Tuesday, June 28, 2011

War of 1812: Legacy and Effects

"The war, with its vicissitudes is illustrating the capacity and the destiny of the United States to be a great, a flourishing, and a powerful nation."
                        - James Madison and his thoughts about the War of 1812[1]

In the forty years after America declared its independence, Americans had fought in various wars, two of them with the British, one with France in the Quasi-War, and other conflicts that truly tested the fate of the fledging country. The young country survived through it all, even after Washington, D.C., Buffalo, New York and other cities were practically burnt to the ground by British forces. It was now time to develop as a country even further at the end of the War of 1812, following the Treaty of Ghent in late 1814. The Second War of Independence had a lasting impact and important legacy on the United States. The war had been a hard fought battle against the British for the second time, which also included the battling of Native American tribes during the Creek War that took place between 1813 and 1814. What exactly this research paper will look into is how the War of 1812 impacted and shaped the country culturally, politically and financially and what legacies the war left behind.

It has been noted by scholars and historians that the War of 1812 faded into the past and out of many peoples' memories due to the course of events that helped shape the 19th century. A reason for why this is the case, could be summed up by Donald Hickey, suggesting in his book, Don't Give Up the Ship: Myths of the War of 1812, that the conflict between the United States and the British, even though it ended in a peaceful treaty, ended with the United States losing. It was because the Treaty of Ghent stated that the United States needed to restore Native Americans their "possessions, rights, and privileges" that had been entitled to them prior to 1811.[2] There's also the fact that the attack to conquer Canada wasn't successful and the United States never gained territory following the war. Despite that, the war was seen as a triumph by Americans, since for the second time in history, the United States was able to repel the onslaught of the British attacking on American soil with a successful military campaign, despite a few blunders that took place, and it enhanced our country's image in Europe.

Like any other event in history, the facts of an event tend to get blown out of proportion and lead to myths and legends surrounding a person or a single event. The concept of Uncle Sam originated during the War of 1812, as well as the nation's later adopted national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, which was written by Francis Scott Key during one of the war's battles taking on a massive significance in the years afterwards. Future U.S. president Andrew Jackson himself, a general during the war, became a symbol, because he represented the nation's "heady nationalism, rugged individualism, and frontier democracy."[3] Jackson was shrouded in myth and legend, due to his experiences in the war, especially after winning the Battle of New Orleans, which helped him in being able to win the presidency in 1828. 

The war also helped in launching the careers of citizen soldiers involved in the Battle of the Thames and New Orleans, who were able to find a position in elected office in state and federal government. The Battle of the Thames became a symbol for the generation living during this time period, considered the Bunker Hill of this latest war.[4] It was "long remembered as a defining moment in the Old Northwest" for many years later, its victory was celebrated every January 8th in New Orleans and other cities around the country.[5] There was also the Battle of New Orleans, which came before North America heard that the Treaty of Ghent was signed. The Republicans made the general public believe that the Battle of New Orleans actually helped in winning the war, since news of the battle and the treaty reached New York City almost simultaneously.

The Treaty of Ghent didn't fully finalize the ending to the War of 1812; several key events took place in the years afterwards to make sure that both sides would remain neutral with each other. First was the Rush-Bagot Agreement that was recognized in 1818, after a series of notes between Secretary of State Richard Rush and the British minister in Washington, Charles Bagot. The agreement was that no more than one armed ship was to be on Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain and only two armed ships could be in the upper lakes. [6] Additional border adjustments took place as well, in which to protect the Canadian-American border, which designated the 49th parallel as the border between the two countries.

One of the biggest legacies that the war had caused was a shared American hatred for the British. This hatred was due to fighting British forces for several years and seeing their barbaric actions across the country. The War of 1812 against the British had caused the deaths of some roughly 20,000 people, with 2,260 American soldiers killed and 4,505 wounded.[7] This hatred originated during the American Revolution in the late-1700s. It was rekindled due to the Indian atrocities that the British had enticed and the way British forces attacked in the Chesapeake Bay area. 

The mishandling of prisoners was one of the biggest reasons for this Anglophobia.[8] Roughly 20,000 Americans were held in British prisons during the course of the war and prisoners were subjected to physical abuse and were placed in prisons that very crowded, cramped, and dirty. Both sides did what they could to provide humane treatment to enemy prisoners, even holding several unsuccessful conventions in 1812 and 1813 to try and negotiate a fair agreement on the official exchange and treatment of prisoners. Immediately following the war, many stories of American prisoner abuse by the British began to surface. 

In the Niles’ Register, it was commented that, “The return of our people from British prisons have filled the newspapers with tales of horror."[9] One of the best examples of this was the Dartmoor Massacre that occurred in April 1815, a few months after the end of the war. [10] When the 5,000 impressed American sailors received word of the Treaty of Ghent and the war’s end, they demanded to be released from the Dartmoor prison in southwest England. The British commandant of the prison, Thomas George Shortland, refused to release them, expressing that he had not received orders from his superiors. When the anxious sailors massed at front main gates, British soldiers fired upon the prisoners, killing six and wounding sixty others.[11]
 
After receiving word of the massacre, the American consul in Britain, Reuben G. Beasley, sought after enough vessels that would be able to take all American prisoners in Great Britain, back home. The British paid for part of the cost of transporting and loaned several ships to aid in the entire transporting of prisoners. The releases took place between April and August. It took twenty four voyages to bring back the 5,978 men to America. "En route, many prisoners mutinied to seize control of the ships, redirecting them away from the destination chosen by Beasley - Norfolk, Virginia - to New York City or Boston," so that the prisoners could return closer to home.[12]

There were many stories of British misdeeds during the course of the War of 1812 and immediately following the war’s end, such as Dartmoor, and many stories were kept alive in the years afterwards, both by newspapers and politicians. The Richmond Enquirer actually advocated parents to tell their children about the British malevolence, in order to further intensify a deep disgust for the British.[13] There was also a widely held belief by both Americans and the British that the Treaty of Ghent was more of a truce, and so newspapers, magazines, and books verbally attacked the other country. This continued well into the time of the Civil War, for the reason that Queen held sympathy for the Confederacy and there were fears that the British would aid in the South’s mission to defeat the Union. Tensions with the British were shaky thanks to Andrew Jackson ordering the execution of two British subjects in Spanish Florida in 1818, as well as reoccurring violence along the Canadian-American border. [14] Other than this slight tension, America was pretty much left alone for some time by European powers and the country observed some relative transatlantic quiet in relations.

The Panic of 1819 was a direct cause of the War of 1812 and there were several other factors that played a key role in the creation of Panic of 1819. The War of 1812 had put the nation further into debt, due to the total financial cost of the war - which not totaling the cost of property damage, lost economic opportunities, and land bounties, stood at $158 million.[15]  Republicans had been able to reduce the national debt right before the war, to about $45 million, but that debt climbed to $127 million, not accounting for the war debt, by the end of 1815.[16]
Several more factors played a role in this economic calamity: (1) A good harvest and the abundance of crops that had taken place during the growing season of 1818 diminished foreign reliance on those American crops. This resulted in less foreign wealth coming into the country. (2) The expanded supply of raw cotton exceeded the ability of new mills that were able to absorb it. Because of this, the price of cotton in Liverpool dropped in late 1818, and cotton's value, which had been at 32.5 cents in October 1818, soon fell to a low of 14 cents in 1819. (3) London banks decided that there wasn't any need to extend credit to Americans. (4) The Second Bank of the United States shifted away from its expansionist policy, due to what the London banks were doing, resulting in the ever worsening tightening of credit. (5) State banks soon began to take out their own loans from the Bank of the United States, resulting in specie being drained across the country, since all of it was leaving America. When the banks started suspending specie payment, which is the redeeming of currency that's in gold and silver, confidence in the banking system had evaporated.[17] Due to these circumstances, investors panicked and began selling their investments and with everyone trying to sell at the same time, the value of investments plummeted.[18] These events resulted in as the Panic of 1819, which lasted between three to four years, or even longer in other areas of the country. 

The Great Migration, which involved a large influx of people moving to the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys, stopped suddenly around the time of the Panic, because "people could not afford to buy land, prices of agricultural commodities hit rock bottom," and the cities outside of New England, like Cincinnati, were deeply hit by the panic, they couldn't offer any jobs.[19] During this time, the Federal Government discovered that since 1790, it had sold off roughly $44 million worth of land to settlers on credit, only receiving half that amount of money. Congress acted and the best thing to do was end the sale of public land on credit. This action cause the price of an acre of land to drop by 75 cents, to $1.25 an acre.[20] Because of this, western settlers decided that the best thing to do was to return their land grants to the Treasury, so that they would be able to cancel their debts and start over. 

The Panic of 1819 was the first time for many Americans to experience this occurrence during a time of relative stability, because people normally only had experienced such economic troubles "due to the direct cause of war, natural disasters, political paralysis."[21] This was the first time that people were so strongly interconnected economically, which people were a bit disturbed by.
Following the events of the War of 1812, politics played a major role that was very intricate and deeply dramatic that shaped America. Politics made a lasting impact that resonated throughout the 19th century and well into the 21st century. There were many other political events and political people that helped shape America in the months and years following the end of the war. Due to the war, it resulted in the failure of the Federalist Party. The party had already seen a steady decline during the course of the war, especially since they were deeply opposed to the war. Specifically, in the New England states, because of the British blockade along the coast, and merchants were unable to trade. 

The Federalist Party took a hard hit after participating in the Hartford Convention, which was brought together in 1814 to discuss secession from the United States and propose Constitutional amendments in their favor.[22][23] Soon after word of the Treaty of Ghent and the Battle of New Orleans had reached Washington D.C., with Federalist delegates from the Hartford Convention in the city to talk with Congress about their proposals, the party was viewed as disloyal by many. Those who were Federalists in Congress weren’t able to agree on the most simplest of issues and a program that differed from the administration’s. The decline in the party could also be seen at the state level, which meant certain defeat against the Republican Party in the 1816 election and also by not properly reorganizing itself to fight against the national government.  When James Monroe took the presidency in 1817, he made sure that the Federalist Party stayed dead by "preventing the reorganization and revival" of it, since he felt that a multiple party system wasn't a form of free government.[24] By making sure that there wasn't another party to oppose him, he easily won reelection in 1820.

            During the Madison Administration following the end of war, the federal government, backed away from a strict constructionist viewpoint and enacted a more liberal policy with their national powers to aid in became actively involved in economy and the nation's infrastructure. Congress adopted these broad constructionist ideals as well.[25] This new track of ideas led to the adoption of the American System, introduced by Kentucky Congressman Henry Clay, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 14th Congress. In 1815, Clay had an economic plan that was centered on a nationalistic agenda and he argued that prosperity depended upon the federal government's guidance of the economy. Clay's ideas were heard by the Madison Administration, due to the surge in nationalistic ideas and for the simple fact that Clay was a powerful leader in Congress. Madison enacted many of Clay's ideas, which were seen as "internal improvements," that Madison and Monroe saw, "as crucial to national growth and unity."[26]
 
These national internal improvements led to the development of many projects that helped in creating a more enriched country, including the early highway system, the eventual transcontinental railroad, canals and better harbors that would help in the easier flow of the transportation of both goods and people were born. Henry Clay, John Adams, and National Republicans, later called Whigs, felt that the federal government should be the ones who would be responsible for America’s “material and cultural well-being” and that the developments that they wanted to enact would strengthen the government that required a much looser interpretation of the Constitution.[27]

One major political policy to come from James Monroe's presidency was the Monroe Doctrine, was born out of fear when there were Russian territorial claims along the Pacific coast, reaching as far as Fort Ross in California. Six months after learning about the Russian claims, he famously declared that the American continents would be free from future colonization by European powers and warned against European governments to not interfere in the affairs of all the newly independent countries that had formed in Latin America. This would be America's foreign policy stance well into the 21st century and would be built up by future presidents.

            The election of Andrew Jackson as president in 1829 had to do with the myth that surrounded him due his involvement in the War of 1812, which had made him a national hero. He was truly a man of the people, because of his career as a frontier warrior, a self-made plantation owner, and serving in several state and federal positions during the course of his life. With Jackson as president, a new era of politics began to take shape, often referred to as Jacksonian Democracy. The Jacksonian way of democracy was a form of government that was more active, which was the complete opposite of what Jefferson democracy had been in the years previous. Jeffersonian democracy had been a form of government that did as little as possible.[28] Jackson’s way of government was the complete opposite, and broke down social barriers and expanded political power by bringing in people at large, letting them have more contact with government, and even appointing men from all walks of life into federal office. Jackson advocated for term limits for all forms of elected office, arguing that such posts were there to serve the people and no one held a special claim to hold office and that it simply was what democracy was all about. [29] Jackson’s presidency had left a lasting legacy, since he was able to greatly influence politics, as well as American culture. He was one of those presidents who didn’t back down and held firm in his beliefs.

Besides several presidents who were shaped by the War of 1812, one of the most dominant persons that was a powerful force for practically half of the 19th century, was Henry Clay. Clay went by many nicknames, most notably; Galant Harry of the West, the Cock of Kentucky, the Western Hotspur, the Mill-boy of the Slashes, the Sage of Ashland[30], and was eventually known as the Great Compromiser, because of his involvement with coming up with compromises to the Nullification Crisis and the slavery issue in 1850. Clay’s involvement with the War of 1812 began with him being in control of the entire situation by serving as the Speaker of the House, which helped him be the leader of the War Hawks in Congress. Even though he was totally for the war and everything, he was chosen by Madison to serve on the peace commission in Ghent. [31] Clay had resigned as the speaker to serve on the commission, since he had “calculated that such an assignment might better bolster his chances to be named secretary of state” and would eventually launch him to the presidency.[32] Clay held a deep interest in being president and was practically obsessed with being able to hold the office. He sought the presidency five times during the course of his lifetime, and managed to be a viable candidate three times. He felt by serving as secretary of state under Adams, he was the natural heir to the presidency, but that idea failed in the end, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing the top office. 

            The fact that the country was already in the process of expanding, slavery was still developing, and matters with Europe were already in a state of pacification, the war didn't exactly bring about those events nor did they get shaped all due to the war. But, the idea of nationalism took shape and manifested itself after 1815, all because of the war. This nationalistic identity for people involved "blatant patriotism" and a "sense of self-respect" towards each other.[33] This was all because patriotism and being able to respect one another was a real devotion to the nation and a sense of pride from taking part in and being able to win the war with Britain.         Spirituality also took on a new sense of realization that spread across the country, thanks to nationalism. Religion had as big of an impact as the politics and economical events that was already in the process of taking place across the country, for the reason that it had such a prevailing democratic spirit.[34] The spiritual emphasis that a man was worth loving and had a life that was worth living and would lead a life of soberness, and a life that was righteous and godly, was in the same path as nationalism, because it was the "political worth of the people.”[35] This religious spirit was spread via tent revivals by traveling preachers, and was especially seen out in the western reaches of the country, due to the fact that there was more space and people were willing to listen, since many of them were isolated from the masses. Unitarians in Massachusetts had held the belief of the "nobility of man," and Methodists, Baptists, Universalists, Disciples of Christ all shared a democratic edge that was highly emotional. These religious organizations took up a humanitarianistic approach that had formed during the time period and crusaded for the "betterment of mankind" that was for the sake of the drunks, non-believers and ignorant, the poor, African-Americans, women and children.[36]

            Following the end of the War of 1812, America underwent a major transformation, and people followed with it, never looking back. Due to the countless events that shaped the 19th century, from the transcontinental railroad, to the hotly debated issue of slavery, to the country’s westward expansion, and the eventual Civil War, the War of 1812 lost its meaning for many people, as they carried on with life. Except, the war was important in many respects, because it may have helped America find itself. People found special meaning and a purpose upon the end of the war, through unity of some sort. That unity was found in nationalism, spirituality, a shared hatred for the British, and a crisis that reverberated across the nation. What helped in that unity, were the people in government, who made sure that the country stayed glued together through its politics and policies.


Sources:

Archives & Collections Society. Rush-Bagot Agreement. Ontario, Canada: A&C Society. http://www.aandc.org/research/rush-bagot_agreement.html. (Accessed 3 February 2011).
Babcock, Kendric Charles. The Rise of American Nationality. Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart. The American Nation A History. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1906.
Borneman, Walter R. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2004.
Clark, Christopher. Social Change in America: From the Revolution Through the Civil War. Lanham, MD: Ivan R. Dee, 2006.
Fish, Carl Russell. The Development of American Nationality. New York, NY: American Book Company, 1913.
Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
_______________. Don't Give Up the Ship: Myths of the War of 1812. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
_______________. The War of 1812: A Short History. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995.
Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Johnson, Paul E. A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815 - 1837. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2004.
Langguth , A.J. Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought The Second War of Independence. New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, 2006.
Remini, Robert V. The Jacksonian Era. Edited by John Hope Franklin and A.S. Eisenstadt. The American History Series. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc, 1997.
Reynolds, David R. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2008.
Skeen, C. Edward. 1816: America Rising. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2003.
Stagg, J.C.A. Mr. Madison's War: Politics, Diplomacy, and Warfare in the Early American Republic, 1783 - 1830. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983.
Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels and Indian Allies. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf, 2010.


[1] Borneman, Walter R. 1812: The War That Forged a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2004, 301.

[2] Hickey, Donald R. Don't Give Up the Ship:Myths of the War of 1812. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2006, 304.
[3] Hickey, Myths of the War of 1812, 311.
[4] Hickey, Short History, 108.
[5] Hickey, Short History, 108
[6] Archives & Collections Society. Rush-Bagot Agreement. Ontario, Canada: A&C Society. http://www.aandc.org/research/rush-bagot_agreement.html. (Accessed 3 February 2011).

[7] Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Short History. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1995. 105. Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1989, 302.
[8] Hickey, Short History, 107. Hickey, Forgotten Conflict, 306.
[9] Hickey, Short History, 107.

[10] Hickey, Forgotten Conflict, 107. Skeen, C. Edward. 1816: America Rising. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2003, 28.

[11] Hickey, Short History, 306. Skeen, 28.
[12] Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels and Indian Allies. New York, NY: Alfred A Knopf, 2010, 424.
[13] Hickey, Forgotten Conflict, 306.
[14] Hickey, Myths of the War of 1812, 319.
[15] Hickey, Short History, 105.
[16] Hickey, Short History, 105.
[17] Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815 – 1848. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007, 143.
[18] Howe, 143.
[19] Howe, 143.
[20] Ibid, 143.
[21] Ibid, 144.
[22] Howe, 95.
[23] Ibid, 95.
[24] Borneman, 302.
[25] Fish, Carl Russell. The Development of American Nationality. New York, NY: American Book Company, 1913, 129.
[26] Reynolds, David R. Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2008, 11.
[27] Remini, Robert V. The Jacksonian Era. Edited by John Hope Franklin and A.S. Eisenstadt. The American History Series. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc, 1997, 15
[28] Fish, 184.
[29] Remini, 26.
[30] Reynolds, 10.
[31] Hickey, Short History, 96.
[32] Borneman, 263.
[33] Remini, 131.
[34] Ibid, 152.
[35] Babcock, Kendric Charles. The Rise of American Nationality. Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart. The American Nation A History. New York, NY: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1906, 200.
[36] Fish, 153.

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