The Forgotten War (1812)

American’s think of the horrific day of infamy on 9/11 or Pearl Harbor when we think of an act of war on American soil, however, we have forgotten in our history the War of 1812, which was just as horrific, if not more so. For at that time the President’s House, newly renovated after our third President’s term, Thomas Jefferson, by Dolley Payne Madison, First lady and wife of our fourth President, James Madison, the Father of the Constitution; only to suffer unheard of destruction.

Dolley was a Quaker of the John Payne family, who had later resided in Philadelphia, where she had met and married John Todd; having a daughter with him who died young, and a son Payne, when Todd himself died young as well. While only 11 years old, she had met the wonderful James Madison, not realizing it was destined at so young an age. After Todd’s death she met him again, along with another potential suitor, Aaron Burr. She had always known Burr, and thought
him a kindly man, though not really knowing the reserved only 5’6” Madison. At last she chose James Madison, who was overjoyed at the prospect of having Dolley as his wife and welcoming her son, Payne, as his own.

James Madison, (as well as Thomas Jefferson) was a brilliant man. By the age of 12 years he was reading Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Sallust, Terence, and Justinian. He was also learning Spanish and French, both with a Scottish accent. In 1759 when he was eighteen, he arrived at the College of New Jersey, and here, became a zealous patriot, untiring scholar, probing philosopher, ribald satirist. Returning home then, he was physically debilitated but still an ardent student, this time of religious history, international law, and politics, which was to make him later described as “the best informed man in America on the principles of government and the keenest analyst the world had yet produced of the relationship between government and economics.” (Note: It would be a blessing if we had this man in office now with our trillions of debt!)

By June 25, 1778, Virginia voted 89 to 79 to ratify the Constitution. But it was not the deciding state, after all. For already on June 21, little New Hampshire had become the ninth to ratify. From NH to Georgia the bells were ringing and the flags waved with parades and celebrations, with Calvary, light infantry, a herald with a trumpet proclaiming a “New era”.. The cries of Patrick Henry…”Give me liberty of give me death.” And James Madison was at the head of this magnificent document, the Constitution of the United States of America, which is still held as sacred, throughout modern day battles, with judges taking liberties they shouldn’t have, as with the case of Church & State, which was based upon a single personal letter, from Jefferson to the Baptists in Danbury CT, not the actual Constitution itself. The courts ‘incorporated “ it rather illegally into it’s own interpretation…and wrongly, I might add! Roe vs Wade, too, took liberties that were not in the Constitution.

However, the country then in 1778, was still in turmoil, its two political factions polarized. The Republicans headed by Thomas Jefferson, lover of France and ardent Democrat, were in sympathy with the new republic, arguing for support of the treaty even if it led to war. Its excesses, Jefferson believed stoutly, were only temporary. Its ideals –liberty, equality, fraternity- would triumph in the end. On the other hand, Federalists, many of whom had remained Tories even during the Revolution, were all for support of England. The treaty, the claimed, had been made with the King, and the King was dead. Therefore it was void. Not so, asserted Jefferson. A treaty was made with a “country” not a person, and was sacred. Madison had explained to Dolley that there were “three fundamental types of government,” as he had outlined in a paper entitled “Spirit of Governments.” There are military despotism’s, under which human nature has groaned through every age; there are money despotism’s, which pretend to give liberty (Obama’s Administration now!) but really rely on interested partisans to defend the domination of the few over the freedom of the many; and there are republican governments (which remember then were democrats), which it is the glory of America to have invented, and her unrivaled happiness to possess.

Jefferson and Madison had opposed Hamilton on many issues: the creation of a National Bank, which they condemned as both unconstitutional and profitable to merchants and financiers rather than to the mass of the people: the protection of manufacturers by the taxing powers of Congress through subsidies, tariffs, and prohibition of competitive imports; the attempted suppression of democratic societies formed in protest of government policies. “The rights of citizens,” asserted Madison firmly, “to enter into voluntary organizations and to censure the government as they see fit, must be inviolable if a people are to remain free.” (Note, does that sound like the fights in Washington now with Freddie and Fanny, Madoff, Corzine not to mention Timothy Geitner printing and printing money we can’t back up.)

For this opposing view clashed on foreign as well as domestic problems. During the Revolution and the years immediately after there had been strong national affection for France, but as years passed an increasing number renewed their loyalty to Britain. (Then why did they come here in the first place?) In the Constitutional debate Hamilton along with other conservatives, had revealed his preference for the British monarchical system. He had lost. Jefferson, though, interpreted the excesses of the French liberationists (for Napoleon was reigning yet) as indictments not of democracy but of the abuses of monarchy, and had been deeply involved as his 5 years as minister to France. Both Madison and his friend Jefferson, were accumulating a magnificent library, and to Madison’s hundreds of books, Jefferson had thousands in Monticello, that they read too.

Madison fought hard with other Democratic-Republicans in the House before he was elected President, to prevent the implementation of the unfair and unpopular treaty that Washington had reluctantly signed. Number 58 of his “Federalist Papers. “The House cannot only refuse but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government.” THEY HAD (AND DO NOW) THE POWER OF THE PURSE.” Throughout it all Dolley listened, learned, understood, and sympathized with James’ frustration, become his ardent helpmate throughout their lives.

In the election of 1800, when Jefferson had run for President, James had shar4ed in the calumnies heaped on his head by the opposition. Jefferson, (like today) had been accus4ed of every crime but murder. Dolley smarted at the memory of the slanders directed at them both: atheism, cowardice in the Revolution, hostility to commerce and manufacturers, ruthless ambition, government by the riffraff, the dregs of society. CHANGE, opponents had decried! Exchange Secretary of State John Marshall for a James Madison? (Same as today’s fights). And Madison did serve as this third President’s Secretary of State. And for 16 years the Madison’s would live and be a part of the Washington life, throughout the turmoil and war to come.

Later on, too, Dolley was recalling the friendship (and almost marriage) to Aaron Burr, whose treachery, when it was finally proven, seemed to Dolley as a personal betrayal. But the fall of 1806 there was indisputable evidence that Burr was conspiring to found a separate nation to the West, collaborating with Britain to take the Southwest out of the United States by armed revolt. His partner in this conspiracy seemed to be General James Wilkinson, commander in chief of the American Army and governor of Upper Louisiana, who realizing finally the reality of things,notified the President and caused Burr’s arrest. Wherefore, Burr was tried for high treason. However, just as in today’s news, with Attorney General Holder, there too, was harsh condemnation of the Chief Justice for his narrow interpretation of the treason clause in the Constitution and he dismissed the evidence on technical grounds. Wherefore, Dolly recalled, the trial was a farce…”a circus, politicians juggling for Marshall’s favor.”

Jefferson throughout this time was a strong defender of the equality and rights of the people and the Constitution he and Madison helped design and a strong President. He stayed loyal to America and his friends. He accomplished much and was maligned in current history and slandered I think wrongly by the left, who needed a scapegoat, over the whole Hemming thing. True of false, it cannot take away from his intelligence, loyalty to this country, and friends, and accomplishments.

Madison became his successor as President in 1809, and a two year term to 1817. Both Presidents always remained close friends, journeying later from each others homes, Jefferson’s Monticello and Madison’s Montpelier. By 1812, the war crisis was coming to a head. In fact war was already starting. New York was blockaded. American ships were being seized, as if by pirates holding up income from trade. War was being decried, but,(unlike Obama today with Libya)Madison responded that the “President can make recommendations, but, ONLY Congress could declare war.” (That being true, why hasn’t OUR Congress challenged this President?) On June 4, 1812, the House voted for war 79 to 49. On June 17, the Senate concurred with the vote, 19 to 13. The President, (Madison) that night was pale indeed.

All through a century and a half later historians would still be arguing over the wisdom of the war of 1812 and of the man on whose slender but resolute shoulders rested the burdens as Commander in Chief. (America’s 2nd War of Independence). America was like a puny bold David challenging the heavy giant Goliath. Madison had to choose his generals either from aging Revolutionary veterans or from young officers who had no war experience. The first source of danger was from British troops controlling the Great Lakes and lower Canada, with tribes of hostel Indians as their allies. They moved into Detroit too. Congress was refusing to raise the necessary taxes, except through the painless method of taxing imports, and unfortunately there were no imports. (Sound familiar now?) Turned out General Hull eventually was court-martial ed, and showed his cowardice and blundering to the enemy. Then Captain Isaac Hull, commander of the frigate, Constitution, had captured, burned, and sunk the British frigate, Guerriere. And while the election of 1812 was bitterly contested, Madison still got in a 2nd term in the middle of war, with the Federalists, like John Adams, giving him strong defense.

By 1814, they were embroiled in war, Britain’s pacific offer of negotiation had been just empty words. Conquest of Napoleon had left her free to concentrate on America, and opinions waxed hot. Then the fateful August 24th, Dolley to her horror on the night, fixed hour after hour on the angry red glow in the sky, as the Brits were coming up the Potomac. They had both left the Presidents House on warning’s, Dolley with friends, having taking everything of importance such as James papers, out of the house, while James rode with leaders in this climatic war. Every building was set on fire, and the Presidents House and Library of Congress was in flames. All that remained standing and black after was the 4-square, while the glow in the sky raged. But, something happened that night of miracle proportion. GOD Almighty intervened. And as the British soldiers were burning, and ravaging what souvenirs they take, a huge huge hurricane came out of nowhere, and between the horrific pelting rain and heavy winds, the British soldiers could not even stand up, never mind do any more damage. Then again, out of nowhere, came this tornado, that ripped through Washington DC. The Brits were then defeated. God in the supernatural protected what was left of our capital. And God too, was given credit (not the usual liberal “mother nature”) in the History channels recent documentary. (Note: remember too, months ago, when the earthquake rattled Washington and Maryland? That too,was GOD sending us a warning! And THIS I believe. Therefore, later when they started to rebuild, it was changed from the President’s House to the White House as the 4-square had to be painted white.

I can’t even fathom after the devastation we saw after 9/11 and the Pentagon, what James, Dolley, and the rest saw when they went back. She did not cry or scream or vent in any way, seeing the destruction all around her, and the shock and outrage was in Britain as well as Washington. It violated her gentlemanly code of ethics in warfare. While burning, pillaging, despoiling of private property, even murder and rape of civilians which should have been condoned, was swept under the rug, with this horrific destruction of the citadels of government. And boldly and courageously, once James was reunited with her, in his arms, she did finally weep, but they were tears of joy. The worst was over. Whatever happened now, they could face it, boldly, as long as together.

After this, Francis Scott Key’s poem “Oh, say can you see by the dawns early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?” appeared in the National Intelligence, which Dolley read with shining eyes. And the Star Spangled Banner was then born as our national anthem. How fitting…and now it’s words make total sense. For this dawn’s early light was America…a war and fire on our land – our Capital, our President’s house. And after 9/11 we had better start remembering this war too, and stay prepared from terrorists, so it never happens again. And that entails a strong military presence!

Some later in history, reputed Madison to be a puny weak and timid President. He was not! Yet in that same year of 1815, Justice Joseph Story wrote: “Never did a country occupy more lofty ground; we have stood the contest, single-handed, against the conqueror of Europe and We are at peace, with all our blushing victories, thick crowding on us. If I do not much mistake, we shall attain to a very high character as well as crush domestic faction.” A century later, Irving Brant wrote, “It was under the guiding hand of President James Madison, that the struggling young country won an equal position among the free nations of the world, and began its long climb to leadership.” The youthful nation had come of age. Meanwhile while they rented a house, while the White House was being appropriated and rebuilt, life began again. And look at us now, since these past 3 years, declining in leadership, with other countries with an apologetic President, that doesn’t even understand his countries revered greatness.

Already Jefferson had offered to compensate for one of the Capitol’s greatest losses, the Congressional Library. It turned the British Vandalism almost into a blessing. For the old Library had contained only some three thousand volumes, while Jefferson’s was twice as large chosen to fit the needs of scholars and statesmen. Whereby, eventually, Congress agreed to Purchase the library of some six thousand volumes, for a modest $23,950. The books arrived in Washington via a wagon train from Monticello, VA. Peace and prosperity after a treaty, once more ensued. The Union was saved. And soon the Madison’s were once again in the new White House. It was 1816.

By 1817, after two terms, Monroe took the oath of office, before Chief Justice Marshall, and the Madison’s returned to Montpelier in VA, with their friend Thomas Jefferson in nearby Monticello. They couldn’t have been happier.

Later on, Madison attended the celebration of the July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, his friends (Jefferson) noblest achievement. Fittingly Jefferson, died that very day soon after noon. Strangely, enough, while the citizens of Quincy, Massachusetts were celebrating the same 50th , John Adams, his predecessor died as well.

The partnership between Jefferson and Madison was the most remarkable in history. “The Great Collaboration,” one historian would call it. The two such scholarly, knowledgeable men. Madison app4eared less studied, brilliant and frank, more natural, candid and profound. Jef4rson had more imagination and passion, quicker and richer conceptions. The truth were they were two dies of the “same” coin, metal fused in the heat of their democratic idealism, and spent without stint in its pursuit. “Take care of me when dead. James knew what he had meant. Keep on where I leave off. As Dolley would do until her death after James had died. She kept in pursuit for years for all his papers to be published – this very learned man. Yet, both men here, always remained humble. And Dolley too, lived through 13 Presidents, friends with Martha Washington in her early years, who she felt a mentor.

When they both helped form the University of VA in later years, Jefferson was horrified at the influx of undisciplined youth from wealthy families, who attacked professors, frequented taverns, turned the dormitories into gambling dens, even throwing a stink bomb into a professors house. Jefferson rose before the board, looking at the defiance of these youth, in the tenderness of a father, and couldn’t speak, instead, this big man, sat back down in tears. Shocked, the students submitted, acknowledged their faults, answering all questions. Abashed by the great man’s tears, they had willingly subscribed to a new disciplinary system. Reading this, in my own tears, I think of “Occupy” and these young undisciplined, uneducated youth, that haven’t a clue to our Constitution and all that made this country what it was and is. I include Obama in this, who also hasn’t a clue as to the Great Country, he rules. And let me tell you Jefferson, Madison,Adams, and most back then wanted and tried to abolish slavery. And both Jefferson and Madison succeeded at the end, except for the wrongdoing of Dolley’s son Payne, who too was undisciplined. But, that fight would come later once and for all. But, America if we are to succeed, must remember the history of our Founding Father’s. O’Reilly has Lincoln and Glenn Beck has Washington, but, as for me? My hero now, without a doubt is James Madison and I include his queen, Dolley. She was revered, by all in Washington long after his death, by all until God took this woman home at 81. She was remarkable!

So, in this next election 2012, I’d like to leave this with a quote from Madison to take heed for what you believe in. He wrote:

“Advice To My Country”

“As this advice, if it ever see the light will not do it till I am no more, it may be considered as issuing from the tomb, where truth alone can be respected and the happiness of man alone consulted. It will be entitled therefore to whatever weight can be derived from good intentions, and from the experience of one who has served his country in various stations through a period of forty years, who espoused in his youth and adhered through his life to the cause of liberty, and who has borne a part in most of the great transactions which will constitute epochs of its destiny. The advice nearest to my heart and deepest in my convictions, is that the Union of the States be cherished and perpetuated. Let the open enemy to it be regarded as a Pandora with her box opened, and the disguised one, as the Serpent creeping with his deadly wiles into Paradise.”

There is the essence of James unswerving loyalty to his country’s unity, remaining unquestioned. And his papers left of his genius mind were the greatest legacy to America, the FUTURE, the fruit of his unending struggle to secure the rights and privileges of her people through the democratic process. As long as those rights and liberties remained intact, were not forfeited by force or political intrigue, (AS THE INTERNATIONAL LAW AND EUROPEAN UNION)our country and it’s Constitution, the memory of Madison, Jefferson, and all our Founding Father’s will stay in tact with human aspiration. All men have flaws, including Newt Gingrich, now in this election. But, could he and the other candidates, understand what is at stake?
We must all ask ourselves that now with each and every candidate vetted and scrupulously analyzed, for out future and this countries is at stake. And WE do not take orders and adhere to the laws of other countries or the UN. BUT our alienable rights under AMERICA’s Constitution ONLY! And for those ideologues like the Communist-Socialist left as this President, I say to you this, WE the people, me, you, and our children and our children’s children, will fight you and those like you who want to take away our alienable rights and equality and merge us into something WE the people are not, nor want. We fought before for our independence throughout history, and we will NOT be deterred. GOD..YES…GOD BLESS AMERICA…The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus Christ, of whose hand is over America protecting her, do I give my thanks and trust. Thank you Lord, for your hand on us, even when we are too stupid to realize truths. Free speech? Yes, but, only unless it does not infringe on the rights of others. Bless you all….

Excerpts taken from a book “Queen Dolley” by Dorothy Clarke Wilson © 1987


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