• Bombs bursting in air over Baltimore in 1813

    War of 1812

...and Peace?

On February 16, 1815, the United States Senate unanimously voted to ratify the peace treaty presented to them by President James Madison. The Treaty of Ghent was formally exchanged with a British diplomat the next day, concluding the process. After nearly three years and many thousands dead, the War of 1812 was at last over. British, Canadian, and American alike heaved a sigh of relief as this unpopular and costly war came to an end. Although the war was over, the road to peace was long, rocky, and lay ahead.

Conflicts along the border between Canada and the United States persisted for years despite the treaty. Both sides claimed to have won the war, inspiring resentment in the other. From the Native perspective, the war did not end, but simply evolved. With the Americans and Canadians no longer pitted against each other, Anglo-Native alliances largely dissolved, leaving Native communities at the mercy of land-hungry expansionists. These conflicts would continue for generations, as settlers pushed tribal land ever westward.

By the centennial, attitudes toward the War of 1812 among British, Canadian and American had largely settled. Opinions of the war as a "forgotten conflict" among Americans still rebuilding from the Civil War, a definitive moment of great national pride and victory among Canadians, and a conflict almost entirely unknown among the British all seemed petty when held to the scorching light of the most recent conflict -- "a war to end all wars." By the onset of World War I, and definitively following World War II, the emphasis of commemoration was not placed on the conflict itself, but on peace.

This theme of international peace and friendship prevails as we celebrate the bicentennial of this conflict. It is in a way fitting that the War of 1812 has fallen into obscurity -- a testament to the lasting and permanent camaraderie forged by fire among the great nations of the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America.

Showing results 1-5 of 21

  • A Price to Pay to Stay Home

    Colorful map showing Indian land cessation in Michigan

    Immediately the Michigan tribes had to enter into treaty negotiations with the United States in order to stay in their homelands. For the tribes, this meant ceding away millions of acres of ancestral homelands to avoid removal to Kansas and Oklahoma. Read more

  • A Second Century of Peace: "Firm Friends and Allies" Invoke a Distant Past

    Large monument in shape of toy soldier

    The centennial of the War of 1812 was celebrated vehemently in Canada with patriotic speeches, celebrations, and the unveiling of memorial tributes. It was a last opportunity for simple celebrations of the past, as great transformation was about to take place. Read more

  • A War that Looms Small in American Memory

    Photograph of a veteran of War of 1812

    If the War of 1812 played a more important role in American public memory, it would likely have earned a less generic name. The war is the only one in American history designated simply by the year of its commencement, and for nearly a hundred years after it ended in 1815, its name hardly even qualified as a proper noun. Read more

  • American Expansion Turns to Official Indian Removal

    Seal of Wisconsin: a farmer and steamboat surrounding an Indian

    Euro-Americans were more interested in settled agriculturethan they were in sustaining the fur trade that had characterized the region for more than a century. Americans aggressively pushed Indians to become virtually indistinguishable from themselves, or failing that, to relocate them from areas of American settlement altogether, a political development that came to characterize US relations in the 1800s with Indian nations westward all the way to the Pacific. Read more

  • An "Absolutely Truthful Account": A Canadian Perspective of American Invaders

    Laura Secord: Legendary Heroine

    By the middle of the 1800s, Ontario, along with most of British North America, had evolved beyond a simple pioneer society and was entering the early stages of industrialization. Concomitant with a concern to provide better educational opportunities for future generations, a wish arose to record the deeds of the past, including those of the War of 1812. Read more