Portraits of James Madison, Isaac Brock, Dolley Madison, and Teyoninhokarawen
By a gentleman direct from New York, we learn that the bill for a declaration of WAR against England, was brought forward in the House of Representatives on Monday, and discussed until Wednesday last, and was finally carried by a majority of 25; but was arrested in the Senate by a majority of 1. Some amendments to the bill were made in the Senate, placing France in the same situation with England, relative to a declaration of war.
Read the full article in the Kingston Gazette of June 16, 1812, page 3, column 3.
The details may not have been perfect, but the New York gentleman’s report was fairly accurate. On Monday, June 1st, U.S. President James Madison delivered a message to Congress, listing America’s grievances against Britain, especially the fact that British ships were stopping American vessels in U.S. waters, searching them, and pressing American sailors into the British navy. Three days later, Congress voted 79-39 in favour of war, and within two weeks the Senate followed suit. On Thursday, June 18th, Madison did what no U.S. president had done before: he signed a declaration of war.
In Their Own Words
The President of the United States
“the business is become more than ever puzzling. To go to war with England and not with France arms the Federalists with new matter, and divides the Republicans. . .To go to war against both presents a thousand difficulties. . .The only consideration of weight in favor of this triangular war. . .is, that it might hasten through a peace with G. Britain or France. . .But even this advantage is not certain.”
- Excerpt from a letter from James Madison to Thomas Jefferson dated Washington, May 25, 1812, in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, Fourth President of the United States, Volume 2, 1794-1815, page 535.
The President’s Wife
“My Dear Anna,–John Randolph has been firing away at the “House” this morning against the declaration of war, but we think it will have little effect. I told you of the Hornet and all the news it brought. We have nothing among ourselves worth repeating. Lucy writes often and is still delighted with Kentucky; our friends in Virginia are all well. My dear husband is overpowered with business, but is in good health. We had all the heads of departments here yesterday to dinner, with their wives.”
- Excerpt from a letter from Dolley Madison to her younger sister, Anna Cutts, dated Washington, May 12, 1812, from The Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, President of the United States, 1886, page 79.
Leaders of British Forces in Canada
“I have great satisfaction in telling you, that I have reported the Glengary light infantry more than complete to the establishment of 400 rank and file. . .I am assured from various channels that the men I have got are generally young, rather too much so, and of a good description, there being very few Yankees amongst them.”
- Letter from Colonel Baynes to Major-General Brock from Quebec, May 14, 1812 in The Life and Correspondence of Major-General Sir Isaac Brock, K.B., 1847, page 172.
“The troops will be kept in a constant state of readiness for service, and Colonel Proctor will direct the necessary guards and patrols, which are to be made down the bank, and close to the water’s edge.”
- Order written by Major-General Isaac Brock, Niagara, 27th June, 1812, from the book District General Orders of Maj.-Gen. Sir Isaac Brock from June 27th, 1812-Oct. 16th, 1812.
First Nations Leaders
“In June 1812,–a Deputation of the Younger Chiefs from the Ondowaga, Onondague and Cayugwas living within the American Boundary, came to the council fire at the Grand River; –they avowed their Motive was to commune with their Brethren, that they might avoid involving themselves in the difficulties attendant on War. . .Billy, as speaker for the Deputation, arose and spoke to this purport,–“Brother,–We have come from our homes to warn you, that you may preserve yourselves and families from distress. We discover that the British and the Americans are on the Eve of a War,–they are in dispute respecting some rights on the Sea, with which we are unacquainted;–should it end in a Contest, let us keep aloof. . .”
- The Journal of Major John Norton [Teyoninhokarawen] 1816, (Publications of the Champlain Society), Toronto : Champlain Society, 1970, page 289.
- James Madison, on the website of the James Madison Museum in Virginia.
- Dolley Madison, on the Digital Edition website of University of Virginia Press.
- Isaac Brock, in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
- Teyoninhokarawen [Major John Norton], in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.