. D .

    “One of the People”

    “Elm-trees,” Biddeford        20 July 1812


    It appears by some of the papers that President Madison has denounced the Protest of the minority, of the House of Representatives of the U. States, assigning the reasons why they voted & opposed a war with England; & it seems he deems that performance but little short of treason.1 This denunciation is what might have been expected by those who were acquainted with him when he commenced his opposition to [George] Washingtons Administration, & till he left Congress, and with his conduct in the Verginia Legislature afterwards. About the year 1791 or 92—Madison began to be alienated to all the great measures of Washington, &, began soon after, to avoid his company;2 till finally, as it appeared from his conduct, he seemed to wish to avoid paying him those general civilities which the members of Congress generally had usually give[n] to the first Magistrate of the nation.3 That Washington had no confidence in the political integrity of Madison after he brought forward his commercial Resolutions was well known, at the time, both in & out of Congress. It was also well known, & avowed by some of his friends,4 that the object of his resolutions was, first to bring on a kind of commercial warfare with England, such as we have been in for the last four years, & then to give them a turn & twist & terminate in open war as he & his friends have now done;5 but which intention & views were then diverted by Washington & his federal friends in Congress—But the men of those days are turned out of office, & we see the natural consequences of the change in the history of Madisons administration, of non importation, emba[r]go[,] non intercourse, embargos again, War!!! Mobbs—

    The character of few men, so much in public life as Madison has been, for the last thirty years, is so little known as his at this time. Indeed there seems to be a spell fixed upon the understandings of many people of the U. States, which prevents them from seeing, with their eyes, the objects directly before them; or hearing the voices proclaiming his demerits all around them. How true it is—none are so blind as those who will not see. Here we see party spirit has become devotion, & Madison is the Idol. Surely, as the Prophets of Baal said to the people, he is a God! & they continued to believe in their decieving priests6 till the wrath of Heaven was revealed in their destruction! Madison has been taken to be a man of great mildness of temper, cool moderate & not given to resentment; all this he acquired by art in affecting those vertues in his opposition to the Washington System while in Congress. After he placed himself in the opposition he very soon saw that he should never be able to regain any confidence in the mind of Washington, or any respectable standing, with the party who stood by and supported Washingtons Administration; and that his only chance to rise into consequence was to put himself at the head & become the leader of a faction7—Here he found it necessary to affect all the milder vertues;8 Yet he never met a defeat in debate, tho he was always often defeated, for being conscious of he was his being he was in the wrong he was obliged to take ground in argument that his better sense taught him was not tenable, but to those around him he gave unequivocal signs of rancor & malignity of heart, that fully advertised his opponents, if ever he got the lead in the house, or in the Government, he would satiate his revengfull temper to the utter exterpation of every one who dare oppose his wishes, as well as those who had been his old opponents.

    Mortification & chagrin at not being able to oppose successfully the administration of Washington & Adams was the principle cause of his leaving Congress at the time he did. Some others, his associates in the faction of those days, went out of Congress at about the same time openly declaring they had less influence there than they expected to find in another place.9

    Madison very rightfully rightly presumed he could make more impression, from the house of Delegates in Verginia, upon the minds of Verginians than he could at that time, from the floor of Congress, on the minds of the people of the U. States,10 & by these means bring himself into place again with increased power and influence. He was not disappointed, he soon got a seat in the Verginia Legislature; and was made one of a committee who, it seems, thought it neither robery or treason to set in judgment on the Laws of the United States, & recommend it to the citizens of the United States to censure them, in certain cases, till the President & Congress itself should be held in contempt & hatred.

    The General Assembly of Virginia, having passed certain Resolutions, which by many were considered as having a tendency to enflame the minds of people against the President & the Laws of Congress, the subject was refered to a special committee to report on the same; of which committee Madison was one; probably the leader & life of it. A report was agreed upon; from its Style & manner there is no doubt but Madison was the draftsman. This was submitted to the Legislature on the 7th January 1800.11 It must be recollected that, at this time, Mr. [John] Adams was President, & Mr. Jefferson Vice-President. The Great Washington was Commander in chief of the armies of the U. States, under the President, & had most fully & honourably approved of Mr. Adams’ Administration.12

    For the information of those who wish to see what evidence Madison then gave of a temper to submit to, & make others quietly & patiently acquiess in the Laws of the Land, I extract the pith and marrow of his four principle propositions which seem to be the result & conclusion of his pamphlett. Which it would, at this time, be important for every citizen to read; they might then be better able to judge of his sincerity at that time, as well as of his integrity now in denouncing a free discussion of the grounds of the Law, declaring war with England13

    Madison, or the Committee of which, he was one, declared, & the Legislature of Virginia echoed the sound through the U. States, & with a view & intent to change the federal administration, that the President & Congress might not discharge their trusts, either from defect of Judgment, or from other cause

    2ly. should it happen, that the President or Congress, or either of them, in fact, shall not discharge its trusts, it is proper according to the cause & degree of their fault, they should be brought into contempt disrepute & hatred of the people

    3. When it becomes a question of fact whether, at any particular time, the President or Congress or either of them, has committed a violation of duty as to justify a contempt disrepute, or hatred of the people, s such a fact can only be determined by a free examination thereof among the people

    And fourthly, when it shall have actually happened, that is, that the President or Congress are chargeable with violating their duty, it is the duty as well as right of intelligent & faithfull citizens, to discuss & propagate promulgate them freely, as well to controul the President & Congress by the censureship of public opinion, as to promote a remidy according to the rules of the constitution: that is to induce the people from the wickedness of the Rulers to leave them out at their next election & to make choice of men who will faithfully discharge their Trusts—

    Now, if it were the duty & right of all intelligent & faithfull citizens in 179914 to examine & discuss the laws passed by Congress & on conviction of their being passed through defect of intelligence, or want of integrity of in those who made them, to promulgate that defect of intelligence & want of integrity, among the people; And, if it was then natural & proper, according to the degree of fault & defect in the Legislator, they discovered by should be brought into contempt & disrepute, and incur the hatred of the people at large; why should not, or why is it not now, the right & duty of, intelligent & faithfull citizens to make the same examination & discussion of the doings of President Madison & those in Congress who passed enacted that there shall be war between the U. States & Great Britain?15

    Can President Madison or any of his supporters assigne a substantial reason, why it was the duty & right of intelligent faithfull citizens to examine & discuss & promulgate the Law of Congress that prohibeted Lying, slander & defamation, with an interest to bring odium, hatred & contempt on Mr. Adams & the majorities in Congress who enacted that Law,16 & yet that it shall, at this time, be a crime to examine, discuss & promulgate the defect of intelligence & the want of political integrity most manifest in the President & majorities of Congress who enacted war to exist between this Country & England?

    If there be in the human constitution any natural ground for contempt, hatred, scorn, & indignation even to hatred & wrath it must be the conduct of a President & the majorities in Congress17 declaring war against a nation, when they themselves have omited every ordinary means to defend their own nation people against the attacks of the nation they declare war against. This conduct ought, & will generate that contempt & hatred to James Madison & his supporters in Congress, which he endeavoured to call down on the heads of those who passed a Law against lying & libelling.

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    FC:dft, TFP. A modified version of this letter, dated from “Elm trees” on 25 July 1812, appeared in the [Maine] Portland Gazette, 31 Aug. 1812. The manuscript draft serves as the source text because it is a primary iteration of GT’s thinking on this important subject and provides a rare demonstration of how it evolved into his more public newspaper voice. Significant variations from the printed version are footnoted into this text.