In the spring of 1812, war with Great Britain again seemed imminent. Causes of complaint against the aggressions of the British government had existed for a long time, and the irritation was now increasing on all sides. It did not seem possible that actual war could much longer be postponed, although public opinion in the United States was still far from unanimous for an immediate appeal to arms.
Norwich, as had been her wont in Revolutionary times, again let her voice be heard when great public and national interests were being agitated before the people. At the close of a town meeting held June 18, 1812, a paper was presented to the meeting containing the preamble and resolutions which we copy below. On account of the great length of the preamble, we are obliged to abridge it considerably. The document was obviously drawn up with much care by some person familiar with the political history of the country. After some debate the clerk was directed to read the paper. A spirited discussion ensued, and the preamble and resolutions were finally adopted by a large majority, as true in their statement of facts and expressive of the sense of the town on the question at issue. It was voted that the same be put* on record in the town clerk’s office. A final clause appended to the fourth resolution denouncing in severe terms as enemies of their country that portion of the Federal party who were at that time most unsparing in their criticisms of the war policy of President Madison, and the measures of Congress then pending to procure redress, was rejected by a decisive vote.
“When we behold our country on the very verge of war, the true patriot cannot help passing in mind the whole catalogue of injuries and wrongs that our country has experienced both from England and France.”
Here follows a lengthy and spirited arraignment of England, beginning with the persecutions which drove the Pilgrim fathers across the sea in 1620, and enumerating a long series of abuses, exactions, and oppressions which the colonists had endured from British tyranny during the whole colonial period, and which resulted at last, in 1775, in revolt and successful revolutions.
The charges and complaints are set forth in rigorous language, and in their comprehensiveness remind the reader of the well-known recital so admirably formulated in the Declaration of Independence. We quote again from the record:
“Great Britain, after experiencing defeats and delays in subduing the colonies, in 1782 acknowledged them independent of the mother country and entered into a treaty with them as an independent nation possessed with every attribute of national sovereignty, and made a solemn engagement to regulate her conduct towards us consonant to these her professions. But stung with pride and governed by some evil magic spell she has not ceased to violate her plighted faith, impressing our seamen, notwithstanding the most earnest remonstrances of our government. She has not ceased to vex our lawful commerce in every sea; She has crimsoned the waters at the mouths of our rivers with the blood of our citizens; Her naval officers have insulted our Government and disregarded our municipal laws and regulations, even at the very threshold of our national sovereignty. She has excited the savages to make war upon our defenseless frontiers. * * * * In the midst of the most ostensible show of negotiation, she has sent her emissaries and spies into our most populous cities and towns to encourage our own citizens to resist the laws, promote civil war, and has offered her aid in dismembering the integrity and union of these states. And to fill up the black catalogue of wrongs, her public ministers sent to reside near our Gov* have in more instances than one endeavored to make our own citizens believe we have no neutral rights, and attempted to palliate the wrongs of their own government, magnifying complaints against our own, denying us justice, and with a hollow, false profession of friendship turned a deaf ear to all our reasonable and just complaints. * * * France also in her turn has not been behind in violating our national rights. She has unjustly plundered our merchants of many millions of their property, burnt many of our vessels on the high seas, and under the most frivolous pretences delays entering into any adjustment of our just and reason-able claims against that government for the wrongs we have received at her hands. And we do fully believe Congress would be justified in declaring war against both France and England.”
“Resolved, that we have full confidence in the Chief Executive of the United States, and Heads of Departments, and in a majority of both Houses of Congress, and we fully believe that the measures which appear to be pursued by them are suitable and proper, and if adhered to with unanimity, will terminate to the honor and interest of the United States.
“Resolved, that we consider the Embargo not only wise and politic, but absolutely necessary to save and keep our property at home and call home what was abroad; and in case our government had been so forgetful as to have omitted so prudent a measure, our merchants would have had good reason to censure the neglect.
“Resolved, that we consider it the duty of every good citizen to support his own government in all its just demands upon a foreign Power; and we consider that our claim upon Great Britain to rescind her Orders in Council, to remunerate our merchants for the unjust spoliation upon their lawful commerce, for the restoration of our seamen, and the pretended right of search, are all just causes of complaint and war against that Power and we do most solemnly pledge ourselves, our property, and our all, in support of our government in demanding justice of Great Britain.
“Resolved, that we regard many of our citizens who differ from us in politics as honest, good men who have the good of their country at heart, but for want of correct information err in judgment.
“To such we can cheerfully extend the hand of charity, and believe that when they are better informed they will walk with us in any measures to retrieve the honor and interest of the country.”
It is a curious coincidence that on the very day that the foregoing Preamble and Resolutions were being discussed and voted on in the Norwich town meeting the Congress of the United States at Washington was voting a Declaration of War against Great Britain. Just six days later, news of that declaration having been received, on the 24th of June, the selectmen called another town meeting “to raise a tax for defraying town expenses and to increase the wages of the detachment from Norwich” which tax was promptly voted on the 6th of July following. It was then voted to increase the monthly pay of the non-commissioned officers and privates who have been or may be detached during the present year $3.00 per month, the town to be “holden to make up that sum in case the legislature should not give the same relief generally.”
Norwich Vermont Soldiers in the War of 1812
Alden Partridge, 1 Captain United States Engineers. Died at Norwich, January 17, 1854.
William Partridge, 2 Captain United States Engineers, Chief Engineer of Army under General Hull. Died at Detroit, Mich. Tery., while prisoner of war, September 20, 18 12.
Daniel A. A. Buck, 3 Captain 31st United States Infantry. Died at Washington, D. C, December 25, 1841.
Oliver G. Burton, 4 Major 33d United States Infantry. Died in Cuba, 1820.
John Wright, 5 First Lieutenant United States Engineers. Died at Norwich, September 10, 1860.
Ethan Burnap, Captain 31st United States Infantry. Died at Lowell, Mass., February 23, 1872.
Calvin Burnap, Lieutenant 31st Infantry.
- Levi Burton. Died at Plattsburgh. N. Y., Nov. 22, 1813.
- Lyman Baldwin. Died at Norwich, Vt.
- Harvey Burton. Died at Norwich, Vt., October 22, 1868.
- Elisha Hutchinson. Died at Norwich, Vt., March 28, 1872.
- David Morrill. Died at Norwich, Vt., 1878.
- Anderson Miner.
- Cyrus Partridge. Died at Norwich, Vt., July 16, 1842.
- Ebenezer Spear. Died at Norwich, Vt., July 30, 1870.
- Roswell Wright. Died at Norwich, Vt., October 9, 1866.
- Weston Sawyer. Emigrated to Ohio.
- Jedediah Spaulding Died at Port Huron, Mich.
- Alex Percival. Died in service.
- Aaron Keyes. Died at Norwich, Vt.
- John Miles. Died at Norwich, Vt.