April 30 1812: Producing a Quarrel

On April 30, 1812, Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada, writes to Major-General Isaac Brock, in Upper Canada. Prevost writes that men of various American state militia have been ordered to the border.  Augustus Foster, the British Minister in Washington, believes that the Americans are trying to provoke an altercation on the border to justify war. Prevost wants Brock to use every effort to ensure that there is no "collision" between his and the American forces. Prevost's letter is reproduced below.

April 29 1812: Committee on the Orders in Council

On April 29, 1812, the House of Commons sat as Committee to deal with the Petitions against the Orders in Council.  Whitbread stated that it was clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had only agreed to have the enquiry as to the Orders of Council "by the hints of his own friends, that they would not give him their support in refusing the enquiry". After some debate and examination of some witnesses, the Committee adjourned to the next day.

April 29, 1812: First Foreign Aid Bill


On April 29, 1812, the American House of Representatives debated a resolution to purchase barrels of flour to aid the victims of the earthquake of Caracas, Venezuela.  The resolution  passes and will become the first foreign aid bill of the United States. Venezuela had suffered a powerful earthquake on March 26, 1812 measuring about 7.7 in magnitude. The earthquake caused extensive damage in Caracas, La Guaira, Barquisimeto, San Felipe, and Mérida with an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 dead.


April 29, 1812: Harrison Alarm and Distress

On April 29, 1812, William Harrison, the Governor of the Indiana Territory, again writes to the Secretary of War William Eustis about the attacks by various native tribes. He notes that recent attacks have caused a great deal of "alarm and distress." He ties these attacks to the "revival of the design by the Prophet and his Party" or  Tenskwatawa, the brother of Tecumseh. The result of the attacks is panic among colonists who are fleeing the territory.  The letter is reproduced below: 

April 28 1812 John Askin Father of his Country

On April 28 1812, John Askin wrote to his son Charles telling him what was being done in Upper Canada to prepare for the war that everyone now expects. John Askin was a fur trader, office holder and militia officer in Upper Canada. Askin also had quite a number of children. He had three children with an native woman that he kept as a slave,  Manette or Monette. He freed her in 1766. He also had nine children with his wife Marie-Archange Barthe.  David R. Farrell notes, "During the War of 1812 Askin had four sons, two sons-in-law, and ten grandchildren fighting for the British and one son-in-law for the Americans. As his health failed, his son Charles took over responsibility for the family estate and Askin died at the age of 76." Askin is an ideal candidate to be accorded the honour of being a Canadian father of his country in every sense of the word including the American son-in-law. 

The letter is can be found here and is reproduced below.

April 28 1812: Castlereagh Responds to Henry's Secret Mission

On April 28, 1812, Mr. Whitbread brings up the issue of  John Henry's secret mission in the United States. President Madison had paid Henry $50,000 to purchase Henry's papers that allegedly showed British spying and attempts to foment the separation of the New England states. Lord Castlereagh replied for the government. He disclaimed "most explicitly and peremptorily, having encouraged any disposition of the kind alluded to". He acknowledged that Henry was an agent of  Sir James Craig, from Lower Canada, but "without the privity of the government."  Henry's sole purpose was to obtain "information necessary to the commander of a province threatened with invasion." The exchange in the House of Commons is reproduced below.

April 28 1812: Motion on Orders in Council

On April 28, 1812, Lord Stanley rose to move a motion to have a Committee of the Whole House look into the many petitions against the Orders in Council that had been tabled in the House of Commons. Even Lord Castlereagh acknowledged that "the wishes of the country" called for an inquiry and supported the motion although he defended the Orders.  The motion was successful and a committee was ordered to sit for the next day. Mr. Rose also spoke again on the petition that had been made against him and what he had said or alleged to have said to a delegation from Birmingham.  It was alleged that Rose had compared the situation of the people of England and France to that of two men holding their heads in a vessel of water, and trying which can longest endure the pain of suffocation. In a long explanation, where he did not categorically deny making the comments, he did offer that "He thought he had not in the slightest degree, either in his words, or in the manner he uttered them, given occasion for offence of any sort." The debate of that day is reproduced below. 

April 27 1812: Napoleon Meets Russian Ambassador

On 27 April 1812, Napoleon granted, the Russian Ambassador, Alexander Kurakin, an audience.  Kurakin had instructions from Tsar Alexander that there would be no negotiations with Russia unless all French troops withdrew from Prussia to behind the Rhine. "What have your St. Petersburg people done with their heads, to think they can intimidate me with threats?" Napoleon supposedly responded [1]. Kurakin pointed out that Napoleon's alliance with Prussia was directed against Russia. Napoleon let it be known that he now also had an alliance with Austria. Further, Napoleon said that he regretted that the Tsar should be ordering him to move his troops when Russian troops were now on the frontier of the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. The audience ended with Napoleon giving Kurakin a letter to deliver to Alexander[2]. Napoleon ended this letter with a personal statement to Alexander: "Your majesty will however allow me to assure him that, were fate to conspire to make war between us inevitable, this would in no way alter the sentiments which Your Majesty has inspired in me, and which are beyond any vicissitude or possibility of change".  

1.The Napoleon Series: Franco-Russian Diplomacy, 1810-1812 found here
2. Adam Zamoyski, Moscow 1812: Napoleon`s Fatal March (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), at 107

April 27 1812: More Petitions Against the Orders in Council

On April 27, 1812, two more petitions were tabled in the British House of Commons against the Orders in Council. Further, evidence  that opposition to the Orders in Council is building. The first petition was from the ship owners of Sunderland. The second petition was by 6,500 inhabitants of Liverpool.  The House of Commons also dealt with a Petition from Liverpool over the language that the Right Hon. George Rose had used in a meeting between the  Chancellor of the Exchequer and certain manufacturers from Birmingham. It was alleged that Rose had compared the situation of the people of England and France to that of two men holding their heads in a vessel of water, and trying which can longest endure the pain of suffocation. The petitioners strongly objected to the comparison that showed a degree of insensitivity to their plight. Rose said that he could not remember making the remarks.

The petitions tabled on April 27 1812 are reproduced below.

April 27 1812: Hazlitt's Lectures

On April 27 1812, William Hazlitt gave a lecture with Henry Crabb Robinson there to take note and write about it in his  diary. Robinson is best known as a diarist who, in his Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence, recorded lectures, observations and conversations with many famous writers of his time including William Hazlitt, William Godwin, Robert Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb and William Blake. 

April 26 1812: Jefferson Carping

On April 26 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes to Matthew Wills to thank him for trying to get him some carp for his ponds.  Jefferson constructed fish ponds at various locations to breed his fish. The letter to Matthew Wills is reproduced below:
I return you many thanks for the fish you have been so kind as to send me, and still more for your aid in procuring the carp, and you will further oblige me by presenting my thanks to Capt. Holman and Mr. Ashlin. I have found too late, on enquiry that the cask sent was an old and foul one, and I have no doubt that must have been the cause of the death of the fish. The carp, altho' it cannot live the shortest time out of water, yet is understood to bear transportation in water the best of any fish whatever. The obtaining breeders for my pond being too interesting to be abandoned, I have had a proper smack made, such as is regularly used for transporting fish, to be towed after the boat, and have dispatched the bearer with it without delay, as the season is passing away. I have therefore again to solicit your patronage, as well as Captain Holman's in obtaining a supply of carp. I think a dozen would be enough, and would therefore wish him to come away as soon as he can get that number.

April 26 1812: Martha's Last Delivery

On April 26, 1812, Martha Ballard assists in the last delivery of  before her death which is now about a month away. She is paid 12 shillings for the birth.  The legal currency at the time is American dollars and cents but Martha, like many of her contemporaries,  still keeps track of her payments using pounds, shillings and pence.  She writes twelve shillings as 12/. Pence is written /12.  Martha's diary entry for April 26, 1812 reads as follows:
[Josiah Heath Birth, dagt, first Born].
Clear & very Cold for the Season. mrs Heaths illness increast after mid night and Shee was Deld at 4h 30m am of a Dagt, her first Born. I left her before noone, her marm Came. her illness has been very Severe. I have felt very feeble this day. 
[Mrith 15th. receivd 12/S. left patienls Comfortable]  

The transcription of the diary entry above is taken form the indispensable website dohistory. The transcription of the diary is the work of Robert R. McCausland and Cynthia MacAlman McCausland. The information in this post is also based on  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard based on her diary, 1785–1812. (Vintage Books, Random House Publishers, 1991). The picture above is from a post card from 1905 of the town of Howell showing the town from London Hill looking down on the Kennebec River and can be found here

April 26 1812: Russell's letter

On April 26, 1812, Jonathan Russell, the American representative in Britain, writes to the Secretary of State James Monroe enclosing his formal response to the Declaration of Lord Castlereagh of April 21, 1812. The Declaration had stated that whenever the French government should publish an authentic act expressly and unconditionally repealing the Berlin and Milan Decrees, then Orders in Council would be wholly and absolutely revoked. Jonathan Russell responded on April 25 basically rejecting the Declaration in a long winded reply which is reproduced below. The refusal to engage in any meaningful discussion means that war is becoming almost inevitable.  Russell sent two letter on April 26 to James Monroe one of which is reproduced below. In the other letter, Russell admits to being confused about the Declaration even after talking to Castlereagh on April 25, 1812. 

April 26 1812: Hunt Libel

On April 26 1812, Leigh Hunt publishes in the Examiner an article headed "Charge of Libel for explaining the True Character of the Prince Regent." Leigh and John Hunt  are now aware that they will face charges for libel as a result of their article of  March 22, 1812. That earlier article had been a scathing attack on the Prince Regent. On April 26 1812 [1] they use more moderate language but are still defiant

April 25 1812 Shelley to Godwin

On April 25, 1812, Percy Shelley writes to William Godwin continuing the correspondence that he had started earlier in the year. The day before he had written to his father for the money to acquire the farm that he refers to in the letter to Godwin. Percy's letter is reproduced below.

April 25 1812: Jefferson writes to an Old Classmate

On April 25, 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes to James Maury, an old classmate and now American consul in Liverpool in Great Britain. Maury will hold that position until 1829. The letter is expansive in its content moving from the personal to the broad political controversies of the day. It is probable that Jefferson expected that his letter would be disseminated to others. As a consequence, he writes the letter, in part, as a brief of the American position against Great Britain. The centrality of his contribution to the American Revolution, as the author of the Declaration of Independence, has taught him the power of words to shape events. So when Jefferson writes his letter, he has one eye on history and the other on how his words can be used to further his nation's interests. Jefferson is not simply writing to a childhood friend. Jefferson never did anything simply though that was his affectation. Among American Presidents, only Abraham Lincoln rivals Jefferson as a literary stylist. The letter of April 25, 1812 is reproduced below.

April 24, 1812: Pierre-Jean de Sales Laterrière

On April 24, 1812, Pierre-Jean de Sales Laterrière was appointed surgeon to the Voltigeurs Canadiens, commanded by Charles-Michel d’Irumberry de Salaberry. Laterrièree had studied medicine at St Thomas’s Hospital in London. He had become a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1809. He practiced medicine in Lower Canada.  The above information is taken from the entry on  Laterrière in the Dictionary of  Canadian Biography Online by Pierre Duffor, who continues the story
Laterrière, who was quite well off, rented a house near Fort Chambly, where his regiment was quartered; he even bought a horse for Captain Jacques Viger, who was unable to meet such an expense. Laterrière remained with his regiment until 6 Oct. 1814. At that time he received a letter from his father requesting that he go to France and settle some family business there. Laterrière immediately applied for a six-month leave of absence and, assuming it would be granted, returned to Quebec with the intention of sailing for Europe. His request was turned down; Laterrière then tried to appeal to the governor, but in vain. Consequently he resigned from his posting with the Voltigeurs Canadiens early in November and left for France, where he was supposed to collect a large inheritance bequeathed to his father.
Laterrière's father died while he was in Europe. The combined inheritances made Laterrière a wealthy man. He returned to Lower Canada but eventually settled in London dying there in 1834.

April 24 1812: Petition of Glasgow Against Orders in Council

On April 24, 182, Lord Archibald Hamilton presented a Petition against the Orders in Council from the merchants and the manufacturers of Glasgow. Lord Archibald Hamilton was a Member of Parliament for Lanarkshire in Scotland. He served for 26 years starting in 1802. The Glasgow petitioners complain that the "late stagnation of trade has been attended with the most calamitous effects" which could have been prevented or "greatly mitigated by adhering to the established laws of neutral commerce." They complain that the economic difficulties caused by losing the European market were exacerbated by the loss of the American market. The Petition is reproduced below. 

April 24 1812: Coleridge's Delicate Business

On April 24 1812, Samuel Taylor Coleridge writes to his wife Sarah. He begins the letter with a playful story about the character of Dr. Samuel Dove. He ends the letter by talking about his lectures and the new editions of his magazine the "Friends." He wants the next edition to come out during the "flush and fresh breeze of my popularity". Coleridge tells Sarah that to complete the magazine he needs some essays from Mr. Wordsworth.  He wants Robert Southey to write to Wordsworth to get the "two finishing Essays on Epitaphs". In his words, it is a "delicate business" because of Coleridge's feud with Wordsworth.  Coleridge's letter is reproduced below: 

April 24 1812: Robert Southey: Huzza!

On April 24, 1812, Robert Southey is writing a letter to his friend,  Grosvenor Charles Bedford. He leaves the envelope open waiting to include a letter that Sarah Coleridge is writing to send to her husband in London. An hour passes and Southey is inspired to write some lines of poetry for the poem he is working on and which would become part of  Roderick, the Last of the Goths. Southey adds a few more lines to his letter to Bedford to express his excitement at being so inspired. Southey's letter is reproduced below. 

April 24 1812 Shelley writes to His Father for Money

On April 24, 1812, Percy Bysshe Shelley is writing to his father, Timothy Shelley, asking for a loan. Father and son have been estranged since Percy was expelled from Oxford in 1812. Timothy Shelley was a Whig Member of Parliament for New Shoreham.   His son had just returned from Ireland where he had been agitating for Irish independence and catholic rights. Percy is in desperate need of money. He and his wife Harriet are living at Nantgwilt in Radnorshire, Wales. Percy has come up with a plan to settle there by buying a house and farm of about 200 acres.  He is writing to his father to raise the necessary 500 pounds or to be allowed to use his father's name for security to get a loan. Percy's letter to his father is reproduced below. Timothy Shelley replied to his son's letter on, on May 5, declining to provide him with any further monies. This may seem harsh but it is doubtful that Percy was made out to be a farmer.    

April 24 1812: Madison and the "Great Differences of Opinion"

On April 24, 1812, President Madison responds to the letter of Thomas Jefferson of April 17, 1812. Jefferson had raised concerns about the Embargo Act that had been recommended by Madison and passed by Congress. In particular, Jefferson was concerned that farmers would not have a market for their produce such as flour and tobacco. Jefferson had made the case for being able to trade even if the trading partner was the enemy.  In response, Madison describes some of the thinking behind the Embargo Act. Madison indicates that he had recommended the embargo as a war measure that would be followed with a declaration of war. The execution of this plan was upset by Congress extending the embargo to 90 days. The coalition responsible for this extension, Madison writes, "proceeded from the united votes of those wished to make it a negotiating instead of a war measure; of those who wished to put off the day of war as long as possible, if ultimately to be met; and of those whose mercantile constituents had ships abroad, which would be favoured in their of getting safely home".  He notes that there  exist "great differences of opinion" as to the "time and form of entering into hostilities." Madison concludes by assuring Jefferson that the embargo will mean that farmers will get a good price for their flour. Curiously, Madison also assures Jefferson, even if war comes, that American produce can make it to Great Britain under "Spanish and Portuguese flags and papers, real or counterfeit." Madison's letter is reproduced below.

April 23 1812: The Insurrection of the Papers

On April 23, 1812, Thomas Moore published a satirical poem in the Morning Chronicle entitled "The Insurrection of the Papers".  Moore begins his poem by quoting a speech by Lord Castlereagh dealing with John M'Mahon appointment as private secretary to the Prince Regent. A sinecure for him had recently been debated in Parliament. M'Mahon's was notorious for procuring female companions for the Prince Regent.  Moore is again engaging in the Whig's critique of the Prince Regent but has added a new target in the person of Lord Castlereagh who had just joined the cabinet as foreign minister. Moore's poem again demonstrates that poetry in 1812 played a more varied and central role in the culture than it does today.  Moore's poem is reproduced below:

"It would be impossible for his Royal Highness to disengage his person from the accumulating pile of papers that encompassed it." --Lord CASTLEREAGH'S _Speech upon Colonel M Mahon's Appointment, April 14, 1812_.

April 23 1812: Brock on the Scarcity of Specie

On April 23 182, Major General Brock writes to Ensign Noah Freer, Military Secretary, a letter describing some of the effects of the American embargo on the economy of Upper Canada. Brock anticipated that that the embargo would exacerbate the scarcity of  "specie" or coins used for currency in the colony.  Brock is planing, in the event of war, to introduce a paper currency. He also notes that the price of flour has risen to  eight dollars for one half per barrel but the effect of the embargo has not yet been felt. He estimates that the embargo may mean that about 40,000 barrels may be kept from the Montreal market. Brock's letter is reproduced below:

April 23 1812: Aaron Burr's Ice-Islands

On April 23, 1812, Captain Potter,  to "gratify" Aaron Burr,  maneuvers the Aurora to within three to four hundred yards of an "ice-island" or iceberg. Burr has been on the Aurora sailing for Boston since March 26, 1812. He describes the ice-islands in the private journal that he kept for his daughter. He saw a number of icebergs on April 23rd. He described the one that he got closest to as having a stupendous height and grandeur rising out of the water like a perpendicular rock of alabaster or white marble. The entry for April 23 is reproduced below: 

April 22 1812: Harrison Calls for War Against the "Scoundrels"

On April 22, 1812,  William Henry Harrison, the territorial Governor of Indiana, writes to to William Eustis, the Secretary of War, calling for a "war of extirpation" against the native aboriginal tribes.  

VINCENNES 22nd, April 1812 
10 O'clock p. m. 


A colonel [John] Small has just arrived from the Settlement on the Embarras River five miles west of this place Avith the information of the murder of another family by the Indians about 8 o'clock this evening. A gentleman who arrived last evening informs me that a number of Winebagos, Sacs, Kickapoos etc. are now with Governor Edwards in council at Cahokia. What faith in future can be placed in the promises of these scoundrels or what other course is there left for us to pursue but to make a war of exterpation [sic] upon them? If some offensive operations are not soon commenced against them we shall loose more of our citizens than the most bloody battle would cost us. 

I have dispatched a party of Rangers and militia in pursuit of the Indians and I think there is a great probability that they will be overtaken. 

I send this letter after the mail carrier by a special Express. 

And am with great respect your Humble Servant 
Wm. Henry Harrison 

April 22 1812: American Diplomats in London and Paris

On April 22, 1812, the American diplomats in London and Paris both write to Secretary of State James Monroe. In London, Jonathan Russell had just received a declaration from Lord Castlereagh setting out the British government's position on the Orders in Council. Russell interpreted the declaration as not representing any change in British policy. He ignored the subtle change in the British position and emphasis which was motivated by increased political opposition to the Orders in Council. In France, the problem was the opposite. Joel Barlow continued to give the French officials the benefit of the doubt. He continued to try to negotiate a treat only to be ignored or worse lied to.  

The two letters are reproduced below:

London April 22 1812 

Sir I received late last evening a note from lord Castlereagh of which the enclosed is a copy,  together with the declaration to which it refers. I hasten to communicate to you these important documents, as they appear to manifest definitively the determination of this government to persevere in its actual system, and to support with every sort of pretext the pretext of retaliation on which it was originally founded. I have the honour to be &c JONA. RUSSELL 

Joel Barlow

  Paris April 22 1812 

I am obliged at last to dismiss the Hornet without the       expected treaty,  which I should have regretted more than I do if your despatches, which I have had the honor to receive by the Wasp, had not somewhat abated my zeal in that work.

It really appeared to me that the advantages of such a treaty as I have sketched would be very great and especially if it could be concluded soon.

April 22, 1812: Brock writes to Prevost

On April 22, 1812, Major-General Brock, in Upper Canada, writes to Sir George Prevost, in Lower Canada.  Brock describes a tense situation on the border. American troops, armed and in "coloured clothes", are on patrol trying to enforce the American embargo on foreign trade.  There have also been some incidents where each side has shot at the other across the border. Brock's letter is reproduced below.

"YORK, April 22, 1812.

I had the honor yesterday to receive your excellency's letter, dated the 21st ultimo, and I entreat you to believe that no act within my control shall afford the government of the United States a legitimate pretext to add to a clamour which has been so artfully raised against England.

April 21 1821:Coleridge writes to his Wife

On April 21, 1812, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, now in London, writes to his long suffering wife Sarah in Keswick. The letter demonstrates all of Coleridge's brilliance,  loquacious charm and infuriating self absorption. Coleridge is preparing for a new series of lectures that he hopes will be as successful as the ones he gave earlier in the year. Coleridge remains estranged from Wordsworth but is unaware that Wordsworth is even now descending on London to confront him. Coleridge writes:  

71, Bemers Street, Tuesday, April 21, 1812.

My dear Love, — Everything is going on so very well, so much beyond my expectation, that I will not revert to anything unpleasant to damp good news with. The last receipt for the insurance is now before me, the date the 4th of May. Be assured that before April is past, you shall receive both receipts, this and the one for the present year, in a frank.

April 21 1812: Byron's Second Speech

On April 21, 1812, Lord Byron rose in the House of Lords to give a speech in favour of  the motion by Earl of Donoughmore debating the restrictions imposed on Roman Catholics in Great Britain. This was Byron' second speech in the House of Lords.  His speech is laced with literary allusions, biting criticism of the government, but it did not enhance his political career. The motion was defeated and Catholic Emancipation in Great Britain only came in 1829. Byron's speech [1] is reproduced below.

April 21: 1812: Orders In Council Declaration

On April 21, 1812, Lord Castlereagh delivered to Jonathan Russell, the American representative in Britain, a formal declaration, on behalf of the Prince Regent, with respect to the Orders in Council. The declaration used the equivocating language of diplomats but it also clearly declared that whenever the French government should publish an authentic act expressly and unconditionally repealing the Berlin and Milan Decrees, then Orders in Council would be wholly and absolutely revoked. Unfortunately, Jonathan Russell did not appreciate the subtle changes or new emphasis in the British policy that was now moving quickly to repeal the Orders in Council. Castlereagh's letter, accompanying the Declaration, added that he hoped Russell would communicate to the American government that "this measure as conceived in the true spirit of conciliation and with a due regard on the part of His Royal Highness to the honor and interests of the United States and the undersigned ventures to express his confident hope that this decisive proof of the amicable sentiments which animate the councils of His Royal Highness towards America may accelerate the return of amity and mutual confidence between the two States." The Declaration is reproduced below:

April 21 1812: War with England is Perfect Madness

On April 21, 1812, the New York Evening Post published an article opposing any war with Great Britain. 
New York Evening Post, 21 April 1812
In a war with England we shall need numerous armies and ample treasuries for their support. The war-hounds that are howling for war through the continent are not to be the men who are to force entrenchments, and scale ramparts against the bayonet and the cannon’s mouth; to perish in sickly camps, or in long marches through sultry heats or wastes of snow. These gowned warriors, who are so loudly seconded by a set of fiery spirits in the great towns, and by a set of office hunters in the country, expect that their influence with the great body of the people, the honest yeomanry of our country, is such that every farmer, every mechanic, every laborer, will send off his sons, nay, will even shoulder his firelock himself and march to the field of blood. While these brave men who are "designing or exhorting glorious war," lodged safe at Monticello or some other secure retreat, will direct and look on; and will receive such pay for their services as they shall see fit to ask, and such as will answer their purposes.

April 20 1812: Prevost to Lord Liverpool

On April 20, 1812, Governor General Sir George Prevost writes to Lord Liverpool in London about actions which he now believes will make war with the United States inevitable. Sir George Prevost was the commander of the British forces in North America. It is interesting to note that he ends the letter by stating that it is the "democratic spirit" of the United States that is driving the Americans to war. At the time, "democracy" was still something to be feared in Great Britain. Sir George Prevost's letter is reproduced below:
Sir George Prevost to Lord Liverpool.

QUÉBEC, 20th April, 1812.  
MY LORD,-  The recent passing of an Embargo Act in Congress, the orders issued for the march of 1600 men to reinforce the American positions on Lakes Erie and Ontario and the River St. Lawrence indicate an inevitable disposition for hostilities, which have induced me to accept the services of 500 Canadian youth, to be formed into a corps of light infantry or voltigeurs.  As soon as the organization of the militia is en train, I propose visiting Upper Canada to concert with Major-General Brock a general plan of offensive and defensive operations in the event of the democratic spirit of the United States having put the dispute beyond the bounds of accommodation.

April 20, 1812: Jefferson to Adams

On April 20, 1812, Jefferson continues his correspondence with John Adams. The two aging patriarchs of the revolution had become estranged as a result of the election of 1800. John Adams made the first move towards reconciliation by writing to Jefferson, on January 1, 1812,  a short note to announce the delivery of "two pieces of homespun" that was to follow.  Adams was referring to a two-volume collection of lectures on rhetoric by his son, John Quincy Adams.  Jefferson responded by a letter of January 21, 1812, misunderstanding Adam's letter and thinking that Adams was sending him some homespun cloth. Jefferson's letter in reply goes on for some length about the virtues of producing homespun cloth in America. Jefferson's earlier letter can be found here.  Jefferson's letter of April 20 is fascinating in that he describes some of the information that he had as President with respect to Christopher McPherson,  the Wabash Prophet or Tecumseh' brother, and John Henry, the supposed British spy. 

Christopher McPherson was a freed slave who lived near Richmond, Virginia. He had served in the Revolutionary War as a clerk.  His master had freed him when he was 29 years old. In 1799, he had undergone a religious conversion and began to identify himself as the "true, real-established and declared representative of Christ Jesus" or "King of Kings and Lord of Lords." He believed, like Nimrod Hughes, that a third of mankind would be destroyed on June 4, 1812. McPherson published his life story in a book entitled A Short History of the Life of Christopher McPherson in 1811. McPherson thought that part of his mission was to convert the leaders of the world. He thus wrote letters to the President of the United States,  Napoleon Bonaparte, King of England, and the Pope urging them to take steps to achieve peace. 

The letter of April 20, 1812 is reproduced below. 

April 19 1812: War As An Act of Madness

On April 19, 1812, Peter B. Porter, who was a Congressman from New York, wrote to the Secretary of War William Eustis that it was “an act of madness fatal to the administration to declare war at this time, when, so far from being in a situation to conduct offensive operations, we are completely exposed to attacks in every quarter.”  Porter is interesting in that he initially favoured war as a War Hawk. He then reversed himself and opposed war as is clear from his letter of April 19. This did not stop him from ensuring that his family profited from the war by getting his brother a war contract. Finally, he ended fighting  in the war with some distinction. Allan Taylor describes Porter in Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (Vintage) as follows: 

April 19 1812: Martha Ballard

On April 19, 1812, a Sunday, Martha Ballard writes a particularly long entry in her diary

[Birth Wilm Saunders 3d Dagt & 4 th Child].
Cloudy morn, raind aftern. I have felt very feeble. mrs Stone Came in to See me, Shee brot wood to the doore. Shee informd me that William Brookss wife fell from the Scaffold of her Fathers Barn yesterday and hurt her So her life is not Expected. Nancy Smith here, Says Shee is not any better. I was Calld by Wilm Saunders at 4h pm, his wife was Deld at 10 Evn of her 3d dagt & 4th Child and is Comfortable. I laid down & Slept Some.  [at Wm Saunders. Birth 14]

For more information on Martha see my earlier post of March 27 which can be found here


The transcription of the diary entry above is taken form the indispensable website dohistory. The transcription of the diary is the work of Robert R. McCausland and Cynthia MacAlman McCausland.  

April 1812: Diplomatic Mooning for Annabella

On  April 18, 1812, Augustus Foster, the British Minister Plenipotentiary to the United States, writes to his mother Elizabeth, the Duchess of Devonshire, in England. Foster is responding to her mother's ongoing queries as to his interest in Annabella Milbanke. On February 29, 1812, the Duchess had written to him that she would see if Lady Caroline Lamb would raise the matter with Annabella. Lady Caroline was a cousin of Annabella. The Duchess writes: "Caro means to see la bella Anabella before she writes to you. I don't like the last letter which you received, and I shall almost hate her if she is blind to the merits of one who would make her so happy." On April 18, Foster responds that he does not think that he has much of a chance with Miss Milbanke given the distance that separates them.

April 18 1812: Tecumseh and Prophet

On April 18, 1812, The Republican Advocate in Batavia, New York carried an article warning that an "armed British and Indian force" [1] was ready to invade from the Canadas. The article speaks of the "Prophet's band" which refers to Tenskwatawa, the brother of Tecumseh the great Shawnee leader. The brothers were working to establish an independent American Indian nation east of the Mississippi. In 1811-12 Tecumseh had traveled widely in the south to recruit tribes to this confederacy. Tenskwatawa was the religious leader whose ideas led to a native religious revival calling for a return to ancestral ways and a rejection of European ways, including European clothing and alcohol. Tecumseh was the military leader of the armed resistance having been born and reared in violence he was a formidable warrior. Tecumseh sought alliances with various tribes and, when war came, with the British. The fears of the colonists had been heightened by a number of attacks in the frontiers. American colonists believed that the British were instigating these attacks. These fears are expressed in the article of April 18th: 

April 17 1812: Napoleon's Peace Offer

On April 17, 1812, Duc de Bassano, the French Foreign Minister, wrote to Lord Castlereagh with a peace proposal from Napoleon. The main terms in the offer was a French guarantee of the independence of Portugal under the House of Braganza and the integrity of Spain. The offer came as Napoleon was about to leave for war with Russia. It is doubtful that Napoleon intended the offer to be anything other than a political ploy. The peace proposal did not represent any real concessions. Wellington had already secured Portugal's independence. As for Spain, Napoleon intended to keep his older brother, Joseph-Napoleon Bonaparte, as king.  As a consequence, the British did not take the offer seriously but did respond on April 23. Excerpts from the proposal are reproduced below: 

April 17, 1812: Jefferson to Madison

On April 17, 1812, Thomas Jefferson writes to James Madison about the newly imposed embargo on all foreign trade. Jefferson seems particularly concerned about the consequences of the embargo on farmers and planters. Perhaps thinking of his own situation, he thinks that one-third of the flour or wheat and three-quarters of the tobacco may now not have a market.  Jefferson argues that Americans would be more disposed to go to war if it did not effect their ability to trade. He writes: "I think a people would go through a war with much less impatience if they could dispose of their produce, and that unless a vent can be provided for them, they will soon become querulous and clamor for peace." Jefferson's  letter of April 17, 1812 is reproduced below. 

April 17 1812: Petitions Against the Orders in Council

On April 17, 1812, William Wilberforce presented a petition in the British House of Commons on behalf of the merchants, manufacturers and inhabitants of Sheffield against the Orders in Council. The same day Sir Charles Mordaunt also tabled a petition from Birmingham with over 14,000 signatures. Three days earlier, a petition on behalf of Sheffield had also been tabled on the same subject. It is clear that opposition to the Orders in Council is building. At the time, Great Britain was experiencing economic distress that many attributed to the barriers to trade with America caused by the Orders in Council. In response, to the petitions Lord Castelreagh indicates that the issue will soon be addressed in the Commons. In fact, on  April 21, 1812,  the government will announce its intention to repeal the Orders in Council. 

The petitions tabled on April 17 1812 are reproduced below.

April 16 1812: Southey to Walter Savage Landor

On April 16 1812, Robert Southey writes to Walter Savage Landor, who is a friend and a very fine poet.  Southey provides some advice in jest on libel laws, his views on the war in the Peninsula and colonial policy in general.

Keswick, April 16, 1812. 

MY DEAR LANDOR, --Heaven forbid that you should draw upon yourself the vexations of a printing establishment, which would involve you in trouble without end, and for no adequate purpose scarcely, indeed, for any purpose! It will be perfectly easy for you to tell the public all which you wish to tell them, with perfect security for yourself, your printer, and publisher, provided only that you bear in mind what the laws of libel are. With regard to individuals, they give sufficient scope: all may be said of them that ought to be said. With regard to the State, anything may be said, which does not bear evident intention of a wish to overthrow it. Above all that you have to beware of is, that the vehemence of your manner do not belie your intentions. 

April 16 1812: Thomas De Quincey to William Wordsworth

On April 16, 1812, Thomas De Quincey provides William Wordsworth with exaustive information on the appropriate coaches to get from Liverpool to London.  Wordsworth is planning to come to London to try to reconcile with Coleridge. 
My dear Sir, 
I may perhaps save you as much money as will buy a decent edition of Shakespeare by giving you some information respecting the coaches from Liverpool to London.

April 16 1812: Harrison's General Orders

On April 16 1812, William Henry Harrison, Territorial Governor of Indiana, issues "General Orders for the Indiana Militia". He writes that war with the native tribes  is now inevitable, and therefore all military units should take immediate measures to prepare. Harrison recommends that citizens in and around Knox County should build blocked houses or picketed forts.  The General Orders are reproduced below: