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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3964

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

[Sidenote: Federalist successes.]

[Sidenote: Opposition to the war.]

More positive and more dangerous opposition had been urged in New England from the beginning of the war. Besides the sacrifice of men, Massachusetts furnished more money for the war than Virginia. In the elections of 1812 and 1813 the Federalists obtained control of every New England State government, and secured most of the New England members of Congress. The temper of this Federalist majority may be seen in a succession of addresses and speeches in the Massachusetts legislature. On June 15, 1813, Josiah Quincy offered a resolution that "in a war like the present, waged without justifiable cause and prosecuted in a manner which indicates that conquest and ambition are its real motives, it is not becoming a moral and religious people to express any approbation of military or naval exploits which are not immediately connected with the defence of our sea-coast and soil." As the pressure of the war grew heavier, the tone in New England grew sterner. On Feb. 18, 1814, a report was made to the Massachusetts legislature containing a declaration taken almost literally from Madison's Virginia Resolution of 1798 (§ 90), that "whenever the national compact is violated, and the citizens of the State oppressed by cruel and unauthorized laws, this legislature is bound to interpose its power and wrest from the oppressor his victim."

[Sidenote: Impotence of Congress.]

[Sidenote: Resistance threatened.]

The success of the British attacks in August and September, 1814, seemed to indicate the failure of the war. Congress met on September 19 to confront the growing danger: but it refused to authorize a new levy of troops; it refused to accept a proposition for a new United States Bank; it consented with reluctance to new taxes. The time seemed to have arrived when the protests of New England against the continuance of the war might be made effective. The initiative was taken by Massa

chusetts, which, on October 16 voted to raise a million dollars to support a State army of ten thousand troops, and to ask the other New England States to meet in convention.

[Sidenote: A convention called.]

On Dec. 15, 1814, delegates assembled at Hartford from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, with unofficial representatives from New Hampshire and Vermont. The head of the Massachusetts delegation was George Cabot, who had been chosen because of his known opposition to the secession of that State. As he said himself: "We are going to keep you young hot-heads from getting into mischief." The expectation throughout the country was that the Hartford convention would recommend secession, Jefferson wrote: "Some apprehend danger from the defection of Massachusetts. It is a disagreeable circumstance, but not a dangerous one. If they become neutral, we are sufficient for one enemy without them; and, in fact, we get no aid from them now."

[Sidenote: Hartford Convention.]

[Sidenote: Secession impending.]

After a session of three weeks, the Hartford Convention adjourned, Jan. 14, 1815, and published a formal report. They declared that the Constitution had been violated, and that "States which have no common umpire must be their own judges and execute their own decisions." They submitted a list of amendments to the Constitution intended to protect a minority of States from aggressions on the part of the majority. Finally they submitted, as their ultimatum, that they should be allowed to retain the proceeds of the national customs duties collected within their borders. Behind the whole document was the implied intention to withdraw from the Union if this demand were not complied with. To comply was to deprive the United States of its financial power, and was virtually a dissolution of the constitution. The delegates who were sent to present this powerful remonstrance to Congress were silenced by the news that peace had been declared.

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