How Governor Strong Responded to British Conditions for Peace

On October 17, 1814, the day the Massachusetts legislature invited New England states to a convention, newspapers published British conditions for peace.  They were issued August 20 in Ghent.  Governor Strong wrote to Timothy Pickering that the terms seemed reasonable.  They included cession of Massachusetts territories then in British hands.  That included two counties in Maine and the island of Nantucket.  The demands also included giving up fishing rights granted with American independence.  The British wanted a road between St. John, New Brunswick and Quebec.  The boundary between Canada and the United States needed to be redrawn allowing the British access to the Mississippi.  Another demand, more extravagant, was for an Indian state. [1]

Strong polled his associates on the concessions.  Those in Essex anticipated losing the fisheries, but were ready to give up territories in Maine to keep them.  [2]

Pickering agreed with Strong.  Federalists in New England agreed with Strong and Pickering.  They were unhappy with American negotiators in Ghent who rejected British offers.[3]

Elections in November proved to be a referendum on two issues.  New Englanders were invited to weigh in on British conditions for peace.  They were also asked whether their state should take part in the Hartford Convention.  The results supported the Federalists.  Democratic-Republican candidates suffered defeat.

Federalists were ready for peace.  They were also prepared to create a new “Federal compact” composed of either the entire union, of just a portion of it.[4]

Next:  Why Peace Was So Important to New Englanders

Look for it Monday, December 1, 2014

 

[1] Henry Adams, History of the United States of America during the Administrations of James Madison (New York:  Literary Classics of the United States, 1986) 1108-9; Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, The Growth of the American Republic, Volume I (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1962) 439.

[2] Adams, History of the United States…Administrations of James Madison, 1108.

[3] Adams, History of the United States…Administrations of James Madison, 1109.

[4] Adams, History of the United States…Administrations of James Madison, 1109.

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How President Madison Responded to New England’s Threat of Secession

To recap: On October 17, 1814 the legislature in Massachusetts invited New England states to a convention in Hartford on December 15.  They responded.  Connecticut named seven delegates.  Rhode Island appointed four delegates.   Democratic-Republicans blocked attempts to appoint delegates in New Hampshire.  Vermont voted with unanimity to turn down the invitation.[1]  Eventually two Federalist counties from New Hampshire sent two delegates, and a Federalist county in Vermont sent one.

Elections in New England followed that autumn.  During the previous term, in 1812, New England states sent eleven Democratic-Republicans to Congress, and thirty Federalists.  In 1814, New Englanders were clear.  They voted for thirty-nine Federalist Congressmen and only two Democratic-Republicans.  As Henry Adams reported, “President Madison might safely assume that no man voted for Federalist Congressmen in November, 1814, unless he favored the project of a New England Convention.”[2]

President Madison was known for his even-tempered responses to difficulties.  The defeat of American forces at Bladensburg and his flight from the White House, before British troops invaded Washington had taken their toll.  A visitor to Madison on October 14 reported:

“I called on the President.  He looks miserably shattered and woe-be-gone.  In short, he looked heart-broken.  His mind is full of New England sedition…I denied the probability…that the yeomanry of the North could be induced to place themselves under the power and protection of England…[he] convinced me that his heart and mind were painfully full of the subject.”[3]

                                                                             William Wirt

Next:  How Governor Strong Responded to British Conditions for Peace

Look for it Monday, November 3

 

[1] Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison (New York:  Literary Classics of the United States, Inc, 1986) 1068.

[2] Adams, History of the United States…James Madison, 1068.

[3] Adams, History of the United States…James Madison, 1070.

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Governor Caleb Strong’s Secret Mission

In the weeks before the Hartford Convention, George Cabot and Harrison Gray Otis did not know that Governor Caleb Strong sent an emissary to Halifax, Nova Scotia.  In November, 1814, his representative approached General Sir John Sherbrooke.  Governor Strong wanted protection in case he came into direct conflict with President Madison.  On November 20 Sherbrooke wrote to the Colonial Secretary hoping the British could gain from the dissolution of the United States.  The Secretary, Lord Bathurst, replied from London on December 13, 1814.  He expected that Madison would sign the peace treaty, but if the war continued, he gave Sherbrooke permission to sign a separate peace treaty with New England and offer the region logistical support—but not troops.[1]

Next:  How Madison Reacted To Talk of Secession

 

[1] Samuel Eliot Morison, “Our Most Unpopular War,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series V. 80 (1968) 48, Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812:  American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies, (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 2010) 415.

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What John Lowell Hoped the Hartford Convention Would Accomplish

Called “Crazy Jack” by his Democratic-Republican opponents, John Lowell had a plan.  In the months leading to the Hartford Convention, December 15, 1814, many thought the British would conquer New Orleans and occupy it indefinitely.  (Andrew Jackson did not win the Battle of New Orleans until January 8, 1815.)

Lowell thought the Harford Convention needed to re-write the Constitution.  The purpose of the new constitution would be to protect New England’s commercial and maritime interests.  He proposed presenting the new constitution to the original thirteen states.  Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory breached the original compact between the states.   The rewritten constitution was to be used as an ultimatum.  The separation of the West needed to occur so that the original balance of power between the thirteen states could be restored.[1]

New England’s Federalist press endorsed the idea wholeheartedly.  One newspaper, the Centinel suggested that New England should make peace separately with Britain, and then invite other states to adhere.  A new convention from states in the North would be called, inviting only Southern states on the Atlantic seaboard to join.[2]

Next: Governor Strong’s Secret Mission

 

[1]Samuel Eliot Morison,”Our Most Unpopular War,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, V. 80, (1968) 50.

[2] Morison, “Our Most Unpopular War,” 51.

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What Timothy Pickering Hoped the Hartford Convention Would Accomplish

In Washington, November 28, 1814 Timothy Pickering wrote a letter to John Lowell, Jr.  After touching upon the notion he formerly held that “the Western States go off, leaving the ‘good old thirteen States…to themselves’ ”  Pickering wrote of the need to amend the Constitution, after New England had decided on how to defend itself.

He proposed twelve changes:[1]

  1. “Abolish negro representation,” the detested Three-Fifths Clause
  2. Prohibit interruption of trade for any reason without agreement by the nine states on the Atlantic seaboard
  3. Limit the presidency to one term
  4. Prohibit election of a new president from the same state as the previous president
  5. Restore the original method of presidential and vice-presidential elections
  6. Change the method of appointments to military and civil offices to prevent bribery and corruption
  7. Make attainment of citizenship more  difficult and exclude anyone but natives from Congress
  8. Limit the number of representatives in the House, despite any increase in population
  9. “Require the vote of two-thirds or three-fourths of each House of Congress” when declaring war
  10.  Prohibit the use of “usurious loans” for the waging of war
  11.  Question if the states west of the Mississippi might form a new confederacy
  12.  Revise the wording “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises with the wording “but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States.”  He noted that collection of taxes was often considered a separate power from paying debts and providing for defense and welfare.  He considered that providing for general welfare ought to be considered in conjunction with the expenditure of taxes, duties, imposts and excises.

Next:  What John Lowell Hoped the Hartford Convention Would Accomplish

 

[1] Timothy Pickering to John Lowell, Jr. 28 November, 1814, Henry Adams (ed.)  Documents relating to New-England Federalism 1800-1815, (Boston:  Little, Brown, and Company, 1877) 407-9.

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Who Was Absent From the Convention

Timothy Pickering and John Lowell were absent from the convention.  The convention’s delegates were selected by state legislatures.  Timothy Pickering represented Massachusetts nationally in the House of Representatives.  In Washington he was noted for his obstructionism of the war with Britain.

John Lowell, Jr. was a political writer who promoted Federalist ideals.  He was the son of Judge John Lowell.  Wealthy and philanthropic, he founded the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Athenaeum.  He is best remembered for his pamphlet “Mr. Madison’s War; a Dispassionate Inquiry into the Reasons alleged by Madison for declaring an Offensive and Ruinous War against Great Britain” published in 1812.  He earned the nicknames “Crazy Jack,” or “The Boston Rebel,” from Democratic-Republicans for his attacks on Madison and the war.[1]   He was not part of the Massachusetts legislature, where the impetus for the Hartford Convention originated.  He confessed to Timothy Pickering  “I gave great offence during the sitting of our legislature by openly opposing the calling a convention.”  He was concerned the convention would not go far enough.[2]

 

[1] Samuel Eliot Morison, ”Our Most Unpopular War,” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, V. 80. (1968) 48-9.

[2]John Lowell  to Timothy Pickering,  3 December 1814, Henry Adams (ed.) Documents relating to New-England Federalism 1800-1815, (Boston:  Little, Brown and Company, 1877) 413.

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How Other New England States Replied to Invitations to a Convention

Just three New England states appointed delegates to the proposed convention.

Massachusetts led the way with twelve delegates:  George Cabot, William Prescott, Harrison Gray Otis, Timothy Bigelow, Nathan Dane, George Bliss, Joshua Thomas, Hodijah Baylies, Daniel Waldo, Joseph Lyman, Samuel S. Wilde and Stephen Longfellow.[1]

Connecticut’s legislature sent seven delegates:  Chauncey Goodrich, James Hillhouse, John Treadwell, Zepheniah Swift, Nathaniel Smith, Calvin Goddard, and Roger M. Sherman.[2]

The legislature of Rhode Island sent three delegates:  Daniel Lyman, Benjamin Hazard and Edward Manton.[3]

Vermont was under siege from the British.    The Federalist legislative caucus, with the advice of Governor Gilman, did not send delegates[4]

In New Hampshire, the legislature was not in session.  Democratic-Republicans controlled the governor’s council, and even Federalists, such as Daniel Webster, did not support the convention.  At first, New Hampshire did not send delegates. Later, two counties in New Hampshire with Federalist majorities held county conventions to send delegates to Hartford, Benjamin West and Miles Olcutt.[5]

On November 9, 1814 the Boston Centinel reported the legislatures of Rhode Island and Connecticut had accepted the invitation to send delegates to the convention.  Referring to the original federal edifice, paraded in Philadelphia after the ratification of the Constitution, the Centinel published an illustration of a new federal edifice with three columns.  On December 9, 1814 a wit, writing for Yankee, a Democratic-Republican newspaper, said the three pillars resembled a snuff bottle.  Democratic-Republicans then disparaged the meeting in Hartford as the “Snuff Bottle Convention.”[6]

Who Was Absent From the Convention

 

[1] [Theodore Lyman] Short Account of the Hartford Convention Taken from Official Documents and Addressed to the Fair Minded and Well Disposed to which is Added An Attested Copy of the Secret Journal of  that Body (Boston: O. Everett, 1813) 22.

[2] [Lyman] Short Account, 22.

[3] [Lyman] Short Account, 22.

[4] James M. Banner, Jr.  To the Hartford Convention:  The Federalists and the Origins of Party Politics in Massachusetts 1789-1815 (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1970) 328.

[5] [Lyman] Short Account, 22; Banner, To the Hartford Convention,328-9.

[6] Samuel Eliot Morison, “Our Most Unpopular War” Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, V. 80 (1968) 51.

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What John Adams Thought About Cabot and the Convention

 

Democratic-Republicans feared the Hartford Convention would lead to a confederation in New England.  So did John Adams.[1]

A twenty-three year old Federalist visited Adams, then eighty years old.  He wanted letters of introduction to Jefferson and other Virginians.  John Adams differed from his fellow Federalists.  He advocated war with Britain.  The young Federalist related:[2]

“[Adams] was dressed in a single-breasted dark-green coat, buttoned tightly by very large white metal buttons over his somewhat rotund person.  As he grew more and more excited in his discourse he impatiently endeavored to thrust his hand into the breast of his coat.  The buttons did not yield readily; at last he forced his hand in, saying, as he did so, in a very loud voice and most excited manner:  ‘Thank God! Thank God! George Cabot’s close-buttoned ambition has broke out at last:  he wants to be President of New England, sir!’”[3]

In Virginia, the young Federalist visited Thomas Jefferson.   Jefferson was certain the British would conquer New Orleans and occupy it indefinitely.[4]

Next:  How Other New England States Replied to Invitations to a Convention

 

[1] Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison, (New York:  Literary Classics of the United States, 1986) 1121.

[2] Adams, History…James Madison, 1121.

3 George Ticknor’s anecdote from the Life of Ticknor, quoted in Adams, History…James Madison, 1121-2.

[4] Adams, History…James Madison, 1122.

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Why Timothy Pickering Had His Doubts

After years promoting a convention of New England states, Timothy Pickering was in favor of it. George Cabot and Harrison Gray Otis, two moderates, headed the delegation from Massachusetts.  In a confidential letter to John Lowell, Pickering began by praising George Cabot.  He wrote:

“His information is extensive; his experience and observation, invaluable.  I do not know who has more political sagacity, a sounder judgment, or more dignity of character with unspotted integrity; and perhaps no man’s advice would go further to save a nation that was in his view salvable.”[1]

But then, Pickering had his doubts.  He noted that Cabot was “pressed into this situation, reluctantly consenting to take it.” [2]

“But does he not despair of the Commonwealth?  He considers the evil—the radical evil—to be inherent in the government itself, in democracy, and therefore incurable.  Will he, then, think any plan which the wisdom of the Convention may devise worth an effort of his mind? … He once said to me… ‘Why can’t you and I let the world ruin itself its own way?’…  In this wicked world, it is the duty of every good man, though he cannot restore it to innocence, to strive to prevent its growing worse.”[3]

Next:  What John Adams Said About Cabot and the Convention

 

 

[1]Timothy Pickering to John Lowell, 7 November, 1814, Henry Adams (ed.) Documents relating to New-England Federalism. 1800-1815, (Boston:  Little, Brown, and Company, 1877)406.

2 Pickering to Lowell, 406.

[3] Pickering to Lowell, 406.

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What the Committee Reported

Harrison Gray Otis reported for his committee:

The state of the national Treasury…requires an augmentation of existing taxes; and if in addition to these the people of Massachusetts, deprived of their commerce and harassed by a formidable enemy, are compelled to provide for the indispensable duty of self-defence, it must soon become impossible for them to sustain this burden…This people are not ready for conquest or submission; but being ready and determined to defend themselves, they have the greatest need of those resources derivable from themselves which the national government has hitherto thought proper to employ elsewhere.”[1]

                                                                   Harrison Gray Otis

The United States had not lived up to its constitutional duty to defend New England.  Rather than proposing a convention by a single state, Otis and his committee advised that states in New England should be invited to a joint convention.[2]

The convention would have several objectives.  The first was to provide defense for New England.  The second was to lay the groundwork for radical reform followed by a nation-wide convention of the states. [3]

The committee also advised enlisting a Massachusetts army of ten thousand troops, a million dollar loan, and a meeting with delegates from other New England states to devise methods for defense of New England.[4]

The Massachusetts legislature selected twelve delegates headed by moderate Federalists George Cabot and Harrison Gray Otis.  They would invite other states in New England to take part in a convention scheduled for December 15, 1814.

The need to defend New England finally galvanized moderate Federalists to organize a convention that radicals such as Timothy Pickering had long proposed.

Why Timothy Pickering Had His Doubts

Look for it Monday, August 18

 

[1] Senate Report of October 18, 1814, quoted in Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison (New York:  Literary Classics of the United States) 1066.

[2] Senate Report, quoted in Adams,  History…Administrations of James Madison, 1066.

[3] Senate Report, quoted in Adams,  History…Administrations of James Madison, 1067.

[4] Senate Report, quoted in Adams,  History…Administrations of James Madison, 1067.

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