Monday, November 12, 2012


As the title says I am going to be discussing the year 1812. As you may know, the City of Vancouver wasn't incorporated until 74 years later but in honour of yesterday being Remembrance Day, I wanted to tell you about a conflict that features into Canadian history - the War of 1812. I will, of course, be telling the Canadian version.

The War of 1812 actually lasted two years but sometime in the 19th century, it was named for the year of commencement. It was also a war primarily between Britain and the United States that Canada was drawn into since we were a colony of Great Britain. 

Apparently, the real causes of the War of 1812 can be found in conflicts in Europe. Specifically, the Napoleonic Wars that had been raging for twenty years. Due to this strife, Great Britain adopted measures that greatly aggravated the US. Napoleon had ordered all European ports under his control closed to British ships. He also ordered that any French or neutral ships that visited British ports would be seized.

Not to be outdone, Great Britain decreed that all neutral ships had to obtain a license before sailing to Europe. Great Britain had the sea power to enforce this too.

The United States had been struggling for two decades to remain neutral. Things started to get tense though when British ships began stopping American vessels from trading in Europe and resentment escalated when Americans were stopped so the British could search them for contraband - whatever the British happened to decide was illegal - and deserters from the Royal Navy. 

Conditions with the Royal Navy were harsh and deserters would take jobs on American ships. It didn't matter to the British Captains if a sailor had American certificates of citizenship, the sailors would be seized to work on a British ship. The Brits did go too far though when they impressed native-born Americans to put into service.

In 1807, off the shores of Chesapeake Bay, the military tensions exploded. A British naval squadron was watching the area for French ships when numerous British sailors deserted and enlisted in the American navy. The Chesapeake was a 38-gun frigate the Captain knew he had deserters aboard. So when the HMS Leopard tried to board the ship in order to search for the deserters, the Chesapeake refused to heave-to. 

The 50-gun Leopard opened fire, killing three and injuring 18 of the crew. Then the British boarded and seized four men, further enraging the Americans. In 1811, the HMS Guerriere impressed an American sailor from a coastal vessel causing further tension. 

This dispute between the two nations could have been settled amicably. In fact, the new government of Lord Liverpool had rescinded orders-in-council a few days before the Americans had declared war. However, the US didn't know that. There were also other interests in play for the Americans.

Major General Dearborn theorized that in the event of war, Canada would be easy pickings and would welcome an invasion by our neighbours to the south. I guess he thought that we wanted to become part of the United States. They were in for a surprise!

On June 18, 1812, President Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain and Canada was swept into the fray.

Wednesday I will tell you about some of the conflicts of the War of 1812. Thanks goes to the Canadian Encyclopedia website for the above information. 

I hope you find the beauty around you.

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