This project, designed to culminate with the launching of an interactive website in December of 2014, will research the maritime historical background of the Hartford Convention of December 1814 to January 1815. Academic scholars will find historiographical analysis of the convention while K-12 educators will find lesson plans to use in Connecticut classrooms.
After British troops occupied portions of the district of Maine in July of 1814, twenty-six delegates from the five (at that time) New England states gathered in Hartford Connecticut (in what is now called the “Old State House”) to discuss, not secession, but the mutual protection of their borders, an unpopular war, and amendments to the twenty-five year –old United States Constitution.
Their Democratic-Republican opponents and anti-New England regionalists successfully branded the Hartford Convention delegates as secessionists, traitors, and unpatriotic. In the 1820s and 1830s several delegates published tracts, books, and pamphlets seeking their own vindication. Indeed, their final report did not mention secession or a separate peace with Great Britain; rather it proposed several amendments to the US Constitution that would strengthen the political clout of the New England states vis a vis the American South and newly emerging West.
This basic outline of the Hartford Convention is well-known and can be found in any survey US History textbook. This study will focus on the maritime origins of New England’s troubles and grievances. Ultimately, the New England delegates were interested in preserving a maritime way of life that was under extreme duress because of decisions being made in the nation’s capital.