In 1814, on this day Elbridge Gerry (pictured) was promptly sworn in as the fifth President of the United States after receiving confirmation of the untimely and tragic death of James Madison at Bladensburg, Maryland. Fleeing the burning capital, Madison had been arrested and subsequently executed as a "traitor to the crown" by the invading British troops who had just torched the White House.
Mr. Madison's War, Part 2 by Ed & Eric LippsSeeking to exploit the atrocious murder of a democratically elected Head of State, Gerry immediately issued an appeal to Britain's traditional enemes. Not only France but also Spain and the Netherlands would view this request as an opportunity to recapture territory lost since Great Britain's stupendous victory in the French-Indian War of 1763, itself a cause of the War of Independence that followed thirteen years later.
Despite this diplomatic "gerry-mandering" and with some justification, Great Britain still held high hopes of recolonising the eastern seaboard whilst holding on to British Canada. Because on November 13th, Gerry would himself die of heart failure, throwing the American government into fresh chaos.