The depression stemming from Jefferson’s Embargo Act weakened the Democratic-Republicans in the election of 1808. Although James Madison was still able to defeat Federalist candidate Charles Pinckney easily for the presidency, the Democratic-Republicans lost seats in Congress. As Jefferson’s chosen successor, Madison continued to carry out his fellow Virginian’s policies throughout both of his presidential terms.
Congress’s first order of business in 1809 was to repeal the hated and ineffective Embargo Act, which had prevented U.S. ships from sailing to foreign ports. Congress replaced this act with the Non-Intercourse Act, which banned trade only with Britain and France until both agreed to respect American sovereignty and shipping rights.
The following year, Congress, in a further attempt to revive the faltering U.S. economy, passed Macon’s Bill No. 2 , which restored U.S. trade relations with Britain and France but promised to reinstate the Non-Intercourse Act if either nation violated U.S. shipping rights.
Madison’s term was fraught with troubled Native American relations, as white settlers began to pour into the Louisiana Purchase and steal native lands, ignoring the Indian Intercourse Acts of the 1790s. When Congress seemed unwilling to do anything about the situation, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa (also commonly called the Prophet), tried to unite all of the tribes in the Mississippi Valley region against the settlers. Preaching a return to traditional ways of life, Tecumseh and The Prophet were highly successful and created the Northwest Confederacy that included the Shawnee, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek tribes, among others.
Congress, fearing a Native American uprising, ordered the governor of the Indiana Territory, William Henry Harrison, to disband the Northwest Confederacy. Indeed, Harrison soundly defeated the Confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811.
By the 1810s, many of the older and more experienced representatives and senators in Congress had been replaced by young and passionate new faces. It was these hotheaded “War Hawks,” primarily from southern and western states, who had ordered Harrison to take military action against the Northwest Confederacy. As frontiersmen-politicians, the War Hawks were strongly expansionist, and the Confederacy offered the perfect excuse to drive Native Americans even further west.