Hartford Convention (December 15, 1814–January 5, 1815)
HARTFORD CONVENTION (December 15, 1814–January 5, 1815)
The Hartford Convention, called by the Federalists of the Massachusetts legislature, consisted of delegates chosen by the legislatures of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The delegates sought to promote the interests and policies of the New England Federalists, who vehemently opposed the War of 1812. Although secessionist sentiment flourished among extremists, moderates—those who opposed a separate New England confederacy and civil war—controlled the convention. The fact that it was held showed a respect for the Constitution, however perverse. Despite the convention's endorsement of theories of state nullification and interposition similar to those of the virginia and kentucky resolutions of 1798–1799, the delegates unanimously advocated amendments to the Constitution as a means of curtailing federal powers. After a manifesto assailing the war, American foreign policy, national control of state militias, and the admission of western states, the convention proposed that congressional representation and federal taxation be based on the number of free persons only; embargoes be restricted to sixty days; Congress be prevented from declaring war, restricting foreign trade, or admitting new states except by a two-thirds majority; federal offices be restricted to native-born citizens; and the President be restricted to one term.
The convention had the misfortune of meeting while events were making it irrelevant. As three delegates left for Washington to present its proposals for constitutional amendments, the news arrived of andrew jackson's victory at New Orleans, and when the delegates arrived in Washington, the town celebrated peace reports from Ghent. President james madison excoriated the convention as a "rebel Parliament" that had engaged in a treasonable conspiracy, and the public ridiculed it. It accomplished nothing, left a bitter heritage, and enhanced the respectability of the doctrine of interposition.
Leonard W. Levy