James Madison

Commander-in-Chief

A British fleet was also turned back at Lake Champlain in New York, while on its way to re-supply an army of 10,000 which was marching through New York from Canada, in an effort to invade New York City from the Hudson River. The naval battle took place on September eleven, 1814, and the victorious American commander was Captain Thomas Macdonough. The British army was forced to retreat back to Canada after communication with the northern fleet was cut off. Subsequently, the British surrendered Lake Erie and lost their sense of determination to win the war when the famous Duke of Wellington would not take command of the British forces fighting in North America. By December 1814, the U.S. and Britain were negotiating a peace at Ghent in Belgium.

The Treaty of Ghent was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814. News of the peace did not reach many Americans for several months, and one of the most famous battles of the war occurred early in 1815. The Battle of New Orleans was fought between a force commanded by future president Andrew Jackson and a British force which was attempting to take control of that very important port city on the Mississippi delta.

For all intents and purposes, the Americans had won a great victory with the end of the War of 1812. One of the major results of the war was the effective end of all foreign threats to America's lands in the Northwest Territory. A great spirit of American pride overswept the country, and President Madison was one of its chief political benefactors. During the last several years of his presidency, he was tremendously popular, and the fortunes of the Federalists who had opposed him and the war were dismal. The party which had been so crucial in the Founding era disintegrated after the War of 1812, exiting the national stage with hardly a whimper.

The chief event of the last part of Madison's presidency was the incorporation of a Second National Bank. Madison supported the effort this time around, and he also called for an amendment to the Constitution which would authorize federal support for internal improvements such as roads and canals. The amendment effort fizzled out, and as his last official act as President, Madison vetoed an internal improvements bill which had been passed by Congress without any movement toward the Constitutional amendment he favored.

The elections of 1816 brought James Monroe into office. President Madison left the White House in February 1817, and retired happily with Mrs. Madison to his home at Montpelier in Virginia. He looked forward to the rest retirement would afford him, though he still had a very active two decades ahead of himself.