by land, whether of goods or specie. 29 Farther provision was also made for the immediate strengthening of the army.

These belligerent measures were hailed with joy throughout the country by the war party, who were dominant and determined. They alarmed those who wished for peace; yet these, unwilling to believe that the administration would push matters to the extreme of actual hostility, acquiesced in the embargo because of a delusive hope that it might be the means of causing Great Britain to modify its system concerning neutrals, and thereby avert war. It was, indeed, a delusive hope. The letters of Jonathan Russell (who had succeeded Mr. Pinkney as minister to England) at this time gave no encouragement for it. On the contrary, they were discouraging. To Mr. Monroe he wrote, after attending discussions on the orders in Council in Parliament: "If any thing was wanting to prove the inflexible determination of the present ministry to persevere in the orders in Council, without modification or relaxation, the declarations of leading members of the administration on these measures must place it beyond the possibility of a doubt. I no longer entertain a hope that we can honorably avoid war." 30

The determination of the British government not to relax the rigor of the orders in Council was explicitly stated a few weeks later [30th May, 1812.], when Mr. Foster, the British minister at Washington, in a letter to Mr. Monroe, after reviewing the whole ground of controversy between the two countries, said: "Great Britain can not admit, as a true declaration of public law, that free ships make free goods. She can not admit, as a principle of public law, that arms and military stores are alone contraband of war, and that ship-timber and naval stores are excluded from that description; and she feels that to relinquish her just measures of self-defense and retaliation would be to surrender the best means of her own preservation and rights, and with them the rights of other nations, so long as France maintains and acts upon such principles."

The conduct of France now became a subject for just animadversion, and cast obstacles in the way of the arguments of the war party concerning the orders in Council. Joel Barlow had been sent to France as the successor of minister Armstrong. He strove in vain to procure from the French government any promise of indemnity for past spoliations, or of a relaxation of restrictive measures in future. The President and his Cabinet had earnestly hoped that the Berlin and Milan decrees would be repealed, thereby compelling Great Britain to withdraw her orders in Council, or stand before the world as a willful violator of the rights of nations. In this they hoped for a door of escape from war. It was certain that, while the decrees stood absolutely unrepealed in form, Great Britain would not relax her restrictive system one iota. Dispatches from Barlow late in March gave no hope of a change. Indeed, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs had laid before the Conservative Senate [March 10.] a report in which those decrees were spoken of as embodying the settled policy of the emperor, to be enforced against all nations who should suffer their flags to be "denationalized" by submitting to the pretensions of the British to seize enemies’ goods in neutral vessels, to treat timber and naval stores as contraband, or to blockade a port not also invested by land.

Thus matters stood on the 1st of June, when Mr. Madison sent into Congress, after previous arrangement with the Committee on Foreign Affairs, a most important confidential message, by which he was fairly committed to the war policy. He had hesitated somewhat. He was willing to sign a bill declaring war against Great Britain, but he did not wish to appear as a leader in the measure. His new political masters would consent to no flinching. They resolved that the President should share the fearful responsibility with themselves. A Congressional caucus was about to be held to nominate a Democratic candidate for the Presidency, and a committee, with the imperious Clay at their head, waited on Mr. Madison, and told him plainly that he must move in a declaration of war, or they would not support him for re-election. He yielded. The caucus was held. Eighty members were present. Varnum, of Massachusetts, was president, and Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky, was secretary. The entire vote was given to Mr. Madison.

George Clinton, the Vice-President, whom they had intended to nominate for re-election, had died a few weeks before, 31 and the aged Elbridge Gerry, lately defeated as a candidate for re-election to the governorship of Massachusetts, was placed on the ticket for Vice-President. This matter disposed of, and the continued claims of De Witt Clinton, of New York, to a nomination for President being considered as of little moment, the war party, led by Clay and Calhoun, put forth vigorous exertions for the full accomplishment of their purposes.

In his message to Congress on the 1st of June the President recapitulated the wrongs which the people of the United States had suffered at the hands of Great Britain – wrongs already noticed in preceding pages, and need not be repeated here. He declared that her conduct, taken together, was positively belligerent. "We behold in fine," he said, "on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain." 32 He warned his countrymen to avoid entanglements "in the contests and views of other powers" – meaning France – and called their attention to the fact that the French government, since the revocation of her decrees as applied to American commerce, had authorized illegal captures by her privateers; but he abstained at that time from offering any suggestions concerning definitive measures with respect to that nation.

The message was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, 33 and on the 3d of June Mr. Calhoun, its then chairman, presented a report, in which the causes and reasons for war were more fully stated – more in historical order and detail – than in the President’s message. In concluding the review of British aggressions, the report declared that the hostility of the government of Great Britain was evidently based on the fact that the United States were considered by it as its commercial rival, and that their prosperity and growth were incompatible with its welfare. "Your committee," said the report, "will not enlarge on any of the injuries, however great, which have a transitory effect. They wish to call the attention of the House to those of a permanent nature only, which intrench so deeply on our most important rights, and wound so extensively and vitally our best interests, as could not fail to deprive the United States of the principal advantages of their Revolution, if submitted to. The control of our commerce by Great Britain, in regulating at pleasure and expelling it almost from the ocean; the oppressive manner in which these regulations have been carried into effect, by seizing and confiscating such of our vessels, with their cargoes, as were said to have violated her edicts, often without previous warning of their danger; the impressment of our citizens from on board our own vessels on the high seas and elsewhere, and holding them in bondage till it suited the convenience of their oppressors to deliver them up, are encroachments of that high and dangerous tendency which could not fail to produce that pernicious effect; nor would these be the only consequences that would result from it. The British government might, for a while, be satisfied with the ascendency thus gained over us, but its pretensions would soon increase. The proof which so complete and disgraceful a submission to its authority would afford of our degeneracy, could not fail to inspire confidence that there was no limit to which its usurpations and our degradation might not be carried."

On the presentation of this report the doors were closed, and a motion to open them was denied by a vote of seventy-seven against forty-nine. Mr. Calhoun then presented a bill, as part of the report, declaring war between Great Britain and her dependencies and the United States and its Territories. Amendments were offered. Ten votes were given for a proposition by M‘Kee, of Kentucky, to include France in the declaration. Mr. Quincy endeavored, by an addition to the bill, to provide for the repeal of all restrictive laws bearing upon commerce; and Randolph moved to postpone the whole matter until the following October. All were rejected, and the bill, as Calhoun presented it, was passed on the 4th day of June by a vote of seventy-nine for it and forty-nine against it.

When the bill reached the Senate [June 5, 1812.] it was referred to a committee already appointed to consider the President’s message. It remained under discussion twelve days. Meanwhile the people throughout the country were fearfully excited by conflicting emotions. A memorial against the war went from the Legislature of Massachusetts; and another from the merchants of New York, led by John Jacob Astor, recommending restrictive measures as better than war. War-meetings were held in various places, and the whole country was in a tumult of excitement. Finally, on the 17th of June – the anniversary of the battle of Bunker Hill – the bill, with some amendments, was passed by a vote of nineteen against thirteen. It was sent back to the house on the morning of the 18th, where the amendments were concurred in. The bill was engrossed on parchment, and at three o’clock on the afternoon of that day became a law by the signature of the President. 34 In the House, the members from Pennsylvania, and the states South and West, gave sixty-two votes for it to seventeen against it. In the Senate the same states gave fourteen for it to five against it. "Thus," says a late writer, "the war may be said to have been a measure of the South and West to take care of the interests of the North, much against the will of the latter," 35

When the War Act became law, the injunction of secrecy was removed, and on the following day [June 19, 1812.] the President issued a proclamation announcing the fact, and calling upon the people of the United States to sustain the public authorities in the measures to be adopted for obtaining a speedy, just, and honorable peace. "I exhort all the good people of the United States," he said, "as they love their country; as they value the precious heritage derived from the virtue and valor of their fathers; as they feel the wrongs which have forced on them the last resort of injured nations; and as they consult the best means, under the blessing of divine Providence, of abridging its calamities, that they exert themselves in preserving order, in promoting concord, in maintaining the authority and the efficiency of the laws, and in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted authorities."

This was soon followed by an able protest against the measure. It was chiefly written by Mr. Quincy, who then stood at the head of the opposition, not only in Congress, but throughout the country. The prestige of his father’s name as a leading patriot of the Revolution; his own long services in the National Legislature; his family connections and influence; his sterling worth in private life; his withering sarcasm of tongue and pen; his fluency of speech in declamation or debate, and his handsome and commanding presence, all combined to make him peerless as a leader. He was consequently assailed with the greatest bitterness by the friends of the administration; and squibs, and epigrams, and caricatures 36 frequently attested the general acknowledgment of his commanding position. Mr. Quincy outlived all of his contemporaries. Not one of the members of the Twelfth Congress – the Congress that declared war against Great Britain in 1812 – was living at the time of his death. He was born with the nation, whose full independence was only achieved at the close of that war, and lived to see it, in sturdy maturity, not only resist a most dangerous internal and inherited disease that threatened to destroy its life, but to rise from the attack purified and strengthened, with every promise of long and vigorous existence impressed upon every fibre of its being. 37

Mr. Quincy, it has been observed, wrote the most of the minority’s protest against the war. He was aided by Mr. Bayard, of Delaware, and some suggestions were made by others. It was signed by all the minority members of the House of Representatives, and was issued in the form of an address to their constituents, in which their conduct in voting against the war was vindicated. 38 They set forth perspicuously the state of the country, and the course of the administration and its supporters in Congress. They professed to believe that a war with Great Britain would necessarily lead to a political connection with France, then waging bitter hostilities against her – a connection which would be extremely hazardous to the liberties of the United States. They professed to regard France as the greater aggressor of the two, and looked upon her commerce as not worth contending for. Notwithstanding the French edicts, a profitable trade might be carried on with England, for France had not the power to enforce their edicts to a very great extent. Indeed, a large portion of the world where American commerce might be made profitable was not affected by the actions of either of the belligerents. They would, therefore, authorize the American merchantmen to arm in their own defense, become their own protectors, and go wherever they chose to risk themselves. As to the invasion and seizure of Canada, which was a part of the programme of the war party, they considered an attempt to carry out that measure as unjust and impolitic in itself; very uncertain in the issue, and unpromising as to any good results. They pointed to the unprepared state of the country as vehemently forbidding a declaration of war. "With a navy comparatively nominal, we are about to enter into the lists against the greatest marine on the globe. With a commerce unprotected and spread over every ocean, we propose to make profit by privateering, and for this endanger the wealth of which we are honest proprietors. An invasion is threatened of the colonies of a power which, without putting a new ship into commission, or taking another soldier into pay, can spread alarm or desolation along the extensive range of our seaboard. Before adequate fortifications are prepared for domestic defense, before men or money are provided for a war of attack, why hasten into the midst of this awful contest, which is laying waste Europe? It can not be concealed that to engage in the present war against England is to place ourselves on the side of France, and expose us to the vassalage of states serving under the banners of the French emperor."

"It is said," they remarked, "that war is demanded by honor. Is national honor a principle which thirsts after vengeance, and is appeased only by blood; which, trampling on the hopes of man and spurning the law of God, untaught by what is past and careless of what is to come, precipitates itself into any folly or madness to gratify a selfish vanity or to satiate some unhallowed rage? If honor demands a war with England, what opiate lulls that honor to sleep over the wrongs done us by France?"

"What are the United States to gain by this war?" they asked. "Will the gratification of some privateersmen compensate the nation for that sweep of our legitimate commerce by the extended marine of our enemy which this desperate act invites? Will Canada compensate the Middle States for New York, or the Western States for New Orleans? Let us not be deceived. A war of invasion may invite a retort of invasion. When we visit the peaceable, and, as to us, innocent colonies of Great Britain 39 with the horrors of war, can we be assured that our own coast will not be visited with like horrors? At a crisis of the world, such as the present, and under impressions such as these, the undersigned can not consider the war into which the United States have in secret been precipitated as necessary, or required by any moral or political expediency."

Thus the issue was fairly placed before the country. The time for discussion was ended; the time for action had arrived. While one portion of the people – the vast majority – were nobly responding to the call of the President to sustain the government by word and deed, another portion were preparing to cast obstacles in the way of its success. An organization was soon visible, called the Peace Party, composed chiefly of the more violent opponents of the administration and disaffected Democrats, whose party-spirit held their patriotism in complete subordination. Lacking the sincerity or the integrity of those patriotic members of the Congressional minority, whose protest was the voice of their consciences made audible, they endeavored, by attempting to injure the public credit, preventing enlistments into the armies, spreading false stories concerning the strength of the British and weakness of the Americans, and by public speeches, sermons, pamphlets, and newspaper essays, to compel the government to sheathe the sword and hold out the olive-branch of peace at the cost of national honor and independence. These machinations were kept up during the whole war to the great embarrassment of the government and the injury of the country. To this unpatriotic Peace Party a large number of the leading Federalists gave no countenance, but, with a clear perception of duty to their country, and in accordance with the principles of the true spirit of republicanism, many of them, bound to the expressed will of the majority, yielded their private views to the necessities of the hour, and lent their aid, as the President desired all good citizens to do, "to the constituted authorities for obtaining a speedy, a just, and an honorable peace."

Having resolved on war, the next important labor for Congress to perform was making adequate provisions for prosecuting it. One of the most important considerations was finance, for money has been justly styled the "sinews of war." In February [February 17, 1812.] the Committee of Ways and Means reported a system of finance adapted to a state of war for three years. Its chief features contemplated the support of war expenses wholly by loans; and the ordinary expenses of the government, including the interest on the national debt, by revenues. They estimated the war expenses at $11,000,000 for the first year. Aware that a state of war would diminish the revenue, they proposed a tariff by which the imposts should be doubled, foreign tonnage raised to a dollar and a half; a direct tax of $3,000,000, and an extensive system of internal duties and excise. 40 Congress adopted this financial scheme generally, and authorized [March 14, 1812.] a loan of $11,000,000, at an interest not exceeding six per cent. a year, and reimbursable in twelve years. The Secretary of the Treasury directed subscriptions to be opened at the principal banks in the United States on the first and second days of May [1812.]; and, to induce the banks to subscribe, it was agreed that their subscriptions should remain as deposits until called for by the wants of the Treasury.

When war was declared, it was found, by the returns of the subscriptions to the $11,000,000 loan, that the banks had subscribed only $4,190,000, and individuals $1,928,000, leaving a deficiency of $4,882,000. To supply that deficiency, the President was authorized to issue Treasury notes, payable in one year, and bearing an annual interest of five and two fifths per cent., to be receivable in all payments at the Treasury. This was intended to pass as currency, and supersede, to a certain extent, the circulation of bank-notes. It was estimated that the entire expenses of the country for the fiscal year of 1812-’13, including the $11,000,000 for war purposes, and the interest on $45,154,000 (the amount of the public debt), would be $26,616,619. 41

On the 26th of June Congress passed an act respecting the issue of letters of marque and reprisal, and another for the consolidation of the old army and the new levies; the regular force to consist of twenty regiments of foot, four of artillery, two of dragoons, and one of riflemen, which, with engineers and artificers, would make a force of thirty-six thousand seven hundred men. The actual regular force – experienced, disciplined, and effective – was only about three thousand men. The regular force under arms at that time was about ten thousand men, but more than half of them were raw recruits. Little reliance could be placed on the militia except for garrison duty, notwithstanding they were eight hundred thousand strong in a population of eight millions. They were not compelled by law to serve more than three years, nor go beyond the limits of their respective states. To volunteers the government and the country looked for numbers, and the President was authorized to place them on a footing with the regular army, and, with their consent, to appoint their officers.

The navy consisted of only three frigates of forty-four guns each, three of thirty-eight, one of thirty-six, one of thirty-two, three of twenty-eight, nine smaller vessels ranging from twelve to eighteen, and one hundred and sixty-five gun-boats.

Congress adjourned on the 6th of July. They had requested the President to recommend a day of public humiliation and prayer to be observed by the people of the United States for the purpose of publicly invoking the blessing of the Almighty on their cause, and the speedy restoration of peace. In accordance with this request, the President issued a proclamation on the 9th of July, recommending the setting apart of the third Thursday of August following [August 20.] for that purpose. That day was generally observed throughout the Union; in most places in accordance with the spirit of the Congressional resolutions and the proclamation of the President, while from several New England pulpits went forth denunciations of the war, and the alleged authors and abettors of it. 42 The national anniversary that year was also made the occasion for political speeches, songs, and toasts condemnatory of the measures of the administration. Some of these were fierce, others were mild, and still others were dignified and patriotic – firm, outspoken, manly arguments against the necessity, the wisdom, or the justice of the war, but evincing a love of country more potent than love of party or opinions. 43



1 The contest for power between the Federalists and Democrats of Massachusetts had been long and bitter. In 1811 the latter succeeded in electing their candidate for governor (Elbridge Gerry), and a majority of both houses of the Legislature. In order to secure the election of United States senators in the future, it was important to perpetuate this possession of power, and measures were taken to retain a Democratic majority in the State Senate in all future years. The senatorial districts had been formed without any division of counties. This arrangement, for the purpose alluded to, was now disturbed. The Legislature proceeded to rearrange the senatorial districts of the state. They divided counties in opposition to the protests and strong constitutional arguments of the Federalists; and those of Essex and Worcester were so divided as to form a Democratic district in each of those Federal counties, without any apparent regard to convenience or propriety. The work was sanctioned, and became law by the signature of Governor Gerry. He probably had no other hand in the matter, yet he received most severe castigations from the opposition.

In Essex County, the arrangement of the district in its relation to the towns was singular and absurd. Russell, the veteran editor of the Boston Centinel, who had fought against the scheme valiantly, took a map of that county and designated by particular coloring the towns thus selected, and hung it on the wall of his editorial room. One day Gilbert Stuart, the eminent painter, looked at the map, and said the towns which Russell had thus distinguished resembled some monstrous animal. He took a pencil, and with a few touches added what might represent a head, wings, claws, and tail. "There," Stuart said, "that will do for a salamander." Russell, who was busy with his pen, looked up at the hideous figure, and exclaimed, "Salamander! call it Gerrymander! The word was immediately adopted into the political vocabulary as a term of reproach to the Democratic Legislature. – See Specimens of Newspaper Literature, with Personal Memoirs, Anecdotes, and Reminiscences, by Joseph T. Buckingham, ii., 91.


Stuart’s monstrous figure of the Gerry-mander was presented upon a broadside containing a natural and political history of the animal, and hawked about the country. From one of these before me, kindly placed in my possession by the late Edward Everett, I copied the picture given in this note, which is about one half the size of the original.

After giving some ludicrous guesses as to its character and origin – whether it was the genuine Basilisk, the Serpens Monocephalus of Pliny, the Griffin of romance, the Great Red Dragon or Apollyon of Bunyan, or the Monstrum Horrendum of Virgil – the writer of the natural history of the Gerry-mander says that the learned Dr. Water-gruel proved it to be a species of salamander, engendered partly by the devil in the fervid heats of party strife. "But," he says, "as this creature has been engendered and brought forth under the sublimest auspices, the doctor proposes that a name should be given to it expressive of its genus, at the same time conveying an elegant and very appropriate compliment to his excellency the governor, who is known to be the zealous patron of whatever is new, astonishing, and erratic, especially of domestic growth and manufacture. For these reasons, and other valuable considerations, the doctor has decreed this monster shall be denominated a GERRY-MANDER."

2 Hildreth.

3 Mr. Clay was elected on the first ballot. The vote stood – for Clay, 75; for Bibb, 38; for Bassett, of Virginia, 1; for Nelson, of Virginia, 2; and for Macon, of North Carolina, 3. Mr. Clay was declared duly elected speaker. A correspondent of the New York Evening Post wrote: "He made a short address to the House on taking his seat, which, from the lowness of his voice at that time, could not be distinctly heard." In the same letter the writer said, "It is believed Clay was not thought of for Speaker till Sunday; he certainly was not publicly mentioned. The Democrats had a caucus Sunday evening, and fixed on Clay. This was done to prevent the election of Macon, who has too much honesty and independence for the leading administration men."

Mr. Clay was then thirty-four years of age, and this was his first appearance as a member in the House of Representatives. He was in the Senate previously, as we have observed. The portrait given on the previous page is from a painting from life by the late Mr. Ranney, when Mr. Clay was nearly sixty years of age.

4 Niles’s Weekly Register, i., 253.

5 The first trip made by a locomotive on this continent was thus described a few years ago in a speech at an Erie Railway festival, by Horatio Allen, the eminent engineer:

"When was it? Who was it? And who awakened its energies and directed its movements? It was in the year 1825, on the banks of the Lackawaxen, at the commencement of the railroads connecting the canal of the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company with their coal mines, and he who addresses you was the only person on that locomotive. The circumstances which led to my being alone on the engine were these: The road had been built in the summer; the structure was of hemlock timber, and rails of large dimensions notched on caps placed far apart. The timber had cracked and warped from exposure to the sun. After about three hundred feet of straight line, the road crossed the Lackawaxen Creek on trestle-work about thirty feet high, with a curve of three hundred and fifty-five to four hundred feet radius. The impression was very general that the iron monster would either break down the road, or it would leave the track at the curve and plunge into the creek. My reply to such apprehensions was that it was too late to consider the probability of such occurrences; there was no other course than to have a trial made of the strange animal, which had been brought here at a great expense, but that it was not necessary that more than one should be involved in its fate; that I would take the first ride alone, and the time would come when I should look back to the incident with great interest. As I placed my hand on the throttle-valve handle, I was undecided whether I would move slowly or with a fair degree of speed; but, believing that the road would prove safe, and preferring, if we did go down, to go handsomely, and without any evidence of timidity, I started with considerable velocity, passed the curve over the creek safely, and was soon out of hearing of the vast assemblage. At the end of two or three miles I reversed the valve and returned without accident, having thus made the first railroad trip by locomotive on the Western hemisphere."

The first regular telegraphic dispatch, for the public eye and ear, was sent from Washington City to Baltimore by Professor Samuel F. B. Morse, the inventor of the electro-telegraphic system of intellectual communication, in May, 1844. The dispatch, furnished to Professor Morse, according to promise, by Miss Anna Ellsworth, daughter of the then Commissioner of Patents, who had taken great interest in Mr. Morse’s experiments, was worthy of the occasion: It was the expression of Balaam – "WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT!" That first dispatch, in the telegraphic language, may be found in the archives of the Connecticut Historical Society.

6 Porter’s Speech.

7 John Randolph claimed to be seventh in descent from Pocahontas, the famous Indian princess. He was born three miles from Petersburg, in Virginia, on the 2d of June, 1773. He was educated at Princeton College, New Jersey, Columbia College, New York, and William and Mary college, in Virginia. From infancy he suffered from ill health. He studied law, but never practiced it. His first appearance in public life was in 1799, when he was elected to a seat in the National Congress, and for thirty years, with an interval of two years each, he held a seat in that body. He became insane for a time in 1811, and had returns of his malady at intervals during the remainder of his life. He strenuously opposed the war with Great Britain in 1812, and after that event his political career was very erratic. He was the warm friend of General Jackson in 1828, and in 1830 that gentleman appointed him United States Minister to Russia. He could not endure the winter on the Neva, and his stay in Russia was short. He resided in England for a while, and after his return his constituents elected him to congress. But he did not take his seat. Consumption laid its hand upon him, and he died in a hotel in Philadelphia, on the 23d of May, 1833, while on his way to New York to embark for Europe.

8 Speech in the House of Representatives, December 10, 1811. – Niles’s Register, i., 315.

9 John Caldwell Calhoun was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina, on the 18th of March, 1782. His mother was a native of Virginia. He entered Yale College as a student in 1802, where he was marked as a young man of genius and great promise. He was graduated in 1804 with the highest honors of the institution. He studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut, and entered upon its practice in his native district. He was elected to a seat in the Legislature of South Carolina in 1808, and in 1811 he took his seat as member of the National Congress as a stanch Republican or Democrat. He ably supported Mr. Madison’s administration, and in 1817 President Monroe called him to his Cabinet as Secretary of War. He was elected Vice-President of the United States in 1825, and was re-elected with Jackson in 1828. He succeeded Hayne in the Senate of the United States in 1831, and became the leader in the disloyal movement of his native state known in history under the general title of Nullification, in 1832-’33. President Tyler called him to his Cabinet as Secretary of State in 1843, and he again entered the Senate as the representative of his state in 1845. He held that position until his death, which occurred at Washington City on the 31st of March, 1850, when he was just past sixty-eight years of age. Our portrait of Mr. Calhoun, on the next page, is from one taken from life about the year 1830, when he was forty-eight years of age.

10 See page 165.

11 Abridgment of the Debates of Congress from 1789 to 1856, by Thomas H. Benton, iv., 449.

12 Seven of the thirty-seven Federalists in the House voted for these measures. These were Quincy and Reed, of Massachusetts; Emott, Bleecker, Gold, and Livingston, of New York; and Milnor, of Pennsylvania. The latter was the late James Milnor, D. D., Rector of St. George’s Church, New York. It was during this session of Congress that he became deeply impressed with religious sentiments, and felt himself called to the Gospel ministry. He abandoned the lucrative profession of the law and the turbulent field of politics, and took orders in the Protestant Episcopal Church, of which, until his death, in the spring of 1844, he was "a bright and shining light."

The position taken by these leading Federalists at that critical time, in opposition to the great body of their colleagues in Congress and of the party in New England, was patriotic in the highest degree, and yet, so doubtful were they of the verdict which posterity might pass upon their actions, that two of them (Quincy and Emott) prepared quite an elaborate defense, in which the reasons for their course were ably set forth. It was drawn up by Emott, slightly amended by Quincy, and signed by both. It was left in Emott’s hands, to be used at any future time by him or his descendants in vindication of their course. Posterity – even contemporaries – have pronounced their course wise and patriotic. The original manuscript, in the possession of the Hon. James Emott, of Poughkeepsie, New York, a son of one of the signers, is before me while I write. It is in the delicate and neat handwriting of the elder Emott, * and dated January 1, 1812. After clearly stating the position of public affairs, they say: "We thought it therefore worthy of an experiment to allow the administration to make out their case before the great bar of the public without, as heretofore, aiding it by an early opposition; and we hoped, and yet hope, that by withdrawing the aliment of party rancor it will cease to exist, and that the people will see the precipice to which they have been drawn, and the danger which awaits the country unless there is a speedy and radical change of men or measures. . . . By leaving the government in the first instance unmolested, in its measures the people may receive a distinct impression of its objects. If they are really of that high and commanding character as to effectuate what their friends promised, relief to our country, it is of little consequence from whose hands so desirable a blessing is received. But if the character of the plans of the administration continues time-serving, self-oppressive, and hypocritical, on it and its supporters would fall the responsibility, without the possibility of transferring it to those who had neither shared nor opposed their purposes."

These gentlemen then allude to the prevalent opinion that if the Federalists should withhold their opposition, the British government, hopeless of a party in its favor in the United States, would relax its restrictive measures. They then declare that if the British government or people believe that opposition of the Federalists arises from any unpatriotic motives, "bottomed on a desire for power to be obtained at the expense of the interests of the nation," there has been an essential and lamentable mistake.

In reference to the measures proposed for putting the country in a state of adequate strength in the event of war, for which these gentlemen voted four days after the date of the paper under action, they remarked: "In re-estimating our duties upon this occasion, we have not deemed it necessary to take into consideration the causes which have led to our present embarrassments. We certainly do not entertain the opinion that the course which has been pursued by the administration is either correct or to be justified; but we can not but perceive that our present difficulties are not so apparently and exclusively attributable to the American government as to justify a resort to a policy which would leave the nation unprotected and defenseless. . . . It is because we wish for peace with security that we are willing to add to the present military establishment. . . . Our country and our firesides are dear to us. We think they are in danger, and we wish to protect them. . . . When, by measures in which we have had no agency, and for which we do not hold ourselves responsible in whole or in part, we discover that a necessity has been produced for defensive preparations, we can not permit ourselves to resist such preparations from motives of general opposition to the administration, or from a desire to render it odious to the country."

* James Emott was born at Poughkeepsie, New York, on the 14th of March, 1771. He chose the profession of law as his vocation, and commenced its practice at Ballston Centre, New York, a growing village a few miles from Ballston Spa. In 1797 he was appointed a commissioner, with Robert Yates and Vincent Mathews, to settle disputes concerning titles to lands in the military tract of Onondaga County. The commissioners held their sittings at Albany, and to that city Mr. Emott removed about the year 1800. In 1804 he was chosen to represent Albany County in the State Legislature. He soon afterward removed to the city of New York, and after practicing law there for a while he returned to Poughkeepsie, and was elected to represent the Duchess District in the National Congress. He took his seat in 1809, and continued in possession of it by re-election until 1813. In politics he was a Federalist, and was one of the prominent leaders, yet his patriotism was never in subjection to the behests of party. He was representative of Duchess County in the New York Assembly in 1814, and was Speaker of the House. He was a member of that body four consecutive years. In 1817 he was appointed first judge of Duchess County, and held the office until 1823, when, for political reasons, he was removed to make room for the late Maturin Livingston. He was appointed judge of the second circuit by Governor Clinton in 1827, and held it until 1831, when he was sixty years of age. Judge Emott then retired from active life. He died at Poughkeepsie, New York, on the 10th of April, 1850, aged seventy-nine years.

13 Hildreth, Second Series, iii., 277.

14 Statement of James Fisk, a Democratic member of Congress from Vermont, who was one of the committee, cited in the Statesman’s Manual, i., 444. The feeling against Mr. Madison on account of his timid policy had begun to manifest itself very strongly among his political friends in Congress before the close of 1811. The New York Evening Post, of January 6, 1812, says: "The Houses of Congress refused to adjourn on the 1st of January in order to wait on the chief magistrate. It was an intended insult."

Henry Dearborn, an officer of the Revolution, then in Washington, and who had lately been appointed a major general in the national army, wrote to his daughter, saying: "You may tell your neighbors they may prepare for war; we shall have it by the time they are ready. I know that war will be very unwelcome news to you, but I also know that you possess too much Spartan patriotism to wish your father to decline a command for the defense of the honor of our beloved country. You would, if necessary, urge him to the field rather than a speck of dishonor should attach to him for declining such a command."

15 Henry had spent a week in Baltimore. He left that city for Washington on the morning of the 1st of February. – Letter in Niles’s Register, ii., 46.

16 Sir James Craig’s Instructions to John Henry, dated at Quebec, 6th February, 1809.

17 Henry was furnished with the following credentials, to be used if circumstances should require:


"The bearer, Mr. John Henry, is employed by me, and full confidence may be placed in him for any communication which any person may wish to make to me on the business committed to him. In faith of which I have given him this, under my hand and seal, at Quebec, the 6th day of February, 1809.



Henry was also furnished with a cipher to be used in his correspondence.

18 Henry to Sir James Craig, 13th of March, 1809. Mr. Erskine’s arrangement greatly disappointed the British authorities in Canada, who doubtless expected to reap great rewards from the home government by a successful effort to disrupt the American Union. For twenty years they had been inciting the Indians on the Northwestern frontiers to war upon the Americans, and now they hoped, by a successful movement among those whom they supposed to be as mercenary as themselves, to reduce the United States to virtual vassalage. Ryland, Governor Craig’s secretary, in a letter to Henry on the 1st of May (four days before his official letter summoning him to Montreal), exhibited that disappointment. He concluded his letter in these petulant words: "I am cruelly out of spirits at the idea of Old England truckling to such a debased and accursed government as that of the United States."

19 De Crillon’s deposition before the Committee on Foreign Relations, submitted to Congress March 13, 1811 (Transcriber’s Note: This date is inconsistent with the dates given in the text proper for Henry’s meeting with President Madison and the information in endnote 20 immediately below – WDC, 06/26/2001.).

20 This was paid out of the Treasury of the United States in two sums, on the draft of Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, to the order of James Graham, the United States Treasurer, one for forty-nine thousand dollars, and the other for one thousand dollars, dated 10th of February, 1812. Henry was probably swindled out of his money. He had landed at Boston with a Frenchman calling himself the Count de Crillon, and a great intimacy grew up between them. They went to Washington together. When Henry returned to Baltimore he had a deed from the "count" for an estate in Languedoc, the consideration being four hundred thousand francs. It is probable the count received the forty-nine thousand dollars, and Mr. Henry the one thousand dollars, the latter being sufficient to enable him to reach his valuable French estate. The "count," who became a witness in the government investigation of Henry’s disclosures, proved to be an arrant knave and impostor.

21 These may be found in Benton’s Abridgment of the Debates in Congress, iv., 506 to 514 inclusive.

22 They called up in formidable array the proceedings of the New England people against the Embargo Laws during the past two or three years, and in an especial manner they arraigned Mr. Quincy, the great opposition leader of the House, who, a year before (January 14, 1811), in the debate on the bill to enable the people of the Territory of Orleans to form a State Constitution preparatory to their admission into the Union, had declared that the passage of the bill would "justify a revolution in this country." "Look," they said, "to the signification of this passage in Mr. Quincy’s speech – a passage which, when called to order, he reduced to writing: "I am compelled to declare it as my deliberate opinion that, if this bill passes, the bonds of the Union are virtually dissolved; that the states which compose it are free from their moral obligations, and that, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some to prepare definitely for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must." For an abstract of Mr. Quincy’s speech on that occasion, see Benton’s Abridgment of the Debates in Congress, iv., 327.

The Senate, by resolution, asked for the names of persons in Boston or elsewhere who were concerned in the plot with Henry. By Secretary Monroe’s reply, it seems that the spy never mentioned the name of any individual.

23 John Henry was a native of Ireland. He appeared in Philadelphia about the year 1793 or 1794, having come over as a steerage passenger. He possessed considerable literary ability, and became editor of Brown’s Philadelphia Gazette. He afterward kept a grocery, and married in that city. Having become naturalized, and obtained a commission in the army in the time of the expected war with France, he had command of an artillery corps under General Ebenezer Stevens, of New York, and was superior officer at Fort Jay, on Governor’s Island, for more than a year. He afterward had a command at Newport, where he quitted the service, settled upon a farm in Northern Vermont, studied law, and after five years entered upon the service recorded in the text. "He was a handsome, well-behaved man," says Sullivan, "and was received in some respectable families in Boston."

24 When the Embargo project was first suggested in the Committee on Foreign Relations, it was proposed to discuss it under a pledge of secrecy. John Randolph refused to be bound by any such pledge, denying the committee’s authority to impose it. Mr. Calhoun, with frank generosity, on the ground that all should have an equal chance, communicated to Mr. Quincy the fact that an embargo was to be laid the day before the committee’s report to that effect was made. Quincy, Lloyd, and Emott immediately sent expresses with the information to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Emott’s message appeared in the New York Evening Post on the 31st of March, the day before the President’s message was sent in. In consequence of this information, several vessels at these respective ports loaded and escaped to sea before the Embargo was laid.

25 These assertions contained much truth. According to a report laid before Congress on the 6th of July, 1812, It appeared that the whole number of British seizures and captures of American vessels since the commencement of the Continental War was 917. Of these, 528 had occurred previously to the orders in Council of November, 1807, and 389 afterward. The French seizures and captures were 556; of these, 206 were before the Berlin and Milan decrees, 317 afterward, and 45 since their alleged repeal. Recent Danish captures amounted to 70, and Neapolitan to 47. Besides these there had been extensive Dutch and Spanish seizures, which, it was alleged, should properly be placed to the French account, as those countries were under the control of Napoleon. It was also stated that more than half the captures by British cruisers had been declared invalid, and restoration ordered, while in France only a quarter of the vessels seized were so treated. It must be confessed that France was guilty of direct and indirect spoliation of American commerce to an extent equal, if not exceeding that inflicted by Great Britain.

26 On the 11th of June the Secretary of War laid before Congress numerous letters from military and civil officers of the government from various portions of the Northwestern, Western, and Southwestern frontiers, dating back as far as 1807, and giving overwhelming evidence of the continual efforts of British emissaries to stir up the Indians to hostilities against the United States, and to win them to the British interest in expectation of war between the two countries. I will quote as a matter of fact, not speculation, from a speech of Red Jacket, the great Seneca chief, in behalf of himself and other deputies of the Six Nations, in February, 1810:


"BROTHER, – Since you have had some disputes with the British government, their agents in Canada have not only endeavored to make the Indians at the westward your enemies, but they have sent the war-belt among our warriors [in Western New York], to poison their minds and make them break their faith with you. At the same time we had information that the British had circulated war-belts among the Western Indians, and within your territory."


Copious extracts from the letters above mentioned as having been laid before the Secretary of War may be found In Niles’s Weekly Register, ii., 342.

27 One great object of the Embargo appears to have been to detain at home as many merchant ships as possible, for the twofold purpose, in view of approaching war, to keep them from British privateers, and to engage them for that service on the part of the Americans. Mr. Alison, the British historian, suggests only part of the truth in saying that it was to prevent intelligence of the proceedings of the Americans in their preparations for war reaching England, and to furnish them with means, from their extensive commercial navy, of manning their vessels of war. To do this, cost the nation a great sacrifice. A writer in the American Review of April, 1812, estimated the loss as follows:

Mercantile loss



Deteriorated value of surplus produce and waste



Loss sustained by the revenue



Total national loss


or $6,167,523 a month.

28 See note 3, page 164. Argument, ridicule, satire were all employed against the "Terrapin War." During the late spring and early summer of 1812, the subjoined song was sung at all gatherings of the Federalists, and was very popular:

"Huzza for our liberty, boys,

These are the days of our glory –
The days of true national joys,
When terrapins gallop before ye!
There’s Porter, and Grundy, and Rhea,
In Congress who manfully vapor,
Who draw their six dollars a day,
And fight bloody battles on paper!
Ah! this is true Terrapin war.

"Poor Madison the tremors has got,
’Bout this same arming the nation
Too far to retract, he can not
Go on – and he loses his station.
Then bring up your ‘regulars,’ lads,
In ‘attitude’ nothing ye lack, sirs,
Ye’ll frighten to death the Danads,
With fire-coals blazing aback, sirs!
Oh, this is true Terrapin war!

"As to powder, and bullet, and swords,
For, as they were never intended,
They’re a parcel of high-sounding words,
But never to action extended.
Ye must frighten the rascals away,
In ‘rapid descent’ on their quarters;
Then the plunder divide as ye may,
And drive them headlong in the waters.
Oh, this is great Terrapin war!


29 The opposition speakers and newspapers denounced the Embargo (especially the "Land Embargo," as the supplementary act was called) in unmeasured terms. The land trade with Canada, so suddenly arrested and thrown into confusion by it, was represented by a bewildered serpent, which had been suddenly stopped in its movements by two trees, marked respectively EMBARGO and NON-INTERCOURSE. The wondering snake is puzzled to know what has happened, and the head cries out, "What is the matter, tail?" The latter answers, "I can’t get out." A cock (in allusion to France) stands by, crowing joyfully.

30 Letter to Secretary Monroe, March 4, 1812. Mr. Percival, one of the Cabinet, and a leading administration member, said, in the course of debate: "As England is contending for the defense of her maritime rights, and for the preservation of her national existence, which essentially depends on the maintenance of these rights, she could not be expected, in the prosecution of this great and primary interest, to arrest or vary her course to listen to the pretensions of neutral nations, or to remove the evils, however they might be regretted, which the uniform policy of the times indirectly or unintentionally extended to them."

A little later a London ministerial paper used the following language, which exposed the animus of the men in power and the aristocratic and mercantile classes: "As Great Britain has got possession of the ocean, it must have the right to enact laws for the regulation of its own element, and to confine the tracks of neutrals within such boundaries as its own rights and interests require to be drawn." – London Courier, April, 1819.

31 George Clinton was born in Ulster County, New York, in 1739. He chose the profession of the law for his avocation. In 1768 he was elected to a seat in the Colonial Legislature, and was a member of the Continental Congress in 1775. He was appointed a brigadier in the army of the United States in 1776, and during the whole war was active in military affairs in New York. In April, 1777, he was elected governor and lieutenant governor, under the new Republican Constitution of the state, and was continued in the former office eighteen years. He was president of the Convention assembled at Poughkeepsie to consider the Federal Constitution in 1788. He was again chosen governor of the state in 1801, and three years afterward he was elected Vice-President of the United States. He occupied that elevated position at the time of his death, which occurred at Washington City on the 20th of April, 1812.

Mr. Clinton expired about nine o’clock in the morning. He had been ill for some time, and his death was not unexpected. His funeral took place on the afternoon of the 21st. The corpse was removed from his lodgings to the Capitol, escorted by a troop of horse. There it remained until four o’clock, when the procession, composed of cavalry and the marine corps, clergymen, physicians, mourners, the President of the United States, members of both houses of Congress, heads of departments, etc., moved to the Congressional burying-ground, situated on the Eastern Branch of the Potomac, about a mile eastward of the Capitol.


Over his grave a monument of white marble was erected. The annexed sketch of it was made when I visited that resting-place of many of the American worthies, in the autumn of 1861. It is about fifteen feet in height. The tablet for the inscription, and a profile in high relief on the obelisk, are of statuary marble. On the east side (in shadow in the picture) is the inscription; on the north side the fasces; on the west side a serpent on a staff; and on the south side the winged caduceus of Mercury. On the west side of the obelisk is a Roman sword, crossed by a saber, and tied together by a scarf. The following is a copy of the inscription:

"To the memory of GEORGE CLINTON. He was born in the State of New York on the 26th of July, 1739, and died at Washington on the 20th of April, 1812, in the 73d year of his age. He was a soldier and statesman of the Revolution, eminent in council, distinguished in war. He filled, with unexampled usefulness, purity, and ability, among many other high offices, those of governor of his native state, and of Vice-President of the United States. While he lived, his virtue, wisdom, and valor were the pride, the ornament, and the security of his country; and when he died he left an illustrious example of a well-spent life, worthy of all imitation. This monument is affectionately dedicated by his children."

32 For the message in full, see Statesman’s Manual, i., 387.

33 The committee was composed of John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina; Felix Grundy, of Tennessee; John Smilie, of Pennsylvania; John A. Harper, of New Hampshire; Joseph Desha, of Kentucky; and Ebenezer Seaver, of Massachusetts.

34 The act declaring war was drawn up by William Pinkney, late minister to England, and then Attorney General of the United States. It is as follows: "That war be, and the same is hereby declared to exist between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof and the United States of America and their Territories; and that the President of the United States is hereby authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect, and to issue to private armed vessels of the United States commissions, or letters of marque and general reprisal, * in such form as he shall think proper, and under the seal of the United States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of the said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the subjects thereof."

* Letters of marque and reprisal, or commissions to seize the goods of an enemy in time of war and not incur the penalty of robbery or piracy, were issued in England as early as Edward the First. It has ever been a powerful belligerent arm in warfare against commercial nations, and the system was of great service to the Americans during their war with Great Britain in 1812-’15. Efforts have recently been made to abolish the system among nations. It should be, for, after all, it is only legalized piracy.

35 Edwin Williams, in the Statesman’s Manuel, i., 450.

36 One of the caricatures of Mr. Quincy is before me. It was engraved and published by William Charles, * of Philadelphia, and is entitled "Josiah the First." He is represented as a king, in reference to his political domination. On his head is a crown. His coat is scarlet, his waistcoat brown, his breeches light green, and his stockings white silk. In one hand he holds a sceptre, and in the space near his head (omitted in our reduced copy) are the words: "I, Josiah the First, do, by this royal proclamation, announce myself King of New England, Nova Scotia, and Passamaquoddy; Grand Master of the noble Order of the Two Codfishes." On his left breast are seen two codfishes crossed, forming the order, and in the sea behind him that kind of fish is seen sporting in the water. These were probably introduced in allusion to his defense on the floor of Congress of the rights of the New England fishermen; or possibly because of the fact that the representation of a codfish has hung in the Representatives’ Hall in the State-house at Boston since the year 1784, "as a memorial," in the language of John Rowe, who that year moved that it be placed there, "of the importance of the codfishery to the welfare of the commonwealth of Massachusetts."

* Of William Charles, the engraver above mentioned, who published several caricatures during the War of 1812-’15, very little is remembered. The venerable Doctor Alexander Anderson, of New York, the father of wood engraving in America, and yet (1867) a practitioner of the art at the age of ninety-two years, informed the writer that he knew Charles when he first came to America, about the year 1801. He was a native of Edinburg, Scotland. He caricatured one or more of the magistrates of that city, and, to avoid the consequences of prosecution, he left and came to the United States. He practiced his art in New York for a number of years without success, and then went to Philadelphia. The venerable John M‘Allister, of Philadelphia, now (1867) more than eighty years of age, writes me that he remembers Charles and his small book-store and print-shop, which he opened in Philadelphia just before the War of 1812. After the suspension of specie payments by the banks in 1814, he engraved, printed, and vended a great quantity of notes for fractions of dollars, commonly known as "shinplasters." He died in Philadelphia in the year 1821, and his widow continued his bookselling and stationery business. I am indebted to Mr. M‘Allister for the caricature of Mr. Quincy above given.

37 On the 29th of June, 1861, Mr. Quincy made a speech to the officers and soldiers of Captain Forbes’s Coast Guard at Quincy, Massachusetts. He was then in his ninetieth year. In the course of his remarks on the great uprising of the people of the Northern section of the Union to put down the demagogues’ rebellion in the Southern section, he remarked: "With what pride and joy would the founders of this republic have hailed the events of our day – a whole people rising as one man, with one mind and one heart, in support of the Constitution and the Union; upspringing from the East, the North, and the West, the farmer from the field, the mechanic from the work-bench – all classes and all professions – forgetting their gains, and ready to make sacrifices with one thought and one will to protect, to preserve, and to render the union of these states immortal. These are the true glories of a republic, evidencing that the masses which compose it understand the value of their liberties, and are prepared to sacrifice property and life in their defense."

38 The following are the names of the signers of the protest:

George Sullivan, William Reid, Epaphroditus Champion, Benjamin Tallmadge, H. M. Ridgeley, Joseph Lewis, Jr., Elijah Brigham, Leonard White, Jonathan O. Moseley, Asa Fitch, Philip Stuart, Thomas Wilson, Abijah Bigelow, Laban Wheaton, Lyman Law, James Emott, Philip B. Key, A. M‘Bryde, Josiah Quincy, Elisha R. Potter, Lewis B. Sturges, James Milnor, James Breckinridge, Joseph Pearson, William Ely, Richard Jackson, Jr., Timothy Pitkin, Jr., Thomas R. Gould, John Baker, Martin Chittenden, Samuel Taggart, John Davenport, Jr., H. Bleecker, C. Goldsburgh. The protest was printed in newspapers and on broadsides, and widely circulated.

39 The House of Representatives resolved that, in the event of a determination to invade Canada or other British provinces, the President should be authorized to issue a proclamation assuring the inhabitants thereof that all their rights, of every kind, should be respected if their territory should become a part of the United States.

40 As an excise duty on liquors was proposed by Mr. Gallatin, the Secretary of the Treasury, who was one of the leaders in the famous "Whisky Insurrection" in Western Pennsylvania a few years before (see page 88), which was produced by a similar duty, he was severely handled by the opposition. Smilie, a Pennsylvania member of Congress, who was much more deeply implicated in wrong-doing in connection with that insurrection than Mr. Gallatin, and who now voted against the excise on liquors, was assailed with ridicule. On account of his defective education and his use of bad grammar in his Congressional speeches, the following epigram, which appeared in a leading Federal paper in March, 1812, was pointed:

"A tax on whisky is a tax on sin:

Why then should Smilie hate the home-made gin-tax?
Because he is, and he has ever been,
A most invet’rate enemy to syn-tax."

41 History of the Political and Military Events of the late War between the United States and Great Britain, by Samuel Perkins, page 53.

42 Already the governor of Massachusetts had appointed the 23d of July as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer. It was made the occasion for plain speaking from the pulpit against the war. Sometimes there was bitterness in the words, but generally these sermons breathed a spirit of sorrow because of the calamities threatened by the war. Among others, William Ellery Channing, of Boston, on both the state and the national fast-days, spoke out plainly, but with that charitable and sweet Christian spirit which characterized his whole life. "The cry has been," he said, "that war is declared, and all opposition should therefore be hushed. A sentiment more unworthy of a free country can hardly be propagated. If this doctrine be admitted, rulers have only to declare war, and they are screened at once from scrutiny. At the very time when they have armies at command, when their patronage is most extended, and their power most formidable, not a word of warning, of censure, of alarm must be heard. The press, which is to expose inferior abuses, must not utter one rebuke, one indignant complaint, although our best interests and most valuable rights are put to hazard by an unnecessary war. The sum of my remarks," he said, in concluding his discourse on the state fast-day, "is this: It is your duty to hold fast, and to assert with firmness those truths and principles on which the welfare of your country seems to depend; but do this with calmness, with a love of peace, without ill-will and revenge. Improve every opportunity of allaying animosities. Strive to make converts of those whom you think in error. Discourage, in decided and open language, that rancor, malignity, and unfeeling abuse which so often find their way into our public prints, and which only tend to increase the already alarming irritation of our country." "Our duties to our rulers," he said, on the national fast-day, "are not so easily presented. It is our duty toward them to avoid all language and conduct which will produce a spirit of insubordination, a contempt of laws and just authority. At the same time, we must not be tame, abject, and see, without sensibility, without remonstrance, our rights violated and our best blessings thrown away. Our elective form of government makes it our duty to expose bad rulers, to strip them of unmerited confidence and of abused power. This is never more clearly our duty than when our rulers have plunged us into an unjustifiable and ruinous war – a war which is leading us down to poverty, vice, and slavery. To reduce such men to a private station no fair and upright means should be spared, and, let me add, no other means should be employed. Nothing can justify falsehood, malignity, or wild, ungoverned passion. Be firm, but deliberate; in earnest, yet honest and just."

43 In the New York Evening Post, July 21, 1812, may be found the following notice of a speech by the afterward eminent Daniel Webster, who had not yet appeared prominently in public life. He entered Congress the next year.

"WEBSTER’S ORATION. – A gentleman of this name, distinguished in the State of New Hampshire for the superiority of his talents, delivered an oration to the Washington Society at Portsmouth on the 4th of July. The following extracts will he read with pleasure:


" ‘With respect to the war in which we are now involved, the course which our principles require us to pursue can not be doubtful. It is now the law of the land, and as such we are bound to regard it. Resistance and insurrection form no parts of our creed. The disciples of Washington are neither tyrants in power nor rebels out. If we are taxed to carry on this war, we shall disregard certain distinguished examples, and shall pay. If our personal services are required, we shall yield them to the precise extent of our constitutional liability. At the same time, the world may be assured that we know our rights, and shall exercise them. We shall express our opinions on this, as on every measure of government, I trust without passion, I am certain without fear. We have yet to learn that the extravagant progress of pernicious measures abrogates the duty of opposition, or that the interest of our native land is to be abandoned by us in the hour of the thickest danger and sorest necessity. By the exercise of our constitutional right of suffrage, by the peaceable remedy of election, we shall seek to restore wisdom to our councils and peace to our country.’ "


Those who remember Mr. Webster’s patriotic course in the Senate of the United States in voting for the "Force Bill," to crush incipient treason and rebellion in South Carolina in 1833, will perceive in the above extract the visible germ of that stanch patriotism which distinguished him through life. On the occasion referred to he said, with the spirit that animated him in 1812, "I am opposed to this administration; but the country is in danger, and I will take my share of the responsibility in the measure before us."

The Evening Post of the same date contains an "Ode for the Fourth of July," written by William Cullen Bryant, then seventeen years of age. He is now (1867), after a lapse of fifty-five years, one of the proprietors and the editor in chief of that journal, which he has ably conducted for a very long period. The following stanzas selected from that Ode give a specimen of its character which made it very popular at the time:

"Lo! where our ardent rulers

For fierce assault prepare,
While eager "Ate" awaits their beck
To "slip the dogs of war."
In vain against the dire design
Exclaims the indignant land;
The unbidden blade they haste to bare,
And light the unhallowed brand.
Proceed! another year shall wrest
The sceptre from your hand.

"The same ennobling spirit
That kindles valor’s flame,
That nerves us to a war of right,
Forbids a war of shame.
For not in Conquest’s impious train
Shall Freedom’s children stand;
Nor shall in guilty fray be raised
The high-souled warrior’s hand;
Nor shall the Patriot draw his sword
At Gallia’s proud command."



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