I took my son to lunch yesterday, a bid to get him to go grocery shopping with me. As we were sitting there waiting on our chips and dip, we were scrolling through Facebook memes trying to find one that caught our interest. I was devastated to realize that he had no idea who Francis Key Scott was or what his contributions were to the country. How are memorials being torn down, defaced, or put into protective custody if we are basing our education off of Facebook and twitter memes? Sad, sad, day....crap I don't know anything about Mr. Scott myself. Look at who got caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. Off to the world wide web I go.....
Okay, first confession of the day- I thought that the Star Spangled Banner was written during the Revolutionary War and my middle child believed it was written during World War II. Seem logical to me. I hold my head in shame. The poem written by Francis Scott Key was actually written during the War of 1812. Even with living in northern New York, my knowledge of the War of 1812 is limited. It has never really been a time period that I spent a lot of time researching. In my mind, the country saw peace and prosperity between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. So how did it start?
Our role in the War of 1812 was in fact a byproduct of a larger global conflict between France and England and their fist fight over global control that had already lasted over 20 years (1789-1815). Americans were not doing so well in establishing our government and place in the world. While the Constitution in 1787 did brings some stability to the nation by creating common currency, regulating trade, establishing a national bank, consolidating the national debt, and giving Congress the authority to tax (we should have looked closer at that part)- we still hadn't worked out the kinks for the new Federal government that was established in 1789 in New York City. You think we have a lot of different political parties with opposing views now? Ha, you should have seen it in its infancy.
Second issue- we were still recovering financially from the Revolutionary War. According the the Journal of the American Revolution- we were in debt of almost 165 million pounds sterling, or $204,803,574.75 according to www.currencyconverterx.com in today's market. Now this was a issue, because if you look at the outcome of the war- yes we had our freedom, but we also now had a U.S. tax rate that was over 10 times higher than what pushed on us from the British. Lets put this into perceptive, during the Great Depression the per capita GNP (gross national product) fell by 48%, after the Revolutionary War it fell by 46%. Money issues in the family will also case problems with the neighbors- ask any husband and wife. The money issue caused Americans to be a little moody, and the newly formed country didn't believe that Britain was given them the respect that they were due.
Third Issue- the British government was aiding the Native American tribes on their attacks on the frontier. According to Donald Fixico in his publication 'A Native Nations Perceptive on the War of 1812', the War of 1812 held some terrible consequences for the Tribal nations of the lower Great Lakes and the southern tribes. The Americans were pushing further and further westward in their expansion, with little regard to the tribes and their homes. In all over 24 nations participated in the war with the majority siding with the British soldiers in hopes that their victory would end the expansion.
Fourth issue- the British were taking our sailors at sea and blocking our trade with France. France had been our secret weapon during the Revolutionary War. When a 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin had sailed to France in 1776 to ask for help from our French neighbors, he knew exactly what buttons to push to get the help we needed. France was still recovering from the defeat of the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) during which the French and Indian War was also fought. They lost almost all their claims to North America which was given unwillingly to England including all of Canada. So when Franklin showed up and told them what the colonies were attempting to accomplish- they jumped on the band wagon and joined in the war games. In March 1778- Louis XVI signed the Treaty of Alliance and Treaty of Amity and Commerce. France provided money, troops, leadership, the well respected French navy, and they very badly needed gunpowder. Interestingly, when Britian found out about the alliance, they declared war on France on March 17, 1778. Then Spain got involved in the fight against Britain siding with the French on April 12, 1779 with the signing of the Treaty of Aranjuez. Look mom- the whole gang is here!
Okay, lets get back to the War of 1812. Technically, Americans are mad that we are unable to trade with France when Britain starts blocking our vessels on the sea, but the relationship between France and America was already pretty muddy. You could say that we 'were on a break'. What caused the strained relationship? Well, the treaty that we made with France didn't really have a end date, and the French really liked to fight with other countries, and we were not really in a position to lend a lot of support even if we wanted to. So, when King Louis XVI was executed during the French Revolution, some thought that it automatically severed our ties with France. George Washington, the gentlemen that he was, didn't believe that it invalidated the treaty, so instead came up with the Proclamation of Neutrality and then the Neutrality Act of 1794, which said we didn't have to provide any military troops or supplies since we were now taking a backseat approach. Then we signed the Treaty of London in 1794- and now the French thought we were traitors who just gave into British demands like little lap dogs (my words, not the French). Nevertheless, that didn't mean we didn't want to trade with them! So the British start messing with our economy and back to supporting France we went. We were a little wishy-washy at that time. No judgment coming from me, I often flip between two types of coffee, depending which one is on sale.
On top of that, the British were practicing impressment- the act where a nation would take anyone they found into their own military service without giving notice to the capture man or the nation where he came from. In other words- they were kidnapped. According to the British they were not kidnapping, because the British believed that a person's place of birth granted citizenship however, the American believed that time of residency established citizenship. See the issue? Its like when a women brings home a new kitten, the husband believes it belongs to its previous owners because there was no notice of agreed ownership, but the wife believes because the kitten has a kitty litter box in the bathroom- it is now a part of the family. Who is right?
It was 1811 when the 'War Hawks' made their bid for a declaration of war against Britain. The War Hawks were generally younger, hot-tempered, very energetic congressmen from western and southern states and were thrilled by the idea of expansion. Canada, the west, and present day Florida was in their sights- and with Britain arming the Native Americans against the country, they needed Britain out of the way once and for all. The northern states were not buying into the idea because they knew that if there was another war, the British would send their navy right back to the coastal states and they would bear the blunt of the conflict. It became a all out battle between the political parties in Congress, but the War Hawks won and President Madison declared war in June 1812.
In the next post, we will look at some very interesting and little known facts about the War of 1812. Canada's involvement which led to a national holiday in their country (did you know we actually already went to war with Canada technically), states that were actively involved in this war (Wisconsin even played a part- who would have thought), the New England state's consideration of seceding from the country (I think this is where the southern states got their ideas from), the White House being burnt to the ground, Washington D.C. being saved from total destruction by thunderstorms and a tornado, and the famous battle that led to the Star Spangled Banner being composed. In the third and final post- we will look at the life of Francis Scott Key and other key players and determine what in their lives made them important enough to be immortalized by a monument.
Are you as excited as me? I love strange facts and side stories to the making of America. Grab your coffee, we are in for a hell of a ride.
Interesting book on the War of 1812 (not at all a complete list):
A Bloodless Victory (John Hopkins Books on the War of 1812) by Joseph F. Stoltz III
War of 1812: A History from Beginning to End by Jenry Freeman
Privateering: Patriots and Profits int eh War of 1812 (John Hopkins Books on the War of 1812) by Faye M. Kert
PBS has a documentary entitled 'The War of 1812'
Timeline made a video that can be seen on YouTube entitled 'The Forgotten War Between Britain and the USA
Canada has a documentary also- surprise surprise, entitled 'The War of 1812'
https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/war-of-1812-faqs?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI5OfNgN2f6gIVfBatBh18FArqEAAYASABEgI1e_D_BwE#What were the causes of the War of 1812?