This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of the War of 1812, a much forgotten conflict between the United States and Great Britain. This week’s feature as part of the Presidents Day Blog Project is a letter from President James Madison in November of 1814 to the Governor of New York, Daniel D. Tompkins, future Vice President under James Monroe. With the war over two years in, both sides were looking for a way to end hostilities. The Americans were in favor of returning to the status quo ante bellum, while the British were initially interested in preserving gains made in the war. The year 1814 would see more than just the burning of Washington; it would also see the completion of the negotiations at Ghent and the signing of a peace treaty that effectively put relations between the two countries back to their prewar status. Though Andrew Jackson would go on to fight at New Orleans in January of 1815, the war was semi-officially ended at the signing in December of 1814, and officially with President Madison’s declaration in February 1815.
This week’s document lends an interesting perspective from the state of New York on the prospects of ending the war, but also a larger example of the widespread yearn to bring the war to an end. The letter is from President James Madison to Governor Tompkins in response to a unanimous resolution passed by both Houses of the Legislature of New York “expressing the emotions with which they view the terms of peace proposed by the British commissioners at Ghent, and recommending the most vigorous measures for bringing the war to an honorable termination.” Madison expresses his gratitude to the unanimous resolution with “language [that] does great honor to the patriotism and just sentiments of the State…”
If you are interested in reading more on the material available here at Morristown National Historical Park on the War of 1812, feel free to contact the staff. More manuscripts may be featured in the future provided there is further interest in the subject.