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The Constitution for the United States, Its Sources and Its Application

The "Hartford Convention"
Dec. 15, 1814-Jan. 4, 1815

A meeting was held in Hartford, Connecticut to consider the problems of New England in the War of 1812. Prior to the war, New England Federalists (see Federalist party) had opposed the Embargo Act of 1807 and other government measures. Many of them continued to oppose the government after fighting had begun.

Although manufacturing (fostered by isolation) and contraband trade brought wealth to the section, "Mr. Madison's War" (as the Federalists called the War of 1812) and its expenses became steadily more repugnant to the New Englanders. The Federalist leaders encouraged disaffection. The New England states refused to surrender their militia to national service (see Griswold, Roger), especially when New England was threatened with invasion in 1814.

The Federal loan of 1814 got almost no support in New England, despite prosperity there. Federalist extremists, such as John Lowell and Timothy Pickering, contemplated a separate peace between New England and Great Britain.

Finally, in Oct., 1814, the Massachusetts legislature issued a call to the other New England states for a conference. Representatives were sent by the state legislatures of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island; other delegates from New Hampshire and Vermont were popularly chosen by the Federalists. The meetings were held in secret. George Cabot, the head of the Massachusetts delegation and a moderate Federalist, presided. Other important delegates were Harrison Gray Otis (1765-1848), also a moderate, and Theodore Dwight, who served as secretary of the convention. The moderates prevailed in the convention. The proposal to secede from the Union was discussed and rejected, the grievances of New England were reviewed, and such matters as the use of the militia were thrashed out.

The final report (Jan. 5, 1815) arraigned Madison's administration and the war and proposed several constitutional amendments that would redress what the New Englanders considered the unfair advantage given the South under the Constitution. The news of the Treaty of Ghent ending the war and of Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans made any recommendation of the convention a dead letter.

Its importance, however, was twofold: It continued the view of states' rights as the refuge of sectional groups, and it sealed the destruction of the Federalist party, which never regained its lost prestige.

Report and Resolutions of the Hartford Convention
January 5, 1815

That it be and hereby is recommended to the legislatures of the several states represented in this Convention, to adopt all such measures as may be necessary effectually to protect the citizens of said states from the operation and effects of all acts which have been or may be passed by the Congress of the United States, which shall contain provisions, subjecting the militia or other citizens to forcible drafts, conscriptions, or impressments, not authorised by the constitution of the United States.

Resolved , That it be and hereby is recommended to the said Legislatures, to authorize an immediate and earnest application to be made to the government of the United States, requesting their consent to some arrangement, whereby the said states may, separately or in concert, be empowered to assume upon themselves the defence of their territory against the enemy; and a reasonable portion of the taxes, collected within said states, may be paid into the respective treasuries thereof, and appropriated to the payment of the balance due said states, and to the future defence of the same. The amount so paid into the said treasuries to be credited, and the disbursements made as aforesaid to be charged to the United States.

Resolved , That it be, and hereby is, recommended to the legislatures of the aforesaid states, to pass laws (where it has not already been done) authorizing the governors or commanders-in-chief of their militia to make detachments from the same, or to form voluntary corps, as shall be most convenient and conformable to their constitutions, and to cause the same to be well armed, equipped and disciplined, and held in readiness for service; and upon the request of the governor of either of the other tates to employ the whole of such detachment or corps, as well as the regular forces of the state, or such part thereof as may be required and can be spared consistently with the safety of the state, in assisting the state, making such request to repel any invasion thereof which shall be made or attempted by the public enemy.

Resolved , That the following amendments of the constitution of the United States be recommended to the states represented as aforesaid, to be proposed by them for adoption by the state legislatures, and in such cases as may be deemed expedient by a convention chosen by the people of each state.

First . Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers of free persons, including those bound to serve for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, and all other persons.

Second . No new state shall be admitted into the Union by Congress, in virtue of the power granted by the constitution, without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses.

Third . Congress shall not have power to lay any embargo on the ships or vessels of the citizens of the United States, in the ports or harbours thereof, for more than sixty days.

Fourth . Congress shall not have power, without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses, to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and any foreign nation or the dependencies thereof.

Fifth . Congress shall not make or declare war, or authorize acts of hostility against any foreign nation, without the concurrence of two thirds of both houses, except such acts of hostility be in defence of the territories of the United States when actually invaded.

Sixth . No person who shall hereafter be naturalized, shall be eligible as a member of the senate or house of representatives of the United States, nor capable of holding any civil office under the authority of the United States.

Seventh . The same person shall not be elected president of the United States a second time; nor shall the President be elected from the same state two terms in succession.

Resolved, That if the application of these states to the government of the United States, recommended in a foregoing resolution, should be unsuccessful and peace should not be concluded, and the defence of these states should be neglected, as it has been since the commencement of the war, it will, in the opinion of this convention, be expedient for the legislatures of the several states to appoint delegates to another convention, to meet at Boston...with such powers and instructions as the exigency of a crisis so momentous may require.

Reproduction of all or any parts of the above text may be used for general information.
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