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The Battle Of The Thames
HE War of 1812 was one of tremendous importance
1 to the future development of the United States. Although thirty years had elapsed since the declaration of peace, after the War of the Revolution, the relations between England and the United States had never been harmonious or fully adjusted. There had grown up in England, among many of its leading men, the idea that in some way, somehow, at some time, the United States would return to their allegiance to Great Britain.
In those days of slow communication the public at large were not kept well informed of the conditions of public sentiment in the United States, and the England of that period could not understand how people who spoke the English language and fashioned their laws after English jurisprudence could desire any other system of government than that then in vogue in England.
Then, again, the English people were never satisfied with the result of the War of Independence; they never
EVENTS WHICH LED TO THE BATTLE
believed that they were fairly vanquished in that struggle, and there was a strong undercurrent in the English nation which, if it did not suggest, at least desired another test of arms. That the Colonies would set up a permanent government of their own in the Western World on their own account did not appear reasonable or possible, and, by a majority of the people in Great Britain, it was expected that the republic would collapse and the American nation again accept British sovereignty.
England, then relatively the greatest nation on earth, felt her power; she was insolent, rude, and domineering toward the United States. The English nation felt that they had nothing to lose by a war with the United States and would probably gain much; therefore American rights were ignored and American protests given no consideration whatever.
Through a long line of mean, petty aggressions, England placed the United States in a position where, to maintain even a semblance of national self-respect, war became necessary.
Under Mr. Jefferson's administration vessels had been taken and wrongs had been suffered because the national and commercial conditions of America were such that Mr. Jefferson's party thought the taking of vessels the lesser of evils.
Many of the American people thought the conduct of the administration at Washington was pusillanimous; especially in the Southern and Southwestern States public spirit had long before demanded an appeal to arms as the only vindication of American nationality.
On the first of June, 1812, James Madison, President of the United States, had presented a manifesto to the Senate and House of Representatives, communicating certain doctrines and making suggestions, and, in effect, advising a declaration of war. In this manifesto Mr. Madison says:
We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain.
Whether the United States shall continue peaceful under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs or, opposing force to force in defense of their natural rights, shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty disposer of events, avoiding all connections which might entangle it in a contest of views with other powers, and preserving a constant readiness to concur in an honorable re-establishment of peace and friendship, is a solemn question which the constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government.
This manifesto was an able and complete presentation of the wrongs which England had inflicted upon the United States, but in the then divided sentiment in this country as to either the policy or the safety of a declaration of war, Mr. Madison had gone fully as far as political wisdom would admit.
This message of the President was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, which made its report to the House, and resulted, after several days' debate, in passing an act declaring war between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dependencies thereof and the United States of America and their Territories.
The causes which led up to the war had existed for twenty years. England, with a persistence and with a spirit of insolence unworthy of a great nation, had ignored the rights of the United States, had assumed to be mistress of the ocean, and had practically declared that the United States had no rights that Great Britain was bound to respect.
For many years British cruisers had held up American merchant vessels on the ocean and carried off persons sailing under the American flag, claiming that England, by reason of the nationality of these sailors, had the right to take, capture, and hold them wherever found. This course was persisted in without a hearing or investigation before a competent tribunal; the search was exercised in a summary, harsh, and cruel manner, and