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Presidential Key Events

 

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Thomas Jefferson - 07/11/1804: Alexander Hamilton is fatally wounded in a pistol …
Alexander Hamilton is fatally wounded in a pistol duel with Aaron Burr. Hamilton had opposed Burr's bid for the presidency in 1800. He further opposed Burr's bid for the governorship of New York, exposing an alleged subversive attempt to establish a separate northern confederacy amongst disgruntled states of New England. Vowing to avenge these dishonors, Burr had challenged Hamilton to the duel. July 11, 1804

Thomas Jefferson - Burr Kills Hamilton in Duel

On July 11, 1804, Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton met for duel, and Burr shot and fatally wounded Hamilton, who died the next day. The Burr-Hamilton duel stands as a vivid example that in the early republic partisan politics were also highly personal politics.

Hamilton and Burr had been political adversaries long before their famous duel. Hamilton, an arch-Federalist and President George Washington's secretary of the Treasury strongly distrusted his fellow New Yorker, and he worked against Federalist efforts to elect Burr over Thomas Jefferson, both Republicans, when they tied in the presidential election of 1800. Burr had served various positions in New York politics and then became Jefferson's vice president in 1801. Republicans felt he was unreliable, however, and dropped him in the next election.

In 1804, Burr was running for governor of New York, and Hamilton was leading the opposition to Burr's candidacy; he spoke out against him and questioned his integrity in public. For these slights, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel. Perceiving that not responding to the challenge would destroy his own honor and render him useless in future political service, Hamilton answered Burr. Although in this era duels were usually avoided by a series of negotiations through which both parties could restore their reputations, Burr took further offense at Hamilton's response. After about ten days of correspondence, Burr and Hamilton met on July 11, 1804, in New Jersey (New York had outlawed dueling).

Hamilton had declared the previous evening his intention to fire into the air; whether or not he shot at Burr remained a point of contention for years to follow, but Burr nonetheless escaped unscathed after fatally wounding Hamilton, who died the next day. After New York and New Jersey both issued warrants for his arrest, Burr went back to the District of Columbia and resumed his position as vice president, presiding over the Senate.

As public outrage grew, Burr fled to the west, where from 1805 to 1807 he participated in a vague but ambitious plan to separate the southwest from the United States. The Supreme Court found him not guilty of treason in 1807, and after five years in Europe, Burr returned to New York, where he practiced law in New York until his death in 1836.

July 11, 1804

Thomas Jefferson - 09/25/1804: The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is …
The Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is officially ratified, allowing for the presidential election of 1804 to be conducted under new rules. September 25, 1804

Thomas Jefferson - 11/13/1804: The fifth presidential election is held under the …
The fifth presidential election is held under the auspices of the newly ratified Twelfth Amendment. November 13, 1804

Thomas Jefferson - 12/05/1804: Thomas Jefferson is officially reelected President…
Thomas Jefferson is officially reelected President of the United States. Fellow Democratic-Republican and first governor of New York George Clinton will be the vice president. December 05, 1804

Thomas Jefferson - 03/04/1805: President Jefferson is inaugurated for his second …
President Jefferson is inaugurated for his second term. George Clinton officially succeeds Aaron Burr as vice president. In his inaugural address, Jefferson proposes that Federalist-inspired internal taxes be completely eliminated. March 04, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 04/26/1805: Lewis and Clark reach the mouth of the Yellowstone…
Lewis and Clark reach the mouth of the Yellowstone River. April 26, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 04/27/1805: U.S. Marines and Arab mercenaries capture the Trip…
U.S. Marines and Arab mercenaries capture the Tripolitan port city of Derna, achieving a major victory for the United States in the Tripolitan War. Eaton's ultimate plan, approved by President Jefferson, entailed replacing the ruling pasha of Tripoli with the rightful ruler. This is aborted with the forthcoming peace treaty in June. April 27, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 06/04/1805: The United States and Tripoli sign a Treaty of Pea…
The United States and Tripoli sign a Treaty of Peace and Amity in Tripoli, effectively ending the Tripolitan War. June 04, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 07/23/1805: The British justify seizure of American ships in n…
The British justify seizure of American ships in neutral ports with the invocation of the Rule of 1756. July 23, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 07/23/1805: Rumors circulate about the subversive activities o…
Rumors circulate about the subversive activities of Aaron Burr as he arrives in New Orleans. These include plans to establish a separate country with New Orleans as its capital and a plot to invade Mexico. July 23, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 11/07/1805: Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific after a perilous…
Lewis and Clark reach the Pacific after a perilous journey of nearly eighteen months and 4,000 miles. November 07, 1805

Thomas Jefferson - 12/03/1805: Jefferson makes two addresses, one public and one …
Jefferson makes two addresses, one public and one before Congress, regarding land in Florida. In the public address, Jefferson cites the need to prepare for war with Spain. Privately, Jefferson informs Congress of secret negotiations with France in order to buy the territory from them and asks for five million dollars to be appropriated. The request receives a controversial response from Congress. December 03, 1805 - December 13, 1901

Thomas Jefferson - 01/11/1806: Michigan is formed from the territory of Indiana. …
Michigan is formed from the territory of Indiana. January 11, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 03/09/1806: Congress authorizes a commission to build a nation…
Congress authorizes a commission to build a national road from Cumberland, Maryland, to the Ohio River. March 09, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 04/18/1806: In protest against the seizure of American ships a…
In protest against the seizure of American ships and the impressment of American sailors by Britain, Congress passes a law prohibiting the importation of many British products into the United States. April 18, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 07/15/1806: Zebulon Pike begins his exploration of what is now…
Zebulon Pike begins his exploration of what is now the southwestern United States. On November 15, Pike explores the famous 18,000-foot peak that still retains his name in what is now Colorado. July 15, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 08/27/1806: American envoys James Monroe and William Pinckney …
American envoys James Monroe and William Pinckney commence talks with British official Lord Holland on the current naval hostilities. August 27, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - Lewis and Clark Expedition Arrives Back in St. Louis

On September 23, 1806, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark arrived back in St. Louis two-and-a-half years after they began their expedition to explore the Louisiana Territory and the Pacific Northwest. President Thomas Jefferson commissioned the expedition, which is often considered one of the greatest exploratory quests in U.S. history.

Well before President Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory from France, Americans had been curious about the lands west of the Mississippi River. Jefferson saw the West as a great collection of scientific specimens and a vast expanse that enhanced American security, but he also shared the commercial interest of American traders looking for a viable route to the Pacific Ocean. Even before negotiations to purchase New Orleans had commenced, Jefferson planned an expedition to the Pacific Northwest.

In January 1803, the President asked Congress for a secret appropriation of $2,500 for the secretly planned exploration. Despite Spain’s displeasure at U.S. hints that it would trek into French and Spanish territory, Jefferson appointed Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead the expedition. Lewis, the President’s personal secretary, was merely 28 years old but had extensive knowledge of the West. He was commissioned an Army officer and given joint command with William Clark, also an Army officer. Jefferson instructed Lewis and Clark to find a path to the Pacific Ocean, preferably via water, learn the geography of the territory, explore trade with Native Americans, and return with samples of unknown species of flora and fauna. His instructions, drafted in June 1803 before the purchase of Louisiana but with knowledge the transaction would likely occur, were implemented the following year.

Lewis and Clark left St. Louis on the Missouri River in May 1804 with a company of nearly fifty men. The Corps of Discovery voyaged up the Missouri to North Dakota, where they spent the winter before pushing on over the Rocky Mountains to the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean. When they returned to St. Louis in September 1806, they brought samples of plant and animal species Jefferson had requested and reports that Jefferson's purchase had been well worth the price.

September 23, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 10/21/1806: Congress passes legislation providing for a milita…
Congress passes legislation providing for a military organizational structure. October 21, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 11/27/1806: In Washington, D.C., President Jefferson publicly …
In Washington, D.C., President Jefferson publicly warns citizens not to take part in a plot to invade Spanish territory. Jefferson issues this warning after having been told of Aaron Burr's subversive activities with respect to annexing Spanish territory. November 27, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 12/12/1806: Jefferson appeals to Congress asking for a ban on …
Jefferson appeals to Congress asking for a ban on the slave trade. December 12, 1806

Thomas Jefferson - 02/19/1807: Aaron Burr is arrested near Fort Stoddart, Alabama…
Aaron Burr is arrested near Fort Stoddart, Alabama, in connection with his alleged conspiracy against the government. February 19, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 03/02/1807: At Jefferson’s behest, Congress passes a law prohi…
At Jefferson's behest, Congress passes a law prohibiting the importation of slaves into any place within the jurisdiction of the United States after January 1, 1808. March 02, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 03/12/1807: The Embargo Act, modified and authorized by Presid…
The Embargo Act, modified and authorized by President Jefferson, now permits vessels to transport American goods from foreign ports. March 12, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 06/22/1807: The infamous Leopard incident occurs.  The …
The infamous Leopard incident occurs. The British ship Leopard fires upon the United States frigate Chesapeake in Chesapeake Bay after the latter's commander, James Barron, refuses to surrender four British deserters on board. Many on the U.S. frigate are killed and wounded. June 22, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 09/01/1807: Circuit court in Richmond acquits Aaron Burr of tr…
Circuit court in Richmond acquits Aaron Burr of treason. September 01, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 10/17/1807: In spite of Thomas Jefferson’s vehement protest, t…
In spite of Thomas Jefferson's vehement protest, the British government announces it will continue to impress seamen on American ships thought to be British. October 17, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 11/11/1807: Britain issues its “Order in Council,” forbidding …
Britain issues its “Order in Council,” forbidding neutral nations and her allies from trading with France except under tribute to England. November 11, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 12/17/1807: Napoleon issues the Milan Decree, forbidding trade…
Napoleon issues the Milan Decree, forbidding trade with England or her colonies under penalty of confiscation and impressments of any vessel paying tribute to Britain. December 17, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 12/22/1807: President Jefferson signs the Embargo Act, putting…
President Jefferson signs the Embargo Act, putting a halt to all trading with any country in the entire world. The act serves as a retaliatory measure to the increasingly coercive trade policies of the British and the French. December 22, 1807

Thomas Jefferson - 01/01/1808: The law officially banning the slave trade goes in…
The law officially banning the slave trade goes into effect. January 01, 1808

Thomas Jefferson - 01/11/1808: The Second Embargo Act comes into force. It is mor…
The Second Embargo Act comes into force. It is more stringent than the first and is commonly known as the “O grab me Act.” January 11, 1808

Thomas Jefferson - 04/17/1808: Napoleon issues the Bayonne Decree, authorizing th…
Napoleon issues the Bayonne Decree, authorizing the French seizure of all U.S. vessels entering French and Italian ports and all ports of the Hanseatic League. Napoleon conveniently argues that his action helps the United States enforce its new policy prohibiting trade with other nations. April 17, 1808

Thomas Jefferson - 11/08/1808: The sixth presidential election for President of t…
The sixth presidential election for President of the United States is held. November 08, 1808

Thomas Jefferson - 12/07/1808: James Madison is elected president of the United S…
James Madison is elected president of the United States, with George Clinton as vice president. December 07, 1808

James Madison - 02/08/1809: Congress announces the results of the 1808 preside…
Congress announces the results of the 1808 presidential election. Jefferson's secretary of state, Republican-Democrat James Madison, emerges victorious. Madison swamps Federalist opponent Charles C. Pinckney in electoral votes, 122 to 47. Pinckney carries only five states -- all of them in New England -- to Madison's twelve. February 08, 1809

Thomas Jefferson - 03/01/1809: After the U.S. economy suffers at the hands of the…
After the U.S. economy suffers at the hands of the embargo, Congress repeals the Embargo Act. Jefferson signs the Non-Intercourse Act the same day, closing U.S. ports only to France and England. Trade with the two countries is to be resumed when they agreed to respect the rights of U.S. citizens and vessels. March 01, 1809

James Madison - 03/1809: Congress authorizes $12,000 to refurbish the White H…
Congress authorizes $12,000 to refurbish the White House. March 1809

Thomas Jefferson - 03/04/1809: James Madison is inaugurated as the fourth Preside…
James Madison is inaugurated as the fourth President of the United States, thereby ending Jefferson's presidency. Jefferson retires to his home at Monticello outside Charlottesville, Virginia, to assume a private life. March 04, 1809

James Madison - 03/04/1809: James Madison is inaugurated as the fourth Preside…
James Madison is inaugurated as the fourth President of the United States. March 04, 1809

James Madison - 04/19/1809: After negotiations with British minister Erskine, …
After negotiations with British minister Erskine, Madison issues a proclamation -- known as the Erskine Agreement -- revoking the embargo on Britain, effective June 10. For his part, Erskine leads Madison to believe that Britain will revoke its Orders in Council. On March 25, however, the American envoy in Britain learns that British foreign secretary Canning has canceled the Erskine Agreement; news reaches Madison six weeks later. On August 9, Madison rescinds his proclamation establishing trade with Britain and resumes a policy of nonintercourse. April 19, 1809

James Madison - 08/1809: Madison persuades Albert Gallatin to remain secret…
Madison persuades Albert Gallatin to remain secretary of treasury in the face of strong congressional opposition and discord within Madison's cabinet. August 1809

James Madison - 01/03/1810: Prompted by tensions with Spain over West Florida,…
Prompted by tensions with Spain over West Florida, Madison calls for renewal of an act authorizing the President to call out 100,000 militiamen, fill up the regular army to its authorized strength, establish a force of 20,000 volunteers for immediate emergencies, and reactivate idle components of the naval fleet. January 03, 1810

James Madison - 04/16/1810: John Marshall overrules state legislatio…
John Marshall overrules state legislation in Fletcher v. Peck, finding attempts to rectify the Yazoo land fraud scheme a violation of contract rights. Madison determines to add Republicans to the court. April 16, 1810

James Madison - 05/01/1810: To replace the Nonintercourse Act, Congress passes…
To replace the Nonintercourse Act, Congress passes Macon's Bill Number 2, which allows American ships to carry French or English goods while barring belligerent powers from American ports. The bill further promises to renew nonintercourse with one of the two belligerent nations if the other withdraws its decrees. Trade with France and Britain is restored so long as the European nations respect American trade rights. May 01, 1810

James Madison - 08/05/1810: The Cadore letter notifies the American minister i…
The Cadore letter notifies the American minister in France that the Decrees of Berlin and Milan will be repealed, effective November 1, if Britain revokes its Orders in Council or if the United States bars trade with Britain. August 05, 1810

James Madison - 10/27/1810: Madison issues a proclamation authorizing occupati…
Madison issues a proclamation authorizing occupation of West Florida, also claimed by Spain, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. October 27, 1810

James Madison - Proclamation to Occupy West Florida

On October 27, 1810, President James Madison issued a proclamation that authorized the U.S. occupation of West Florida, which included land from the Perdido River west along the Gulf Coast to the Mississippi River. Although the President issued the proclamation in October, he did not inform Congress until his annual message in December.

Many Americans, including former President Thomas Jefferson and Madison himself, thought that West Florida was included as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The Louisiana Purchase itself implied that West Florida might in fact be a part of the deal, and Jefferson pressed his claim against Spain. Much to his chagrin, in 1804 France insisted West Florida had not been part of the purchase. Spain refused to negotiate with the United States, and as war continued between France and Britain, Spain allied with France. Both France and Britain harassed American shipping, and Madison speculated that Britain might capture Florida to use as a base to attack the United States in the event that the United States joined the war.

Then, in late September, Americans in West Florida seized control of the area, proclaimed an independent republic, and offered it to the United States. Madison did not support the rebels' actions and continued to reason that West Florida already belonged to the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase. So he issued his proclamation in October to annex West Florida to prevent the territory from falling into British hands and appointed William C.C. Claiborne, governor of the Orleans territory, to take control of the area.

Federalists, opponents of Madison's Republican Party, claimed the occupation was unconstitutional, but Congress voted in January along party lines to approve Madison's action. The episode raised hopes for those who wanted to annex East Florida, as the United States would eventually do in 1819 with the Adams-Onís Treaty.

To read the full text of President Madison's Proclamation of the Occupation of West Florida, click here.

To read the full text of President Madison's Second Annual Message to Congress, in which he informs Congress of the Proclamation, click here.

October 27, 1810

James Madison - 11/02/1810: Under the terms of Macon’s Bill Number 2, Madison …
Under the terms of Macon's Bill Number 2, Madison accepts a French offer to stop confiscation of American supplies and ships. In February 1911, he declares a halt in trade with Britain unless the Orders are repealed. Undeterred, Britain vows to continue to seize American ships until France ends its trade restrictions. November 02, 1810

James Madison - 02/1811: Madison vetoes two bills of Congress, one granting…
Madison vetoes two bills of Congress, one granting land in the Mississippi Territory to a Baptist congregation and the other incorporating an Episcopal church in Washington, D.C. Madison argues that both bills violate the non-establishment clause of the First Amendment. Later in the year, Congress will pass a Religious Freedom Act. February 1811

James Madison - 02/02/1811: Madison reestablishes nonintercourse with Britain.…
Madison reestablishes nonintercourse with Britain. Meanwhile, the French continue their seizure of American ships. February 02, 1811

James Madison - 03/03/1811: The Bank of the United States closes. Treasury Sec…
The Bank of the United States closes. Treasury Secretary Gallatin urges Congress to extend its charter but fails to convince members concerned with the large British interest in the Bank. March 03, 1811

James Madison - 03/20/1811: After Madison dismisses Secretary of State Robert …
After Madison dismisses Secretary of State Robert Smith, James Monroe accepts Madison's offer of the cabinet position. March 20, 1811

James Madison - 04/16/1811: Editor Gales, of the National Intelligencer…
Editor Gales, of the National Intelligencer, prints a summary of his discussion with Madison. The talks indicate that Madison has hardened his attitude toward Britain. April 16, 1811

James Madison - 05/16/1811: After it is attacked, the U.S. battleshi…
After it is attacked, the U.S. battleship President fires on the British ship HMS Little Belt. May 16, 1811

James Madison - 06/23/1811: The British foreign secretary announces an end to …
The British foreign secretary announces an end to the Orders in Council. The announcement comes too late, however, as Madison requested a declaration of war against Britain on June 1. June 23, 1811

James Madison - 07/02/1811: Former secretary of state Robert Smith publishes a…
Former secretary of state Robert Smith publishes an Address to the People of the United States, attacking Madison's administration and revealing the disagreements within the cabinet. July 02, 1811

James Madison - 07/06/1811: The new British foreign minister, Foster, arrives …
The new British foreign minister, Foster, arrives in Washington and warns Madison that if nonintercourse remains the policy of the United States, Britain will retaliate against American commerce. July 06, 1811

James Madison - 07/24/1811: Madison calls a special session of Congress to con…
Madison calls a special session of Congress to convene November 4 in preparation for war against Britain. July 24, 1811

James Madison - 11/05/1811: Madison delivers a tentative war message to Congre…
Madison delivers a tentative war message to Congress, indicating his shift in policy. November 05, 1811

James Madison - 11/07/1811: After acknowledging the danger posed by Shawnee le…
After acknowledging the danger posed by Shawnee leader Tecumseh, who hopes to assemble a confederation of tribes, General William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indian Territory, carriers out a pre-emptive strike on Tecumseh. Harrison's militia is barely successful at the Battle of Tippecanoe, an engagement that serves as a prelude to the War of 1812. Tecumseh flees to Canada and British protection. On December 18, Madison proclaims the Battle of Tippecanoe a victory that will restore peace to the northwestern frontier. November 07, 1811

James Madison - 11/25/1811: The Senate confirms James Monroe as secretary of s…
The Senate confirms James Monroe as secretary of state, replacing Robert Smith. November 25, 1811

James Madison - 11/29/1811: The House Committee on Foreign Relations recommend…
The House Committee on Foreign Relations recommends legislation to bring the Army up to full strength, establish a second regular army of 10,000, enable the President to organize 50,000 volunteers, strengthen the Navy, incorporate militia units into national service, and arm merchantmen. November 29, 1811

James Madison - 01/10/1812: Congress passes an Army bill to enlarge the second…
Congress passes an Army bill to enlarge the second regular army to 25,000. The increase in manpower is far greater than Madison's request -- he had asked for a force of 10,000 -- but the bill provides less flexibility than Madison had requested. Amidst disagreements between Madison's administration and Congress, modifications are made to the legislation over the summer. January 10, 1812

James Madison - 01/27/1812: The House refuses to enlarge t…
The House refuses to enlarge the Navy. January 27, 1812

James Madison - 03/09/1812: Madison shares the letters of John Henry, agent fo…
Madison shares the letters of John Henry, agent for governor of Canada, with Congress, having purchased the letters the previous month for $50,000. The documents indicate that the governor general of Canada is inciting rebellion in New England. March 09, 1812

James Madison - 03/21/1812: British minister Foster tells …
British minister Foster tells Madison's administration that the Orders in Council will be continued. March 21, 1812

James Madison - 03/23/1812: News arrives that France has sunk American ships c…
News arrives that France has sunk American ships carrying flour to British troops in Spain, leading many in Congress to call for war against France. The incident is seen by many as “proof” that France has not repealed edicts against American neutral commerce. March 23, 1812

James Madison - 04/02/1812: Congress passes an embargo, effective through July…
Congress passes an embargo, effective through July 4, on all shipping to give shippers the opportunity to get their vessels to safe haven. April 02, 1812 - December 13, 1901

James Madison - 04/15/1812: Louisiana is admitted to the nation as the eightee…
Louisiana is admitted to the nation as the eighteenth state of the Union. April 15, 1812

James Madison - 05/18/1812: Amidst fierce intra-party competition, Madison is …
Amidst fierce intra-party competition, Madison is nominated by the Democratic-Republicans for a second term as President. May 18, 1812

James Madison - 05/23/1812: Madison sees the letter from Lord Castlereagh to B…
Madison sees the letter from Lord Castlereagh to British minister Foster confirming the continuance of the Orders in Council, and the President begins drafting his war message to Congress. May 23, 1812

James Madison - 06/01/1812: Madison delivers a message to Congress, justifying…
Madison delivers a message to Congress, justifying war against Britain and asking for a declaration of war. On June 4, the House of Representatives votes 79-49 for war against Britain. On June 16, Britain revokes its Orders in Council in an attempt to avoid war with the United States, but news of the British decision will reach the United States too late. On June 17, Senate votes 19-13 for a declaration of war. June 01, 1812

James Madison - 06/18/1812: Madison issues a declaration of war against Britai…
Madison issues a declaration of war against Britain. In addition to concern over British actions with regard to international trade, some proponents of war also endorse territorial expansion into British Canada and Spanish Florida; they also hope to end suspected British support of Indian attacks. Without the Bank of America and with an Army of only 6,700, the United States faces dire economic and military straits at the war's outset. The U.S. Navy, with a fleet of only sixteen vessels, delivers the nation's only victories in the first year of war. June 18, 1812

James Madison - 06/22/1812: General Henry Dearborn, commanding American forces…
General Henry Dearborn, commanding American forces into Canada, requests that all New England governors cap the size of militias guarding their respective coasts and frontiers; Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island refuse. June 22, 1812

James Madison - 08/08/1812: Dearborn signs an armistice with the governor of L…
Dearborn signs an armistice with the governor of Lower Canada. Madison repudiates it the following week, and Dearborn terminates the armistice on August 25. August 08, 1812

James Madison - 08/11/1812: Michigan governor and general William Hull, in cha…
Michigan governor and general William Hull, in charge of the American offensive from Detroit into Upper Canada, gives up his attack on Fort Malden and surrenders Detroit to British forces on August 16 without firing a shot. August 11, 1812

James Madison - 11/1812: Despite fierce competition and conflict within the…
Despite fierce competition and conflict within the Democrat-Republican party, Madison wins reelection, securing 128 electoral votes to Federalist DeWitt Clinton's 89. The electoral results indicate a divide within the nation. November 1812 - December 1901

James Madison - 01/1813: William Jones of Pennsylvania replaces Paul Hamilt…
William Jones of Pennsylvania replaces Paul Hamilton as secretary of the Navy. January 1813

James Madison - 01/14/1813: John Armstrong of New York replaces William Eustis…
John Armstrong of New York replaces William Eustis as secretary of war. January 14, 1813

James Madison - 01/18/1813: Americans throughout the northwest are outraged by…
Americans throughout the northwest are outraged by Winchester's battle and surrender at Frenchtown, and the Wyandotte murder of sixty Kentucky prisoners of war. The northwest ceases to play a role in war strategy. January 18, 1813 - December 13, 1901

James Madison - 04/21/1813: Albert Gallatin and James A. Bayard leave to join …
Albert Gallatin and James A. Bayard leave to join John Quincy Adams in St. Petersburg for peace negotiations sponsored by Russia. April 21, 1813

James Madison - 05/31/1813: John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, and Albert Gal…
John Quincy Adams, James A. Bayard, and Albert Gallatin are nominated as representatives to the peace negotiations, but the Senate rejects Gallatin on July 19. Gallatin is eventually confirmed after the Senate forces Madison to declare Gallatin's treasury cabinet post vacant. May 31, 1813

James Madison - 09/10/1813: In an impressive display of valor, Captain Oliver …
In an impressive display of valor, Captain Oliver Perry wins control of Lake Erie in the Battle of Put-In-Bay. For four hours, Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, receives heavy attacks from two British warships, leaving most of his crew dead or wounded. Instead of surrendering, however, Perry rows to another ship and launches an attack on the British, finally accepting surrender of the entire British fleet. Perry sends word to General Harrison, stating, “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” September 10, 1813

James Madison - 10/05/1813: The United States under General Harrison emerges v…
The United States under General Harrison emerges victorious at the Battle of the Thames -- the most important American victory to date -- as it ends British and Indian control in Northwest and Upper Canada. Tecumseh dies in the battle. October 05, 1813

James Madison - 12/09/1813: Madison calls for a total embargo on exports and a…
Madison calls for a total embargo on exports and a ban on all imports of British origin, believing that Britain depends on trade with the United States. Congress passes the embargo just days later. December 09, 1813

James Madison - 01/28/1814: James Jackson of Virginia introduces a constitutio…
James Jackson of Virginia introduces a constitutional amendment in the House authorizing the establishment of a national bank, but Congress postpones consideration. January 28, 1814

James Madison - 02/1814: Madison appoints Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, Jame…
Madison appoints Henry Clay, Albert Gallatin, James Bayard, Jonathan Russell, and John Quincy Adams as commissioners to negotiate directly with Britain in Gothenburg, Sweden. These negotiations are later transferred to Ghent, Belgium. February 1814

James Madison - 02/09/1814: George Washington Campbell of Tennessee replaces G…
George Washington Campbell of Tennessee replaces Gallatin as secretary of the treasury. February 09, 1814

James Madison - 03/03/1814: Congress authorizes the borrow…
Congress authorizes the borrowing of $25 million to finance war costs. March 03, 1814

James Madison - 03/27/1814: Under the command of Andrew Jackson, 2,000 troops …
Under the command of Andrew Jackson, 2,000 troops defeat the Creek Confederation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in the Tallapoosa River, eliminating the Confederation as an obstacle to American expansion toward the Gulf Coast. The engagement is one of the most significant American victories in the War of 1812, providing the United States with two-thirds of Creek land in the Treaty of Fort Jackson. March 27, 1814

James Madison - 03/31/1814: Napoleon’s European empire collapses. Learning of …
Napoleon's European empire collapses. Learning of Napoleon's defeat, Madison calls for an immediate repeal of the trade embargo with neutral nations, signaling a major reassessment of American war aims and strategy. He signs the bill into law on April 14. The British, meanwhile, can now turn their complete attention to war with the United States. March 31, 1814

James Madison - 05/11/1814: William Henry Harrison resigns as Major General an…
William Henry Harrison resigns as Major General and is replaced by Andrew Jackson, against Madison's orders. May 11, 1814

James Madison - 06/07/1814: Madison and his cabinet decide to continue with th…
Madison and his cabinet decide to continue with the attempted invasion of Canada. June 07, 1814

James Madison - 07/01/1814: Madison convenes his cabinet to establish a specia…
Madison convenes his cabinet to establish a special military district for the protection of Washington and Baltimore, placing it under the command of Brigadier General William Winder. July 01, 1814

James Madison - 07/27/1814: The Battle of the Burnt Corn in the Mississippi Te…
The Battle of the Burnt Corn in the Mississippi Territory brings the Creek Indians into the war against the United States. July 27, 1814

James Madison - 08/24/1814: With momentum on their side, and in retaliation fo…
With momentum on their side, and in retaliation for the torching of Canadian Parliament buildings, British forces attack and burn Washington, D.C., setting the White House, the Capitol, and other federal buildings ablaze. August 24, 1814

James Madison - British Troops Set Fire to White House

On August 24, 1814, during the War of 1812, British troops invaded Washington, D.C., and set the White House, the Capitol, and other federal buildings on fire. The city had been evacuated before the British arrived with President James Madison and his administration leaving the capital city to flee the invading soldiers.

During the war, British and American troops clashed up and down the East Coast, from Canada down to New Orleans. The war began after President Madison requested a declaration of war from Congress to protect American ships on the open seas and to try to stop the British practice of impressments, the seizure of U.S. sailors for service in Britain's Navy.

The first years of the war proved disastrous for the United States. By the fall of 1812, the British had defeated American forces in Detroit and in western New York; in fact much of the Northwest Territory had fallen to the British. The Americans began to have military success in the spring of 1813 when the U.S. Navy defeated the British fleet on Lake Erie and U.S. forces sacked the Canadian capital in York. The United States also won significant battles against Native Americans in Ontario and the Mississippi Territory.

Events swung back against the Americans in the late spring on 1814 as the British went on the offensive. British ships raided American ports from Georgia to Maine. After they landed in the Chesapeake Bay, British troops began to march towards Washington, D.C. They encountered little resistance along the way. James Monroe, who served as Madison's secretary of state and of defense, led a scouting party to report on the British advance. He sent word to President Madison that the British were marching toward Washington, D.C., and Madison and other government officials left the city for the countryside.

First Lady Dolley Madison resisted the calls to evacuate. When she finally left, she made sure that a portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart was removed from the White House and stored safely. She also took several important cabinet documents with her when she departed. As the British troops headed toward to capital, Monroe stayed to help with the city's evacuation. Once the British troops entered the city, they torched the White House and most other federal buildings in retaliation for the burning of the Canadian Parliament buildings in York.

The United States was ultimately victorious in the War of 1812, and the Treaty of Ghent was signed by both countries in December 1814. Washington, D.C., was gradually rebuilt. It took three years to rebuild the White House, and in October 1817, President James Monroe moved back into the reconstructed White House.

August 24, 1814

James Madison - 09/14/1814: Following the sack of Washington, U.S. General Sam…
Following the sack of Washington, U.S. General Samuel Smith turns back a British attack on Fort Henry at Baltimore. After the unsuccessful British offensive, Francis Scott Key pens “The Star-Spangled Banner.” September 14, 1814

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