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Same Day Printing of Madison’s Optimistic First Message to Congress: A Prelude to the War of 1812
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it affords me much satisfaction to be able to communicate the commencement of a favorable change in our foreign relations....

JAMES MADISON. Special Session Message. National Intelligencer, May 23, 1809. Broadside. Washington, D.C.: Samuel Harrison Smith. Handwritten on the verso: “Presidents Message 1809” 1 p., 10¼ x 12½ in.

Inventory #30051.005       Price: $2,400

In December 1807, Congress passed and President Thomas Jefferson signed the Embargo Act that imposed a complete embargo on trade with Great Britain and France and their colonies during the Napoleonic Wars for violations of American neutrality and sovereignty. The embargo was a failure both diplomatically and economically, as it devastated American commerce.

In response, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act, and President Jefferson signed it on March 1, 1809, just days before relinquishing office to his successor James Madison. maintained the embargo only against Britain and France, but did not ban trade with other European countries. It also authorized the President, “in case either France or Great Britain shall so revoke or modify her edicts, as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States, to declare the same by proclamation; after which the trade of the United States...may be renewed with the nation so doing.”

In this important address, President Madison informs Congress that King George III had indicated a willingness to withdraw his Orders in Council of 1807 and give satisfaction for the attack on the USS Chesapeake by the HMS Leopard in June 1807. In light of these promises, President Madison submitted a proclamation to Congress that would allow the resumption of trade with Great Britain on June 10, 1809. On April 19, Madison issued the proclamation.

Ultimately, the King did not withdraw the Orders in Council, and in early August, Madison renewed the prohibitions existing under the Non-Intercourse Act. Tensions continued to mount between the two nations. In his first State of the Union message in late November, President Madison reported on the ongoing diplomatic impasses with Great Britain and France, and reviewed military preparations for the possibility of war.

Three years later, Congress declared war on the United Kingdom on June 18, 1812, two days after the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs announced to Parliament the repeal of the Orders in Council, a repeal which was finalized on June 23. This belated action came too late to avert the War of 1812.

Condition: Good overall.

Excerpts
On this first occasion of meeting you it affords me much satisfaction to be able to communicate the commencement of a favorable change in our foreign relations, the critical state of which induced a session of Congress at this early period.” (c1)

the British Government...had transmitted to their legation here provisional instructions not only to offer satisfaction for the attack on the frigate Chesapeake, and to make known the determination of His Britannic Majesty to send an Envoy Extraordinary with powers to conclude a treaty on all the points between the two countries, but, moreover, to signify his willingness in the meantime to withdraw his orders in council, in the persuasion that the intercourse with Great Britain would be renewed on the part of the United States.” (c1)

These steps of the British Government led to the correspondence and the proclamation now laid before you; by virtue of which, the commerce between the two countries will be renewable after the tenth day of June next.” (c1)

The discontinuance of the British orders as they respect the United States having been thus arranged, a communication of the event has been forwarded in one of our public vessels to our minister plenipotentiary at Paris, with instructions to avail himself of the important addition thereby made to the considerations which press on the justice of the French Government a revocation of its decrees or such a modification of them as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States.” (c2)

It will rest with the judgment of Congress to decide how far the change in our external prospects may authorize any modifications of the laws relating to the army and navy establishments.” (c3)

James Madison (1751-1836) was born in Port Conway, Virginia, and graduated from Princeton University in 1771. He entered politics in 1776 and played a major role in the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Later known as the “Father of the Constitution,” he authored the Federalist Papers along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. Madison helped found Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican party in opposition to Hamilton’s financial proposals. Madison’s served as Jefferson’s Secretary of State (1801-1809), and then succeeded him to the Presidency for two terms (1809-1817). Madison’s administration saw the culmination of Anglo-American tensions that resulted in the War of 1812, which officially began on June 18, 1812, and concluded with the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. The last years of Madison’s second term saw the transition to the Era of Good Feelings, as the Federalist party declined. When he left office, Madison retired to Montpelier, his tobacco plantation in Virginia. He also assisted Thomas Jefferson in the establishment of the University of Virginia, where Madison succeeded Jefferson as rector when Jefferson died.

Daily National Intelligencer (1800-1870) was founded as the tri-weekly National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser by Samuel Harrison Smith in Washington, D.C. It became the National Intelligencer in 1810 and the Daily National Intelligencer in 1813. In its early years, it served as the voice of the Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams administrations. In 1810, Joseph Gales Jr. (1786-1860) purchased the newspaper and soon formed a partnership with his brother-in-law William W. Seaton (1785-1866). From 1812 to 1820, Gales reported on Senate debates, while Seaton reported on debates in the House of Representatives. The Intelligencer served as the voice of the federal government until the election of Andrew Jackson, when it switched to the Whig party. The Intelligencer was primarily a political newspaper, though it did move sometimes between being “friendly” to administrations and taking a more neutral approach. Like most political newspapers in the partisan press period, the Intelligencer always relied heavily on lucrative Congressional printing contracts for its financial support. The paper was noted for its full coverage of Congress and other government information, including proclamations, notices and advertisements. Seaton and Gales employed shorthand reporters, including themselves occasionally, to take down verbatim reports of Congressional debates and speeches. Many other newspapers took their coverage of national politics and government directly from the Intelligencer.

 

Complete Transcript of Madison’s 1809 Special Session Message

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

On this first occasion of meeting you it affords me much satisfaction to be able to communicate the commencement of a favorable change in our foreign relations, the critical state of which induced a session of Congress at this early period.

In consequence of the provisions of the act interdicting commercial intercourse with Great Britain and France, our ministers at London and Paris were without delay instructed to let it be understood by the French and British Governments that the authority vested in the Executive to renew commercial intercourse with their respective nations would be exercised in the case specified by that act.

Soon after these instructions were dispatched it was found that the British Government, anticipating from early proceedings of Congress at their last session the state of our laws, which has had the effect of placing the two belligerent powers on a footing of equal restrictions, and relying on the conciliatory disposition of the United States, had transmitted to their legation here provisional instructions not only to offer satisfaction for the attack on the frigate Chesapeake, and to make known the determination of His Britannic Majesty to send an Envoy Extraordinary with powers to conclude a treaty on all the points between the two countries, but, moreover, to signify his willingness in the meantime to withdraw his orders in council, in the persuasion that the intercourse with Great Britain would be renewed on the part of the United States.

These steps of the British Government led to the correspondence and the proclamation now laid before you; by virtue of which, the commerce between the two countries will be renewable after the tenth day of June next.

Whilst I take pleasure in doing justice to the councils of His Britannic Majesty, which, no longer adhering to the policy which made an abandonment by France of her decrees a prerequisite to a revocation of the British orders, have substituted the amicable course which has issued thus happily, I cannot do less than refer to the proposal heretofore made on the part of the United States, embracing a like restoration of the suspended commerce, as a proof of the spirit of accommodation which has at no time been intermitted, and to the result which now calls for our congratulations, as corroborating the principles by which the public councils have been guided during a period of the most trying embarrassments.

The discontinuance of the British orders as they respect the United States having been thus arranged, a communication of the event has been forwarded in one of our public vessels to our minister plenipotentiary at Paris, with instructions to avail himself of the important addition thereby made to the considerations which press on the justice of the French Government a revocation of its decrees or such a modification of them as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States.

The revision of our commercial laws proper to adapt them to the arrangement which has taken place with Great Britain will doubtless engage the early attention of Congress. It will be worthy, at the same time, of their just and provident care to make such further alterations in the laws as will more especially protect and foster the several branches of manufacture which have been recently instituted or extended by the laudable exertions of our citizens.

Under the existing aspect of our affairs I have thought it not inconsistent with a just precaution to have the gunboats, with the exception of those at New Orleans, placed in a situation incurring no expense beyond that requisite for their preservation and conveniency for future service, and to have the crews of those at New Orleans reduced to the number required for their navigation and safety.

I have thought also, that our citizens detached in quotas of militia amounting to one hundred thousand under the act of March, 1808, might not improperly be relieved from the state in which they were held for immediate service. A discharge of them has been accordingly directed.

The progress made in raising and organizing the additional military force, for which provision was made by the act of April 1808, together with the disposition of the troops, will appear by a report which the Secretary of War is preparing, and which will be laid before you.

Of the additional frigates required by an act of the last session to be fitted for actual service, two are in readiness, one nearly so, and the fourth is expected to be ready in the month of July. A report which the Secretary of the Navy is preparing on the subject, to be laid before Congress, will shew at the same time the progress made in officering and manning these ships. It will shew also the degree in which the provisions of the act relating to the other public armed ships have been carried into execution.

It will rest with the judgment of Congress to decide how far the change in our external prospects may authorize any modifications of the laws relating to the army and navy establishments.

The works of defense for our seaport towns and harbors have proceeded with as much activity as the season of the year and other circumstances would admit. It is necessary, however, to state that, the appropriations hitherto made being found to be deficient, a further provision will claim the early consideration of Congress.

The whole of the eight per cent. stock remaining due by the United States, amounting to five millions three hundred thousand dollars, had been reimbursed on the last day of the year 1808. And on the first day of April last the sum in the Treasury exceeded nine and a half millions of dollars. This, together with the receipts of the current year on account of former revenue bonds, will probably be nearly if not altogether sufficient to defray the expenses of the year. But the suspension of exports and the consequent decrease of importations during the last twelve months will necessarily cause a great diminution in the receipts of the year 1810. After that year, should our foreign relations be undisturbed, the revenue will again be more than commensurate to all the expenditures.

Aware of the inconveniences of a protracted session at the present season of the year, I forbear to call the attention of the Legislature to any matters not particularly urgent. It remains, therefore, only to assure you of the fidelity and alacrity with which I shall cooperate for the welfare and happiness of our country, and to pray that it may experience a continuance of the divine blessings by which it has been so signally favored.

JAMES MADISON.

May 23, 1809.


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