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Hartford Convention

James Madison

Hartford Convention: James Madison was the 4th American President who served in office from March 4, 1809 to March 4, 1817. One of the important events during his presidency was the Hartford Convention.

Definition and Summary of the Hartford Convention

Summary and definition: What was the Hartford Convention? The Hartford Convention was a secret meeting of Federalist delegates that took place in Hartford, Connecticut between December 15, 1814 and January 5, 1815.

What was the purpose of the Hartford Convention?
What was the purpose of the Hartford Convention? The purpose of the Hartford Convention  was to express grievances against the administration of President James Madison including his mercantile policies (commercial trade) and the War of 1812.

Why was the Hartford Convention held in Secret?
In October 1814, the Massachusetts legislature issued a call to all of the other New England states for a conference. (New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the US consisting of the 6 states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.) The Hartford Convention was a series of meetings, held in secret, between December 15, 1814 and January 5, 1815 in Hartford, Connecticut, New England. The New England Federalists who attended the convention were concerned at the increasing power of the Democratic Republican political party. They met in secret because they wanted to discuss the problems faced by New England and the possible secession of the New England states from the union of the United States. For additional facts and info refer to the article on the Federalists.

Who were the Hartford Convention Delegates?
Who were the politicians who met at the Hartford Convention in 1814? Twenty-six New England Federalists attended the Hartford Convention from the New England states. Seven from Connecticut, four from Rhode Island, twelve from Massachusetts, two from New Hampshire and one from Vermont.

What were the Grievances of the Hartford Convention?
The grievances of the Hartford Convention Federalist delegates were related to their discontent in relation to the power of the Democratic-Republican Party and the southern states, decline of foreign trade and the War of 1812 that was being waged against the British.

Grievances of the Hartford Convention - 1803 Louisiana Purchase
The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 raised fears of New England Federalists that the new western lands would be quickly filled with farmers, and therefore Republican voters. New Englanders realized that the massive expansion of American territory would inevitably reduce the influence of New England in national affairs.

Grievances of the Hartford Convention - The Three-fifths Compromise
The Northern Federalists, concerned about the rising power of the Democratic Republican political party, also wanted to get rid of the Three-fifths Compromise, which gave the southern slave states more power in Congress, requiring a two-thirds majority in Congress for the admission of new states, declarations of war, and laws restricting trade.

Grievances of the Hartford Convention - Anti-foreign Trade Policies
Anti-foreign trade policies had been introduced aimed at Great Britain and France and tensions between the British and the Americans was so great that President James Madison had declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812 (the War of 1812). Specific grievances of the Hartford Convention therefore related to the 1807 Embargo Act, 1809 Non-Intercourse Act and the War of 1812 (1812-1815)

The Anti-foreign trade policies were extremely unpopular amongst the merchants and shippers of New England. Trade with Britain lay at the center of New England's entire economy. The declaration of another war against the British had led to anti-war riots in the country. The War of 1812 was dragging on and people were horrified that the nation's capital, Washington DC, had been burned by the British on August 14, 1814. The delegates of the Hartford Convention believed that the national government had not done enough to protect the coasts of New England from British naval attacks.

Hartford Convention for kids - President Madison is re-elected
The re-election of President Madison in 1812 intensified the feelings of the Federalists in New England. Their opposition to government policies increased and they blocked as many measures favored by the new government as they could. The Federalist press for New England were advocating secession and a separate peace with Great Britain. On top of all their existing grievances, President Madison then asked Congress to pass a conscription bill in September 1814. Meanwhile, Madison had sent ambassadors to Europe to discuss the terms of a peace treaty that would bring the War of 1812 to an end.

What took place at the Hartford Convention? The Resolutions
The delegates to the Hartford Convention discussed all of the areas of concern and drew up a list of resolutions. There were some hot-heads who favored extreme measures, like the secession of the New England states from the union, but it was the moderates who prevailed in the Hartford convention. The proposal to secede from the Union was rejected. All other matters were discussed and a report dated January 5, 1815 was produced detailing the recommendations and resolutions of the Hartford Convention. The report reproached Madison's administration and the
War of 1812. The report contained resolutions that proposed that the taxes collected by the national government in New England should be handed over to the New England states to be used to arrange for their own defense. The report went on to propose several constitutional amendments for review by Congress that would redress the unfair advantage given to the Southern states under the Constitution.

The Hartford Convention for kids: The Peace Treaty of Ghent
Leading Representatives from the Hartford Convention arrived at Washington to present the report containing their resolutions to Congress when the news came of General Andrew Jackson's victory at New Orleans. Then the delayed news of the signing of the Peace Treaty of Ghent arrived, announcing the end of the War of 1812.
Treaty of Ghent

Significance of the Hartford Convention
The news of Jackson's overwhelming victory and the end of the War of 1812 was greeted with jubilation by the nation. The Republican party of James Madison immediately regained its popularity with the voters. The news sealed the destruction of the Federalist party. The secrecy of the Hartford Convention discredited the Federalists. The very contemplation of secession was seen as too extreme and disloyal. The Federalist delegates of the Hartford Convention found themselves branded "traitors" and the Federalist political party was never able to regain its lost prestige.

However, the principle of States Rights, first made at the Hartford Convention, would be repeated in the 1850s, and would ultimately lead to the Civil War.

The demise of the Federalist Party was politically significant.  The Republicans (aka the Democratic-Republican Party) eventually split into the northern-dominated Republicans and the southern-dominated Democrats and established the political alignment of the 19th century. 

As there was only one political party this led to are more stable government and heralded the "Era of Good Feelings".

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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