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Anti-War Senators


On June 1, 1812, President James Madison sent Congress a confidential message requesting a declaration of war with Great Britain. In the Senate, Federalists from New England and the mid-Atlantic maritime states worked to stall a declaration of war by attempting to attach amendments that might induce some members of a divided Republican Party to vote against the war. “I may express it as a conjectural opinion, that the course which will be pursued is by no means certain. In the House it may be foreseen, but in the Senate no calculation can be made,” wrote an optimistic Senator James A. Bayard of Delaware on June 4. “Much will depend on discretion and management in giving a direction to wavering and balancing opinions. The direct question must be avoided and a good cover provided for those who are disposed to retreat,” he wrote, explaining the opposition strategy, which slowed down the war movement but could not prevent final passage of the resolution.