Forum Post: "The War That Canada Won" ; On The Manipulation of History & The Selection of Memory !!!
Posted 10 years ago on Sept. 5, 2012, 8:31 a.m. EST by shadz66
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On The Manipulation of History & The Selection of Memory ...
"The War That Canada Won",
by Michael White (The Guardian).
In an anniversary-obsessed year – with the Titanic centenary, the bicentenary of Dickens's birth (and Shakespeare's 448th), and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee – one such opportunity is largely conspicuous by its absence. Yet not everyone gets to burn down the White House after eating a fleeing president's dinner. There is even a helpful clue in the title: the War of 1812. It followed the US Congress's indignant declaration of war on 24 June against – yes – imperial Britain, a country grappling with a mad King George III, a murdered PM (Spencer Perceval) and a 20-year struggle with France.
Strange that, apart from a couple of new histories, the 30-month conflict on land, sea and lake has had little attention in either country, though Canada pays more. Its existence as an independent country with an undefended 3,000-mile land border is one of several major consequences of a silly conflict that embarrassed both sides – and still does.
Britain had its hands full fighting Napoleon in 1812, and (as in 1914-17) Americans were cross with the way both sides' embargoes disrupted their trade. But they were especially cross with maritime Britain for seizing British-born sailors to serve in the Royal Navy, and for supporting tribal warriors like Tecumseh in the frontier wars.
Expansionist politicians from the south and west ("war hawks" as scornful critics put it) had their eye on French and Spanish colonies on the Mississippi and beyond. Taking British Canada would be "a mere matter of marching", ex-president Thomas Jefferson assured them. James Madison, the weak fourth president, didn't want war. Nor did merchants of New York and New England. But the Senate came within four votes (18-14) of declaring war on France too. Madness. A shambolic three-pronged US invasion of Canada was repelled, not least by loyalists who fled America in the war of independence. Parts of Maine were occupied.
It was not all one-way. The infant US navy was a meritocracy, grossly outnumbered, but its ships better designed with bigger guns, its privateers harrying British shipping in the Irish Sea. Overall Nelson's navy prevailed, but its "sacred spell of invincibility" was shattered, the Brits admitted.
Once Bonaparte had been dispatched (briefly) to exile in Elba, some 14,000 of Wellington's veterans (he declined to lead them) were dispatched to deal with what London saw as the treacherous stab in the back. Britain's own three-pronged attack on New York, Baltimore (where the defence of Fort McHenry inspired The Star-Spangled Banner) and Washington fared little better – though British troops did trash Congress and burn the White House in retaliation for the burning of Toronto.
US peace feelers had been out almost from day one and bore fruit in Ghent on Christmas Eve 1814, after London modified its arrogant terms and accepted the pre-war status quo. It left awkward matters such as fishing and the 49th parallel (today's undefended border) to be quietly resolved later. Canada remained British, America marched west, the Indians were sold out.
After all that US blood and treasure had been wasted, the war hawks might have been in trouble, but for a stroke of luck. Before news of the treaty crossed the Atlantic, General Andrew Jackson, a future president, thrashed the Brits (2,000 dead and wounded, three generals killed) in defence of New Orleans on January 8 1815. It was a fig-leaf, but a good one for emerging national self-confidence.
The two sides never fought again, despite some hairy moments during the American civil war (there was a UK pro-slavery lobby) and (shipping issues again) in the first world war. The balance of economic and military power remorselessly swung America's way until, in the dark days of 1940-41, Britain embraced its own subordination.
It is a tribute to the myth-making power of selective memory - that, besides the odd uneasy joke by PM David Cameron, few in the Anglo-American family refer to the scandal of 1812 that almost led to divorce.
respice ; adspice ; prospice ...
Also see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_1812 .
[Article copied verbatim under "Fair Use" from : http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/02/war-that-canada-won-1812-forgotten?INTCMP=SRCH & please use this URL to access all embedded links.]