1812- War was the Only Choice

National pride had plenty to do with… starting the War of 1812.  Britain refused to honor its commitments set down in the original treaty of 1783.   Despite reaffirming those pledges in Jay’s Treaty of 1794, Britain continued to deny America the equal station it desired.  The Royal Navy provided the greatest obstacle to American sovereignty, impeding America’s lifeblood, commerce.  The 1807 attack on the USS Chesapeake in American waters was the most egregious violation in a consistent campaign to cripple our shipping.  The trade restrictions laid down in the Orders in Council (blockade of Europe) were the final straw for many Americans.

  1. Neutrality- America wanted to be left alone,  and the British were having none of it.  The early disputes between Federalists and Jeffersonians over foreign policy matters were rendered moot by ascension of Bonaparte.  The Adams administration had deeply strained US/French relations and Jay’s Treaty had failed badly.  The Anglo/American alliance never truly formed after 1783.  The British were not going to allow the upstart republic to trade with its enemy during a time of war.  The heavy-handed provisions of the Orders in Council, the Royal Navy’s blockade of Europe, was the final straw.
  2. The Frontier- The British army was a powerful force on the American frontier, proving difficult to withdraw its presence as stipulated in the treaty of 1783.  British troops remained assisting in the Indian resistance to American settlement west of Ohio.  American military intervention proved time and again that Indian alliances were receiving British military support.  The Tecumseh War was the final straw in a long string of British interference.  The British troops were compounding an already volatile situation; in addition to violating the most basic elements of territorial sovereignty.
  3. Piracy- The tradition of the ‘press’ as a recruitment tool for the Royal Navy divided the two nations even further.  The British denied America’s right to naturalize foreigners serving in its merchant fleet.  American ships were subject to searches and all sailors could be taken against their will.  Historians estimate that over 10,000 American sailors were impressed between 1794-1814.  60% of the ‘British’ subjects taken off American ships were in fact Irish.  Despite two treaties guaranteeing safety to American seamen, the Royal Navy searched American ships at will.

Library of Congress

“Such is the spectacle of injuries and indignities which have been heaped on our country, and such the crisis which its unexampled forbearance and conciliatory efforts have not been able to avert.” – James Madison, June 1, 1812

1812 Saber Rattling

Pop history proclaims that eager “War Hawks” … in the United States forced the War of 1812 upon the American people.  Jeffersonians long antagonistic to the British empire wanted to strengthen our bonds with the French through a war.  Claims are also made stating that expansionists wanted to use the war as a vehicle to finally take possession of Canada.  Could all this be possible?  Did American statesman foolishly risk our republic for such dubious motives?……the historical record can answer those questions….

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Does James Madison sound like a saber-rattling tyrant … in his war message delivered June 1, 1812 ?

We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain, a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace toward Great Britain…Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs, or, opposing force to force in defense of their national rights,  is a solemn question which the Constitution wisely confides to the legislative department of the Government.  In recommending it to their early deliberations I am happy in the assurance that the decision will be worthy the enlightened and patriotic councils of a virtuous, a free, and a powerful nation.

Seems rational

WAR HAWK

War Hawk and Speaker of the House Henry Clay… stated the case for war clearly in 1811

What are we to gain by war, has been emphatically asked? In reply, he would ask, what are we not to lose by peace?—commerce, character, a nation’s best treasure, honor!  Let those who contend for this humiliating doctrine, read its refutation in the history of the very man against whose insatiable thirst of dominion we are warned.  Let us come home to our own history. It was not by submission that our fathers achieved our independence.

Looking to our history

Frontier Feud

Searching for the causes of the War of 1812… will invariably lead to the Indiana frontier.  William Henry Harrison was granted power by President Thomas Jefferson to negotiate with the Indian nations (13 treaties and over 1 million acres.)   Harrison orchestrated the Treaty of Ft. Wayne in 1809, granting US settlers unlimited access to the Wabash river valley.  Three of the major Indian nations signed the treaty, but the Shawnee and their leader, Tecumseh, did not.  Harrison suspected trouble from the Indian upstart and moved quickly for a conference in August of 1810.  Tecumseh arrived at Harrison’s frontier home, Grouseland, with over 400 warriors in full battle garb.  Tensions were high as the Shawnee war chief declared the treaty of Ft. Wayne illegitimate.  Tecumseh argued that all Indians spoke with one voice, therefore, all tribes had to agree with the treaty.  Harrison refuted this notion, pointing out that the Great Spirit gave all Indians different languages, or ‘tongues.’  As Tecumseh continued to shout threats at Harrison, warriors and soldiers alike made ready for combat- Harrison drew his sword (legend has it, he promised to kill Tecumseh) …cooler heads prevailed, but Tecumseh was determined to reach out to the British.

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Two subsequent meetings did nothing to ease…tensions between the two men.  American settlement continued, the Indian alliance grew, and British intervention only further alienated the two sides.  News of the Anglo/Indian alliance prompted Harrison to march an army North to disperse an alliance settlement along the Tippecanoe creek.  Tecumseh was not with his followers that November in 1811.  He was on a recruiting mission to the south, leaving his inexperienced brother in command.  Shawnee approached Harrison’s camp on November 5 to propose a meeting;  Harrison accepted, but shortly after, the warriors launched an attack.  Militiamen and US regulars defended the camp for over two hours, before dragoons charged into the retreating warriors turning the battle into a rout.  Harrison’s forces pursued and later burned the Indian settlement.  The Tippecanoe legend was born.

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William Henry Harrison became a national hero… as news of the battle spread to the East.  The British intervention outraged American politicians, a clear sign of yet another violation of American sovereignty.  The frontier feud was far from over.  Tecumseh took his confederation North to strengthen the bond with Britain.  Harrison would get another chance to kill his nemesis.

Hamilton Predicted Trump’s Rise

Alexander Hamilton predicted the rise of a President like Donald Trump-  He describes Trump perfectly when warning his countrymen about he dangers of Aaron Burr.

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“The expectation, I know, is, that if Mr. _____ shall owe his elevation to the (Republican) party he will judge it his interest to adhere to that party… and that it will be the interest of his Ambition to preserve and cultivate these friends…Mr. ______ will doubtless be governed by his interest as he views it, but stable power and Wealth being his objects…he will not long lean upon them—but selecting from among them men suited to his purpose he will seek with the aid of those and of the most unprincipled of the opposite party to accomplish his ends…Tis enough for us to know that Mr. ______ is one of the most unprincipled men in the UStates in order to determine us to decline being responsible for the precarious issues of his calculations of Interest.”

“As long as the (Republican)  party preserve their high ground of integrity and principle, I shall not despair of the public weal. But if they quit it and descend to be the willing instruments of the Elevation of the most unfit and most dangerous man of the Community to the highest station in the Government—I shall no longer see any anchor for the hopes of good men. I shall at once anticipate all the evils that a daring and unprincipled ambition wielding the lever of Jacobinism can bring upon an infatuated Country.”

** Replace “Burr”  with “Trump….

Lingayen Gulf | January 1945

Pacific Paratrooper

The USS Louisville is struck by a kamikaze Yokosuka D4Y at the Battle of Lingayen Gulf, 6 January 1945

On 2 January, the US carrier, USS Ommaney Bay, was severely damaged by a kamikaze aircraft and would later need to be scuttled.  Three days later, the cruiser, USS Columbia, was also damaged when she was hit by 2 of the Japanese suicide planes.  US shipping received relentless kamikaze strikes that cost the Navy more than 1000 men due to those 30 hits.

Beginning on 6 January, a heavy naval and air bombardment of suspected Japanese defenses on Lingayen began.  Aircraft and naval artillery bombardment of the soon-to-be landing areas occurred, with kamikazes attacking again on the 7th.

USS Columbia, hit by kamikaze

On the 8th, it was observed that in the town of Lingayen, as a response to the prelanding shelling, Filipinos had begun to form a parade…

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Thomas Jefferson: Smuggler

Presidential History Blog

Thomas Jefferson was a man of many talents and interests…

The Agronomist

Long before Monticello as we know it was built and rebuilt by “Thomas Jefferson, Architect,” his love of the land on his little mountain was deep and lifelong.

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Monticello as we know it today.

TJ was more than just a Virginia planter. Most of our early colonial plantation owners immersed themselves in agricultural knowledge. It was their means of livelihood, whether or not they personally dug, weeded, sowed or reaped.

Jefferson, however, was a cut above. He not only cultivated his property for monetary profit (which never quite happened), but his football field of a kitchen garden, specifically for his personal use and for feeding his large labor force, was his own laboratory. His garden book meticulously details the weather, the season, the first bud of whatever flower, fruit or vegetable, the size and weights of the aforementioned…

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Four Dozen Years of Reading

Birthdays often lead to reflection… 48 years have passed and reflection reveals a life devoted to the study of history.  A career in education has shown how rare academic commitment can be…. all I have ever wanted to do is history.  These books inspired, taught, and frustrated me along the journey. ..

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  • American Heritage History of the Civil War-Narrative by Bruce Catton.  Little more than a coffee table dust collector in most homes, the copy in my parents’ home was well worn.  Richly illustrated with historic photos and informative maps, it was the perfect introductory course in Civil War studies.  Luckily, video game consoles weren’t available during the early days spent reading Catton’s crystal clear prose.
  • Band of Brothers- by Stephen Ambrose.  WW2 stories from my Grandfather inspired me to learn more about the greatest generation.  Ambrose showed me the power of primary sources- there are hundreds utilized in this harrowing tale of Easy Company’s combat experience.  All of the vitriol aimed at Ambrose (much of it jealousy) causes us to forget what a great storyteller he was.

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  • Red, White, and Black- by Gary Nash.  The book that deconstructed the mediocre history education I received in high school, Nash’s study opened my eyes to New Left historiography.  The colonization of North America was more complicated than Pilgrims, John Smith, and Ponce Deleon; Nash’s vision challenges the cereal box standard that passes for history in many high schools.
  •   The Killer Angels- by Michael Shaara.  Historical fiction at its very best, Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel about the battle of Gettysburg is steeped in history.  Shaara exposes us to the battle through the eyes of its key participants, a riveting format often imitated, but never equaled.  Growing up just an hour from the battlefield, this novel helped bring it to life better than any audio tour.
  • Lincoln’s Virtues-by William Lee Miller.  An “ethical biography” of our greatest President, Miller departs from the typical Lincoln canon.  Rather than recounting Lincoln’s deeds, Miller attempts to explain the actions by examining the history of his belief structure.  This book is essential in understanding the man behind the myths.
  • The Radicalism of the American Revolution- by Gordon Wood.  Spend enough time in college history courses and you’ll get the impression that the American Revolution was stale, conservative, and not all that revolutionary.  Wood sets the record straight in a compelling study that makes a brilliant counter to the anti-Americanism of Howard Zinn.  The work of Wood is so much more valuable than a passing quip by Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting.”

Gordon Wood historian 2006

  • Gettysburg: The Second Day- by Harry Pfanz.  Richly detailed tactical study of the crucial day at the battle of Gettysburg that is essential reading to students of the battle.  Pfanz does more than explain the complicated troop movements; he brings the battle to life with the memories of the men who were there.  I spent many a Summer afternoon tramping the field with a well worn copy of Pfanz’s masterpiece in my hands.
  • The American Mind- by Henry Steele Commager.  Trying to explain the central American consciousness seemed an impossible task, but Commager’s signature study managed to frustrate a generation of history students.  He should be admired for valuing stories above statistics, personalities over presumption, and a firm belief in American exceptionalism.
  • For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought the Civil War- By James McPherson.  Nothing ends speculation, conjecture, and bad theories like research, and this book is research personified.  McPherson utilize over 10,000 primary sources to provide readers the most comprehensive study of why men fought in the Civil War.  A direct refutation of Linderman’s “Embattled Courage,” McPherson shows that courage, patriotism, and friendship still motivated men even in the darkest days of the war.

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Jefferson to Wasington- Free Press

Thomas Jefferson cautioned George Washington about the importance of a free press…. his words should serve as warning to citizens today…

“No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics. I think it as honorable to the government neither to know nor notice its sycophants or censors, as it would be undignified and criminal to pamper the former and persecute the latter.”

Hamilton and the Military State

Alexander Hamilton warned his fellow citizens about the dangers of standing armies and a society dependent upon its military.

In Federalist No.8 he cautioned:

But in a country, where the perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it, her armies must be numerous enough for instant defense. The continual necessity for his services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionally degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories often the theater of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees, the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.

What’s in a Name?

To the chagrin of revisionists… Thomas Jefferson is part of the national fabric of America.  He gave us our creed, the words that define what it means to be an American.  No other country on earth has such a luxury.  A simple look at our landscape will provide a clear picture of Jefferson’s impact on posterity:

Named after Thomas Jefferson–

  • 45 High schools
  • 5 Colleges or Universities (including the University of Virginia)
  • 9 cities (larger than 10,000 residents)
  • Counties in 16 states
  • 13 mountains
  • Thomas Jefferson Building, Library of Congress
  • Jefferson National Expansion Site (includes the Great Gateway Arch)
  • Jefferson Alberta, Canada

Named for Thomas Jefferson–

  • Thomas Jefferson Randolph–  Jefferson’s eldest grandchild and executor of his estate. (1792-1875)

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  • Thomas Jefferson Truitt– 2nd Lt. in the 62nd Penna. Volunteers from Kellersburg, PA.  Enlisted for three years service in July of 1861.  Killed in action near Bethesda Church, Va June 3, 1864.     (1837-1864)

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  • Thomas Jefferson Sheaffer– Youngest child of Alissa Hegge and Gordon Sheaffer.  Born in peaceful sleep, January 11, 2008.

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