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14 September 2004

The War of 1812 By Denis Mueller Source: New York Times

The war is largely forgotten and, if remembered at all, it is for the Johnny Horton song, and yeah, doesn't "The Star- Spangled Banner" have something to do about the war? Yes, our national anthem was written during "The War of 1812." but what are some of the reasons for the war and what was it about are often forgotten.
The grievances by the United States include English boats capturing, what the United States said were their citizens, by the English, who claimed that they were their subjects. This was a major issue for the new country. But there were other issues as well. The Americans aimed to drive the Indians further and further west.
One event we mention when high school history classes talk about the war is that New England manufacturers were against the war because of their ties to the emerging British industry. But what they often leave out is that some in the south feared that the British would soon end the slave trade. In fact they would but this would not occur until the 1830's. What we will often see about the war is pictures, what I mean is paintings, lithographs and such, of the burning of Washington but we do not hear about how, in some ways, this was an invasion of Canada by the Americans. It was the Americans who invaded Canada and burned, including York, several towns.
In fact the invasion of Washington was done in retaliation.
In Canada it is viewed as a war where the Canadians resisted American expansion. "In Canada, we learn that we successfully resisted your invasion, and that led to the groundwork for what would eventually become our nation," answers Jack Grantstein, a former director of the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.
This is vastly different view of the conflict but actions that followed the war point to this view that the war was about American expansion, as valid. Following the war the US turned its expansionist designs into Native-American land and Mexico. We took a third of Mexico, including California, leaving, unlike Canada in the North, Mexico as a defeated possible rival in the south. What this meant was that the United States would now direct its expansionist efforts south and west.
The war was a failure for the United States. In the end we were able to keep what we had only because the British were too busy fighting Napoleon. Our capital was burnt down in an act of revenge for what we had done to towns north of the border. But there are lessons that can be learned from this conflict.
The important one is that small nations can defeat larger nations on their own soil.

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