I recall in high school that we spent maybe all of two days going over the War of 1812. We covered some of the key aspects, the origins of the Star Spangled Banner, the British invasion of the mainland and subsequent burning of the White House, and American incursion into Canada. The reasons for the war were simplified and the battles glossed over in the text book. The significance of the war was lost as the class droned on through the period; in the end the relatively short chapter was forgotten, much like the war itself. Why?
In Canadian history, however, the War of 1812 is far more important, far more meaningful and inspiring, and is a source of national pride. The general consensus is that nobody really won; Americans are taught the war was a projection of sovereignty from Britain, a “second war for independence”. Why then, was it so significant to Canada? The only real “losers” were the Nations tribes who were, for the most part, doomed no matter who the victor ended up being. Territorial expansion from either the British-Canadian side or the American side would be a prelude to the coming forced migrations and atrocious actions by both the American and British governments.
The war was hardly fought for independence; territorial gains from battles won were never kept; the maritime “cause” was never fully resoled, if at all. What the war did accomplish, however, was distinguish Americans as a force to be reckoned with, and with global reach. In that sense, it did project American sovereignty. Canada sees the war as a adding to a growing sense of identity, unique and separate from British national identity. This parallels American identity growth throughout the period after the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolutionary War. War, it seems, has a keen ability to build bonds between countrymen that transcends culture, ethnicity, and even ideology.
Hickey, Donald. n.d. The War of 1812. Accessed 9 27, 2017. http://www.pbs.org/wned/war-of-1812/essays/american-perspective/.
Pierre Berton, James H. Marsh, Tabitha Marshall. 2012. War of 1812. 3 6. Accessed 9 28, 2017. http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/war-of-1812/.
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