The Democratic Republican Party in the first Madison Administration
When James Madison was elected President in 1808, the Democratic Republican Party suffered substantial losses in Congress. The lame duck session of the 10th Congress, meeting between the election and the end of Jefferson's term, recognized the unpopularity of the Embargo Act and repealed it on 3/1/1809, three days before Madison took office. The Embargo was replaced by the Non-Intercourse Act, which threatened to only place an embargo on foreign states who did not respect the rights of Americans. Madison, after being inaugurated on 3/4/1809, suspended the Non-Intercourse Act on 4/19/1809. As the situation with England and France deteriorated, Congress passed Macon's Bill No. 2 on 5/1/1810, and on 11/2/1810 Madison reinstated the Non-Intercourse Act. The situation worsened on 5/1/1811 when the British frigate Guerriere impressed an American seaman into its navy.
In the meantime, the American public reacted angrily. In the midterm elections of 1810-1811, many members of Congress who advocated diplomacy with the European powers either retired or were defeated. A group named the War Hawks sought immediate action against any foreign power taking belligerent action against the nation. Before the end of the 11th Congress, President Madison annexed a portion of West Florida between the Mississippi and Pearl Rivers (10/27/1810). The 11th Congress also allowed the Bank of the United States to lapse on 3/4/1811. The 12th Congress assembled on 11/4/1811 and was dominated by the War Hawks. Three days later, an American force in Indiana was attacked by Indians on the Tippecanoe River; while the U.S. force was unprepared for the surprise assault, it recovered soon enough to repel the Indians and make William Henry Harrison a military hero.
The presidential maneuvering began as soon as Congress assembled in late 1811. VP Clinton did not support further economic action against any European nation, thus breaking with Madison. Some DRP leaders in Congress raised the possibility of running John Quincy Adams for VP instead of Clinton [Greenfield MA Traveller, 11/5/1811].
On 1/21/1811, a mini-caucus was held in Washington DC. The newly elected War Hawks were in the majority, and they nominated DeWitt Clinton for President over President Madison by a margin of 17. Henry Clay, Speaker of the U.S. House, was nominated for Vice President. The National Intelligencer reported "We have not heard a whisper of any other Republican candidate for the next Presidency than James Madison" and ridiculed the action of the Caucus.
Having averted the War Hawks and undermined their Caucus, the Madison administration worked to improve the situation. The Virginia state caucus met on 2/12/1812 and chose a slate of Electors pledged to Madison but unpledged for Vice President [Alexandria Gazette, 2/21/1812]. The Pennsylvania DRP caucus followed suit soon thereafter [Ballston Spa NY Independent American, 3/24/1812]. While the Madison administration waited on calling an official Caucus, the dissident members of the party continued to weigh their options. The Cooperstown NY Otsego Herald reported on 3/28/1812 that it appeared that the DRP Caucus would not be held in 1812 and that each state should feel free to make nominations. An alarmed Gov. Tompkins dissolved the New York legislature to prevent them from nominating DeWitt Clinton for President. Added calls for a national Caucus came following the death of VP George Clinton on 4/20/1812. As the pressure increased, Madison supporters issued the call on 5/16/1812 for a Caucus in the U.S. Senate chamber [National Intelligencer].
The 4th Democratic Republican Caucus, First Session
The first session of the 4th DRP Caucus was held in the U.S. Senate Chamber at 7 p.m. on 5/18/1812. There were 82 members of Congress present, out of the total membership of 178 [Note: the Alexandria Herald, which printed the minutes on 5/20/1812, stated that many DRP members of Congress from the north and New England were not in DC on caucus day, as a means of explaining the low turnout]. Present: NH-4, MA-4, VT-2, NY-3, NJ-3, PA-12, MD-2, VA-12, NC-4, SC-5, GA-3, KY-6 (entire delegation), TN-3 (entire delegation), OH-1, IN Territory-1, and MS Territory-1. There were 17 Senators (half of the total) and 66 members of the U.S. House (a minority of the total) present.
Although the minutes did not mention it, the Caucus session was very contentious. The three attendees from New York State agreed to support Madison (though one eventually abstained), though if their state caucus nominated someone else, they would support their state. The Pennsylvania delegation stated that this would be the last time they would support a candidate for President from Virginia.
The Caucus proceeded to vote for President of the United States. Madison was re-nominated unanimously (82 votes, though Thomas Sammons of New York abstained, according to the Middlesex Gazette on 6/4/1812). The Caucus then nominated John Langdon for VP by a vote of 64-16 for Elbridge Gerry and two scattering. A committee of correpsondence was appointed, and the caucus adjourned.
The correspondence committee sent letters to Madison and Langdon However, Langdon declined to run. He received his letter on 5/22/1812, and the following day he wrote a letter declining the nomination the following day. News of his decision did not appear in the newspapers until 6/8/1812 when it was mentioned in the Alexandria Gazette. The correspondence committee did not release the letter to be printed until 6/16/1812 when it appeared in the Easton MD Republican Star.
Before the Caucus assembled in its second session, three important events took place. First, the USA officially annexed the former "Republic of West Florida" on 5/14/1812 and annexed it to the state of Louisiana and the Mississippi Territory. Second, President Madison asked Congress on 6/1/1812 to declare war on Great Britain. The latter action delighted the War Hawks, but debate in Congress was still ongoing when the second session of the Caucus met. The third event was the New York state DRP caucus, which officially and unanimously nominated DeWitt Clinton for President.
Second Session of DRP Caucus
The DR Caucus re-assembled on the evening of 6/8/1812 in the U.S. Senate chamber to choose a replacement VP nominee. The Caucus was attended by 14 Senators and 63 Representatives. The officers of the previous session were re-appointed (Varnum and Johnson). William H. Crawford read Langdon's letter declining to be a candidate. Sen. John Condit NJ and Rep. William Crawford PA were appointed tellers. The Caucus nominated Elbridge Gerry for VP by a vote of 73-3. After the VP ballot, Henry Clay moved that members present who did not attend the first session be allowed to cast ballots for President. Ten members in this category voted for James Madison. [The minutes were published in the NYC Public Advertiser, 6/15/1812]
With the national ticket finalized, the DRP state caucuses around the nation began to meet, endorse the Madison/Gerry ticket, and nominate slates of Presidential Electors. Massachusetts was first on 6/10/1812 [Salem MA Essex Register, 6/13/1812], followed by Maryland [NYC Columbian, 6/24/1812].