to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
Madison of Virginia was elected president of the United States in eighteen
hundred and eight. He followed Thomas Jefferson and served two terms.
Madison's first four years were not easy. He had to deal
with a foreign policy problem that Jefferson was not able to solve:
increasingly tense relations with Britain. His second four years were worse.
There was war. Larry West and Leo Scully have our story.
Madison was inaugurated in Washington on March fourth, eighteen-oh-nine. The
people of the city were happy with the new president. But the nation was not
yet sure what kind of leader he would be.
French minister to the United States did not think much of him. He said:
"Mister Madison is an intelligent man, but weak. He will always see what
should be done, but will not do it."
first three American presidents, Madison had a small cabinet. There would be a
secretary of state and a secretary of the treasury.
decided to keep Albert Gallatin in the position of treasury secretary. Gallatin
probably knew more about the nation's finances than anyone else. The choice for
secretary of state was political. Madison named Robert Smith, the brother of a
senator. The new president was not too concerned about Mister Smith's
abilities, because he planned to make foreign policy himself.
biggest foreign policy problem arose from a war between Britain and France. The
two nations refused to honor America's neutrality. Each tried to prevent the
United States from trading with the other. Both interfered with American
shipping. And the British navy sometimes seized American sailors.
Jefferson ordered a ban on trade with Europe. But it failed to end the hostile
acts against the United States.
and France were still at war when Madison was elected president. In place of
the trade ban, Congress had approved a new law. It was called the
Non-Intercourse Act. The law prevented trade with Britain and France. But it
gave President Madison the power to re-open trade if either nation stopped
interfering with American ships.
hoped the law would force Britain and France to honor American neutrality. He
did not want war. But neither did he want to surrender America's rights as an
after Madison took office, the British minister in Washington, David Erskine,
received new orders from his government. He said he had been given the power to
settle all differences between the United States and Britain.
said Britain would stop seizing American ships if the United States would end
the Non-Intercourse Law. He did not make clear that the British government
demanded several conditions before an agreement could be reached.
condition was that the United States continue the law against trade with
France. Another was that Britain be permitted to capture American ships that
violated the law. Erskine called the conditions, "proposals." He did
not force the United States to accept them.
nineteenth, President Madison announced that an agreement had been reached. He
said the United States would re-open trade with Britain. The American people
welcomed the agreement. It appeared that -- after less than two months as
president -- Madison had been able to remove the threat of war.
United States began trading again with Britain on June tenth, as agreed.
Hundreds of ships left American ports. Relations with Britain seemed to have
returned to normal.
Madison decided to spend the summer of eighteen-oh-nine at his home in the
hills of Virginia. Soon after he arrived, he received surprising news. The
British government had rejected the agreement he had reached with Erskine.
British newspaper said the agreement was not what Britain wanted. It said
Erskine had violated his orders and was being called back to London. A new
minister, Francis James Jackson, would take his place.
returned to Washington in the autumn, about a month after the new British
minister arrived. He learned that Secretary of State Smith had made no progress
in talks with him. So the president decided to deal with him directly. He
wanted to know exactly why Britain had rejected the agreement. Madison ordered
that all communications between the two sides be written. There would be no
were exchanged. But the British minister failed to explain satisfactorily what
had happened. And his letters seemed to charge that the United States had not
negotiated honestly. Madison finally broke off all communications, and the
British minister left Washington.
policy of trade with Britain and France continued to be a serious issue. In the
early days of eighteen ten, Congress began to consider a new law to control
such trade. After several weeks of debate, the two houses of Congress approved
a compromise bill.
ended the Non-Intercourse Act against Britain and France. It permitted trade
with any nation. But it gave the president the power to declare non-intercourse
again with either Britain or France separately. President Madison signed the
bill into law.
between the United States and Britain did not improve during the year. And
President Madison once again declared non-intercourse against Britain. Trade
between the two countries was stopped at the beginning of March,
was not the only problem, however. A growing number of Americans believed that
the British were helping some Native American Indians to fight the United
people of the United States began to move to the northern and western
territories, the government made treaties with the different Indian tribes. The
treaties explained which land belonged to the Indians...and which land could be
settled by the white men. The settlers did not always honor the treaties.
of the Shawnee Indian tribe, Tecumseh, decided to take action. He started a
campaign to unite all Indians and to help them defend against the white men.
the west, many Americans believed that the British in Canada were responsible
for Tecumseh's efforts to unite the Indians. They demanded war with Britain to
destroy the power of the tribes.
Washington, a new Congress was meeting. Some of the new members were very
different from the men who had controlled Congress before. They were less
willing to compromise -- and more willing to go to war to defend America's
interests. They soon got the name "War Hawks."
Congress quickly approved several measures to prepare the United States for war.
One bill increased the size of the army by twenty-five thousand regular
soldiers and fifty thousand volunteers.
same time, America had a new secretary of state. President Madison had not been
pleased with the work of Robert Smith. Nor did he trust Smith. The president
could not be sure of Smith's support for administration proposals.
wanted his close friend, James Monroe, to be secretary of state. Monroe was
then governor of Virginia. He agreed to take the new job.
United States did not have at that troubled time was a representative in
Britain. When Madison broke off communications with British minister Jackson in
Washington, Jackson returned to London. And the American minister in London,
William Pinkney, sailed home.
was no official in either capital to report what was happening. And the two
countries were moving closer to war. That will be our story next week.
program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Larry West and Leo
us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – an American history series in
VOA Special English.
program #44 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION