July 2: Connecticut Refuses to Fight in War of 1812


It would be an understatement to say that the War of 1812 was unpopular in Connecticut.

As a region, New England as a whole was fiercely opposed to the War of 1812, which they viewed as a frivolous and economically disastrous war waged by President James Madison against the British Empire.  But Connecticut in particular took its opposition to a new level — one that almost provoked a constitutional crisis for the still-young United States of America.

In the spring of 1812, Connecticut’s Governor Roger Griswold — who had just been re-elected to a second term on account of his staunch opposition to “Mr. Madison’s War” — received a request from Major General Henry Dearborn to commandeer five companies of Connecticut militiamen for federal service.  On July 2, Governor Griswold delivered his reply: a flat-out refusal to release Connecticut’s militia companies to fight in the War.  Citing the U.S. Constitution, Griswold noted that militias were only supposed to be summoned by the federal government “to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, or repel invasions,” and since the United States did not appear in any “imminent danger” of an invasion, he would not cede control of the militia to General Dearborn.

Griswold continued to resist the federal order to release Connecticut’s troops to federal control for months, instigating court proceedings that ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court, which ruled against the recalcitrant governor and mandated that the Connecticut militia join the war effort. Roger Griswold, however, never learned the result of the case, having died suddenly in October 1812.

Further Reading

Roger Griswold: A Governor Not Afraid to Challenge Authority,” connecticuthistory.org

Message of His Excellency Governor Griswold to the General Assembly at their Special Session, August 1812,” Google Books