Charles Carroll of Carrollton: “men blinded by party spirit are not to be cured by reason but by sufferings”

Baltimore, 26th February 1814

I have read with much pleasure your speech at Annapolis; you have perspicuously traced the causes of our war with Great Britain to their real origin and have exposed the disgraceful intrigues and falsehoods of the Administration by which they have gradually led Congress to declare it. If the war party could divest themselves of their hatred to England and consider dispassionately the contents of your address, I should hope the perusal of it would be followed by happy consequences. But men blinded by party spirit are not to be cured by reason but by sufferings, and the great mass of the people have not yet suffered enough to make them sick of the war.

Engraving of "Charles Carroll of Carrollton"
Engraving of “Charles Carroll of Carrollton” by Samuel M. Wilson. University of Kentucky, pa62w8.

On February 26, 1814, Charles Carroll of Carrollton wrote to his son-in-law Robert Goodloe Harper (continuing their  correspondence from January) to praise his recent speech in Annapolis.

Throughout the war, members of the Federalist Party, like Carroll and Harper, expressed serious concerns about the conflict with Great Britain and offered sharp criticism of President James Madison. In Baltimore, the debate between Federalists and supporters of the Democratic-Republican Party turned violent when a group of rioters destroyed the offices of the Federalist newspaper The Federal Republican on June 20, 1814. In a second attack in July, a mob brutally assaulted and tortured the newspaper publisher Alexander Contee Hanson and eight of his employees and associates. In 1816, Contee succeeded Robert Goodloe Harper as a United States Senator for Maryland.

Carroll’s February 1814 letter continues below:

The avarice of money lenders will fill the loan, and the large bounties the army, with which when raised, the Administration may be tempted to carry on the war by forced loans and conscriptions. The Constitution will present no obstacle to an Administration which has already violated it in so many instances. Will a sense of honor, and the sanctity of oaths restrain men from such a wicked attempt, who have long sacrificed every honest principle to the love of power?

Our friend Oliver confidently expects peace between this country and England. I am not so confident; indeed I am inclined to believe the war will be continued, if continued between the Allies and Bonaparte. The haughty spirit of that man, I suspect, is not yet sufficiently humbled to submit to a peace dictated by his enemies, even though that peace should leave to France a large accession of territory and restore to him his sailors and 300,000 veteran troops. If the offer of peace and its terms should be rejected by Bonaparte, he must act on the defensive, and endeavour to tire out the Allies, gain time, generally favorable to the party acting on the defensive, and wait for events, which may disunite his enemies. Is the genius of Bonaparte and the French nation suited to a defensive war? If the war goes on, the Allies will probably limit their operations to expelling the French from all their remaining conquests and confining them to the limits of the monarchy as held by the last of the Bourbons. A little time will confirm the truth of these speculations, or expose their emptiness. I have hazarded them as the only topic I have to write about and rather than not to write at all, I have, perhaps, exposed myself to the imputation of being a short sighted politician.

Source: Rowland, Kate Mason. 1898. The Life of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, 1737-1832: With His Correspondence and Public Papers. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, p. 302-303.

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