A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents - Section 4 (of 4) of Volume 1: James Madison
Edited by James D. Richardson
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I lay before Congress two letters received from Governor Harrison, of the Indiana Territory, reporting the particulars and the issue of the expedition under his command, of which notice was taken in my communication of November 5.

While it is deeply lamented that so many valuable lives have been lost in the action which took place on the 7th ultimo, Congress will see with satisfaction the dauntless spirit and fortitude victoriously displayed by every description of the troops engaged, as well as the collected firmness which distinguished their commander on an occasion requiring the utmost exertions of valor and discipline.

It may reasonably be expected that the good effects of this critical defeat and dispersion of a combination of savages, which appears to have been spreading to a greater extent, will be experienced not only in a cessation of the murders and depredations committed on our frontier, but in the prevention of any hostile incursions otherwise to have been apprehended.

The families of those brave and patriotic citizens who have fallen in this severe conflict will doubtless engage the favorable attention of Congress.


WASHINGTON, December 23, 1811.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to Congress copies of an act of the legislature of New York relating to a canal from the Great Lakes to Hudson River. In making the communication I consult the respect due to that State, in whose behalf the commissioners appointed by the act have placed it in my hands for the purpose.

The utility of canal navigation is universally admitted. It is no less certain that scarcely any country offers more extensive opportunities for that branch of improvements than the United States, and none, perhaps, inducements equally persuasive to make the most of them. The particular undertaking contemplated by the State of New York, which marks an honorable spirit of enterprise and comprises objects of national as well as more limited importance, will recall the attention of Congress to the signal advantages to be derived to the United States from a general system of internal communication and conveyance, and suggest to their consideration whatever steps may be proper on their part toward its introduction and accomplishment. As some of those advantages have an intimate connection with the arrangements and exertions for the general security, it is at a period calling for those that the merits of such a system will be seen in the strongest lights.


WASHINGTON, December 27, 1811.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I lay before Congress copies of resolutions entered into by the legislature of Pennsylvania, which have been transmitted to me with that view by the governor of that State, in pursuance of one of the said resolutions.


WASHINGTON, January 15, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I transmit to Congress an account of the contingent expenses of the Government for the year 1811, incurred on the occasion of taking possession of the territory limited eastwardly by the river Perdido, and amounting to $3,396.


WASHINGTON, January 16, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to Congress a letter from the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Great Britain to the Secretary of State, with the answer of the latter.

The continued evidence afforded in this correspondence of the hostile policy of the British Government against our national rights strengthens the considerations recommending and urging the preparation of adequate means for maintaining them.


MARCH 3, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

At the request of the convention assembled in the Territory of Orleans on the 22d day of November last, I transmit to Congress the proceedings of that body in pursuance of the act entitled "An act to enable the people of the Territory of Orleans to form a constitution and State government, and for the admission of the said State into the Union on an equal footing with the original States, and for other purposes."


MARCH 9, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I lay before Congress copies of certain documents which remain in the Department of State. They prove that at a recent period, whilst the United States, notwithstanding the wrongs sustained by them, ceased not to observe the laws of peace and 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, 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.

In addition to the effect which the discovery of such a procedure ought to have on the public councils, it will not fail to render more dear to the hearts of all good citizens that happy union of these States which, under Divine Providence, is the guaranty of their liberties, their safety, their tranquillity, and their prosperity.


APRIL 1, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

Considering it as expedient, under existing circumstances and prospects, that a general embargo be laid on all vessels now in port, or hereafter arriving, for the period of sixty days, I recommend the immediate passage of a law to that effect.


APRIL 20, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

Among the incidents to the unexampled increase and expanding interests of the American nation under the fostering influence of free constitutions and just laws has been a corresponding accumulation of duties in the several Departments of the Government, and this has been necessarily the greater in consequence of the peculiar state of our foreign relations and the connection of these with our internal administration.

The extensive and multiplied preparations into which the United States are at length driven for maintaining their violated rights have caused this augmentation of business to press on the Department of War particularly, with a weight disproportionate to the powers of any single officer, with no other aids than are authorized by existing laws. With a view to a more adequate arrangement for the essential objects of that Department, I recommend to the early consideration of Congress a provision for two subordinate appointments therein, with such compensations annexed as may be reasonably expected by citizens duly qualified for the important functions which may be properly assigned to them.


MAY 26, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to Congress, for their information, copies and extracts from the correspondence of the Secretary of State and the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at Paris. These documents will place before Congress the actual posture of our relations with France.


WASHINGTON, June 1, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate to Congress certain documents, being a continuation of those heretofore laid before them on the subject of our affairs with Great Britain.

Without going back beyond the renewal in 1803 of the war in which Great Britain is engaged, and omitting unrepaired wrongs of inferior magnitude, the conduct of her Government presents a series of acts hostile to the United States as an independent and neutral nation.

British cruisers have been in the continued practice of violating the American flag on the great highway of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it, not in the exercise of a belligerent right founded on the law of nations against an enemy, but of a municipal prerogative over British subjects. British jurisdiction is thus extended to neutral vessels in a situation where no laws can operate but the law of nations and the laws of the country to which the vessels belong, and a self-redress is assumed which, if British subjects were wrongfully detained and alone concerned, is that substitution of force for a resort to the responsible sovereign which falls within the definition of war. Could the seizure of British subjects in such cases be regarded as within the exercise of a belligerent right, the acknowledged laws of war, which forbid an article of captured property to be adjudged without a regular investigation before a competent tribunal, would imperiously demand the fairest trial where the sacred rights of persons were at issue. In place of such a trial these rights are subjected to the will of every petty commander.

The practice, hence, is so far from affecting British subjects alone that, under the pretext of searching for these, thousands of American citizens, under the safeguard of public law and of their national flag, have been torn from their country and from everything dear to them; have been dragged on board ships of war of a foreign nation and exposed, under the severities of their discipline, to be exiled to the most distant and deadly climes, to risk their lives in the battles of their oppressors, and to be the melancholy instruments of taking away those of their own brethren.

Against this crying enormity, which Great Britain would be so prompt to avenge if committed against herself, the United States have in vain exhausted remonstrances and expostulations, and that no proof might be wanting of their conciliatory dispositions, and no pretext left for a continuance of the practice, the British Government was formally assured of the readiness of the United States to enter into arrangements such as could not be rejected if the recovery of British subjects were the real and the sole object. The communication passed without effect.

British cruisers have been in the practice also of violating the rights and the peace of our coasts. They hover over and harass our entering and departing commerce. To the most insulting pretensions they have added the most lawless proceedings in our very harbors, and have wantonly spilt American blood within the sanctuary of our territorial jurisdiction. The principles and rules enforced by that nation, when a neutral nation, against armed vessels of belligerents hovering near her coasts and disturbing her commerce are well known. When called on, nevertheless, by the United States to punish the greater offenses committed by her own vessels, her Government has bestowed on their commanders additional marks of honor and confidence.

Under pretended blockades, without the presence of an adequate force and sometimes without the practicability of applying one, our commerce has been plundered in every sea, the great staples of our country have been cut off from their legitimate markets, and a destructive blow aimed at our agricultural and maritime interests. In aggravation of these predatory measures they have been considered as in force from the dates of their notification, a retrospective effect being thus added, as has been done in other important cases, to the unlawfulness of the course pursued. And to render the outrage the more signal these mock blockades have been reiterated and enforced in the face of official communications from the British Government declaring as the true definition of a legal blockade "that particular ports must be actually invested and previous warning given to vessels bound to them not to enter."

Not content with these occasional expedients for laying waste our neutral trade, the cabinet of Britain resorted at length to the sweeping system of blockades, under the name of orders in council, which has been molded and managed as might best suit its political views, its commercial jealousies, or the avidity of British cruisers.

To our remonstrances against the complicated and transcendent injustice of this innovation the first reply was that the orders were reluctantly adopted by Great Britain as a necessary retaliation on decrees of her enemy proclaiming a general blockade of the British Isles at a time when the naval force of that enemy dared not issue from his own ports. She was reminded without effect that her own prior blockades, unsupported by an adequate naval force actually applied and continued, were a bar to this plea; that executed edicts against millions of our property could not be retaliation on edicts confessedly impossible to be executed; that retaliation, to be just, should fall on the party setting the guilty example, not on an innocent party which was not even chargeable with an acquiescence in it.

When deprived of this flimsy veil for a prohibition of our trade with her enemy by the repeal of his prohibition of our trade with Great Britain, her cabinet, instead of a corresponding repeal or a practical discontinuance of its orders, formally avowed a determination to persist in them against the United States until the markets of her enemy should be laid open to British products, thus asserting an obligation on a neutral power to require one belligerent to encourage by its internal regulations the trade of another belligerent, contradicting her own practice toward all nations, in peace as well as in war, and betraying the insincerity of those professions which inculcated a belief that, having resorted to her orders with regret, she was anxious to find an occasion for putting an end to them.

Abandoning still more all respect for the neutral rights of the United States and for its own consistency, the British Government now demands as prerequisites to a repeal of its orders as they relate to the United States that a formality should be observed in the repeal of the French decrees nowise necessary to their termination nor exemplified by British usage, and that the French repeal, besides including that portion of the decrees which operates within a territorial jurisdiction, as well as that which operates on the high seas, against the commerce of the United States should not be a single and special repeal in relation to the United States, but should be extended to whatever other neutral nations unconnected with them may be affected by those decrees. And as an additional insult, they are called on for a formal disavowal of conditions and pretensions advanced by the French Government for which the United States are so far from having made themselves responsible that, in official explanations which have been published to the world, and in a correspondence of the American minister at London with the British minister for foreign affairs such a responsibility was explicitly and emphatically disclaimed.

It has become, indeed, sufficiently certain that the commerce of the United States is to be sacrificed, not as interfering with the belligerent rights of Great Britain; not as supplying the wants of her enemies, which she herself supplies; but as interfering with the monopoly which she covets for her own commerce and navigation. She carries on a war against the lawful commerce of a friend that she may the better carry on a commerce with an enemy—a commerce polluted by the forgeries and perjuries which are for the most part the only passports by which it can succeed.

Anxious to make every experiment short of the last resort of injured nations, the United States have withheld from Great Britain, under successive modifications, the benefits of a free intercourse with their market, the loss of which could not but outweigh the profits accruing from her restrictions of our commerce with other nations. And to entitle these experiments to the more favorable consideration they were so framed as to enable her to place her adversary under the exclusive operation of them. To these appeals her Government has been equally inflexible, as if willing to make sacrifices of every sort rather than yield to the claims of justice or renounce the errors of a false pride. Nay, so far were the attempts carried to overcome the attachment of the British cabinet to its unjust edicts that it received every encouragement within the competency of the executive branch of our Government to expect that a repeal of them would be followed by a war between the United States and France, unless the French edicts should also be repealed. Even this communication, although silencing forever the plea of a disposition in the United States to acquiesce in those edicts originally the sole plea for them, received no attention.

If no other proof existed of a predetermination of the British Government against a repeal of its orders, it might be found in the correspondence of the minister plenipotentiary of the United States at London and the British secretary for foreign affairs in 1810, on the question whether the blockade of May, 1806, was considered as in force or as not in force. It had been ascertained that the French Government, which urged this blockade as the ground of its Berlin decree, was willing in the event of its removal to repeal that decree, which, being followed by alternate repeals of the other offensive edicts, might abolish the whole system on both sides. This inviting opportunity for accomplishing an object so important to the United States, and professed so often to be the desire of both the belligerents, was made known to the British Government. As that Government admits that an actual application of an adequate force is necessary to the existence of a legal blockade, and it was notorious that if such a force had ever been applied its long discontinuance had annulled the blockade in question, there could be no sufficient objection on the part of Great Britain to a formal revocation of it, and no imaginable objection to a declaration of the fact that the blockade did not exist. The declaration would have been consistent with her avowed principles of blockade, and would have enabled the United States to demand from France the pledged repeal of her decrees, either with success, in which case the way would have been opened for a general repeal of the belligerent edicts, or without success, in which case the United States would have been justified in turning their measures exclusively against France. The British Government would, however, neither rescind the blockade nor declare its nonexistence, nor permit its nonexistence to be inferred and affirmed by the American plenipotentiary. On the contrary, by representing the blockade to be comprehended in the orders in council, the United States were compelled so to regard it in their subsequent proceedings.

There was a period when a favorable change in the policy of the British cabinet was justly considered as established. The minister plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty here proposed an adjustment of the differences more immediately endangering the harmony of the two countries. The proposition was accepted with the promptitude and cordiality corresponding with the invariable professions of this Government. A foundation appeared to be laid for a sincere and lasting reconciliation. The prospect, however, quickly vanished. The whole proceeding was disavowed by the British Government without any explanations which could at that time repress the belief that the disavowal proceeded from a spirit of hostility to the commercial rights and prosperity of the United States; and it has since come into proof that at the very moment when the public minister was holding the language of friendship and inspiring confidence in the sincerity of the negotiation with which he was charged a secret agent of his Government was employed in intrigues having for their object a subversion of our Government and a dismemberment of our happy union.

In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain toward the United States our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers—a warfare which is known to spare neither age nor sex and to be distinguished by features peculiarly shocking to humanity. It is difficult to account for the activity and combinations which have for some time been developing themselves among tribes in constant intercourse with British traders and garrisons without connecting their hostility with that influence and without recollecting the authenticated examples of such interpositions heretofore furnished by the officers and agents of that Government.

Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country, and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert. It might at least have been expected that an enlightened nation, if less urged by moral obligations or invited by friendly dispositions on the part of the United States, would have found in its true interest alone a sufficient motive to respect their rights and their tranquillity on the high seas; that an enlarged policy would have favored that free and general circulation of commerce in which the British nation is at all times interested, and which in times of war is the best alleviation of its calamities to herself as well as to other belligerents; and more especially that the British cabinet would not, for the sake of a precarious and surreptitious intercourse with hostile markets, have persevered in a course of measures which necessarily put at hazard the invaluable market of a great and growing country, disposed to cultivate the mutual advantages of an active commerce.

Other counsels have prevailed. Our moderation and conciliation have had no other effect than to encourage perseverance and to enlarge pretensions. We behold our seafaring citizens still the daily victims of lawless violence, committed on the great common and highway of nations, even within sight of the country which owes them protection. We behold our vessels, freighted with the products of our soil and industry, or returning with the honest proceeds of them, wrested from their lawful destinations, confiscated by prize courts no longer the organs of public law but the instruments of arbitrary edicts, and their unfortunate crews dispersed and lost, or forced or inveigled in British ports into British fleets, whilst arguments are employed in support of these aggressions which have no foundation but in a principle equally supporting a claim to regulate our external commerce in all cases whatsoever.

We behold, in fine, 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.

Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in the contest or views of other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable reestablishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government. In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.

Having presented this view of the relations of the United States with Great Britain and of the solemn alternative growing out of them, I proceed to remark that the communications last made to Congress on the subject of our relations with France will have shewn that since the revocation of her decrees, as they violated the neutral rights of the United States, her Government has authorized illegal captures by its privateers and public ships, and that other outrages have been practiced on our vessels and our citizens. It will have been seen also that no indemnity had been provided or satisfactorily pledged for the extensive spoliations committed under the violent and retrospective orders of the French Government against the property of our citizens seized within the jurisdiction of France. I abstain at this time from recommending to the consideration of Congress definitive measures with respect to that nation, in the expectation that the result of unclosed discussions between our minister plenipotentiary at Paris and the French Government will speedily enable Congress to decide with greater advantage on the course due to the rights, the interests, and the honor of our country.


JUNE 30, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

With a view the better to adapt to the public service the volunteer force contemplated by the act passed on the 6th day of February, I recommend to the consideration of Congress the expediency of making the requisite provision for the officers thereof being commissioned by the authority of the United States.

Considering the distribution of the military forces of the United States required by the circumstances of our country, I recommend also to the consideration of Congress the expediency of providing for the appointment of an additional number of general officers, and of deputies in the Adjutant's, Quartermaster's, Inspector's, and Paymaster's departments of the Army, and for the employment in cases of emergency of additional engineers.


JULY 1, 1812.

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

In compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 26th of June, I transmit the information contained in the documents herewith enclosed.


From the Secretary of State to General George Matthews and Colonel John M'Kee.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, January 26, 1811.

The President of the United States having appointed you jointly and severally commissioners for carrying into effect certain provisions of an act of Congress (a copy of which is inclosed) relative to the portion of the Floridas situated to the east of the river Perdido, you will repair to that quarter with all possible expedition, concealing from general observation the trust committed to you with that discretion which the delicacy and importance of the undertaking require.

Should you find Governor Folk or the local authority existing there inclined to surrender in an amicable manner the possession of the remaining portion or portions of West Florida now held by him in the name of the Spanish Monarchy, you are to accept in behalf of the United States the abdication of his or of the other existing authority and the jurisdiction of the country over which it extends. And should a stipulation be insisted on for the redelivery of the country at a future period, you may engage for such redelivery to the lawful sovereign.

The debts clearly due from the Spanish Government to the people of the Territory surrendered may, if insisted on, be assumed within reasonable limits and under specified descriptions to be settled hereafter as a claim against Spain in an adjustment of our affairs with her. You may also guarantee, in the name of the United States, the confirmation of all such titles to land as are clearly sanctioned by Spanish laws, and Spanish civil functionaries, where no special reasons may require changes, are to be permitted to remain in office with the assurance of a continuation of the prevailing laws, with such alterations only as may be necessarily required in the new situation of the country.

If it should be required and be found necessary, you may agree to advance, as above, a reasonable sum for the transportation of the Spanish troops.

These directions are adapted to one of the contingencies specified in the act of Congress, namely, the amicable surrender of the possession of the Territory by the local ruling authority. But should the arrangement contemplated by the statute not be made, and should there be room to entertain a suspicion of an existing design in any foreign power to occupy the country in question, you are to keep yourselves on the alert, and on the first undoubted manifestation of the approach of a force for that purpose you will exercise with promptness and vigor the powers with which you are invested by the President to preoccupy by force the Territory, to the entire exclusion of any armament that may be advancing to take the possession of it. In this event you will exercise a sound discretion in applying the powers given with respect to debts, titles to lands, civil officers, and the continuation of the Spanish laws, taking care to commit the Government on no point further than may be necessary; and should any Spanish military force remain within the country after the occupancy by the troops of the United States, you may in such case aid in their removal from the same.

The universal toleration which the laws of the United States assure to every religious persuasion will not escape you as an argument for quieting the minds of uninformed individuals who may entertain fears on that head.

The conduct you are to pursue in regard to East Florida must be regulated by the dictates of your own judgments, on a close view and accurate knowledge of the precise state of things there, and of the real disposition of the Spanish Government always recurring to the present instruction as the paramount rule of your proceedings. Should you discover an inclination in the governor of East Florida, or in the existing local authority, amicably to surrender that province into the possession of the United States, you are to accept it on the same terms that are prescribed by these instructions in relation to West Florida. And in case of the actual appearance of any attempt to take possession by a foreign power, you will pursue the same effective measures for the occupation of the Territory and for the exclusion of the foreign force as you are directed to pursue with respect to the country east of the Perdido, forming at this time the extent of Governor Folk's jurisdiction.

If you should, under these instructions, obtain possession of Mobile, you will lose no time in informing Governor Claiborne thereof, with a request that he will without delay take the necessary steps for the occupation of the same.

All ordnance and military stores that may be found in the Territory must be held as the property of the Spanish Government, to be accounted for hereafter to the proper authority, and you will not fail to transmit an inventory thereof to this Department.

If in the execution of any part of these instructions you should need the aid of a military force, the same will be afforded you upon your application to the commanding officer of the troops of the United States on that station, or to the commanding officer of the nearest post, in virtue of orders which have been issued from the War Department. And in case you should, moreover, need naval assistance, you will receive the same upon your application to the naval commander in pursuance of orders from the Navy Department.

From the Treasury Department will be issued the necessary instructions in relation to imposts and duties, and to the slave ships whose arrival is apprehended.

The President, relying upon your discretion, authorizes you to draw upon the collectors of Orleans and Savannah for such sums as may be necessary to defray unavoidable expenses that may be incurred in the execution of these instructions, not exceeding in your drafts on New Orleans $8,000 and in your drafts on Savannah $2,000, without further authority, of which expenses you will hereafter exhibit a detailed account duly supported by satisfactory vouchers.

POSTSCRIPT.—If Governor Folk should unexpectedly require and pertinaciously insist that the stipulation for the redelivery of the Territory should also include that portion of the country which is situated west of the river Perdido, you are, in yielding to such demand, only to use general words that may by implication comprehend that portion of country; but at the same time you are expressly to provide that such stipulation shall not in any way impair or affect the right or title of the United States to the same.

The Secretary of State to General Matthews.


General MATTHEWS, etc.

SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 14th of March, and have now to communicate to you the sentiments of the President on the very interesting subject to which it relates.

I am sorry to have to state that the measures which you appear to have adopted for obtaining possession of Amelia Island and other parts of Bast Florida are not authorized by the law of the United States or the instructions founded on it under which you have acted.

You were authorized by the law, a copy of which was communicated to you, and by your instructions, which are strictly conformable to it, to take possession of East Florida only in case one of the following contingencies should happen: Either that the governor or other existing local authority should be disposed to place it amicably in the hands of the United States, or that an attempt should be made to, take possession of it by a foreign power. Should the first contingency happen it would follow that the arrangement, being amicable, would require no force on the part of the United States to carry it into effect. It was only in case of an attempt to take it by a foreign power that force could be necessary, in which event only were you authorized to avail yourself of it.

In neither of these contingencies was it the policy of the law or purpose of the Executive to wrest the Province forcibly from Spain, but only to occupy it with a view to prevent its falling into the hands of any foreign power, and to hold that pledge under the existing peculiarity of the circumstances of the Spanish Monarchy for a just result in an amicable negotiation with Spain.

Had the United States been disposed to proceed otherwise, that intention would have been manifested by a change of the law and suitable measures to carry it into effect; and as it was in their power to take possession whenever they might think that circumstances authorized and required it, it would be the more to be regretted if possession should be effected by any means irregular in themselves and subjecting the Government of the United States to unmerited censure.

The views of the Executive respecting East Florida are further illustrated by your instructions as to West Florida. Although the United States have thought that they had a good title to the latter Province, they did not take possession until after the Spanish authority had been subverted by a revolutionary proceeding, and the contingency of the country being thrown into foreign hands had forced itself into view. Nor did they then, nor have they since, dispossessed the Spanish troops of the post which they occupied. If they did not think proper to take possession by force of a province to which they thought they were justly entitled, it could not be presumed that they should intend to act differently in respect to one to which they had not such a claim.

I may add that although due sensibility has been always felt for the injuries which were received from the Spanish Government in the last war, the present situation of Spain has been a motive for a moderate and pacific policy toward her.

In communicating to you these sentiments of the Executive on the measures you have lately adopted for taking possession of East Florida, I add with pleasure that the utmost confidence is reposed in your integrity and zeal to promote the welfare of your country. To that zeal the error into which you have fallen is imputed. But in consideration of the part which you have taken, which differs so essentially from that contemplated and authorized by the Government, and contradicts so entirely the principles on which it has uniformly and sincerely acted, you will be sensible of the necessity of discontinuing the service in which you have been employed.

You will therefore consider your powers as revoked on the receipt of this letter. The new duties to be performed will be transferred to the governor of Georgia, to whom instructions will be given on all the circumstances to which it may be proper at the present juncture to call his attention.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,


The Secretary of State to His Excellency D.B. Mitchell, the governor of Georgia.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, April 10, 1812.

SIR: The President is desirous of availing the public of your services in a concern of much delicacy and of high importance to the United States. Circumstances with which you are in some degree acquainted, but which will be fully explained by the inclosed papers, have made it necessary to revoke the powers heretofore committed to General Matthews and to commit them to you. The President is persuaded that you will not hesitate to undertake a trust so important to the nation, and peculiarly to the State of Georgia. He is the more confident in this belief from the consideration that these new duties may be discharged without interfering, as he presumes, with those of the station which you now hold.

By the act of the 15th of January, 1811, you will observe that it was not contemplated to take possession of East Florida or any part thereof, unless it should be surrendered to the United States amicably by the governor or other local authority of the Province, or against an attempt to take possession of it by a foreign power, and you will also see that General Matthews's instructions, of which a copy is likewise inclosed, correspond fully with the law.

By the documents in possession of the Government it appears that neither of these contingencies have happened; that instead of an amicable surrender by the governor or other local authority the troops of the United States have been used to dispossess the Spanish authority by force. I forbear to dwell on the details of this transaction because it is painful to recite them. By the letter to General Matthews which is inclosed, open for your perusal, you will fully comprehend the views of the Government respecting the late transaction, and by the law, the former instructions to the General, and the late letter now forwarded you will be made acquainted with the course of conduct which it is expected of you to pursue in future in discharging the duties heretofore enjoined on him.

It is the desire of the President that you should turn your attention and direct your efforts in the first instance to the restoration of that state of things in the Province which existed before the late transactions. The Executive considers it proper to restore back to the Spanish authorities Amelia Island and such other parts, if any, of East Florida as may have thus been taken from them. With this view it will be necessary for you to communicate directly with the governor or principal officer of Spain in that Province, and to act in harmony with him in the attainment of it. It is presumed that the arrangement will be easily and amicably made between you. I inclose you an order from the Secretary of War to the commander of the troops of the United States to evacuate the country when requested so to do by you, and to pay the same respect in future to your order in fulfilling the duties enjoined by the law that he had been instructed to do to that of General Matthews.

In restoring to the Spanish authorities Amelia Island and such other parts of East Florida as may have been taken possession of in the name of the United States there is another object to which your particular attention will be due. In the measures lately adopted by General Matthews to take possession of that Territory it is probable that much reliance has been placed by the people who acted in it on the countenance and support of the United States. It will be improper to expose these people to the resentment of the Spanish authorities. It is not to be presumed that those authorities in regaining possession of the Territory in this amicable mode from the United States will be disposed to indulge any such feeling toward them. You will, however, come to a full understanding with the Spanish governor on this subject, and not fail to obtain from him the most explicit and satisfactory assurance respecting it. Of this assurance you will duly apprise the parties interested, and of the confidence which you repose in it. It is hoped that on this delicate and very interesting point the Spanish governor will avail himself of the opportunity it presents to evince the friendly disposition of his Government toward the United States.

There is one other remaining circumstance only to which I wish to call your attention, and that relates to General Matthews himself. His gallant and meritorious services in our Revolution and patriotic conduct since have always been held in high estimation by the Government. His errors in this instance are imputed altogether to his zeal to promote the welfare of his country; but they are of a nature to impose on the Government the necessity of the measures now taken, in giving effect to which you will doubtless feel a disposition to consult, as far as may be, his personal sensibility.

I have the honor to be, etc.,


P.S.—Should you find it impracticable to execute the duties designated above in person, the President requests that you will be so good as to employ some very respectable character to represent you in it, to whom you are authorized to allow a similar compensation. It is hoped, however, that you may be able to attend to it in person, for reasons which I need not enter into. The expenses to which you may be exposed will be promptly paid to your draft on this Department.

The Secretary of State to D.B. Mitchell, esq., governor of Georgia.


SIR: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 2d instant from St. Marys, where you had arrived in discharge of the trust reposed in you by the President, in relation to East Florida.

My letter by Mr. Isaacs has, I presume, substantially answered the most important of the queries submitted in your letter, but I will give to each a more distinct answer.

By the law of which a copy was forwarded to you it is made the duty of the President to prevent the occupation of East Florida by any foreign power. It follows that you are authorized to consider the entrance, or attempt to enter, especially under existing circumstances, of British troops of any description as the case contemplated by the law, and to use the proper means to defeat it.

An instruction will be immediately forwarded to the commander of the naval force of the United States in the neighborhood of East Florida to give you any assistance, in case of emergency, which you may think necessary and require.

It is not expected, if you find it proper to withdraw the troops, that you should interfere to compel the patriots to surrender the country or any part of it to the Spanish authorities. The United States are responsible for their own conduct only; not for that of the inhabitants of East Florida. Indeed, in consequence of the compromitment of the United States to the inhabitants, you have been already instructed not to withdraw the troops, unless you find that it may be done consistently with their safety, and to report to the Government the result of your conferences with the Spanish authorities, with your opinion of their views, holding in the meantime the ground occupied.

In the present state of our affairs with Great Britain the course above pointed out is the more justifiable and proper.

I have the honor, etc.,


JULY 6, 1812.

To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit to the Senate copies and extracts of documents in the archives of the Department of State falling within the purview of their resolution of the 4th instant, on the subject of British impressments from American vessels. The information, though voluminous, might have been enlarged with more time for research and preparation. In some instances it might at the same time have been abridged but for the difficulty of separating the matter extraneous to the immediate object of the resolution.



APRIL 3, 1812.

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

Having examined and considered the bill entitled "An act providing for the trial of causes pending in the respective district courts of the United States, in case of the absence or disability of the judges thereof," which bill was presented to me on the 25th of March past, I now return the same to the House of Representatives, in which it originated, with the following objections:

Because the additional services imposed by the bill on the justices of the Supreme Court of the United States are to be performed by them rather in the quality of other judges of other courts, namely, judges of the district courts, than in the quality of justices of the Supreme Court. They are to hold the said district courts, and to do and perform all acts relating to the said courts which are by law required of the district judges. The bill therefore virtually appoints, for the time, the justices of the Supreme Court to other distinct offices to which, if compatible with their original offices, they ought to be appointed by another than the legislative authority, in pursuance of legislative provisions authorizing the appointments.

Because the appeal allowed by law for the decision of the district courts to the circuit courts, whilst it corroborates the construction which regards a judge of one court as clothed with a new office, by being constituted a judge of the other, submits for correction erroneous judgments, not to superior or other judges, but to the erring individual himself, acting as sole judge in the appellate court.

Because the additional services to be required may, by distances of place and by the casualties contemplated by the bill, become disproportionate to the strength and health of the justices who are to perform them, the additional services being, moreover, entitled to no additional compensation, nor the additional expenses incurred to reimbursement. In this view the bill appears to be contrary to equity, as well as a precedent for modifications and extensions of judicial services encroaching on the constitutional tenure of judicial offices.

Because, by referring to the President of the United States questions of disability in the district judges and of the unreasonableness of delaying the suits or causes pending in the district courts, and leaving it with him in such causes to require the justices of the Supreme Court to perform additional services, the bill introduces an unsuitable relation of members of the judiciary department to a discretionary authority of the executive department.



[From Niles's Weekly Register, vol. 1, p. 448.]



Whereas information has been received that a number of individuals who have deserted from the Army of the United States have become sensible of their offense and are desirous of returning to their duty, a full pardon is hereby granted and proclaimed to each and all such individuals as shall within four months from the date hereof surrender themselves to the commanding officer of any military post within the United States or the Territories thereof.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.


Done at the city of Washington, the 7th day of February, A.D. 1812, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-sixth.


By the President: JAMES MONROE, Secretary of State.

[From Annals of Congress, Twelfth Congress, part 2, 2223.]



Whereas the Congress of the United States, by virtue of the constituted authority vested in them, have declared by their act bearing date the 18th day of the present month that war exists between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the dependencies thereof and the United States of America and their Territories:

Now, therefore, I, James Madison, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the same to all whom it may concern; and I do specially enjoin on all persons holding offices, civil or military, under the authority of the United States that they be vigilant and zealous in discharging the duties respectively incident thereto; and I do moreover exhort all the good people of the United States, 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 efficacy of the laws, and in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted authorities for obtaining a speedy, a just, and an honorable peace.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to these presents.


Done at the city of Washington, the 19th day of June, 1812, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-sixth.


By the President: JAMES MONROE, Secretary of State.

[From Annals of Congress, Twelfth Congress, part 2, 2224.]



Whereas the Congress of the United States, by a joint resolution of the two Houses, have signified a request that a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of public humiliation and prayer; and

Whereas such a recommendation will enable the several religious denominations and societies so disposed to offer at one and the same time their common vows and adorations to Almighty God on the solemn occasion produced by the war in which He has been pleased to permit the injustice of a foreign power to involve these United States:

I do therefore recommend the third Thursday in August next as a convenient day to be set apart for the devout purposes of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of Mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness and His assistance in the great duties of repentance and amendment, and especially of offering fervent supplications that in the present season of calamity and war He would take the American people under His peculiar care and protection; that He would guide their public councils, animate their patriotism, and bestow His blessing on their arms; that He would inspire all nations with a love of justice and of concord and with a reverence for the unerring precept of our holy religion to do to others as they would require that others should do to them; and, finally, that, turning the hearts of our enemies from the violence and injustice which sway their councils against us, He would hasten a restoration of the blessings of peace.


Given at Washington, the 9th day of July, A.D. 1812.


By the President: JAMES MONROE, Secretary of State.

[From Niles's Weekly Register, vol. 3, p. 101.]



Whereas information has been received that a number of individuals who have deserted from the Army of the United States have become sensible of their offenses and are desirous of returning to their duty, a full pardon is hereby granted and proclaimed to each and all such individuals as shall within four months from the date hereof surrender themselves to the commanding officer of any military post within the United States or the Territories thereof.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.


Done at the city of Washington, the 8th day of October, A.D. 1812, and of the Independence of the United States the thirty-seventh.


By the President: JAMES MONROE, Secretary of State.


WASHINGTON, November 4, 1812.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

On our present meeting it is my first duty to invite your attention to the providential favors which our country has experienced in the unusual degree of health dispensed to its inhabitants, and in the rich abundance with which the earth has rewarded the labors bestowed on it. In the successful cultivation of other branches of industry, and in the progress of general improvement favorable to the national prosperity, there is just occasion also for our mutual congratulations and thankfulness.

With these blessings are necessarily mingled the pressures and vicissitudes incident to the state of war into which the United States have been forced by the perseverance of a foreign power in its system of injustice and aggression.

Previous to its declaration it was deemed proper, as a measure of precaution and forecast, that a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan Territory with a general view to its security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain cooperating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employed against other parts. Brigadier-General Hull was charged with this provisional service, having under his command a body of troops composed of regulars and of volunteers from the State of Ohio. Having reached his destination after his knowledge of the war, and possessing discretionary authority to act offensively, he passed into the neighboring territory of the enemy with a prospect of easy and victorious progress. The expedition, nevertheless, terminated unfortunately, not only in a retreat to the town and fort of Detroit, but in the surrender of both and of the gallant corps commanded by that officer. The causes of this painful reverse will be investigated by a military tribunal.

A distinguishing feature in the operations which preceded and followed this adverse event is the use made by the enemy of the merciless savages under their influence. Whilst the benevolent policy of the United States invariably recommended peace and promoted civilization among that wretched portion of the human race, and was making exertions to dissuade them from taking either side in the war, the enemy has not scrupled to call to his aid their ruthless ferocity, armed with the horrors of those instruments of carnage and torture which are known to spare neither age nor sex. In this outrage against the laws of honorable war and against the feelings sacred to humanity the British commanders can not resort to a plea of retaliation, for it is committed in the face of our example. They can not mitigate it by calling it a self-defense against men in arms, for it embraces the most shocking butcheries of defenseless families. Nor can it be pretended that they are not answerable for the atrocities perpetrated, since the savages are employed with a knowledge, and even with menaces, that their fury could not be controlled. Such is the spectacle which the deputed authorities of a nation boasting its religion and morality have not been restrained from presenting to an enlightened age.

The misfortune at Detroit was not, however, without a consoling effect. It was followed by signal proofs that the national spirit rises according to the pressure on it. The loss of an important post and of the brave men surrendered with it inspired everywhere new ardor and determination. In the States and districts least remote it was no sooner known than every citizen was ready to fly with his arms at once to protect his brethren against the bloodthirsty savages let loose by the enemy on an extensive frontier, and to convert a partial calamity into a source of invigorated efforts. This patriotic zeal, which it was necessary rather to limit than excite, has embodied an ample force from the States of Kentucky and Ohio and from parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia. It is placed, with the addition of a few regulars, under the command of Brigadier-General Harrison, who possesses the entire confidence of his fellow-soldiers, among whom are citizens, some of them volunteers in the ranks, not less distinguished by their political stations than by their personal merits. The greater portion of this force is proceeding on its destination toward the Michigan Territory, having succeeded in relieving an important frontier post, and in several incidental operations against hostile tribes of savages, rendered indispensable by the subserviency into which they had been seduced by the enemy—a seduction the more cruel as it could not fail to impose a necessity of precautionary severities against those who yielded to it.

At a recent date an attack was made on a post of the enemy near Niagara by a detachment of the regular and other forces under the command of Major-General Van Rensselaer, of the militia of the State of New York. The attack, it appears, was ordered in compliance with the ardor of the troops, who executed it with distinguished gallantry, and were for a time victorious; but not receiving the expected support, they were compelled to yield to reenforcements of British regulars and savages. Our loss has been considerable, and is deeply to be lamented. That of the enemy, less ascertained, will be the more felt, as it includes among the killed the commanding general, who was also the governor of the Province, and was sustained by veteran troops from unexperienced soldiers, who must daily improve in the duties of the field.

Our expectation of gaining the command of the Lakes by the invasion of Canada from Detroit having been disappointed, measures were instantly taken to provide on them a naval force superior to that of the enemy. From the talents and activity of the officer charged with this object everything that can be done may be expected. Should the present season not admit of complete success, the progress made will insure for the next a naval ascendency where it is essential to our permanent peace with and control over the savages.

Among the incidents to the measures of the war I am constrained to advert to the refusal of the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut to furnish the required detachments of militia toward the defense of the maritime frontier. The refusal was founded on a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the Constitution relating to the militia. The correspondences which will be laid before you contain the requisite information on the subject. It is obvious that if the authority of the United States to call into service and command the militia for the public defense can be thus frustrated, even in a state of declared war and of course under apprehensions of invasion preceding war, they are not one nation for the purpose most of all requiring it, and that the public safety may have no other resource than in those large and permanent military establishments which are forbidden by the principles of our free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.

On the coasts and on the ocean the war has been as successful as circumstances inseparable from its early stages could promise. Our public ships and private cruisers, by their activity, and, where there was occasion, by their intrepidity, have made the enemy sensible of the difference between a reciprocity of captures and the long confinement of them to their side. Our trade, with little exception, has safely reached our ports, having been much favored in it by the course pursued by a squadron of our frigates under the command of Commodore Rodgers, and in the instance in which skill and bravery were more particularly tried with those of the enemy the American flag had an auspicious triumph. The frigate Constitution, commanded by Captain Hull, after a close and short engagement completely disabled and captured a British frigate, gaining for that officer and all on board a praise which can not be too liberally bestowed, not merely for the victory actually achieved, but for that prompt and cool exertion of commanding talents which, giving to courage its highest character, and to the force applied its full effect, proved that more could have been done in a contest requiring more.

Anxious to abridge the evils from which a state of war can not be exempt, I lost no time after it was declared in conveying to the British Government the terms on which its progress might be arrested, without awaiting the delays of a formal and final pacification, and our charge d'affaires at London was at the same time authorized to agree to an armistice founded upon them. These terms required that the orders in council should be repealed as they affected the United States, without a revival of blockades violating acknowledged rules, and that there should be an immediate discharge of American seamen from British ships, and a stop to impressment from American ships, with an understanding that an exclusion of the seamen of each nation from the ships of the other should be stipulated, and that the armistice should be improved into a definitive and comprehensive adjustment of depending controversies. Although a repeal of the orders susceptible of explanations meeting the views of this Government had taken place before this pacific advance was communicated to that of Great Britain, the advance was declined from an avowed repugnance to a suspension of the practice of impressments during the armistice, and without any intimation that the arrangement proposed with respect to seamen would be accepted. Whether the subsequent communications from this Government, affording an occasion for reconsidering the subject on the part of Great Britain, will be viewed in a more favorable light or received in a more accommodating spirit remains to be known. It would be unwise to relax our measures in any respect on a presumption of such a result.

The documents from the Department of State which relate to this subject will give a view also of the propositions for an armistice which have been received here, one of them from the authorities at Halifax and in Canada, the other from the British Government itself through Admiral Warren, and of the grounds on which neither of them could be accepted.

Our affairs with France retain the posture which they held at my last communications to you. Notwithstanding the authorized expectations of an early as well as favorable issue to the discussions on foot, these have been procrastinated to the latest date. The only intervening occurrence meriting attention is the promulgation of a French decree purporting to be a definitive repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees. This proceeding, although made the ground of the repeal of the British orders in council, is rendered by the time and manner of it liable to many objections.

The final communications from our special minister to Denmark afford further proofs of the good effects of his mission, and of the amicable disposition of the Danish Government. From Russia we have the satisfaction to receive assurances of continued friendship, and that it will not be affected by the rupture between the United States and Great Britain. Sweden also professes sentiments favorable to the subsisting harmony.

With the Barbary Powers, excepting that of Algiers, our affairs remain on the ordinary footing. The consul-general residing with that Regency has suddenly and without cause been banished, together with all the American citizens found there. Whether this was the transitory effect of capricious despotism or the first act of predetermined hostility is not ascertained. Precautions were taken by the consul on the latter supposition.

The Indian tribes not under foreign instigations remain at peace, and receive the civilizing attentions which have proved so beneficial to them.

With a view to that vigorous prosecution of the war to which our national faculties are adequate, the attention of Congress will be particularly drawn to the insufficiency of existing provisions for filling up the military establishment. Such is the happy condition of our country, arising from the facility of subsistence and the high wages for every species of occupation, that notwithstanding the augmented inducements provided at the last session, a partial success only has attended the recruiting service. The deficiency has been necessarily supplied during the campaign by other than regular troops, with all the inconveniences and expense incident to them. The remedy lies in establishing more favorably for the private soldier the proportion between his recompense and the term of his enlistment, and it is a subject which can not too soon or too seriously be taken into consideration.

The same insufficiency has been experienced in the provisions for volunteers made by an act of the last session. The recompense for the service required in this case is still less attractive than in the other, and although patriotism alone has sent into the field some valuable corps of that description, those alone who can afford the sacrifice can be reasonably expected to yield to that impulse.

It will merit consideration also whether as auxiliary to the security of our frontiers corps may not be advantageously organized with a restriction of their services to particular districts convenient to them, and whether the local and occasional services of mariners and others in the seaport towns under a similar organization would not be a provident addition to the means of their defense.

I recommend a provision for an increase of the general officers of the Army, the deficiency of which has been illustrated by the number and distance of separate commands which the course of the war and the advantage of the service have required.

And I can not press too strongly on the earliest attention of the Legislature the importance of the reorganization of the staff establishment with a view to render more distinct and definite the relations and responsibilities of its several departments. That there is room for improvements which will materially promote both economy and success in what appertains to the Army and the war is equally inculcated by the examples of other countries and by the experience of our own.

A revision of the militia laws for the purpose of rendering them more systematic and better adapting them to emergencies of the war is at this time particularly desirable.

Of the additional ships authorized to be fitted for service, two will be shortly ready to sail, a third is under repair, and delay will be avoided in the repair of the residue. Of the appropriations for the purchase of materials for shipbuilding, the greater part has been applied to that object and the purchase will be continued with the balance.

The enterprising spirit which has characterized our naval force and its success, both in restraining insults and depredations on our coasts and in reprisals on the enemy, will not fail to recommend an enlargement of it.

There being reason to believe that the act prohibiting the acceptance of British licenses is not a sufficient guard against the use of them, for purposes favorable to the interests and views of the enemy, further provisions on that subject are highly important. Nor is it less so that penal enactments should be provided for cases of corrupt and perfidious intercourse with the enemy, not amounting to treason nor yet embraced by any statutory provisions.

A considerable number of American vessels which were in England when the revocation of the orders in council took place were laden with British manufactures under an erroneous impression that the nonimportation act would immediately cease to operate, and have arrived in the United States. It did not appear proper to exercise on unforeseen cases of such magnitude the ordinary powers vested in the Treasury Department to mitigate forfeitures without previously affording to Congress an opportunity of making on the subject such provision as they may think proper. In their decision they will doubtless equally consult what is due to equitable considerations and to the public interest.

The receipts into the Treasury during the year ending on the 30th of September last have exceeded $16,500,000, which have been sufficient to defray all the demands on the Treasury to that day, including a necessary reimbursement of near three millions of the principal of the public debt. In these receipts is included a sum of near $5,850,000, received on account of the loans authorized by the acts of the last session; the whole sum actually obtained on loan amounts to $11,000,000, the residue of which, being receivable subsequent to the 30th of September last, will, together with the current revenue, enable us to defray all the expenses of this year.

The duties on the late unexpected importations of British manufactures will render the revenue of the ensuing year more productive than could have been anticipated.

The situation of our country, fellow-citizens, is not without its difficulties, though it abounds in animating considerations, of which the view here presented of our pecuniary resources is an example. With more than one nation we have serious and unsettled controversies, and with one, powerful in the means and habits of war, we are at war. The spirit and strength of the nation are nevertheless equal to the support of all its rights, and to carry it through all its trials. They can be met in that confidence. Above all, we have the inestimable consolation of knowing that the war in which we are actually engaged is a war neither of ambition nor of vainglory; that it is waged not in violation of the rights of others, but in the maintenance of our own; that it was preceded by a patience without example under wrongs accumulating without end, and that it was finally not declared until every hope of averting it was extinguished by the transfer of the British scepter into new hands clinging to former councils, and until declarations were reiterated to the last hour, through the British envoy here, that the hostile edicts against our commercial rights and our maritime independence would not be revoked; nay, that they could not be revoked without violating the obligations of Great Britain to other powers, as well as to her own interests. To have shrunk under such circumstances from manly resistance would have been a degradation blasting our best and proudest hopes; it would have struck us from the high rank where the virtuous struggles of our fathers had placed us, and have betrayed the magnificent legacy which we hold in trust for future generations. It would have acknowledged that on the element which forms three-fourths of the globe we inhabit, and where all independent nations have equal and common rights, the American people were not an independent people, but colonists and vassals. It was at this moment and with such an alternative that war was chosen. The nation felt the necessity of it, and called for it. The appeal was accordingly made, in a just cause, to the Just and All-powerful Being who holds in His hand the chain of events and the destiny of nations. It remains only that, faithful to ourselves, entangled in no connections with the views of other powers, and ever ready to accept peace from the hand of justice, we prosecute the war with united counsels and with the ample faculties of the nation until peace be so obtained and as the only means under the Divine blessing of speedily obtaining it.



NOVEMBER, 12, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

For the further information of Congress relative to the pacific advances made on the part of this Government to that of Great Britain, and the manner in which they have been met by the latter, I transmit the sequel of the communications on that subject received from the late charge d'affaires at London.


NOVEMBER 17, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I transmit to Congress copies of a letter from the consul general of the United States to Algiers, stating the circumstances preceding and attending his departure from that Regency.


WASHINGTON, December 11, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I transmit to Congress copies of a letter to the Secretary of the Navy from Captain Decatur, of the frigate United States, reporting his combat and capture of the British frigate Macedonian. Too much praise can not be bestowed on that officer and his companions on board for the consummate skill and conspicuous valor by which this trophy has been added to the naval arms of the United States.

I transmit also a letter from Captain Jones, who commanded the sloop of war Wasp, reporting his capture of the British sloop of war Frolic, after a close action, in which other brilliant titles will be seen to the public admiration and praise.

A nation feeling what it owes to itself and to its citizens could never abandon to arbitrary violence on the ocean a class of them which give such examples of capacity and courage in defending their rights on that element, examples which ought to impress on the enemy, however brave and powerful, preference of justice and peace to hostility against a country whose prosperous career may be accelerated but can not be prevented by the assaults made on it.


JANUARY 22, 1813.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I transmit, for the information of Congress, copies of a correspondence between John Mitchell, agent for American prisoners of war at Halifax, and the British admiral commanding at that station.

I transmit, for the like purpose, copies of a letter from Commodore Rodgers to the Secretary of the Navy,


FEBRUARY 22, 1813.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I lay before Congress a letter, with accompanying documents, from Captain Bainbridge, now commanding the United States frigate the Constitution, reporting his capture and destruction of the British frigate the Java. The circumstances and the issue of this combat afford another example of the professional skill and heroic spirit which prevail in our naval service. The signal display of both by Captain Bainbridge, his officers and crew, commands the highest praise.

This being a second instance in which the condition of the captured ship, by rendering it impossible to get her into port, has barred a contemplated reward of successful valor, I recommend to the consideration of Congress the equity and propriety of a general provision allowing in such cases, both past and future, a fair proportion of the value which would accrue to the captors on the safe arrival and sale of the prize.


FEBRUARY 24, 1813.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I lay before Congress copies of a proclamation of the British lieutenant-governor of the island of Bermuda, which has appeared under circumstances leaving no doubt of its authenticity. It recites a British order in council of the 26th of October last, providing for the supply of the British West Indies and other colonial possessions by a trade under special licenses, and is accompanied by a circular instruction to the colonial governors which confines licensed importations from ports of the United States to the ports of the Eastern States exclusively.

The Government of Great Britain had already introduced into her commerce during war a system which, at once violating the rights of other nations and resting on a mass of forgery and perjury unknown to other times, was making an unfortunate progress in undermining those principles of morality and religion which are the best foundation of national happiness.

The policy now proclaimed to the world introduces into her modes of warfare a system equally distinguished by the deformity of its features and the depravity of its character, having for its object to dissolve the ties of allegiance and the sentiments of loyalty in the adversary nation, and to seduce and separate its component parts the one from the other.

The general tendency of these demoralizing and disorganizing contrivances will be reprobated by the civilized and Christian world, and the insulting attempt on the virtue, the honor, the patriotism, and the fidelity of our brethren of the Eastern States will not fail to call forth all their indignation and resentment, and to attach more and more all the States to that happy Union and Constitution against which such insidious and malignant artifices are directed.

The better to guard, nevertheless, against the effect of individual cupidity and treachery and to turn the corrupt projects of the enemy against himself, I recommend to the consideration of Congress the expediency of an effectual prohibition of any trade whatever by citizens or inhabitants of the United States under special licenses, whether relating to persons or ports, and in aid thereof a prohibition of all exportations from the United States in foreign bottoms, few of which are actually employed, whilst multiplying counterfeits of their flags and papers are covering and encouraging the navigation of the enemy.


MARCH 3, 1813.

To the House of Representatives of the United States:

Conformably to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 27th of January last, I transmit "rolls of the persons having office or employment of a public nature under the United States,"



NOVEMBER 5, 1812.

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

The bill entitled "An act supplementary to the acts heretofore passed on the subject of an uniform rule of naturalization," which passed the two Houses at the last session of Congress, having appeared to me liable to abuse by aliens having no real purpose of effectuating a naturalization, and therefore not been signed, and having been presented at an hour too near the close of the session to be returned with objections for reconsideration, the bill failed to become a law. I also recommend that provision be now made in favor of aliens entitled to the contemplated benefit, under such regulations as will prevent advantage being taken of it for improper purposes.



About to add the solemnity of an oath to the obligations imposed by a second call to the station in which my country heretofore placed me, I find in the presence of this respectable assembly an opportunity of publicly repeating my profound sense of so distinguished a confidence and of the responsibility united with it. The impressions on me are strengthened by such an evidence that my faithful endeavors to discharge my arduous duties have been favorably estimated, and by a consideration of the momentous period at which the trust has been renewed. From the weight and magnitude now belonging to it I should be compelled to shrink if I had less reliance on the support of an enlightened and generous people, and felt less deeply a conviction that the war with a powerful nation, which forms so prominent a feature in our situation, is stamped with that justice which invites the smiles of Heaven on the means of conducting it to a successful termination.

May we not cherish this sentiment without presumption when we reflect on the characters by which this war is distinguished?

It was not declared on the part of the United States until it had been long made on them, in reality though not in name; until arguments and expostulations had been exhausted; until a positive declaration had been received that the wrongs provoking it would not be discontinued; nor until this last appeal could no longer be delayed without breaking down the spirit of the nation, destroying all confidence in itself and in its political institutions, and either perpetuating a state of disgraceful suffering or regaining by more costly sacrifices and more severe struggles our lost rank and respect among independent powers.

On the issue of the war are staked our national sovereignty on the high seas and the security of an important class of citizens, whose occupations give the proper value to those of every other class. Not to contend for such a stake is to surrender our equality with other powers on the element common to all and to violate the sacred title which every member of the society has to its protection. I need not call into view the unlawfulness of the practice by which our mariners are forced at the will of every cruising officer from their own vessels into foreign ones, nor paint the outrages inseparable from it. The proofs are in the records of each successive Administration of our Government, and the cruel sufferings of that portion of the American people have found their way to every bosom not dead to the sympathies of human nature.

As the war was just in its origin and necessary and noble in its objects, we can reflect with a proud satisfaction that in carrying it on no principle of justice or honor, no usage of civilized nations, no precept of courtesy or humanity, have been infringed, The war has been waged on our part with scrupulous regard to all these obligations, and in a spirit of liberality which was never surpassed.

How little has been the effect of this example on the conduct of the enemy!

They have retained as prisoners of war citizens of the United States not liable to be so considered under the usages of war.

They have refused to consider as prisoners of war, and threatened to punish as traitors and deserters, persons emigrating without restraint to the United States, incorporated by naturalization into our political family, and fighting under the authority of their adopted country in open and honorable war for the maintenance of its rights and safety. Such is the avowed purpose of a Government which is in the practice of naturalizing by thousands citizens of other countries, and not only of permitting but compelling them to fight its battles against their native country.

They have not, it is true, taken into their own hands the hatchet and the knife, devoted to indiscriminate massacre, but they have let loose the savages armed with these cruel instruments; have allured them into their service, and carried them to battle by their sides, eager to glut their savage thirst with the blood of the vanquished and to finish the work of torture and death on maimed and defenseless captives. And, what was never before seen, British commanders have extorted victory over the unconquerable valor of our troops by presenting to the sympathy of their chief captives awaiting massacre from their savage associates. And now we find them, in further contempt of the modes of honorable warfare, supplying the place of a conquering force by attempts to disorganize our political society, to dismember our confederated Republic. Happily, like others, these will recoil on the authors; but they mark the degenerate counsels from which they emanate, and if they did not belong to a series of unexampled inconsistencies might excite the greater wonder as proceeding from a Government which founded the very war in which it has been so long engaged on a charge against the disorganizing and insurrectional policy of its adversary.

To render the justice of the war on our part the more conspicuous, the reluctance to commence it was followed by the earliest and strongest manifestations of a disposition to arrest its progress. The sword was scarcely out of the scabbard before the enemy was apprised of the reasonable terms on which it would be resheathed. Still more precise advances were repeated, and have been received in a spirit forbidding every reliance not placed on the military resources of the nation.

These resources are amply sufficient to bring the war to an honorable issue. Our nation is in number more than half that of the British Isles. It is composed of a brave, a free, a virtuous, and an intelligent people. Our country abounds in the necessaries, the arts, and the comforts of life. A general prosperity is visible in the public countenance. The means employed by the British cabinet to undermine it have recoiled on themselves; have given to our national faculties a more rapid development, and, draining or diverting the precious metals from British circulation and British vaults, have poured them into those of the United States. It is a propitious consideration that an unavoidable war should have found this seasonable facility for the contributions required to support it. When the public voice called for war, all knew, and still know, that without them it could not be carried on through the period which it might last, and the patriotism, the good sense, and the manly spirit of our fellow-citizens are pledges for the cheerfulness with which they will bear each his share of the common burden. To render the war short and its success sure, animated and systematic exertions alone are necessary, and the success of our arms now may long preserve our country from the necessity of another resort to them. Already have the gallant exploits of our naval heroes proved to the world our inherent capacity to maintain our rights on one element. If the reputation of our arms has been thrown under clouds on the other, presaging flashes of heroic enterprise assure us that nothing is wanting to correspondent triumphs there also but die discipline and habits which are in daily progress.

MARCH 4, 1813.


WASHINGTON, May 25, 1813.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

At an early day after the close of the last session of Congress an offer was formally communicated from His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Russia of his mediation, as the common friend of the United States and Great Britain, for the purpose of facilitating a peace between them. The high character of the Emperor Alexander being a satisfactory pledge for the sincerity and impartiality of his offer, it was immediately accepted, and as a further proof of the disposition on the part of the United States, to meet their adversary in honorable experiments for terminating the war it was determined to avoid intermediate delays incident to the distance of the parties by a definitive provision for the contemplated negotiation. Three of our eminent citizens were accordingly commissioned with the requisite powers to conclude a treaty of peace with persons clothed with like powers on the part of Great Britain. They are authorized also to enter into such conventional regulations of the commerce between the two countries as may be mutually advantageous. The two envoys who, were in the United States at the time of their appointment have proceeded to join their colleague already at St. Petersburg.

The envoys have received another commission authorizing them to conclude with Russia a treaty of commerce with a view to strengthen the amicable relations and improve the beneficial intercourse between the two countries.

The issue of this friendly interposition of the Russian Emperor and this pacific manifestation on the part of the United States time only can decide. That the sentiments of Great Britain toward that Sovereign will have produced an acceptance of his offered mediation must be presumed. That no adequate motives exist to prefer a continuance of war with the United States to the terms on which they are willing to close it is certain. The British cabinet also must be sensible that, with respect to the important question of impressment, on which the war so essentially turns, a search for or seizure of British persons or property on board neutral vessels on the high seas is not a belligerent right derived from the law of nations, and it is obvious that no visit or search or use of force for any purpose on board the vessels of one independent power on the high seas can in war or peace be sanctioned by the laws or authority of another power. It is equally obvious that, for the purpose of preserving to each State its seafaring members, by excluding them from the vessels of the other, the mode heretofore proposed by the United States and now enacted by them as an article of municipal policy, can not for a moment be compared with the mode practiced by Great Britain without a conviction of its title to preference, inasmuch as the latter leaves the discrimination between the mariners of the two nations to officers exposed by unavoidable bias as well as by a defect of evidence to a wrong decision, under circumstances precluding for the most part the enforcement of controlling penalties, and where a wrong decision, besides the irreparable violation of the sacred rights of persons, might frustrate the plans and profits of entire voyages; whereas the mode assumed by the United States guards with studied fairness and efficacy against errors in such cases and avoids the effect of casual errors on the safety of navigation and the success of mercantile expeditions.

If the reasonableness of expectations drawn from these considerations could guarantee their fulfillment a just peace would not be distant. But it becomes the wisdom of the National Legislature to keep in mind the true policy, or rather the indispensable obligation, of adapting its measures to the supposition that the only course to that happy event is in the vigorous employment of the resources of war. And painful as the reflection is, this duty is particularly enforced by the spirit and manner in which the war continues to be waged by the enemy, who, uninfluenced by the unvaried examples of humanity set them, are adding to the savage fury of it on one frontier a system of plunder and conflagration on the other, equally forbidden by respect for national character and by the established rules of civilized warfare.

As an encouragement to persevering and invigorated exertions to bring the contest to a happy result, I have the satisfaction of being able to appeal to the auspicious progress of our arms both by land and on the water.

In continuation of the brilliant achievements of our infant Navy, a signal triumph has been gained by Captain Lawrence and his companions in the Hornet sloop of war, which destroyed a British sloop of war with a celerity so unexampled and with a slaughter of the enemy so disproportionate to the loss in the Hornet as to claim for the conquerors the highest praise and the full recompense provided by Congress in preceding cases. Our public ships of war in general, as well as the private armed vessels, have continued also their activity and success against the commerce of the enemy, and by their vigilance and address have greatly frustrated the efforts of the hostile squadrons distributed along our coasts to intercept them in returning into port and resuming their cruises.

The augmentation of our naval force, as authorized at the last session of Congress, is in progress. On the Lakes our superiority is near at hand where it is not already established.

The events of the campaign, so far as they are known to us, furnish matter of congratulation, and show that under a wise organization and efficient direction the Army is destined to a glory not less brilliant than that which already encircles the Navy. The attack and capture of York is in that quarter a presage of future and greater victories, while on the western frontier the issue of the late siege of Fort Meigs leaves us nothing to regret but a single act of inconsiderate valor.

The provisions last made for filling the ranks and enlarging the staff of the Army have had the best effects. It will be for the consideration of Congress whether other provisions depending on their authority may not still further improve the military establishment and the means of defense.

The sudden death of the distinguished citizen who represented the United States in France, without any special arrangements by him for such a contingency, has left us without the expected sequel to his last communications, nor has the French Government taken any measures for bringing the depending negotiations to a conclusion through its representative in the United States. This failure adds to delays before so unreasonably spun out. A successor to our deceased minister has been appointed and is ready to proceed on his mission. The course which he will pursue in fulfilling it is that prescribed by a steady regard to the true interests of the United States, which equally avoids an abandonment of their just demands and a connection of their fortunes with the systems of other powers.

The receipts in the Treasury from the 1st of October to the 31st day of March last, including the sums received on account of Treasury notes and of the loans authorized by the acts of the last and the preceding sessions of Congress, have amounted to $15,412,000. The expenditures during the same period amounted to $15,920,000, and left in the Treasury on the 1st of April the sum of $1,857,000. The loan of $16,000,000, authorized by the act of the 8th of February last, has been contracted for. Of that sum more than $1,000,000 had been paid into the Treasury prior to the 1st of April, and formed a part of the receipts as above stated. The remainder of that loan, amounting to near $15,000,000, with the sum of $5,000,000 authorized to be issued in Treasury notes, and the estimated receipts from the customs and the sales of public lands, amounting to $9,300,000, and making, in the whole, $29,300,000, to be received during the last nine months of the present year, will be necessary to meet the expenditures already authorized and the engagements contracted in relation to the public debt. These engagements amount during that period to $10,500,000, which, with near one million for the civil, miscellaneous, and diplomatic expenses, both foreign and domestic, and $17,800,000 for the military and naval expenditures, including the ships of war building and to be built, will leave a sum in the Treasury at the end of the present year equal to that on the 1st of April last. A part of this sum may be considered as a resource for defraying any extraordinary expenses already authorized by law beyond the sums above estimated, and a further resource for any emergency may be found in the sum of $1,000,000, the loan of which to the United States has been authorized by the State of Pennsylvania, but which has not yet been brought into effect.

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