James Madison’s Second Inaugural Address,
in a Rare New York Irish Newspaper
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“On the issue of the war are staked our national sovereignty.” [JAMES MADISON].
Newspaper. The Shamrock, or, Hibernian Chronicle
, New York, N.Y., March 13, 1813. Madison’s second inaugural address begins on p. 2 and concludes on p. 3. 4 pp., 12 x 19 in.
It [the War of 1812] 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 postulations 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...regaining ...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....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....
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....
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.”
James Madison delivered his second inaugural address in the midst of the War of 1812. For the second time, the United States was fighting Great Britain, this time over the issue of freedom of the seas. The Royal Navy had a long policy of impressing seamen, and officials considered American sailors born before the Revolution to be British subjects and therefore liable to capture and being “pressed” into service. “Free Trade and Sailors’ Rights” became the war’s rallying cry, and appropriately, the major American victories were had at sea, notably the exploits of Captain Isaac Hull, commander of the U.S.S. Constitution, which defeated the H.M.S. Guerriere, Java, Cyane, and Levant. American land forces fared worse, as the British invaded and burned Washington, D.C. on August 24, 1814. The war itself was an extension of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, and after fighting to a draw, concluded with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.
Ultimately, the War of 1812 proved that the United States would remain an independent power, as suggested by Madison’s reference to losing the respect of independent nations. However honorable and popular in some political circles, the war was extremely unpopular in New England, as its economy relied on oceangoing commerce which ground to a halt for the war’s duration.
In addition to Madison’s speech, this newspaper features excerpts from Dennis Taaffe’s 1809 An Impartial History of Ireland, called here simply “History of Ireland,” as well as news from the old country, “Treason,” a “List of the Navy of the United States” providing vessels with their armaments and commanders, and a small piece entitled “Character of a Good Husband.”
A decorative masthead shows a woodcut of an eagle with shield holding three shamrocks in its beak, with the motto: “Fostered Under Thy Wing, We Die In Thy Defence.”