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warlike measures of a decisive character. He still hoped that war might be avoided, either by negotiation, or a continuance of restrictive measures on commerce with Great Britain. But he was soon made to understand that a more decided and energetic action on the part of the national government, was determined on, by the ardent democrats whose influence now predominated in Congress. The first presidential term of Mr. Madison was drawing to a close, and the nomination of candidates for president and vice-president, to be supported by the democratic party at the approaching election, was to be made, by a caucus of members of the Congress then in session. The leading republicans of the state of New York who were dissatisfied with Mr. Madison's course, had it then in contemplation to nominate for the presidency, De Witt Clinton, who was then lieutenant-governor of that state, mayor of the city of New York, and high in the confidence of the party. His pretensions were sustained by Gideon Granger, the postmaster-general, and other influential democrats. In this state of things, Mr. Madison was waited upon by several of the leading republican members of Congress, and informed, in substance, that war with England was now resolved upon by the democratic party, the supporters of his administration; that the people would no longer consent to a dilatory and inefficient course, on the part of the national government; that unless a declaration of war took place previous to the presidential election, the success of the democratic party might be endangered, and the government thrown into the hands of the federalists; that unless Mr. Madison consented to act with his friends, and accede to a declaration of war with Great Britain, neither his nomination nor his re-election to the presidency could be relied on.* Thus situated, Mr. Madison concluded to waive his own objections to the course determined on by his political friends, and to do all he could for the prosecution of a war for which he had no taste; and he pretended to no knowledge of war as a science or profession.
The president did not sustain himself with counsellors adapted to the occasion. His cabinet consisted, at this time, of James Monroe, secretary of state, who succeeded Robert Smith in November, 1811; Albert Gallatin, secretary of the treasury; William Eustis, secretary of war; Paul Hamilton, secretary of the navy; and William Pinkney, attorney-general, who succeeded Cæsar A. Rodney in that office in December, 1811. Of these cabinet officers, Mr. Monroe was the only one of military taste or experience, and he had only performed a limited service in the army of the revolution; Mr. Gallatin was avowedly opposed to the declaration of war; Mr. Eustis, the secretary of war, knew but little of military affairs; and the secretary of the navy had no knowledge of naval affairs to qualify him for his position. The attorney-general, Pinkney, considered the
* This information was derived, by a friend of the writer, from James Fisk, a democratic member of Congress in 1812, and one of a committee who waited on Mr. Madison.
¿eciaration of war premature while government was so entirely unprepared. The postmaster-general, Gideon Granger, not then a cabinet officer, but at the head of a department important for military operations, was disaffected to the president, in party sympathy with senators and others professing, perhaps entertaining, inclinations for the war, but denying that with Madison as leader, it ever could prosper.*
On the 9th of March, 1812, Mr. Madison transmitted to Congress a special message, with certain documents which had been communicated to the executive by John Henry, a native of Ireland, who alleged that he had been employed as a secret agent of the British government, in the New England states, "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 connexion with Great Britain."
John Henry was born a subject of Great Britain. For a while he had resided in this country, and held a commission in the army of the United States. Having left the service, by his own account he resided some time in Vermont, and afterward returned to his natural allegiance, and became a resident of Canada. There, in the beginning of the year 1809, if his own account is to be credited, he was employed by Sir James H. Craig, governor of Canada, to repair to Boston, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the federal politicians of the New England states, particularly those of Massachusetts, were desirous of withdrawing from the Union, and forming a close connexion with Great Britain. Accordingly, in the month of February of that year, he commenced his journey, and after spending some time in Vermont, and passing through New Hampshire, he reached Boston early in the month of March. Having taken his station in the New England capital, he opened his correspondence with his employers in Canada. His first letter is dated March 5, 1809, in which he remarked that it had not thus far appeared necessary for him to discover to any person the object of his visit; nor was it probable that he should find it necessary, for the purpose of gaining a knowledge of the arrangements of the federal party, to avow himself as a regular authorized agent of the British government, even to those who would keep the secret-that he had sufficient means of information to enable him to judge of the proper time for offering the co-operation of Great Britain, and opening a correspondence between the governor-general of British America and disaffected individuals in Massachusetts. Accordingly, he remained unknown at Boston till the 25th of May following, when he wrote to his principals at Quebec, that it would be unnecessary for him, in the existing state of things, and unavailing also, to attempt to carry into effect the original purposes of his mission. He was soon recalled from that mission, and returned to Canada; and in 1811 was in England, peti
• Ingersoll's History of the War.
tioning the British government for compensation for his services above mentioned. For some cause or other, the ministry declined paying him; but referred him to the governor of Canada, on the ground that they had not discovered any wish on the part of Sir James Craig that Henry's claims for compensation should be referred to the mother-country, and because no allusion was made to any kind of arrangement or agreement that had been made by that officer with him.*
Mr. Sullivan remarks, that "there are many persons who remember John Henry, and that he was in Boston in 1809. But no one ever heard
it suggested that he was a British agent. He was said to be engaged in some sort of land speculation; but very few knew or cared how he was employed. He was a handsome, well-behaved man, and was received in some respectable families."
The British minister at Washington, in a letter to Mr. Monroe, the secretary of state, dated the 11th of March, 1812, disclaimed most solemnly, on his own part, having had any knowledge whatever of the existence of such a mission, or of such transactions as the communication of Mr. Henry referred to, and expressed his conviction that, from what he knew of those branches of his majesty's government with which he had intercourse, no countenance whatever was given by them to any schemes hostile to the internal tranquillity of the United States.
The committee on foreign relations, in Congress, to whom the message and documents were referred, in their report, remarked that, "The transaction disclosed by the president's message, presents to the mind of the committee conclusive evidence, that the British government, at a period of peace, and during the most friendly professions, have been deliberately and perfidiously pursuing measures to divide these states, and to involve our citizens in all the guilt of treason, and the horrors of a civil war."
Henry, in this transaction, was accompanied by a foreign adventurer, who called his name Crillon, and claimed the title of count. He went through a long examination before the committee of foreign relations, but his testimony was considered unimportant.
It appears that Henry, after being unsuccessful in England, in urging his claims upon that government, sailed for the United States, and arrived at Boston in December, 1811. He visited Governor Gerry, of Massachusetts, who gave him a letter of introduction to Mr. Madison.
In February, 1812, he made his disclosures to the president, for which he received fifty thousand dollars, which were drawn from the treasury, on account of the secret service fund, in the name of John Graham, chief clerk in the office of secretary of state. Henry left Washington on the 11th of February, and on the 9th of March he sailed for France, in the United States sloop-of-war Wasp.
It is a curious fact, that Henry had been at Washington, had got his Dwight's History and Review.
money, and had returned northwardly, and was at Baltimore on the 11th of February, and that his letter of disclosure to James Monroe is dated the 20th of that month, at Philadelphia. It is remarkable that Mr. Madison had these disclosures at least twenty-five days before he made them known to Congress; that when he did so make them known, Henry was actually under sail for France, and, consequently, could not be called on for any explanation.*
The Henry plot proved of no advantage to the administration and its supporters, but had a tendency to increase and extend the feelings of exasperation and enmity toward the government, entertained by a large majority of the New England people, whose characters were assailed by the pretended exposure of Henry, although he did not mention the name of even a solitary person who ever uttered a sentence of disaffection to the Union, or of a wish to form a connexion with Great Britain. Besides a majority of the people of New England, the federal party throughout the Union, and a respectable portion of the democratic party, were opposed to the approaching declaration of war. Still, the leading men among the friends of the administration felt a confidence that the measure was required, and would be sustained, by a majority of the people.
After the return of Mr. Pinkney to the United States, from his mission to England, Mr. Madison appointed Jonathan Russell charge d'affaires of the United States at London. Mr. Russell reached London in November, 1811. On the 14th of February, 1812, he wrote to Mr. Monroe, secretary of state, that at that time there had been exhibited no evidence on the part of the British government to repeal the orders in council. On the 4th of March he wrote to Mr. Monroe, informing him that he had attended the discussions in parliament, on motions by Lord Lansdowne and Mr. Brougham," and if anything was wanting to prove the inflexible determination of the present ministry to persevere in the orders in council, without modification or relaxation, the declarations of the leading members of administration on these occasions, must place it beyond the possibility of a doubt. Mr. Percival said, 'As England was contending for the defence of her maritime rights, and for the preservation of her national existence, which essentially depended on the maintenance of those rights, she could not be expected, in the prosecution of this great and primary interest, to arrest or vary her course, to listen to the pretensions of neutral nations, or to remove the evils, however they might be regretted, which the imperious policy of the times indirectly and unintentionally extended to them.'
"I no longer entertain a hope that we can honorably avoid war."
On the 30th of May, 1812, Mr. Foster, the British minister at Washington, addressed a long letter to Mr. Monroe, in which he reviewed the whole ground of controversy between the United States and Great Britain.
He contends that the Berlin and Milan decrees had not, in fact, been revoked, and concludes as follows:
"I am commanded, sir, to express, on the part of his royal highness, the prince regent, that while his royal highness entertains the most sincere desire to conciliate America, he yet can never concede that the blockade of May, 1806, could justly be made the foundation, as it avowedly has been, for the decrees of Bonaparte; and further, that the British government must ever consider the principles on which that blockade rested (accompanied as it was by an adequate blockading force), to have been strictly consonant to the established law of nations, and a legitimate instance of the practice which it recognises.
"Secondly, that Great Britain must continue to reject the other spurious doctrines promulgated by France in the duke of Bassano's report, as binding upon all nations. She can not admit, as a true declaration of public law, that free ships make free goods, nor the converse of that proposition, that enemy's ships destroy the character of neutral property in the cargo: she can not consent, by the adoption of such a principle, to deliver absolutely the commerce of France from the pressure of the naval power of Great Britain, and, by the abuse of the neutral flag, to allow her enemy to obtain, without the expense of sustaining a navy, for the trade and property of French subjects, a degree of freedom and security which even the commerce of her own subjects can not find under the protection of the British navy.
"She can not admit, as a principle of public law, that arms and military stores are alone contraband of war, and that ship-timber and naval stores are excluded from that description. Neither can she admit, wlthout retaliation, that the mere fact of commercial intercourse with British ports and subjects should be made a crime in all nations, and that the armies and decrees of France should be directed to enforce a principle so new and unheard-of in war.
“Great Britain feels, that to relinquish her just measures of self-defence and retaliation, would be to surrender the best means of her own preservation and rights; and with them the rights of other nations, so long as France maintains and acts upon such principles."
Such was the state of things between the United States and Great Britain, when it was determined by the friends of the administration in Congress, to declare war. As a prelude to that event, an act was passed on the 4th of April, 1812, laying an embargo on vessels of the United States for the term of ninety days.
On the 20th of April, George Clinton, vice-president of the United States, died at Washington, at the age of seventy-three. The senate had previously elected William H. Crawford president pro tem. of that body.
Louisiana was admitted into the Union as a state on the 8th of April, 1812; and by a subsequent act on the 4th of June, the territory before