Edited by J.C.A. Stagg, Jeanne Kerr Cross, and Susan Holbrook Perdue
This carefully annotated and indexed volume sheds new light on many of the domestic and foreign tensions that were soon to culminate in the War of 1812.
The twelve-month period covered in this volume was dominated by foreign policy concerns, as Madison sought ways to compel Great Britain to respect America's neutral rights. The documents chronicle the consequences of Madison's decision to impose non-intercourse against Great Britain to force a repeal of the orders in council following Napoleon's claim that he had repealed French trade restrictions. British doubts that the French appeal was valid—shared by many Americans and possibly even Madison himself—are amply documented. The apparent failure of the diplomacy of commercial restrictions increasingly brought Madison under pressure at home to change his policies, and by November 1811 he was ready to request Congress to prepare for war.
Madison's attention was also occupied during the year by the continuing disintegration of the Spanish colonial empire. His correspondence addresses the consequences arising from the annexation of West Florida, and records America's first diplomatic contacts with other rebellious Spanish-American colonies.
On the domestic front, this volume illuminates Madison's painful decision to dismiss Secretary of State Robert Smith and replace him with James Monroe.