The Madison Administration

The Madison Presidency

James Madison’s presidency was characterized by his policies toward American Indians, his economic plans, and the War of 1812,

Learning Objectives

Summarize the Madison administration’s American Indian, economic, and foreign policies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Like Jefferson, Madison had a paternalistic and discriminatory attitude toward American Indians. Although he ordered the U.S. Army to protect some American Indian lands from intrusion by settlers, American Indian rights to their lands effectively became null and void.
  • Economically, Madison sought to continue Jefferson’s agenda—in particular the dismantling of the system left behind by the Federalists under presidents Washington and Adams.
  • The War of 1812 greatly affected Madison’s economic policies, however, causing him to support the charter of a second national bank.
  • Madison’s final years began an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, which became known as the “Era of Good Feelings.”

Key Terms

  • James Madison: An American statesman and political theorist, and the fourth president of the United States (1809–1817).
  • impressed: Seized for public use or service.
  • The War of 1812: A military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire in the early nineteenth century.

In 1808, Thomas Jefferson ‘s secretary of state, James Madison, was elected president of the United States. His term was dominated by increasing tensions with Britain that eventually contributed to the War of 1812 on the year of his reelection.

Madison’s American Indian Policy

Upon assuming office on March 4, 1809, James Madison, in his first Inaugural Address to the nation, stated that the federal government’s duty was to convert the American Indians by the, “participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state.” Like his predecessor Jefferson, Madison had a paternalistic and discriminatory attitude toward American Indians, encouraging the men to give up hunting and become farmers. Although there are scant details, Madison often met with Southeastern and Western American Indians, including the Creek and Osage.

As European settlers moved west, they encroached on large tracts of Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw territory. Madison ordered the U.S. Army to protect some of the American Indian lands from intrusion by settlers, much to the chagrin of his military commander, Andrew Jackson, who resisted carrying out the president’s order. In the Northwest Territory after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, American Indians were pushed off of their tribal lands and replaced entirely by white settlers. By 1815, there were 400,000 European-American settlers in Ohio, and the American Indians’ rights to their lands had effectively become null and void.

Economic Policies

Economically, Madison sought to continue Jefferson’s agenda—in particular the dismantling of the system left behind by the Federalists under presidents Washington and Adams. One of the most pressing issues Madison confronted was the first Bank of the United States. Its twenty-year charter was scheduled to expire in 1811, and while Madison’s secretary of the treasury said that the bank was a necessity, Congress failed to re-authorize it. After the outbreak of the War of 1812, the absence of a national bank made war with Britain very difficult to finance, and in 1814, Congress passed a bill chartering a second national bank. Madison vetoed this bill, and in 1816, Congress passed another bill for the same purpose. By this time, Madison had learned that such a bank, despite its Federalist origins, was necessary for financing war, and he signed the bill to establish a new national bank.

Madison also implemented an effective taxation system based on tariffs, a standing professional military, and the internal improvements championed by Henry Clay under his American System. However, in his last act before leaving office, Madison vetoed the Bonus Bill of 1817, which would have financed more internal improvements, including roads, bridges, and canals.

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James Madison: An engraving of James Madison by David Edwin from between 1809 and 1817.

The War of 1812

The United States entered the War of 1812 due to increased aggression by the British Navy on the open seas. At the time, Britain used its navy to prevent American ships from trading with France—an act the United States considered a violation of international law. The British Royal Navy boarded American ships on the high seas and impressed their seamen, forcing them to serve on the Royal Navy’s ships. The United States looked upon this as an affront to American sovereignty no different than if the British had invaded American soil. Britain also armed American Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory and encouraged them to attack American settlers, even though Britain had ceded this territory to the United States in the treaties of 1783 and 1794.

Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeats British Navy at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Painting by William Henry Powell, 1873.

War of 1812: Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry defeats British Navy at the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813. Painting by William Henry Powell, 1873.

Opposition to the War

Madison called on Congress to put the country, “into an armor and an attitude demanded by the crisis”: He specifically recommended enlarging the army, preparing the militia, finishing the military academy, stockpiling munitions, and expanding the navy. Madison faced formidable obstacles, however—a divided cabinet, a factious party, a recalcitrant Congress, obstructionist governors, and incompetent generals, together with militia who refused to fight outside of their states. Most serious was the lack of unified popular support. There were serious threats of disunion from New England, which engaged in extensive smuggling with Canada and refused to provide financial support or soldiers for the purposes of war.

The problems were exacerbated by Jefferson’s and Madison’s dismantling of the systems put in place by Hamilton and the Federalists: They had reduced the military, closed the First National Bank, and narrowed the tax system. They distrusted standing armies and banks, and the dismantling of the Federalist taxation system meant they could not finance the quick hiring of mercenaries. By the time the war began, Madison’s military force consisted mostly of poorly trained militia members. The war went very badly for the United States at first, and it was especially unpopular in New England because it inflicted further economic harm on a region dependent on maritime commerce.

End of the War

When the war between Britain and France ended in Europe, Britain was eager to end the conflict in the Americas as well. In 1814, British and U.S. diplomats met in Flanders, in northern Belgium, to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent. To most Americans, the quick succession of events at the end of the war made it appear as though American valor at the final battle of New Orleans had forced the British to surrender after almost winning. This view, while inaccurate, strongly contributed to the post-war euphoria that persisted for a decade. Madison’s final years began an unprecedented period of peace and prosperity, which became known as the “Era of Good Feelings.” Madison’s reputation as president improved, and Americans finally believed that the United States had established itself as a world power.

Dolley Madison

Dolley Madison, wife of James Madison, was renowned for her social graces and hospitality and contributed to her husband’s popularity as president. During the war, the invading British army neared the president’s home in Washington in 1814. Dolley Madison ordered the Gilbert Stuart painting of George Washington to be removed as the White House staff hurriedly prepared to flee. After the U.S. government officials fled, the First Lady remained behind to organize the slaves and staff to save valuables from the British. Her role increased her popularity, even as newspapers embellished it. When the British soldiers finally arrived, they burned the president’s house, and added fuel to the fires that night to ensure they would continue burning into the next day. The thick sandstone walls of the White House and Capitol survived, and they were later rebuilt in Washington.

Madison’s American Indian Policy

James Madison’s presidency saw the continuation of the American Indian Wars as the United States expanded into and invaded indigenous territory.

Learning Objectives

Describe Madison’s policies towards Native Americans

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Like most leaders of the United States, Madison had a paternalistic and discriminatory attitude toward American Indians.
  • Although Madison ordered the U.S. Army to protect some American Indian lands from intrusion by settlers, American Indians’ rights to their lands effectively became null and void.
  • As U.S. expansion continued, American Indians resisted settlers’ encroachment in several regions of the new nation, from the Northwest to the Southeast and into the West, as settlers encountered the tribes of the Great Plains.
  • Madison’s presidency saw the continuation of the American Indian Wars in Tecumseh ‘s War, the Creek War, and the First Seminole War.

Key Terms

  • American Indian Wars: Multiple conflicts between European settlers or the U.S. government and the indigenous peoples of North America from the time of earliest colonial settlement until 1924.
  • James Madison: An American statesman and political theorist, and the fourth president of the United States (1809–1817).

Madison’s Presidency and U.S. Expansion

In his first Inaugural Address upon assuming office on March 4, 1809, James Madison stated that the federal government’s duty was to convert the American Indians by the, “participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state.” Like most American leaders at the time, Madison had a paternalistic and discriminatory attitude toward American Indians. He encouraged American Indian men to give up hunting and become farmers and supported the conversion of American Indians to a European way of life. Although there are scant details, Madison often met with Southeastern and Western American Indians, including the Creek and Osage.

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President Madison’s policies toward American Indians: This image illustrates Benjamin Hawkins teaching Creek men how to use a plow in 1805. Madison believed that learning European-style agriculture would help force the Creek to adopt the values of British-American civilization.

Continuation of the American Indian Wars

As European settlers moved west, encroaching on large tracts of Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, and Chickasaw territory, Madison ordered the U.S. Army to protect some of the American Indian lands from intrusion. His military commander, Andrew Jackson, however, disagreed with this order and resisted carrying it out. As U.S. expansion continued, American Indians resisted settlers’ encroachment in several regions of the new nation, from the Northwest to the Southeast and into the West, as settlers encountered the tribes of the Great Plains.

Tecumseh’s War

East of the Mississippi River in the Indiana Territory, an intertribal confederacy led by Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, fought a number of engagements in the Northwest during the period of 1811 to 1812. These conflicts became known as Tecumseh’s War. In the latter stages, Tecumseh’s group allied with the British forces in the War of 1812 and was instrumental in the conquest of Detroit.

Many consider Governor William Henry Harrison ‘s victory over the American Indian confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 the climax of the war. However, Tecumseh’s War continued into the War of 1812 and is frequently considered a part of that larger struggle. The war lasted until the fall of 1813, when Tecumseh died fighting Harrison’s Army of the Northwest at the Battle of the Thames (near present-day Chatham, Ontario) and his confederacy disintegrated. Tecumseh’s War is viewed by some academic historians as being the final conflict of a longer-term military struggle for control of the Great Lakes region of North America; it encompassed a number of wars over several generations and was referred to as the “Sixty Years’ War.”

In the Northwest Territory after the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, American Indians were pushed off of their tribal lands and replaced entirely by white settlers. By 1815, 400,000 European settlers lived in Ohio, and American Indians’ rights to their lands had effectively become null and void.

The Creek War

During his presidency, Madison’s also saw conflicts with the American Indians in the Southeast. The Creek War, also known as the “Red Stick War” and the “Creek Civil War,” was a regional war among opposing Creek factions, European empires, and the United States, taking place largely in Alabama and along the Gulf Coast. It is usually considered part of the War of 1812 because of its connection to Tecumseh’s War in the Old Northwest and because the Red Stick Creeks sought support from the British and later aided British advances toward New Orleans.

The Creek War began as a conflict within the Creek Confederation, but U.S. armies quickly became involved. British traders and the Spanish government provided supplies to the Red Stick majority due to their shared interest in preventing the expansion of U.S. territory. The war effectively ended with the Treaty of Fort Jackson (August 1814), in which General Andrew Jackson insisted that the Creek confederacy cede more than 21 million acres of land from southern Georgia and central Alabama. These lands were taken from allied Creek as well as Red Sticks.

The Seminole Wars

The Seminole Wars, also known as the “Florida Wars,” were three conflicts in Florida between the Seminole—the collective name given to the amalgamation of various groups of Native Americans and African Americans who settled in Florida in the early eighteenth century—and the U.S. Army. The First Seminole War (1816–1819) arose out of tensions relating to General Andrew Jackson’s invasions into northern Spanish Florida and offensives against the Seminoles beginning in 1816. The governments of Britain and Spain both expressed outrage over the “invasion”; however, the Spanish Crown ultimately agreed to cede Florida to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819 (after Madison’s presidency had ended). According to the Treaty of Moultrie Creek of 1823, the Seminoles were required to leave northern Florida and were confined to a large reservation in the center of the Florida peninsula.

The Hartford Convention

At the Hartford Convention of 1814, New England Federalists met to discuss their grievances over current events.

Learning Objectives

Describe the political and economic circumstances that gave rise to the Hartford Convention

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Hartford Convention was an event in 1814–1815 in which New England Federalists met to discuss their grievances concerning the War of 1812 and the political problems arising from the domination of the federal government by presidents from Virginia.
  • The War of 1812 was very unpopular in New England because it inflicted further economic harm on a region dependent on maritime commerce.
  • The convention ended with a report that said New England had a “duty” to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty.
  • Among other things, the report called for removing the three-fifths compromise, and for requiring a two-thirds super majority in Congress for the admission of new states, declarations of war, and laws restricting trade.
  • Despite many outcries in the Federalist press for New England secession and a separate peace with Great Britain, moderates dominated the Convention, and such extreme proposals were not a major focus of the Convention’s debate.
  • Arguments for disunion during wartime combined with the condemnation of the government made Federalists appear unpatriotic to the Democratic-Republicans. When the War of 1812 came to an end, the complaints of the Federalists were discredited, and the party never recovered.

Key Terms

  • Hartford Convention: An event in 1814–1815 in the United States in which New England Federalists met to discuss their grievances concerning the ongoing War of 1812 and the current federal government.

Introduction

The Hartford Convention was an event in 1814–1815 in the United States in which New England Federalists met to discuss their grievances concerning the ongoing War of 1812, as well as the political problems arising from the domination of the federal government by presidents from Virginia. Despite many outcries in the Federalist press for New England secession and a separate peace with Great Britain, moderates dominated the Convention, and such extreme proposals were not a major focus of the Convention’s debate.

Background

The War of 1812 was very unpopular in New England because it inflicted further economic harm on a region dependent on maritime commerce. This unpopularity caused a resurgence of the Federalist Party in New England. Many Federalists deeply resented the power of the slaveholding Virginian presidents Jefferson and then Madison, who appeared indifferent to their region. The depth of the Federalists’ discontent became evident when twenty-six Federalists met in Connecticut in December of 1814 for the Hartford Convention.

In response to the war crisis, Governor Strong of Massachusetts called the newly elected General Court to a special session on October 5, 1814. Strong’s message to the legislature was referred to a joint committee headed by Harrison Gray Otis, who was considered a moderate. His report, delivered three days later, called for resisting any British invasion, criticized the leadership that had brought the nation close to disaster, and called for a convention of New England states to deal with their common grievances and common defense. Otis’ report was passed by the state Senate on October 12 and by the House on October 16.

The Convention

The Hartford Convention met between December 1814 and early 1815 and included delegates from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The Convention discussed removing the three-fifths compromise, which gave slave states more power in Congress; they also discussed requiring a two-thirds super majority in Congress for the admission of new states, declarations of war, and laws restricting trade. The Federalists discussed their grievances with the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo of 1807. Some attendees issued calls for New England to secede from the United States.

The convention ended with a report and resolutions, signed by the delegates present and adopted on the day before final adjournment. The report said that New England had a “duty” to assert its authority over unconstitutional infringements on its sovereignty—a doctrine that echoed the policy of Jefferson and Madison in 1798 in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.

The Hartford Convention’s final report proposed several amendments to the U.S. Constitution. These attempted to combat the policies of the ruling Democratic-Republicans by accomplishing the following:

  • Prohibiting any trade embargo lasting more than 60 days;
  • Requiring a two-thirds Congressional majority for declaration of offensive war, admission of a new state, or interdiction of foreign commerce;
  • Removing the three-fifths representation advantage of the South;
  • Limiting future presidents to one term; and
  • Requiring each president to be from a different state than his predecessor. (This provision was aimed directly at Virginia’s dominance of the presidency since 1800.)

Negative Reception

These arguments for disunion during wartime, combined with the Convention’s condemnation of the government, made Federalists appear unpatriotic to the Democratic-Republicans. Just weeks after the Convention’s end, news of Andrew Jackson ‘s overwhelming victory over the British in New Orleans (though exaggerated) swept over the Northeast, and the War of 1812 came to an end. This changed public sentiment toward the current administration and discredited the complaints of the Federalists, contributing to their final downfall as a major national political force.

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Proceedings of the Hartford Convention: This image shows a page from Theodore Lyman’s 1823 book on the Hartford Convention that lists the names of New England delegates who attended the meeting.