February 03, 2010
I have a class on the Early American Republic. Last lecture we were doing the start of the War of 1812. The instructor likes to have a discussion at the end of his lecture, in the class's remaining time.
In the class there is one student from Canada and another from England, so their perspective on the war was eagerly sought. The English guy confessed that the war wasn't even mentioned in his earlier schooling, as it was really a tiny sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars. That was the feeling of the British at the time, too: the British Cabinet was astonished at the American declaration of war, over what they thought were minor legal quibbles.
The Canadian woman said it was covered extensivly in Canadian high schools, but the war was blamed on an American desire to conquer Canada, and the war was cast as "Brave Canadians fight to defend their homeland!" This is a little amusing to my ears, as while there were some people that wanted to aquire Canada, they formed a block of less than 10% of Congress, so it wasn't all that widespread a desire. The main reason for the war was British naval policies (impressment of American sailors, seizure of American shipping, attacking American warships, etc.) As for it being a moment of Canadian pride, almost all of the troops were British, as in 'from the British Isles'. Very few Canadians did any fighting at all.
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