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Hartford Convention,Dec. 15, 1814–Jan. 4, 1815, meeting to consider the problems of New England in the War of 1812War of 1812,
armed conflict between the United States and Great Britain, 1812–15. It followed a period of great stress between the two nations as a result of the treatment of neutral countries by both France and England during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars,
..... Click the link for more information. ; held at Hartford, Conn. Prior to the war, New England Federalists (see Federalist partyFederalist party,
in U.S. history, the political faction that favored a strong federal government. Origins and Members
In the later years of the Articles of Confederation there was much agitation for a stronger federal union, which was crowned with success when the
..... Click the link for more information. ) 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, RogerGriswold, Roger,
1762–1812, American political leader, b. Lyme, Conn.; son of Matthew Griswold. A Connecticut lawyer, he entered politics and, as U.S. Congressman (1795–1805), was a vigorous Federalist and a virulent critic of President Jefferson's administration,
..... Click the link for more information. ), 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 LowellLowell, John,
1769–1840, American political writer, b. Newburyport, Mass.; son of John Lowell (1743–1802). He practiced law, but devoted most of his time to supporting his Federalist views in newspapers and pamphlets. Mr.
..... Click the link for more information. and Timothy PickeringPickering, Timothy,
1745–1829, American political leader and Revolutionary War army officer, b. Salem, Mass. He was admitted to the bar (1768) and played an active part in pre-Revolutionary activities against the British.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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 CabotCabot, George
, 1752–1823, American merchant and politician, b. Salem, Mass. He went to sea and became captain of one of the ships owned by his brothers John and Andrew Cabot of Beverly, who in 1777 took him into their firm.
..... Click the link for more information. , the head of the Massachusetts delegation and a moderate Federalist, presided. Other important delegates were Harrison Gray OtisOtis, Harrison Gray,
1765–1848, American political leader, b. Boston; nephew of James Otis. He practiced law in Boston, and was elected (1795) to the Massachusetts legislature.
..... Click the link for more information. (1765–1848), also a moderate, and Theodore DwightDwight, Theodore,
1764–1846, American author, b. Northampton, Mass.; brother of Timothy Dwight and grandson of Jonathan Edwards. A leader of the Federalist party in New England, he became famous for his political pamphlets and articles.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
See J. T. Adams, New England in the Republic (1926, repr. 1960); J. M. Banner, To the Hartford Convention (1970).