1817 Monroe

James Monroe (1758-1831) made this trip which included Detroit and the farthest point of travel to inspect the northern boundary defenses and to see if the agreement made with England in 1816 to limit naval armament on the Great Lakes as being complied with.


The United States brig Jones, attended by her consort the Lady of the Lake, was in waiting at the Harbour, and on Wednesday the 6th (August) the President embarked on board that vessel, under a national salute, and sailed thence for Fort Niagara, situated on the lake, at the mouth of Niagara river. Under the orders of major-general Brown, who still accompanied him, he was received at the garrison on Friday, the 8th, with the usual salute, and after inspecting the works there, which he did without loss of time, he proceeded up the Niagara, and arrived in the evening at the honourable judge Porter's, at the Falls, where he lodged that night. The shortness of his stay at the fort, which did not exceed an hour, and his extreme desire, as well as the necessity of facilitating his tour, which he observed had already been long protracted, obliged him to forego the attentions, proffered by the officers of the British garrison of Fort George, situated nearly opposite Fort Niagara.

A committee of citizens from the village of Buffaloe, at the outlet of Lake Erie, repaired to Black Rock, on Saturday, the 9th, received the President and his suite, at that place, and escorted him through the principal street to Landon's tavern. Here he was addressed by the committee in behalf of the citizens, to whom he returned a short verbal reply. Having dined in company with the principal citizens, at this tavern, he took passage in the afternoon, on board the United States schooner Porcupine, lieut. com. Champlin, both under commodore Dexter, for the port of Detroit, upon the river of that name, north of Lake Erie. After three days passage through the lake, his excellency, and suite, were landed at Spring Wells, at which place he was met by major-general M'Comb and the citizens of Detroit, who formed an escort and conducted him to the town. On Thursday the 14th, he inspected the fort, which was surrendered to the British arms, on the 16th of August, 1812, by general Hull, then of the United States army. A grand military review of the troops under general M'Comb, stationed at Detroit, took place on the same day. The President mounted on an Arabian horse, and followed by his suite, by general Cass, governor of the territory of Michigan, and his suite, and by maj. gen. Brown and his suite, passed in review down the line, which made an unusually brilliant appearance. In the presence of his excellency and all the troops, governor Cass, who had been selected to perform that duty by the legislature of New York, presented general M'Comb with a superb sword, which they had voted to him, as a reward for his successful defence of the town of Plattsburg, and which had just been transmitted to Detroit, by governor Clinton. Governor Cass accompanied this presentation, with a very handsome and appropriate address.

In the evening a splendid ball was given to the President, at Mr. Woodworth's, at which all the principal ladies and gentlemen, and the officers of the several corps, attended. During his stay at Detroit, the trustees of the city, availed themselves of an interval of the President's relaxation from duty, and by their chairman, Mr. Edwards, delivered him a short address, to which he made the following answer:

"Fellow Citizens - In the tour in which I am engaged, according to its original plan, this section of our inland frontier formed an essential part, and I am happy to have been able, so far to have executed it. This is the utmost western limit to which I propose to extend it. I shall proceed thence along the frontier, and through the state of Ohio, without delay, to the seat of the general government.

"Aware of your exposed situation, every circumstance material to your defence, in the possible, but I hope remote, contingency, of future wars, has a just claim to, and will receive my attention. For the information which you may be able to give me, on a subject of high importance, I shall be very thankful.

"In all the advantages of your situation, in which you participate so largely; in those which a kind providence has extended to our happy country; I as your fellow citizen, take a deep interest. Any inconveniences of which you may complain, you must be sensible cannot be of long duration. Your establishment was, of necessity, originally colonial, but on a new principle. A parental hand cherishes you in your infancy; your commencement is founded in rights, not of a personal nature only, but of incipient sovereignty, never to be shaken. The national government promotes your growth, and in so doing, from the peculiar felicity of our system, promotes the growth and strength of the nation. At a period, and on conditions just and reasonable, you will become a member of the union, with all the rights of the original states. In the interim, the legislative body, composed of the representatives of a free people, your brethren, will always be ready to extend a just and proper remedy to any inconvenience to which you may be exposed.

"I partake with you, the most heartfelt satisfaction, at the present general prosperity of our country, and concur in sentiment respecting the causes to which it may be justly ascribed. By the termination of party divisions, and the union of all our citizens in the support of our republican government and institutions, of which I entertain, as I trust, a well founded hope, I anticipate a long continuance of all the blessings which we now enjoy.

"For your kind reception, I offer you my grateful acknowledgments.

"James Monroe.

"To A. Edwards, esq. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, City of Detroit."

With the inspection of the garrison, the harbour, and the public works at Detroit, this tour of observation was completed; the President having visited and examined all the forts and military depots, and reviewed the troops at all the stations from Washington to Maine, and thence along the inland frontier to this post. The fort and stockade upon the island of Michilimackinac being too great a distance (two hundred and forty-nine miles) to allow him sufficient time to repair to that place, and to return thence within the period at which his public duties would imperiously require his presence at the seat of government his journey onward was necessarily terminated at Detroit. The great objects for which it had been undertaken, however, were sufficiently accomplished; and he relied upon the ability of the commanding officer of the north-western district, to report to him the condition of the garrison at that island, and of the measures necessary at any time to be adopted for its increase and enlargement.

Accordingly, after making a short delay in the Michigan territory, he set out on his return to Washington, accompanied by governor Cass, and generals Brown and M'Comb; and passing through the Indian lands, from the several tribes of which he received great attention.....

From: A NARRATIVE OF A TOUR OF OBSERVATION MADE DURING THE SUMMER OF 1817, BY JAMES MONROE, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, THROUGH THE NORTH-EASTERN AND NORTH-WESTERN DEPARTMENTS OF THE UNION WITH A VIEW TO THE EXAMINATION OF THEIR SEVERAL MILITARY DEFENCES. Philadelphia: S.A. Mitchell & H. Ames, 1818: 200 -205.]

See Also:

Brown, Henry. Detroit Entertains a President. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1954.

Cunningham, Noble E. The Presidency of James Monroe. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.