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and interests of the United States, than those of the treaty made in 1794, by Mr. Jay; or that signed by the American envoys, Monroe and Pinkney, in 1807, which was rejected by President Jefferson without submitting it to the senate.*
Although the immediate effect of the war was in many respects disastrous to the interests of the great body of the people, causing much pecuniary and other distress, and the loss of thousands of valuable lives; also retarding the national prosperity; yet it was not without its advantages, in the salutary results which flowed from the circumstances of this great national event. The restrictive measures of Mr. Jefferson's administration, the reduction of the army and navy, as recommended by that president, and the submission of the United States to the long-continued wrongs and insults of France and Great Britain, had excited throughout Europe a contempt for the American character. There existed a general impression among civilized nations, that the spirit of liberty and independence which had carried America triumphantly through the war of the revolution, was extinguished by a love of gain and commercial enterprise, without courage and resolution sufficient to sustain the national rights. But the war with England dissipated this impression, and inspired respect for a nation that gave so many proofs of ability to cope with the mistress of the seas on her favorite element. The national character, therefore, rose to an eminence in the estimation of foreigners which has ever since been maintained. From the era of the war we may date the origin, or the more rapid growth, of the principal branches of domestic manufactures. Another advantage which accrued from the war, was the impulse given to the spirit of internal improvement, which was forcibly impressed upon the minds of the people from witnessing the disadvantages of the imperfect modes of transportation in existence during that period, before a system of canals, railroads, and other improvements, was in operation. The policy of a standing army and of a navy, adequate to the national defence, has likewise been cherished by the people since the importance of both was proved during the war.
In consequence of the deranged state of the currency and the public credit, the secretary of the treasury, in October, 1814, recommended to Congress the establishment of a national bank. A bill to that effect was accordingly introduced, and passed both houses in January, but was vetoed by the president.
On the 23d of November, 1814, the vice-president of the United States, Elbridge Gerry, died suddenly, while on his way to the capitol in his carriage, having the day before presided in the senate during the whole of a long debate. John Gaillard, of South Carolina, was appointed president of the senate pro tempore.
The time which remained of the session after the news of peace was
spirits, were also abolished or reduced. The direct tax was fixed at three millions, instead of six millions required by a former law. A new tariff of duties on importations was laid, in which the intention was expressed by Mr. Calhoun, Mr. Clay, Mr. Lowndes, and others, to establish a system of protection for American manufactures. The rates fixed were, however, insufficient for that object with regard to many manufactures which had been built up during the war, and were soon prostrated in consequence of the excessive importations of foreign manufactures which took place after the return of peace.
Acts were also passed at this session for the gradual increase of the navy; for regulating the rates of foreign coins, and the currency of the United States; for building lighthouses; authorizing the surveying and making a road in Illinois territory; increasing the pay of customhouse officers fifty per cent.; and fixing the pay of members of Congress at fifteen hundred dollars per annum, in lieu of the allowance per diem, as formerly established; but this last law proved to be very unpopular, and was repealed at the next session.
A national bank was incorporated by Congress in April, 1816, with a capital of thirty-five millions of dollars, to continue for twenty years. Although the president had returned with his veto a bill incorporating a bank, passed by the thirteenth Congress, from objections to some of the clauses, he was anxious for the establishment of such an institution; both he and Mr. Clay, the speaker, with others, having changed their views from the experience of the government, during the recent war, which had evinced the want of a national currency. The bill now passed encountered a strong opposition, but received the support of a majority of the democratic party in both houses of Congress, with a portion of the federalists, and it was promptly signed by the president.
The annual sum of two hundred thousand dollars was appropriated for providing arms and military equipments for the militia; acts for the relief of purchasers and settlers on the public lands were also passed, and those of the latter who had not paid for the lands were enabled to obtain titles on payment of a small sum, and causing the same to be registered in the public land office. A system of drawbacks on sugar refined, and spirits distilled from molasses, was adopted; and an important resolution was passed directing the secretary of the treasury to take measures to cause the revenue to be collected and paid in the legal currency of the United States, or treasury-notes, or notes of the new national bank, or in notes of specie-paying banks. The people of Indiana territory were authorized to form a constitution and state government, preparatory to being admitted into the Union. An act passed on the 1st of March, 1816, to give effect to the convention for regulating commerce with England, and repealed all former acts discriminating in favor of goods imported in American vessels over British vessels. An attempt was made in the house to alter the term
of the treaty which had been ratified by the senate, but finally, after a long debate, the house yielded, and passed the bill on the subject which had been adopted by the senate.
The relations of the United States with Spain were again brought under discussion in 1816. The Spanish minister at Washington, as instructed, remonstrated against the claims and occupancy of West Florida by the United States. It was claimed by our government as a part of Louisiana, and five years before they had taken possession of part of the disputed territory, but on the united remonstrance of Spain and France, the American troops were withdrawn. The government of the United States never gave up its claim, and had again occupied a portion of the territory by an armed force. The Spanish minister insisted that this occupancy should be no longer held until negotiations could be had. He also demanded that no intercourse should be allowed between the United States and Mexico, which province was then in a state of revolt. The secretary of state, Mr. Monroe, in reply to the Spanish minister, did not directly impugn the claim of Spain to West Florida, but represented that as it was now separated from the Mexican territory, it was of but little advantage to the Spanish nation, and an exchange of Florida for a part of Louisiana bordering on Texas was suggested. The minister was informed that the United States would preserve a strict neutrality between Spain and her revolted colonies. The question of the boundary of Louisiana was also discussed, but no definite result was arrived at by this correspondence, and a settlement with Spain was reserved for the next administration.
The democratic members of the fourteenth Congress, before the adjournment of the first session, held a caucus for the nomination of a candidate for president, as successor to Mr. Madison, also for vice-president. An attempt was made in the caucus to declare such nomination by members of Congress inexpedient, but it was unsuccessful. It was understood that Mr. Madison and his confidential friends preferred Mr. Monroe to any other candidate to succeed him. Several plans and intrigues were set on foot to defeat this nomination, particularly by those republicans who were opposed to Virginia influence, which state had already given presidents to the Union for twenty-four out of the twenty-eight years during the existence of the government.
Colonel Aaron Burr, who then resided in New York, wrote to his sonin-law, Joseph Alston, ex-governor of South Carolina, on the 20th of November, 1815, informing him that a congressional caucus would soon nominate James Monroe for president of the United States. After denouncing Mr. Monroe as an improper and incompetent candidate, the manner of the nomination as equally exceptionable, and the Virginia domination as odious, Colonel Burr urges upon Governor Alston to take measures to break down the system, by "a respectable nomination of General Andrew Jackson, before the proclamation of the Virginia caucus, and Jackson's success,"
he adds, "is inevitable." Governor Alston fully coincided with Colonel Burr in sentiment, but ill health, and grief from family afflictions, prevented his attention to the suggestion.
Governor Tompkins, of New York, had rendered important services and support to the administration and the country during the war. When Mr. Monroe was called to act as secretary of war, in place of General Armstrong, Mr. Madison proposed to Governor Tompkins that Monroe should vacate the office of secretary of state, and that he (Tompkins) should be placed at the head of that department. Although Governor Tompkins felt it his duty to decline the office, alleging as a reason, that he could render more service to the nation as governor of New York, than as a member of the cabinet, he considered that, according to the precedent which had been established, this offer was a commitment on the part of the administration to support him for the next president. The democratic members of the legislature of New York, in February, 1816, instructed their members in Congress to sustain the claims of Tompkins, but it was soon ascertained by those members of Congress that his nomination could not be effected.
The opposition to Mr. Monroe's nomination was finally concentrated on William H. Crawford, of Georgia. He was a native of Virginia, but in early life had emigrated to Georgia, which state he ably represented in the senate, from 1807 to 1813. Although attached to the democratic party, he advocated the recharter of the first bank of the United States, in 1810, and afterward became dissatisfied with what he deemed the indecisive course of Mr. Madison with regard to the difficulties with Great Britain. He voted for the declaration of war, and during the war he was appointed minister to France; on his return thence, he took charge of the war department, as secretary. His friends claimed for him the character of a man of superior intellect and talents, strictly honorable in his political course, and possessing much independence and decision as a statesman.
Every effort having been made by the friends of the two candidates to secure the nomination, the congressional caucus was held on the 16th of March, 1816, and on the ballot for a candidate for president, James Monroe received 65 votes, and William H. Crawford 54; consequently James Monroe was nominated for president. Daniel D. Tompkins received the nomination for vice-president, by 85 votes, against 30 for Simon Snyder, governor of Pennsylvania.
When the election came on, toward the close of the year 1816, Monroe and Tompkins received 183 electoral votes for president and vice-president, and 34 electoral votes were given by the federal party to Rufus King for president, and to several persons for vice-president.
The views of Mr. Madison on subjects of national policy, as developed in his last annual message to Congress, which met on the 2d of December, 1816, and continued until the close of his administration, were considered liberal and important to the interests of the country.
The most important acts passed at this second session of the fourteenth Congress, were as follows
An act was passed to provide for paying off the national debt, which at this time exceeded one hundred and twenty millions of dollars, by annual instalments of ten millions. Mr. Lowndes, one of the most able statesmen of South Carolina, and chairman of the committee of ways and means in the house, was the author of this measure, under the operations of which the national debt was finally extinguished. A law was enacted authorizing the secretary of the navy, under the direction of the president, to cause a survey of those public lands which produced live oak and red cedar timber, to be reserved and appropriated for the use of the navy. The navigation laws were revised, so as to give further advantages to vessels of the United States, and no goods or merchandise were allowed to be imported from foreign ports except in American bottoms, or in such foreign vessels as belonged to the country of which the goods were the subject or manufacture. Acts were also passed for the regulation of territories of the United States, by which each of them was allowed to send one delegate to Congress, who should have a right to take part in debate in the house of representatives, but not of voting; for establishing a separate territory by the name of Alabama; to preserve more effectually the neutral relations of the United States; to fix the peace establishment of the marine corps at eight hundred men, including officers; providing for the location of the lands reserved for the Creek Indians; for the punishment of crimes and offences committed within the Indian boundaries; and for the relief of persons imprisoned for debts due to the United States. The state of Indiana having formed a constitution, in conformity to act of Congress, was by joint resolution admitted into the Union on the 11th of December, 1816. The people of the western part of Mississippi territory were authorized to form a constitution, preparatory to admission into the Union as a state.
A bill appropriating the bonus which the United States bank was to pay the government for their charter, to purposes of internal improvement, was passed by both houses, at this session, after an able and full discussion of the constitutionality and expediency of a system of internal improvements by the general government; but was returned to Congress by the president, with his objections, which involved constitutional scruples, and consequently the measure failed to become a law.
The administration of President Madison terminated on the 3d of March, 1817, and he surrendered the affairs of the government into the hands of his friend and associate, Mr. Monroe, with the satisfaction of having seen the nation pass honorably through the trying scenes of a portion of the time while he had been at the head of the republic; and that he could now retire from the cares of office at a time of general peace and prosperity, with the prospect for his country of a bright and glorious career in her destiny as a great and independent nation.