|Date(s):||April 17, 1810|
|Location(s):||Washington City, District of Columbia|
|Tag(s):||U.S. Government, Government Laws, War of 1812, Federalist|
|Course:||“The United States: A New Nation, 1776-1836,” Wheaton College|
Things were tense when Congress convened on April 17, 1810. Foreign relations with Britain were strained, and the intransigent Federalist Party was making passing Republican legislation very difficult. On that day the Federalists succeeded in yet again undermining Republican authority in Congress by voting on whether or not to reduce Military and Naval establishments in a time when overseas affairs with the British were unsettled.
The first party system was comprised of the Federalist and the Republicans. The Federalists were those who wanted to trade with Britain at the expense of the French and wanted to commercialize the economy. The Republicans were interested in trading with France instead of Britain and were more compelled to act in a way that benefited the economic well being of their regions. These two parties' continual opposition of each other was eventually one of the reasons the Republicans declared war against Britain in 1812. In the previous years the Federalist gentry had continually tried to subvert the federal government and had repeatedly attempted to sabotage Republican legislation in Congress. One example was the forced repeal of the embargo of 1807-1809, through which the United States had attempted to force European nations to recognize American’s neutrality by denying access to American commerce. Following the appeal of the embargo, the United States House of Representatives had passed a Non-Intercourse Act against Britain that took effect on May 20, 1809. This meant that the United States would not trade with Britain because the relationship between the two nations was rapidly deteriorating.
War seemed imminent as friction between Britain and the United States progressed, and the Federalists did nothing to relieve some of the pressure the federal government was feeling. One important measure against the Republicans was the passing of a bill on April 17, 1810. On that day the House was to vote on an unanswered question from April 16th regarding a resolution to reduce Military and Naval establishments. Mr. Quincy motioned that an amendment be made that the reduction happen only by repealing laws to disband Brigadier Generals, staff, and officers; the motion failed. Mr. Rhea then motioned that committees appointed by the President look at the resolutions. This motion also failed.
The House then voted on whether or not to reduce the size of the Military. The resolution passed by a vote of eighty-one to thirty-one. The question then turned to the reduction of the Navy. Mr. Hale motioned to insert after the word reduced “by selling such gunboats or crafts attached to it as may, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Navy, be unnecessary or incompetent to the service.” This motion passed. The question of the reduction of the Navy also passed by a vote of sixty-five to forty-six. Following the votes on the question as two separate entities, the House then voted on the question regarding whether both the Military and Navy should be reduced. The resolution passed sixty to thirty-one.
Federalists like Laban Wheaton voted in the affirmative on this resolution for reducing the Army and the Navy. The resolution's success meant that Congress would vote on a bill to this effect. And these votes offer an example of the ways that Federalists in Congress subverted Republicans' attempts to show a strong military and naval presence in the face of a grow British threat. Historian Richard Buel has argued that Federalists sabotaged Republican legislation like the Embargo of 1807-1809 and the Non-Intercourse Act and that the sabotage of these acts heightened tensions with Britain and eventually pushed the Republicans to declare war in 1812.