War of 1812

War of 1812 Rumblings of Dissent in New England

War of 1812 Rumblings of Dissent in New England


Six weeks before the Presidential election of 1812, this Federalist newspaper in Boston prints a series of letters, speeches, and editorials on “the present state of affairs.” Very critical of the Madison administration, they view the war as unnecessary and ruinous to the country.


[WAR OF 1812]. The Weekly Messenger, September 18, 1812. Boston: James Cutler. 4 pp., 13.5" x 19.5"  This copy was sent to Massachusetts Federalist Timothy Pickering, who had served as Secretary of War under George Washington and Secretary of State under Washington and John Adams. His name “T. Pickering, Esq.” is written in the top margin of the first page. Three small tears that do not obscure text.



“Remarks on National Affairs” by an unnamed New England native in Washington:

“It was in the year 1790 that Mr. Jefferson entered on the execution of the office of Secretary of State; and from that moment his and Mr. Madison’s schemes of personal aggrandisement were distinctly marked and successively apparent in the history of our country.” (p1/c1)


“All that I can say upon this point is, that the present prospects of this ambitious cabal are much more bright, and their success much more certain in relation to the continuance, than at that time it was to the attainment of the chief power.” (p1/c2)


“In the forming and organizing this spirit of party, Mr. Jefferson had, unquestionably, more agency than any other man in the United States.... If, therefore, the violence and the virulence of party spirit be, as it undoubtedly is, a subject of universal regret and lamentation, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison, more than any other individuals, stand accountable for it to the present time and to posterity.” (p1/c3)


“An Address to the People of the State of New York on the Present State of Affairs” by “AN AMERICAN”:

“he seriously believes that the general current of events for some years past, drives as rapidly towards a condition in which no human power can prevent these states from separating into two, or more sections, independent of each other.” (p1/c4)


“as a cancer shoots deep before the skin is discoloured, so there are diseases in the political body which become mortal before they are evident to cursory observation.” (p1/c4)


“in a republic the people alone can save themselves. To them, therefore, must be disclosed the state to which they have been brought.” (p1/c4)


“the union is in danger.” (p1/c4)


“neither can I admit that every man is bound to prosecute every war which the rulers of his country may think proper to declare.” (p2/c1)


“if any members of congress, or others, were so vain as to suppose that this nation would take fire at the sound of their drum and rush on to mischief like midnight drunkards, they will find themselves mistaken.” (p2/c1)


“we, the people of America, are not their subjects, still less their slaves.... We learnt from our fathers to know better both our rights and duties.” (p2/c1)


“Whether [the war] proceed from corruption, from prejudice, from wrath, from fear or from folly, it equally tends to ruin.” (p2/c1)


“if at last, exhausted by the contest, we give up, to get peace, the claims for which we went to war; will proof that the war was just, prove it to have been wise also?—Most assuredly not.” (p2/c2)


“it must be an abuse of terms to call him a bad citizen (far less a traitor) who would prevent an useless effusion of the blood and treasure of his country.” (p2/c2)


“is Canada worth conquering?” (p2/c2)


“If any man pretend that we may rely on the government for protection, that the government would interpose its authority to prevent outrage, we are compelled to ask why were not the riots in Baltimore suppressed?” (p2/c4)


“Confide, then, fellow-citizens, in yourselves. Unite! unite! and save yourselves.” (p2/c4)


Editorial by “CASSEDRO”:

“It has been too common to confound the character of the democrats in general with that of their leaders. This is both incorrect and highly injurious to a very considerable portion of the democratic party.” (p2/c4)


“There are thousands in this commonwealth, who always respected Washington, who are friends of order and good government, who are conscientiously honest, who are men of religious principle, but have nevertheless acted with the democrats.” (p2/c5)


“Such men derive their information from the Chronicle. The early establishment and reputation of that paper gave it an extensive circulation, before the federal papers were known. Men had been directed and animated by it through the revolutionary struggle. They still confided in it. They were insensible of the gradual change which took place in its principles.” (p2/c5)


“Political phillipics, or even sound arguments, urged in a haughty, angry, and provoking style, are worse than useless.” (p2/c5)


“I am convinced that many sermons and newspaper essays, which are really correct in their sentiments, and sound in their reasonings, have done incalculable mischief by strengthening prejudice, and inflaming passion.” (p2/c5)


Historical Background

In an attempt to force the United Kingdom to recognize American neutral rights, Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison signed into law the Embargo Act of 1807 and the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809. These policies were very unpopular with merchants and shippers in New England. As a result the Federalist Party regained some of its strength in New England and New York.


The British practice of impressing sailors from American vessels and British support of hostile Native American tribes that attacked American frontier settlers led the United States to declare war on the United Kingdom in June 1812. Unprepared for war against the world’s greatest naval power, the United States benefited from British preoccupation with the Napoleonic Wars in Europe.


In 1812, Federalists cooperated with Democratic-Republican DeWitt Clinton of New York, who challenged James Madison’s reelection. The recently declared war on Great Britain overshadowed the entire campaign. In the presidential election, Clinton won the electoral votes of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and all of New England except Vermont. Had he also won Pennsylvania, he would have unseated the incumbent Madison. However, Madison carried Pennsylvania by a large margin and won reelection with the solid backing of the southern and western states.


Opposition to the war continued to grow to the point that Federalists from five New England states met in Hartford, Connecticut, in December 1814 and January 1815. They discussed altering the U.S. Constitution to reduce the power of slave states in Congress by removing the three-fifths compromise and to require a two-thirds vote in Congress for admitting new states or declaring war. Some radicals, including Timothy Pickering, the recipient of this issue, favored the secession of the New England states and a separate peace with Great Britain.


News of the Treaty of Ghent and Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans shortly after the adjournment of the Hartford Convention discredited the Federalist Party, and it ceased to be a viable force in national politics.


Additional Content

This issue also includes European news (p3/c1-4); details of the French and Russian War (p4/c1); updates from the Northwestern Frontier (p4/c1-2); and an account of the USS Constitution’s victory over the HMS Guerriere on August 19 in the north Atlantic (p4/c2-3).


Boston Weekly Messenger (1811-1861) was a weekly newspaper published in Boston by James Cutler (1774-1818) until 1815, then Nathan Hale (1784-1863) until 1860. The Massachusetts Journal and Tribune merged with it in 1832, and it merged into the Boston Daily Advertiser in 1861. It began as a political journal published by a group of young Federalists and shared an office with the Boston Daily Advertiser. It later supported the Whig and then Republican Party.




Item: 65076

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