OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in history… June 18, 1812, President Madison signs declaration beginning the War of 1812 against Britain and colonial Canada

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

On this day in history, June 18, 1812, the War of 1812 begins after President James Madison signs the Congressionally passed declaration into law, beginning what is often considered the second war for independence. Since 1807, during President Thomas Jefferson’s administration, Great Britain had been engaging in a blockade against America because they were trading with France, their enemy in the Napoleonic Wars. Britain also practiced impressments, taking American seamen and forcing them to join the British Royal Navy. On the land front, Britain had been agitating Native Indians to attack American communities. Two and a half years later America was triumphant putting to rest any more wars with Great Britain as they began diplomatic and trade relations that continue, while America would no longer threaten Canada as they moved towards nationhood.

After over 200 years, the good relations between the three countries seem to be eroding under President Donald Trump again over trade and tariffs. After imposing steel tariffs on Canada claiming national security, Trump recently remarked in a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” when trying to justify the national security reasons. Trump claimed to have been joking but the issue brought up the War of 1812 and the old wounds of the conflict where America unsuccessfully attempted to conquer Canada and the only war where Canada was legitimately an enemy and threat to America in their fight on the side of the British.

Since America won the Revolutionary War, they had been engaging in trade with France, an American ally without any interference from Great Britain shipping from the French West Indies to the US and then to France. With the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, Britain started to make it difficult for America to trade with France. The 1805 Essex case in Britain determined Americans could only trade with France if they paid a tariff and proved the items were not originally meant to go to France. American ships were neutral and usually traded with both countries. French leader Napoleon Bonaparte issued the Berlin and Milan decrees in December 1806 and 1807, which created a blockade around Britain. Britain countered with the Order-in-Council. Both empires essentially ordered that ships trading with either empire would have their goods confiscated, American bore the brunt of the decrees. Until the war, the British captured 1,400 American ships.

In earnest since 1803, Britain also engaged in impressments; taking British naval deserters back into the Navy. Most of the men were taken from American ships, many even had American citizenship or papers, but as Frank W Thackeray and John E Findling write in their book Events that changed the world in the nineteenth century, the British policy was “once an Englishman, always an Englishman.” (Thackeray and Findling, 20) The war between the two countries almost started earlier because of the Chesapeake affair in June 1807. Near the Chesapeake Bay, the British ship the Leopard stopped the American warship and insisted they come on board to retrieve a deserter, when the captain refused the British ship opened fire-killing 21, the British captain still came on board taking a total of four men, three which were American citizenship. President Jefferson responded in December 1807 with a policy of “peaceful coercion,” which stopped sea trade to Britain and France. Congress proceeded to pass the Embargo Act of 1807.

The embargo affected the American economy hitting the Northeast that relied on shipping trade the hardest. As Thackeray and Findling write, the embargo was a “politically divisive issue” in the Presidential election of 1808 between Democratic-Republican James Madison, and Federalist, C. C. Pinckney. Madison won the election. Before Jefferson left office he repealed the Embargo Act, and in its stead, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act, which allowed trade with all other countries except Britain and France, unless they “removed their decrees.” Economic conditions did not improve and in May 1810, Congress passed Macon’s Bill №2 resuming trade with the two countries “but if either revoked their decrees, the United States would reinstitute nonintercourse against the other.” (Thackeray and Findling, 31) In November, Napoleon revoked his decrees but still harassed American ships. At the same time, America ceased to trade with Britain and diplomatic relations virtually ended.

On land, the US was facing difficulties with the Indians in the territories. As American removed the Indians further West for settlement, great Shawnee chief Tecumseh decided to fight back by forming an alliance with Southern tribes and attacking settlers. Indiana territorial governor William Henry Harrison instead, attacked the Shawnee when Tecumseh was not there in what became the Battle of Tippecanoe fought in north-central Indiana. Congress widely believed that Britain was behind Tecumseh’s actions, supplying them from their Northern Canadian colonies. Congressmen in the west wanted war declared to capture Canada and end their aid to the Indians.

When Congress met in November 1811, under new Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, they passed a number of war preparedness bills, for an army and enlarging the navy. A small battle where the American ship the President beat the British Little Belt pushed the country to war. On June 18, Madison signed the declaration of war. Just two days earlier, on June 16, “Britain’s House of Commons had repealed the Orders-in-Council.” (Thackeray and Findling, 22) Britain thought Madison would revoke the declaration; instead, he made it about the 10,000 American sailors impressed by Britain.

At first, the war was a stalemate, Britain was occupied with the war in Europe until 1814, and America failed to raise the funds and increase enlistment to enlarge to army and navy to capture Canada. In the first six months of the war, America was victorious in six sea battles, while privateers “captured over 150 British merchant ships worth $2 million.” Britain did better in the land war; with Tecumseh, they reacquired the Michigan territory, while in November 1812, America’s attempted unsuccessfully to invade Upper Canada. By April 27, 1813, with Canada not reinforced with supplies, America captured and burned Upper Canada’s capital York now Toronto. In October, Canada lost Tecumseh as a defense, who was killed. Britain successfully applied a blockade by sea to New York and Philadelphia and blocked the Chesapeake and Delaware.

In 1814, when Napoleon abdicated, Britain turned its attention to the Americans assaulting the country by land and by sea. At the Battle of Lundy’s Lane in July 25, 1814, near Niagara Falls at the New York-Canada border, America lost its last chance to invade Canada. On August 24, Britain captured under Maj.-Gen. Robert Ross from Rostrevor, County Down, Ireland captured the capital Washington, DC burning down the Capital, Library of Congress, Treasury and the White House in retaliation for an attack on York, which forced President Madison to flee to Virginia. Britain thought these defeats would prompt America to fold but Madison would not. Francis Scott Key would be inspired to write the poem the Star Spangled Banner when he saw the American flag still flew above Fort McHenry outside Baltimore Harbor on September 14. On September 11, the US had a resounding victory pushing back Britain at Lake Champlain near the border. America had its most decisive victory after the ceasefire with the Andrew Jackson leading the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.

The war officially ended with a ceasefire on December 24, 1814, when both parties signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium. The war officially ended on February 16, 1815, Madison signed the ratified peace treaty. America had staved off the mighty British forces, and although Britain had hoped for American concessions, they could not acquire them. Prime Minister Lord Liverpool concluded, “We might certainly land in different parts of their coast, and destroy some of their towns, or put them under contribution; but in the present state of the public mind in America it would be in vain to expect any permanent good effects from operations of this nature.”

Historians popularly view the War of 1812 as the second war for independence cementing America’s status as a nation. Britain was pleased they were able to contain America. Canada might have been the big victors, British historian Amanda Foreman writes, “For Canadians, the war was, and remains, the cornerstone of nationhood, brought about by unbridled U.S. aggression.” Johns Hopkins University professor and historian Eliot Cohen writing in his book Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles along the Great Warpath that Made the American Way of War believes Canada benefited the most, “ultimately, Canada and Canadians won the War of 1812… Americans at the time, and, by and large, since did not see matters that way.” Cohen speaking of Canada’s gains in the war explains, “Not only did the colony remain intact: It had acquired heroes, British and French, and a narrative of plucky defense against foreign invasion, that helped carry it to nationhood.”

Historian Sally E. Hadden claims the War of 1812 often called “forgotten conflict” had far-ranging effects for America. Hadden explains, “Surprisingly, the war had a tremendous long-term impact on international law of the sea, American foreign and domestic policies, and America’s plans for expansion to the south and west, which altered American-Indian relations for the rest of the century. The war elevated men like Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and John C. Calhoun to power in American politics; all would affect momentous decisions in the years before the American Civil War.” Historian Alan Taylor in his book The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies concludes, “The ultimate legacy of the war was that the empire and the republic would share the continent along a more clearly defined border more generous to the Americans and more confining to the British — but most ominous to the Indians.” (Taylor, 439)

The issues that brought upon the war would be resolved years later with the 1817 Rush-Bagot Agreement, which demilitarized the Great Lakes.” The Convention of 1818 determined the Canada US border; the border would be along the forty-ninth parallel until the Rocky Mountains, while both would share the Oregon Territory for 10 years, and the US secured fishing rights off Newfoundland. Politically, the war destroyed the Federalist Party, when they supported the Hartford Convention’s plan for the Northeastern states to secede if Congress did not give them more influence. In contrast, it saw the rise of influence of the South and West, with two war heroes Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison later elected president.

SOURCES

Cohen, Eliot A. Conquered into Liberty: Two Centuries of Battles Along the Great Warpath That Made the American Way of War. New York, NY: Free Press, 2011.

Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012.

Thackeray, Frank W, and John E. Findling. Events That Changed the World in the Nineteenth Century. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Taylor, Alan. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University), is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor. She is a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Advertisements

OTD in History June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting a Jewish state in Palestine

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY

HISTORY, NEWS & POLITICS

HISTORY & POLITICAL HEADLINES

OTD in History June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting a Jewish state in Palestine



By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

unknown artist; Sir Moses Montefiore (1784-1885); Ramsgate Library; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/sir-moses-montefiore-17841885-77099



On this day in Jewish history, June 14, 1841, British Colonel Charles Henry Churchill wrote a letter to Sir Moses Montefiore supporting the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Montefiore, was a British banker, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and philanthropist, who founded the first New Yishuv, Mishkenot Sha’ananim in 1860, the first Jewish settlement outside the walls of the old City of Jerusalem. Churchill served as the British consul to Ottoman Syria, which included Palestine, today’s Israel. Churchill, an evangelical Protestant, and ancestor of the future Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was one of the first to suggest the political establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine.

Montefiore spent his whole life living as part of the Western Europe’s Jewish elite and his adult life as the “the preeminent Jewish figure of the nineteenth century” as Abigail Green recounts in her biography “Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero,” the most complete biography of his life. Montefiore was one of the 12 Jewish financial brokers in London in the early 19th century. Born in Italy to a Sephardic Jewish family, his family moved back to England, where Montefiore was educated.

Afterward, Montefiore entered the grocers and tea merchants’ trade, before going into the finance business and stockbroking with his brother Abraham. Montefiore’s profile and success in the business grew when he married into Nathan Mayer Rothschild’s family. Among the Jewish world, Montefiore’s business is not what made him well known and remembered, but his philanthropy and proto-Zionism in pre-state Israel. Montefiore retired young from the business world in 1824 at the age of 40 to concentrate the rest of his long life on his philanthropic efforts.

Montefiore’s first visit to Israel was in 1827 and it changed his life, specifically when he and his wife Judith Barent-Cohen prayed at Rachel Tomb for children; although the Montefiore never had any children. He subsequently visited Israel six other times, the last time in 1875 when he was 91 years-old. The moment led him to become religiously observant, he served as the president of the Beavis Marks Synagogue for 39 years and traveled with a “shohet” to ensure all the meat he ate was kosher as he extensively traveled.

Montefiore met Churchill in Malta in November 1840, when Churchill asked if he could serve as a courier to Damascus. Churchill arrived in February 1841 and the head of the Jewish community Raphael Farhi held a reception in his honor on March 1.

Churchill gave his first speech supporting Jewry to rousing applauds:  

“May this happy meeting be looked upon as … a forecast of such a connection and alliance between the English and the Jewish nation as shall be honourable and advantageous to both. May the hour of Israel’s deliverance be at hand. May the approximation of Western civilization to the interesting land be the dawn of her regeneration, and of her political existence; may the Jewish nation once more claim her rank among the powers of the world!” (Green, 206)      

Churchill would author two letters to Montefiore advocating “Jewish national regeneration in Palestine.” (Grief, 535) In the first letter dated, June 14, 1841, Churchill advised that the Jews should commence “agitation… to resume their [political] existence as a people.” Churchill believed with the “aid” of the “European Powers,” Jews would attain in the end ‘the sovereignty of at least Palestine.”

In his second letter, dated over a year later on August 15, 1842, Churchill seemed to backtrack stating that only as subjects of the sublime Porte could Jews “recover their ancient country or regain a footing in Palestine.” They would need the Five Great Powers (Britain, France, Russia, Austria, and Prussia) to advocate that the Sultan allow them to settle and “colonize” in Palestine, “under the protection of the Great Powers.”  Under Churchill’s proposal, Jewish colonies would be autonomous but would be required to pay a tax to the Sultan. Churchill concluded that “Judea” would be “once more a refuge and resting place” for world Jewry. (Grief, 535)

In addition to the letter, Churchill included a detailed proposal about how this colonization would be established. The first step was an application to the British Government to the attention of Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen. Aberdeen would send a person to Syria “a fit and proper person to watch over the interests of the Jews.” Churchill finished his letter writing “God has put in my heart the desire to serve His ancient people… I have discharged a duty imposed on me by my conscience.”  (Grief, 535)

Montefiore took Churchill’s two letters to the Board of Deputies of British Jews were he served as president. On November 8, 1942, they responded to Montefiore, that they would not be initiating Churchill’s proposal or any other for settlement in Palestine, but would participate if a Jewish community in another country would. In less than a decade, Montefiore would begin settling Jews in settlements in Palestine on his initiative and working with Churchill.

Montefiore’s most extensive philanthropy was towards the small Jewish community in Israel, hoping to entice more Jews to live there. He turned towards settling Israel in 1854 when he became the executor of American Judah Touro’s will; Touro wanted a settlement created with his money. Montefiore used his money and that of Touro’s estate to establish agricultural communities outside of Jerusalem’s Old City beginning the New Yishuv. Montefiore purchased an orchard outside Jerusalem to provide agricultural training to Jews in 1855 and in 1860 created the first settlement, Mishkenot Sha’ananim or the Inhabitations of Delight. Montefiore added incentives to encourage poorer Jews to settle despite the dangers. The first settlement consisted of “twenty-four apartments on the slopes of Talibiyeh facing Mount Zion.” (Blumberg, 60)

Afterward, he created additional neighborhoods, “the Ohel Moshe neighborhood for Sephardic Jews and the Mazkeret Moshe neighborhood for Ashkenazi Jews.” Montefiore also set-up the essentials for a growing community in Jerusalem, including health care, education and charity, some industries and essential factories, and the Montefiore Windmill to mill flour in Yemin Moshe, which still stands today. Montefiore hired Churchill to train the Jews in agriculture. According Arnold Blumberg in “Eretz Israel, Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora: Mutual Relations,” Montefiore, however, was “not interested in creating a Jewish state, he did regard the normalization of Jewish life through self-supporting labor, as essential.” (Blumberg, 60) While, Derek Penslar called Montefiore’s settlements “Palestinophilia,” the “establishment of philanthropic enterprises devoted to the social and economic transformation of Palestinian Jewry.” (Penslar, 63)  

The exchanges between Churchill and Montefiore and Churchill’s proposal helped develop proto-Zionism, the forerunners of Zionism. As Blumberg noted, “In Palestine itself, the old Yishuv seemed untouched by the currents of nineteenth-century thought. Nevertheless… the entry of western Jews upon the scene had laid the foundation for the new Yishuv. Long before the advent of political Zionism, a new spirit was alive in Palestinian Jewry.” (Blumberg, 61) Churchill’s proposal led to Montefiore taking charge and funding settlement beyond the Old Yishuv in Jerusalem’s old city, setting the stage for the new settlements and the aliyahs to Palestine that commenced in 1882.

Churchill’s letter to Montefiore, June 14, 1841:

I cannot conceal from you my most anxious desire to see your countrymen endeavour once more to resume their existence as a people.

I consider the object to be perfectly attainable. But, two things are indispensably necessary. Firstly, that the Jews will themselves take up the matter universally and unanimously. Secondly, that the European Powers will aid them in their views. It is for the Jews to make a commencement. Let the principal persons of their community place themselves at the head of the movement. Let them meet, concert and petition. In fact the agitation must be simultaneous throughout Europe. There is no Government which can possibly take offence at such public meetings. The result would be that you would conjure up a new element in Eastern diplomacy—an element which under such auspices as those of the wealthy and influential members of the Jewish community could not fail not only of attracting great attention and of exciting extraordinary interest, but also of producing great events.

Were the resources which you all possess steadily directed towards the regeneration of Syria and Palestine, there cannot be a doubt but that, under the blessing of the Most High, those countries would amply repay the undertaking, and that you would end by obtaining the sovereignty of at least Palestine.

Syria and Palestine, in a word, must be taken under European protection and governed in the sense and according to the spirit of European administration.

I therefore would strenuously urge this subject upon your calm consideration, upon the consideration of those who, by their position and influence amongst you are most likely to take the lead in such a glorious struggle for national existence. I had once intended to have addressed the Jews here in their Synagogue upon the subject, but I have reflected that such a proceeding might have awakened the jealousy of the local Government.

I have, however, prepared a rough petition which will be signed by all the Jews here and in other parts of Syria, and which I shall then forward to you. Probably two or three months will elapse first. There are many considerations to be weighed and examined as the question develops itself—but a “beginning” must be made—a resolution must be taken,”an agitation must be commenced”, and where the stake is “Country and Home” where is the heart that will not leap and bound to the appeal?

Supposing that you and your colleagues should at once and earnestly interest yourselves upon this important subject of the recovery of your ancient country, it appears to me (forming my opinions upon the present attitude of affairs in the Turkish Empire) that it could only be as subjects of the Porte that you could commence to regain a footing in Palestine. Your first object would be to interest the Five Great Powers in your views and to get them to advocate your view with the Sultan upon the clear understanding that the Jews, if permitted to colonise any part of Syria and Palestine, should be under the protection of the Great Powers, that they should have the internal regulation of their own affairs, that they should be exempt from military service (except on their own account as a measure of defence against the incursions of the Bedouin Arabs), and that they should only be called upon to pay a tribute to the Porte on the usual mode of taxation. I humbly venture to give my opinion upon a subject, which no doubt has already occupied your thought—and the bare mention of which, I know, makes every Jewish heart vibrate. The only question is – “when” and “how”.

The blessing of the Most High must be invoked on the endeavour. Political events seem to warrant the conclusion that the hour is nigh at hand when the Jewish people may justly and with every reasonable prospect of success put their hands to the glorious work of National Regeneration.

If you think otherwise I shall bend at once to your decision, only begging you to appreciate my motive, which is simply an ardent desire for the welfare and prosperity of a people to whom we all owe our possession of those blessed truths which direct our minds with unerring faith to the enjoyment of another and better world.

“Proposal of Colonel Churchill” August 15, 1842:

Human efforts preceded by prayer and undertaken in faith the whole history of your nation shows to be almost invariably blessed. If such then be your conviction it remains for you to consider whether you may not in all humility, but with earnest sincerity and confiding hope direct your most strenuous attention towards the land of your Fathers with the view of doing all in your power to ameliorate the conditions of your brethren now residing there and with heartfelt aspiration of being approved by Almighty God whilst you endeavour as much as in you lies to render that Land once more a refuge and resting-place to such of your brethren scattered throughout the world as may resort to it.

Hundreds and thousands of your countrymen would strain every effort to accomplish the means of living amidst those scenes rendered sacred by ancient recollections, and which they regard with filial affection, but the dread of the insecurity of life and property which has rested so long upon the soil of “Judea” has hitherto been a bar to the accomplishment of their natural desire.
My proposition is that the Jews of England conjointly with their brethren on the Continent of Europe should make an application to the British Government through the Earl of Aberdeen to accredit and send out a fit and proper person to reside in Syria for the sole and express purpose of superintending and watching over the interests of the Jews residing in that country.

The duties and powers of such a public officer to be a matter of arrangement between the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Committee of Jews conducting the negotiations. It is, I hope, superfluous for me to enlarge upon the incalculable benefit which would accrue to your nation at large were such an important measure to be accomplished, or to allude more than briefly to the spirit of confidence and revival which would be excited in the breasts of your fellow-countrymen all over the world were they to be held and acknowledged agents for the Jewish people resident in Syria and Palestine under the auspices and sanction of Great Britain….

READ MORE / SOURCES


Adler, Joseph. Restoring the Jews to Their Homeland: Nineteen Centuries in the Quest for Zion. Northvale, NJ: Aronson, 1997.

Blumberg, Arnold. Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880. Jerusalem: Devora Publishing, 2007.

Green, Abigail. Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012.

Grief, Howard. The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel Under International Law: A Treatise on Jewish Sovereignty Over the Land of Israel. Jerusalem, Israel: Mazo Publishers, 2013.

Mor, Menachem. Eretz Israel, Israel, and the Jewish Diaspora: Mutual Relations: 1st Annual Symposium. University Press of America, 1991.