The War of 1812: Congress and the Capitol in 1814

 

A month-by-month timeline of events pertaining to Congress and the Capitol during the War of 1812 .

 

 The United States Capitol following its burning by British troops in August 1814. Library of Congress

The United States Capitol following its burning by British troops in August 1814. Library of Congress

 

January 1814

 

I. President James Madison and Congress Open Peace Negotiations with Great Britain

      President James Madison (left) and Robert Stewart, Lord Viscount Castlereagh

President James Madison (left) and Robert Stewart, Lord Viscount Castlereagh

 

January 3: President James Madison accepted an invitation from British Foreign Secretary Lord Castlereagh for direct peace negotiations.

 

 American Antiquarian Society

American Antiquarian Society

January 9: Representative Abijah Bigelow (MA) wrote to his wife that peace between the United States and Britain will be difficult, but expressed hope that it will be done within the next year, even though “they can look on nothing British without snarling.”

“Letters of Abijah Bigelow, Member of Congress, To His Wife, 1810-1815,” Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 40, no. 2 (October 1930) 373.

 

 

 

January 14: President James Madison nominated John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain.

 

Signing the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814   by Amédéé Forestier shows the U.S. commissioners on the right side of the painting. At center, British Admiral John Gambier shakes hands with John Quincy Adams, to whose left are fellow U.S, commissioners Albert Gallatin, James A. Bayard (man with white hair), Henry Clay (seated) and Jonathan Russell.  Smithsonian American Art Museum

Signing the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814 by Amédéé Forestier shows the U.S. commissioners on the right side of the painting. At center, British Admiral John Gambier shakes hands with John Quincy Adams, to whose left are fellow U.S, commissioners Albert Gallatin, James A. Bayard (man with white hair), Henry Clay (seated) and Jonathan Russell. Smithsonian American Art Museum

 

January 18: The Senate confirmed President Madison’s “appointments of John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, Henry Clay, and Jonathan Russell, to be jointly and severally Ministers Plenipotentiary and Extraordinary, to negotiate and sign a treaty of peace and a treaty of commerce with Great Britain.” Senate Executive Journal, Jan. 18, 1814

 

January 19: Henry Clay resigned his position of Speaker of the House to take appointment to peace commission; Langdon Cheves, a Representative from South Carolina, was elected the new Speaker of the House. House Journal, 13th Congress, 2nd session, Jan. 19, 1814

 

II. Congress Addresses the Problem of Recruiting and Retaining Troops for the Army

 

U.S. Army uniforms, War of 1812. Library of Congress

U.S. Army uniforms, War of 1812. Library of Congress

January 6:The House of Representatives resolved that the Governor of Vermont, Martin Chittenden, issued a proclamation on November 10, 1813 enticing soldiers to desert the U.S. military and requested that the President ask the Attorney General to proceed with charges against the governor. House Journal, 13th Congress, 2d Session, Jan. 6, 1814 

 

January 10: The House of Representatives introduced a bill to encourage soldiers to become recruiters, promising an $8 reward for every recruit a soldier can get to sign. The bill was enacted on January 27. House Bills and Resolutions, 13th Congress, 2nd Session.

 

January 27: Act of Congress provided a bounty of $124 to every recruit who agreed to serve five years or until the war’s end, and authorized a bounty of $8 to every soldier or citizen who procured a recruit to enlist for a term of five years. Statutes At Large, 13th Congress, 2nd Session

John Lawrence Burns was one of the soldiers who served in the War of 1812. In July 1863, as a resident of Gettysburg, PA, he joined Union Army forces in fighting the Confederate assault at the Battle of Gettysburg. Library of Congress

John Lawrence Burns was one of the soldiers who served in the War of 1812. In July 1863, as a resident of Gettysburg, PA, he joined Union Army forces in fighting the Confederate assault at the Battle of Gettysburg. Library of Congress

February 1814

I. Expanding the Peace Commission

Albert Gallatin by Rembrandt Peale, 1805. Independence National Historical Park

February 8: Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin was nominated as another commissioner for the peace negotiations and George W. Campbell was nominated as his replacement.

 

Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury George W. Campbell. Department of the Treasury

Portrait of Secretary of the Treasury George W. Campbell. Department of the Treasury

February 9: George W. Campbell was appointed Secretary of the Treasury replacing Albert Gallatin.

 

February 15: Congressman Samuel Taggart (F-MA) criticized the appointment of George W. Campbell as Secretary of the Treasury, explaining in a private letter:

 “You will have heard … of the renomination of Gallatin as fifth commissioner …. As the objection taken to him from his being Secretary of the Treasury was removed by the appointment of a successor, there was little opposition made to the last appointment. His successor [George W. Campbell] is one of the bitterest of the bitter warhawks, and it is I believe the universal opinion among the Federalists, as well as man of the Democrats, that his talents are not equal to the station. The Wags of the city however have found out something very significant and appropriate in his name, George Washington Campbell, G.W.C. Government Wants Cash.”

George H. Haynes, ed., “Letters of Samuel Taggart, Representative in Congress, 1803-1814: Part II, 1808-1814,” American Antiquarian Society 33 (1923), 428.

February 25: After waiting to leave for more than two weeks (since February 10), Senator Henry Clay and Jonathon Russell finally set sail for the peace talks with Great Britain.

II. Continuing to Seek New Troops

 

Kentucky Mounted riflemen at the Battle of the Thames, 1813. US Rangers were most likely armed and equipped similar to these volunteer units.

Kentucky Mounted riflemen at the Battle of the Thames, 1813. US Rangers were most likely armed and equipped similar to these volunteer units.

February 24: Congress enacted two measures in an effort to continue to raise troops. The first continued in force for an additional year an act of Feb. 25, 1813 to raise ten additional companies of rangers. The second authorized the President to accept volunteers into service for five years or the duration of the war.  Statutes At Large, 13th Congress, 2nd Session

 

 

 

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE WAR OF 1812 AND THE TREATY OF GHENT

Library of Congress, Primary Documents in American History: The Treaty of Ghent

National Archives, Our Documents: Treaty of Ghent

PBS, The War of 1812: The Treaty of Ghent

Treaty of Ghent.org: 1814-2014 The Treaty of Ghent

Perkins, Bradford. Castlereagh and Adams: England and the United States, 1812-1823. University of California Press, 1964.