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Who won the War of 1812?
May 19, 2006 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Does who won the War of 1812 depend on where you live?

I'm Canadian and was taught in school that the British (and by extension Canada, even though we didn't exist yet) won the War of 1812 since "we" repelled the American invasion into British North America (now Canada) and incidentally burned down the White House, which I think is pretty much all most Canadian schoolkids retain from that chapter (unless they also remember where the Laura Secord chocolate company gets its name).

My husband is American and was taught that the U.S. won the War of 1812, I guess because the British didn't gain back any territory despite their counter-invasion? Or for some other reason? I am pretty hazy on this. The Americans I've talked to about it seem to regard the War of 1812 as an extension of the Revolutionary War, which I don't understand.

Who is right? Was my education skewed by patriotic concerns - or was his - or both? Is this simply a matter of interpretation?

I'm interested both in the facts about the war itself, and also in what people from various areas are taught about it.
posted by joannemerriam to Education (44 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was always taught no one won the War of 1812, that we technically failed to invade Canada -- but seeing as how everything went back to the same after the war it's like it never happened.
posted by geoff. at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2006


The war was pretty much a draw militarily. And yet at the time Americans saw it as a huge victory, partly because of Andrew Jackson's kick-ass victory at the Battle of New Orleans (which technically happened after the war was over, oops), and partly because the young nation had gone toe-to-toe with the greatest power on earth and fought them to a draw. I think that ancient perspective still colors American's understanding of the war.
posted by LarryC at 7:36 AM on May 19, 2006


Honestly, I don't even recall spending more than a couple days on the war of 1812 until I was in college (this is despite growing up in Buffalo which was pretty much burned to the ground during it, too!). And even then, I only learned about it because I took a local history class.

I think, for the most part, Americans these days spend _very_ little time on the war of 1812 in school. Far more was spent on the wars of the 20th century, the Civil and the Revolutionary wars.

Although, for what it is worth, for some reason I always thought we "won" it, even though it was a draw at best. Not sure if that is American arrogance, or something I was taught, though.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:39 AM on May 19, 2006


It was pretty much a draw as the Treaty of Ghent goes because it was made for status quo ante bellum.

But it did stop (or greatly reduce) British impressment of American sailors and other attacks on American sovereignty, so it was a bit of a victory for the US. It also made the US look away from British North America for expansion, so it was a bit of a victory for Britain. So I guess everyone won. Except for the people who got killed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:40 AM on May 19, 2006


Here is how it really happened:

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,
And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, I see'd Mars Jackson walkin down the street
talkin' to a pirate by the name of Jean Lafayette [pronounced La-feet]
He gave Jean a drink that he brung from Tennessee
and the pirate said he'd help us drive the British in the sea.

The French said Andrew, you'd better run,
for Packingham's a comin' with a bullet in his gun.
Old Hickory said he didn't give a dang,
he's gonna whip the britches off of Colonel Packingham.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, we looked down the river and we see'd the British come,
and there must have been a hundred of 'em beatin' on the drum.
They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring
while we stood by our cotton bales and didn't say a thing.

Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise
if we didn't fire a musket til we looked 'em in the eyes.
We held our fire til we see'd their faces well,
then we opened up with squirrel guns and really gave a yell.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, we fired our cannon til the barrel melted down,
so we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.
We filled his head with cannon balls and powdered his behind,
and when they tetched the powder off, the gator lost his mind.

We'll march back home but we'll never be content
till we make Old Hickory the people's President.
And every time we think about the bacon and the beans,
we'll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin,
But there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles
And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go.
They ran so fast the hounds couldn't catch 'em
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.
But there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and they began to runnin'
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

posted by ND¢ at 7:46 AM on May 19, 2006


Canadian perspectives of the War of 1812 (at least in how it's taught in high school) are very coloured by the current status of the US as a superpower, overlooking the fact that in 1812, the US was a collection of former colonies on the East Coast that had only banded together by the skin of their teeth 30-odd years prior. British Canada was the superpower (sort of), and was certainly not the band of plucky lumberjack underdogs that Canadian history teachers seem to portray them as, standing up to the imperialism of the mighty United States.

As for who won, I'd agree with others here that it was essentially a draw, with the US succeeded in terms of certain objectives, and failing in others.
posted by loquax at 7:50 AM on May 19, 2006


It's like how Canadian mythology lionizes the '72 Canadian hockey team's magnificent, gritty, "full-of-heart" victory over the Soviet Union, overlooking the fact that going into the series, no-one took the USSR seriously, and assumed it was a cakewalk (also overlooking the fact that Canada won by breaking the ankles of the best Soviet players). We don't have many moments of collective "national" glory, we have to take what we can get, facts and context be damned!
posted by loquax at 7:54 AM on May 19, 2006


My mid 80s Canadian high school taught me:
We whooped yer ass, you hear that, Americans?
We whooped yer ass! How ya like them apples?
posted by Meatbomb at 8:11 AM on May 19, 2006


Zozo, I love that song.

This is very helpful. I didn't know, for example, that the Battle of New Orleans (which I have heard of) was connected to the War of 1812 (I thought it was during the Revolutionary War) - clearly I need to learn more (and better) US history.
posted by joannemerriam at 8:18 AM on May 19, 2006


As I recall, the British did indeed repel the attack, and burned the White House. However, the Americans won the Battle of New Orleans (which I seem to remember took place after the fighting had technically stopped or something).

It all comes down to how you define "winning," really. The Americans did not achieve their objectives, but for some reason the British signed a treaty that favoured the country whose white house they'd burned down.
posted by synecdoche at 8:35 AM on May 19, 2006


and, the three dead trolls in a baggie version...
posted by genevieve at 8:46 AM on May 19, 2006


Americans got their national anthem out of it, so..

Toronto (aka York), then capitol of Upper Canada, got burned too.

It is tempting to try and develop separate Canadian and British perspectives, but I really don't know.

I thought the War of 1812 documentary series was terrible.
posted by Chuckles at 8:48 AM on May 19, 2006


The other way it really happened: (pardon the lousy transcription)


Come back proud canadian's,
To before you had TV.
No hockey night in Canada,
there was no CBC.

In 1812 Madison was mad,
He was the president you know.
Well he thought he'd tell the British where they ought to go.
He thought he'd invade Canada,
He thought that he was tough.
Instead we went to Washington,
And burned down all his stuff.

And the white house burned, burned, burned.
And we're the ones that did it,
It burned, burned, burned.
While the president ran and cried,
It burned, burned, burned.
And things were very historical,
And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies Wah-Wah-Wah
In the war of 1812.

Those hilbilies from Kentucky,
Dressed in green and red.
Left home to fight in Canada,
But they returned home dead.
It's the only war the Yankies lost except for Veitnam.
And also the Alamo and the bay of ham.
The looser was America,
The winner was ourselves.
So join right in and gloat about the war of 1812.

And the white house burned, burned, burned.
And we're the ones that did it,
It burned, burned, burned
While the president ran and cried,
It burned, burned, burned
And things were very historical,
And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies Wah-Wah-Wah
In the war of 1812.

In 1812 we were just sitting around,
Minding our own business,
Putting crops into the ground.
We heard the soilders coming,
And we didn't like that sound.
So we took a boat to Washington and burned it to the ground.

Oh we fired our guns but the yankies kept on a coming,
There wasn't quite as many as there was a while ago.
We fired once more and the yankies started running,
Down the Mississippi to the gulf of Mexico.
They ran through the snow,
And they ran through the forest,
They ran through the bushes where the beavers wouldn't go,
They ran so fast they forgot to take their culture,
Back to America, and golf and Mexico.

So if you go to Washington,
It's buildings clean and nice,
Bring a pack of matches,
And we'll burn the white house twice.

And the white house burned, burned, burned,
But the Americans wont admit it.
It burned, burned, burned...
It burned and burned and burned
It burned, burned, burned
I bet that made them mad.
And the Americans ran and cried like a bunch of little babies Wah-Wah-Wah
In the war of 1812.

posted by cmyr at 8:50 AM on May 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


From The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000, by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton (highly recommended):
For all practical purposes, the War of 1812 was over in the north fewer than eighteen months after it had begun. Moreover, the outcome to one degree or another seriously disappointed nearly everyone. The Indians lost all hope of holding back the Americans south of the Great Lakes; except for occasional uprisings, such as the Black Hawk War (1832), the War of 1812 put an end to Indian resistance north of the Ohio. The British, embarrassed by their defeats, fretted about containing the Americans. And the Americans failed to secure their most important objective: expansion beyond the Great Lakes into Upper Canada.
Incidentally, the way the war started is, uh, reminiscent of more recent events:
In explaining why the United States had to fight Great Britain, Clay and Calhoun developed what became central arguments for subsequent American wars... Explicitly eschewing "a war of conquest," Calhoun argued that to choose peace when liberty was in danger was to "mark a fearful retrograde in civilization—it would prove a dreadful declension towards barbarism."... Americans, according to the Committee on Foreign Relations, "will prove to the enemy and to the World, that we have not only inherited that liberty which our Fathers gave us, but also the will & power to maintain it."
Operation Enduring Freedom goes way back.
posted by languagehat at 8:55 AM on May 19, 2006


Growing up in the UK, I recall not a single mention of the War of 1812, which tends to make me lean toward the assumption that we didn't win.
posted by biffa at 9:13 AM on May 19, 2006


I was taught about the navel battles and the sacking of Washington D.C. but I don't remember any mention of Canada being involved at all. Actually, this thread is the first I've ever heard that we tried to invade. And yea, the storyline was primarily, "the plucky little colonies fending off the mighty British Empire one last time."
posted by octothorpe at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2006


I don't really recall what I learned about it in school, but I did some traveling in the Lake Erie area (both sides of the border) last year, and the impression I got from the various historical sites I visited was that it was more or less a draw. The U.S. had hoped to kick Britain entirely out of North America, which of course it came nowhere near doing--what very little gains they made were returned at the end of the war. On the other hand, one result was that Britain accepted the U.S. claim on the Northwest Territory, which they had not done before then.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:21 AM on May 19, 2006


I can chime in as an American. I guess I would be considered educated in as far as I actually know what the war of 1812 was. You will find that most American's don't.

I was under the impression that the British invaded because they were still mad about the Revolutionary war, impressment of American sailors sounds familiar but I'm not sure. I was under the impression that it was a victory because we fought off the British even though the white house was burned and that they wouldn't be coming back to mess with us again.

This is the first time I've heard about an invasion of Canada.
posted by kookywon at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2006


UK histories, from what I've read, downplay the war as minor skirmishes happening very far away set against the backdrop of the major Napoleonic conflict happening on their doorstep. Their best people and troops were focussed on the European theatre, not on the colonies.

Canada was very important as a source of lumber for shipbuilding and the US as a source of impressed manpower, but I don't belive that there was much concern for colonial politics in Whitehall.
posted by bonehead at 9:34 AM on May 19, 2006


From historical fiction, so take with a grain of salt: A subtext of the "Young upstart nation beats Old-World superpower" meme is the fact that the volunteer-driven US Navy scored several and significant and demoralizing victories against the vaunted and highly experienced (almost immediately after the Napoleonic Wars) British Navy. I don't know/recall the specifics but I had the idea that, on paper, the two sides (of the battles) were fairly evenly matched and the Brits, through superior training and iron discipline, were very used to winning battles even when outnumbered and outgunned.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 9:42 AM on May 19, 2006


As another product of the America school system, I second not even knowing who were the countries involved in the war of 1812 or where it took place. This does not mean I wasn't taught it in school, just that I don't remember, most likely because it doesn't have a helpfully descriptive name like "The Vietnam War" or the "Korean War".

I can identify the 1812 overture though. If it wasn't for that, I probably would have forgotten there even was a war of 1812.
posted by Durhey at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2006


Local interpretations certainly do differ. Canada's objectives - resisting US invasion - were met, so Canadians are taught that 'we' won the war, though of course Canada would not gain independance until 1867. Whereas American objectives were also met - they stood up to the British and asserted themselves as a power. Of course America also wanted to gain Canada as a territory and faile in this goal, so some might say they lost the war.

You could indeed think of it as an extension of the Revolutionary War, only thirty years earlier. That itself was an extension of the French and Indian War, less than ten years before that, in which the British, based in America, beat the French, based in Canada. Britain gained a huge amount of territory but excessive taxation in the American colonies (among other things) led to the American declaration of independance and the Revolutionary War.

Anyway...
By the time 1812 happened Canada was still a fledgeling colony. America outnumbered it ten to one at least in population. The majority of its population was recently conquered French, and there was no guarantee that these settlers would fight for the British against America. Remember that France fought with America in the Revolutionary War. In fact a certain American general named Thomas Jefferson claimed the conquest of (French) Canada would be merely "a matter of marching".

British regulars did most of the fighting but Canadian militias did indeed join the fighting on the British side. American invasions into Ontario and Quebec were thrown back and the borders were solidified. The British captured Detriot. Schoolchildren in the area I grew up go to visit Queenston Heights, near Niagara Falls, to see the old battle grounds, and to see the statue of General Brock, one of Canada's first military heroes, who fell in action in that battle. The Americans eventually broke through and made it to York - present day Toronto, then the capital - and burned it. But British forces eventually beat them back.

It is rather interesting that events turned out the way they did. Ontario's population was mostly American loyalists who had relocated after the Revolutionary War. Immigration into Ontario in subsequent years would be mostly American. The war helped foster an identity among Canadians as a strong nation independant from America keeping the British tradition alive in North America. If the war hadn't happened, it is quite likely that America would have eventually absorbed Canada through numbers alone (much as Mexico is threatenin to absorb southern US today).

More reading: Wikipedia

If you read the article you will find that the fighting went back and forth all across the border and at sea. Many Americans and Canadians alike would be amazed to find that major battles took place steps away from their own homes. For example, Lake Champlain was the site of a major naval battle. The war is forgotten for most because nothing significant changed. But what if...
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:45 AM on May 19, 2006


Kookywon, the exact opposite is what I was taught in Ontario: the war was started by the US invading Upper Canada (now Ontario), near Cornwall and Brockville. The role of Feanian agitators was made much of (sort of a proto-IRA).

We (the British/Canadians) burned the Whitehouse in a just and daring raid as retaliation for the unprovoked and expansionist US attack. The Arrogant Worms' lyrics posted above capture the the spirit of what I was taught in HS.

The war of 1812 had large repercussions in Canada. The capital was moved from the too-easily-attacked Kingston (on the St. Lawrence) up to a backwards logging town, renamed Ottawa. A huge engineering effort was undertaken, the Rideau Canal, one of the longest canals anywhere at the time, to ensure that the British naval fleet could reach the new capital. The canal wasn't complete until 1835 and by then was something of a white elephant.

The 1812 war was a spur to Canadian nationalism. It accelerated the formation of Canada as a reaction to the US attempt to dominate the continent.
posted by bonehead at 9:46 AM on May 19, 2006


Did we Brits burn the White House? I thought it only got called that after, when it was painted white to hide the scorch marks?
posted by A189Nut at 9:57 AM on May 19, 2006


I can identify the 1812 overture though.

Wrong war. The overture's about Napoleon's unsuccessful invasion of Russia. (The French and Russian national anthems as part of the overture.)
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 AM on May 19, 2006


You can get very post modern with 'who won' questions. Who won WWII? Well, the Russians did all the winning on the battlefield. The US economic victory was.. Staggering. But, in the end, maybe a successful EU will make Europe look like the ultimate victor?!?


octothorpe: Actually, this thread is the first I've ever heard that we tried to invade.

Check out the tasteful monument to General Brock that PercussivePaul mentions. It looks right out over the Niagara River into New York state.

PercussivePaul: You could indeed think of it as an extension of the Revolutionary War, only thirty years earlier. That itself was an extension of the French and Indian War,

Unlike the War of 1812 series, The War That Made America was very good. A bit cheesy at times though, like the title.
posted by Chuckles at 10:06 AM on May 19, 2006


While one can argue that neither of the "British" parties (England and colonial Canada) lost, it is quite certain that the United States won. The war put America on the global military-diplomatic first team, established its pre-eminence in the entire of the Western Hempishere, eliminated any European imperial pretenses to American territory, eliminated any break to westward expansion, and paved the way rather clearly to the victories and subsequent annexations of the Mexican-American war 30-some-years later.
posted by MattD at 10:24 AM on May 19, 2006


The U.S.S. Constitution is a veteran of the 1812 war. The oldest commisioned warship in the U.S. Navy (if not the world), you can visit it if you're in Boston. Highly recommended (especially if you follow it up with a tour of its WW2 counterpart, the Massachusetts, moored in Fall River).

I'd like to see some images of those "navel battles".
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:25 AM on May 19, 2006


The oldest commisioned warship in the U.S. Navy (if not the world)

Not the world. HMS Victory gets that I think.
posted by biffa at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2006


A fun story about the history of one British ship, The Nancy. Especially fun is the section under "The Nancy Avenged.
We totally won!
posted by nprigoda at 10:33 AM on May 19, 2006


Wrong war. The overture's about Napoleon's unsuccessful invasion of Russia. (The French and Russian national anthems as part of the overture.)

You see? There should really be some sort of standard for naming these wars. Having multiple wars in 1812 makes the whole thing so confusing.
posted by Durhey at 11:21 AM on May 19, 2006


I once read a US Navy history book (the name of which escapes me at the moment) that, understandably, focused heavily on the British "impressing" Americans into their Navy. The book's thesis was that the British still considered Americans to be British citizens, while we took a slightly different view. Viewed in this light, the war was a victory for the US in that it forced Britain to reluctantly acknowledge our sovereignty. Beyond that, it's no stretch to call the whole thing a draw.

Which isn't to say that Britain and the US immediately had good relations. That wouldn't really happen until the US Civil War. Although most Britains supported the Confederacy, the Trent Affair shifted sympathy to the Union cause and really cemented the idea of the US as a sovereign state.
posted by tommasz at 11:35 AM on May 19, 2006


Second The War That Made America; it's one of the best history shows I've seen on TV. (Just to be clear, it's about the French and Indian War, half a century earlier, but that was a hell of a lot more significant than the War of 1812.)

There should really be some sort of standard for naming these wars.


Huh? There's only one war called the War of 1812. Napoleon's invasion of Russia is called Napoleon's invasion of Russia. The overture is called the 1812 Overture because the invasion happened in 1812.

the war was a victory for the US in that it forced Britain to reluctantly acknowledge our sovereignty


No it didn't. As Robert H. Wiebe's The Opening of American Society says:
Peace in Europe, of course, automatically ended impressments and confiscations, and proud Americans never had to test their claims to a new respect...

These men found honor and independence because they needed to find them. From a successful duel came a new equilibrium in a gentleman's relationships—respect from his peers, perhaps even friendship with his opponent, as Clay had predicted... Believing they had won the right to an honorable gentleman's rank, they declared its existence. Through British eyes the sequence of affairs looked very different indeed. Rather than a gentleman's challenge, Britain treated America's decision for war as a kick from a dirty little sneak. While the war still raged in Europe, it scarcely mattered. As Napoleon's armies collapsed, however, the British talked of the United States in language that disdained its gentlemanly pretensions. Now they would give the upstart a "good beating," a "thrashing" appropriate to the village ruffian. Only Napoleon's return, then a general war-weariness, produced a peace of convenience at Ghent...

"We have hated those most who oftenest make us feel [our] impotence," Fisher Ames finally recognized at the end of his life. "The British have done this...."
posted by languagehat at 1:18 PM on May 19, 2006


I learned (or was supposed to learn) all this just a few years ago, so: Basically the US got a little full of itself and sort of acted like a teenager trying to sperate from its parents by invading Canada (borrowing Mom's car and crashing it). I guess the British were having separation anxiety over the US once it didn't fall apart in the first 20 or so years. So then we got our butts kicked in Canada (it was really cold and pretty much sucked). They burned our White House down (why it was painted white apparently). Everyone just said "You know what? Never mind" and things went back to normal except that Britain had to really truly give up on the US. And then they didn't get the message in New Orleans and they kicked someone's butt, I dunno who but it involved pirates so it was awesome. And then this year in World History they told us that the rest of the world didn't really care because Napoleon was sort of distracting them. And that is my impression of the War of 1812, gleaned from a year of US history in 8th grade, two years ago. Main point: nothing really happened, British gave up on regaining US and we gave up on getting Canada. Instead we took the Native Americans' land, they didn't have an empire behind them.
posted by MadamM at 2:50 PM on May 19, 2006


Britain lost. She found out that she could not bully the U.S. around as much as she would like (the proof of the U.S.'s navy as effective was a huge deal to Britain), and the American aggression against her Canadian territory was a factor in letting Canada achieve independence. The United States and 'Canada' won.
posted by fleacircus at 3:41 PM on May 19, 2006


Metafilter: they kicked someone's butt, I dunno who but it involved pirates so it was awesome.
posted by juv3nal at 3:49 PM on May 19, 2006


Jean Lafitte was the pirate. The Mississippi delta was basically his private kingdom.

Wikipedia's Origins of the War of 1812 is pretty good.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:02 PM on May 19, 2006


thanks, kirkaracha. that is pretty awesome.
posted by juv3nal at 6:21 PM on May 19, 2006


the young nation had gone toe-to-toe with the greatest power on earth


In 1812 the greatest power on earth was France. By 1814, not so much. The "war" of 1812 is barely remembered in the UK because it involved small numbers of second-rate troops and poor sailors in border skirmishes while the bulk of the force was deployed against France under possibly the most dangerous Irishman in history, Arthur Wellesley, later the 1st Duke of Wellington, who also went on to become one of the most conservative Tory Prime Ministers ever... in spite of which he introduced Catholic Emancipation (following mass protests by another Irishman, Daniel O'Connell) which restored Catholic suffrage for the first time in the UK since the Protestant military coup in 1688. So in a way, you could say that events in 1812 led, in some small way, to Emancipation.
posted by meehawl at 8:49 PM on May 19, 2006


the war itself was a draw, but the u s won the peace ... they eventually got a settled border with british north america and international recognition of the louisiana purchase as being legit ... it may have not been formally agreed, but it was recognized ... it also weakened the british ability to help the indians push back the settlers ... they also got international recognition that they weren't going to be pushovers on their own continent

one can't say that britain really lost ... they agreed to a draw because they had problems in europe that were more important to them ... and in return for the slight concession of leaving things where they were, they got stability for canada, so they could focus on the great game of europe
posted by pyramid termite at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2006


The border didn't get that settled. In 1837, during the Upper Canada Rebellion, drunken US militia tried to go to the aid of the rebels. They had dreams of dominion (pun intended).

Detroiter here. We were taught the Brits had been impressing US sailors, because they didn't recognize US sovereignty, so we had no choice. White House got burned by perfidious Brits, which is why it is now White. And Andrew Jackson kicked limey tushie.

Being as I actually read, visit museums and cross the border, I learned about burning York, the shameful surrender of Detroit and Arrogant Worms songs (which rock).

If anyone is local, Fort Malden has a wonderful military re-enactment weekend, usually the first weekend in Aug., that includes a lot of War of 1812 re-enactors. Nice bunch of folks.
posted by QIbHom at 9:06 AM on May 20, 2006


Britain lost. She found out that she could not bully the U.S. around as much as she would like (the proof of the U.S.'s navy as effective was a huge deal to Britain), and the American aggression against her Canadian territory was a factor in letting Canada achieve independence. The United States and 'Canada' won.

Your interpretation is so out to lunch, fleacircus. For one thing, the English settlers in Canada were not even Canadian (those would the French at the time), they called themselves English or British.

The US staged an agressive war against the Canadian territories, thinking it would be a cakewalk (just as they did when they tried to get the French to support them in 1775 - only to go and insult Catholicism in their English propaganda, and never imagine that the French would catch on). They invaded and were repelled.

The reasons the US gave for going to war (they invaded) were spurious (the British Navy had excellent records, and were legally seizing British sailors who had gone AWOL) - the real reason was Manifest Destiny - the belief that the US should rule the whole of North America. Which I, as a Canadian, understandably find abhorrent.

As for Canada' "independence" from Britain - well, that wasn't actually anyone's total goal until 1982. It wasn't until 1982 that Canada had their own native constitution, and we are still proud founding members of the British Commonwealth. The 1867 constitution gave Canada unity and independence over domestic issues -- but it was ratified in Westminster and the "British North America Act" was Canada's legal constitution until 1982. In 1931, again in Westminster (capitol of Britain), Canada was given independent control over international affairs. And finally, in 1982, the new constitution was passed in Westminster, giving all control over future constitutional affairs to Ottawa.

This was a slow process - but it reflects the desires of, at least, the English Canadians. You are projecting ideals on English Canadians that we don't necessarily share. Today many Canadians think of ourselves as very different from Britain, but for much of the 20th century, English Canadians saw their own interests and identity as being very tied up with Britain. (French Canadian nationalism is a completely different matter, but it is one of the reasons we have moved away from Britain). Until 1965, our flag was the Union Jack, our national anthum was "God Save the King/Queen".

I am offended that you act that Canadians would want just what Americans wanted -- many of us are descended from United Empire Loyalists, and we are proud of that.

And some of us now think that maybe we went too far in our move away from Britain, because frankly, Britain would have been a good ally to have against the real threat to Canadian independence -- the United States.

---------------

But back to the original question:

Yes, I was taught a "Canada/Britain won" version of 1812, but I think that may have been more from my family and popular culture than from school. (I think that 1812 fell beween grade 7 and grade 8, and somehow I missed it - I remember native history, exploration, some early Quebequois - and then we were onto the national railways, Chinese workers, and the great push west.)

Also, Genevieve et al beat me to posting the Dead Trolls song, which is brilliant. The version they sang in Seattle to a (very forgiving) American audience is one of the best.
posted by jb at 7:00 AM on May 23, 2006


About the "impressing" Americans thing: British sailors, who were understandably upset at the terrible conditions in the British navy, would run away and join American ships. As far as the British were concerned, the Americans were habouring fugitives. They were conducting a blockade of goods, and also looking for their own sailors who had fled to the Americans.
posted by jb at 7:12 AM on May 23, 2006


Oh - my (modern historian) husband corrects me - it's not the British Commonwealth, it's the "Commonwealth of Nations", since Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were equal partners with the United Kingdom. (It was a racist time, so only the "white" colonies were allowed.)
posted by jb at 7:15 AM on May 23, 2006


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