A History of the United States - Vol. 2

A History of the United States - Vol. 2

A History of the United States - Vol. 2

A History of the United States - Vol. 2

Excerpt

The reaction of war-weary Americans to news of the Treaty of Ghent was swift and spontaneous; bells rang, parades formed, schools dismissed, newspapers broke out headlines to proclaim the passage 'from gloom to glory'. Yet 'Mr Madison's War' accomplished nothing in a military or a political sense. The Treaty realized none of the United States' war aims, neither the officially-pronounced policies of Madison nor the privately-expressed hopes of the 'War Hawks', whose clamours for blood and soil had been loudest. The slogan of victory, 'Not one inch of territory lost or ceded!' had a different ring from the Westerner's triumphant 'On to Canada!' of 1812. The conflict cost a huge sum of money, dislocated business and foreign trade, raised the national debt to astronomical figures, deranged currency values, and exposed glaring cracks in the national political façade. Its record of fumbling, bickering, and unpreparedness remains unmatched by any subsequent American military experience.

But still the war seemed to be a victory, and marked a turning point in American history. It gave a tremendous lift to national morale; after all, American forces had met and presumably defeated for the second time (or at least had not been defeated by) the world's greatest military and naval power, albeit that that power's right hand was elsewhere engaged at the time. True, the war might have been avoided if American statesmanship had been of sufficient skill and calibre to avoid it. True, it might have been fought with France, on possibly better grounds. But from an American viewpoint, the war gave notice to the rest of the world that the United States had arrived as a nation, with aims of its own to be fought for. In it Americans proved something to themselves -- that they could fight in defence of their . . .

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