The eighteenth and nineteenth century was a period of constant war within North America, there was the Seven Years War of 1754, the American Revolution of 1775 and the War of 1812. This paper will focus on the War of 1812 and its impact on the North American community. The War of 1812 did not have a single winner or loser; it was a war that was fought till it ended with a peace treaty in December 1814. This war can be simply described as a war between people still loyal to the British crown and people fighting for freedom and their own identity. The War of 1812 has been described as a civil war that pitted members of a North American community against each other; yet this is a false statement since the North American community was already pitted against each other. Before we can consider the War of 1812 a civil war, we need to have an understanding of what the North American community was made up of. North America was full of people from all over Europe and people born in North America. One similarity among the North American community was that the peoples spoke the same language and conducted themselves in a manner similar to each other.
In British North America, which is present day Canada, there was roughly half a million people. There were approximately two hundred and seventy thousand people, eighty thousand people in the Maritimes who were pro-British and another sixty to eighty thousand people in Upper Canada who were basically Americans by birth or descent, and that did not include the native peoples. The population of America was somewhere around seven and a half million people. The Americans had freed themselves from British ties by winning the American Revolution, thus making them their own American community. Even though the Americans were their own country, Britain still controlled the seas and made laws not allowing the Americans to trade with France or any country Britain was at war with. In British North America the community was made up of a mixture of nationalities, such as French and British loyalists. Even in Canada, the country was divided. Upper Canada was primarily English speaking people and Lower Canada was primarily French speaking people.
There also was a native community that was divided and fought for both sides during the War of 1812. These three different communities of people had been fighting against each other since the beginning of colonization of North America. It began with the British, French and Natives fight for control of the land and during 1812 it had moved to the British and Canadians fighting against the Americans. For the War of 1812 to be considered a civil war it would have to follow this definition of a civil war, “a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same country.” By this definition the War of 1812 does not fit into the category of a civil war since there were two different countries, the Britain and its colony of British North America against the Americans. The North American community was not united under one flag. With the North American community, they were already pitted against each other following the Seven Years War of 1754 and then again following the American Revolution of 1775.
The Revolution was the American colonies push to become their own country and have no more ties to Britain. They were successful in winning this war that would later make the British loyalist migrate to British North America. These immigrants were from all classes and helped strengthen the population of British North America. Following the American Revolution, the “British Empire and the American Republic remained uneasy neighbors in North America.” This war had a major impact on Canadians and Americans, “the War of 1812 changed the lives of many Canadians and Americans.” It was during this war that helped forged both countries into two separate individual countries and develop a better sense of nationalism. It brought the people of British North America close together since both the French and English settlers were able to defeat and defend their land against a common foe.
The combatants of the War of 1812 had different reason for entering the war. The Americans had grievances with Britain, and the Canadian’s were “fighting for their homes” since the Americans were trying to invade British North America to expel all of the British influence over North America. The British were in the war because of the need to protect its colony of British North America. The war aims for the War of 1812 seemed to be the annexation of Canada from its British ties, which the Americans “expected to be a pushover.” Britain was unable to put a hundred percent effort into the War of 1812 since they were fighting in the Napoleonic wars. Britain was only able to send some troops and part of its navy. Britain’s war aim was the protection of its colony. The War of 1812 was fought in British North American, on American soil and the Atlantic Ocean. On June 18th, 1812 war was declared between America and Britain. The Americans declared war on British for three primary reasons. The first reason was the impressment of American sailors while on the Atlantic Ocean. Second was the violation of American neutral rights that meant cutting off trade with anyone.
The third reason was the refusal of the Britain to revoke the Order of the Council of 1807, which barred Americans from all neutral trade with France and its allies. It was an offensive war for the Americans as they were fighting to get rid of the British influences in North America, thus making it a defensive war for the British and the Canadians. The Americans thought that “so many Upper Canadians had immigrated from the United States” that it would be easy to take control over since the people would side with the Americans because of their nationality. An issue with the War of 1812 was that it is was over shadowed by the Napoleonic War, if Britain was able to send more soldiers and focus more on this war, it may of changed the outcome. The first battle of the war took place around present day Windsor, Ontario. It was fought from “July 5th to 8th. This skirmish was a decidedly small affair, but it was the first military engagement on land…” The British did the majority of the fighting in Canada, but the Canadians both English and French were still able to draw national pride from defeating the Americans.
The War 1812 had major battles at New Orleans, the invasion of York in British North America and in Washington. With every action there was an equal reaction in the War of 1812. The Americans raid on York in 1813 was a key battle of the war. It was here where the Americans were trying to take the provincial capital. The British were unable to hold York and as they were retreating they tried to destroy anything of value to the Americans. When the Americans were unable to invade Canada the British and Canadians gained motivation from defeating this army. The British would push back and attack the Americans on their own land. There was a raid on Washington during 1814. The British were successful in invading Washington and they “burned several public buildings including the President’s home.” This war was fought to a draw, since both sides were unable to defeat their opponents. The treaty that ended the War of 1812 was the Treaty of Ghent signed on December 24, 1814.
The peace negotiations were long and heavily influenced by the defeat of Napoleon in Europe. Both the United States and Britain “wanted not only the war to end, but to make a peace that would last” which cause the negotiations to become even longer. A problem with this peace treaty was that it did not settle much. It made each country return what they had conquered and controlled during the war, and some boundaries were to be redressed by commissioners. It did not however cover the issues that caused the Americans to declare war such as impressment, neutral rights. The Americans viewed this treaty as a “damned bad treaty” since the Americans did not get what they wanted. This treaty provided “cessation of hostilities, return of prisoners and resumption of the status quo.” This treaty did not change much within the North American community except that it ended the hostilities between the British and Americans. The Americans never again tried to take over Canada. Every war has its winners and losers, except the War of 1812 since it did not produce a clear winner or loser. Arguments can be made for each country to be considered the winners.
The strongest case comes from the Canadians. The Canadians needed to win this war to keep their identity and to remain a part of the British Empire. The Canadians were able to defend Canada and keep their British connections. This lead to the laying of “the foundations for its future independence and nationhood.” The British may also have been the winner of the war since their war aims was to preserve its colony of Canada. The Treaty of Ghent did not make the British change the ways in which they controlled the sea. But this war was also an embarrassment for the British Empire since they were unable to defeat such a small and young nation. If it was not for the Napoleonic Wars, Britain may have been able to supply more war effort to North America and there may have been a clear winner.
The United States made the strongest case for being the losers of the War of 1812 since the United States declared war on Britain for reason such as the impressment of American sailors, the violation of American neutral rights and the refusal of the Britain to revoke the Order of the Council of 1807. Since America declared war to “win concession on these issues, it seems undeniable that the war represented a failure…” along with their failed invasion of Canada. Though this war was relatively small compared to American Revolution and Napoleonic War, it still had a major impact on the United States, Canada and Britain. It created different relationships between these countries. It helped forged national identity for both the United States and Canada. It cannot be considered a civil war simply because the North America community was not united and they did not fight for a one single cause. The Americans fought for their demands and desire to rid North America of British connections, while the Canadians and British fought for defense of their colony and national identity.
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 Wesley B. Turner. The War of 1812: The War That Both Sides Won. (Toronto: Dundurn, 2000) pg 16-17  “Civil War” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, 2011. Monday, 5 October 2012.  Alan Taylor. The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. (New York: Vintage, 2011) pg.9  Wesley B. Turner. The War of 1812: The War That Both Sides Won. pg.14  pg 229 Britain and america go to war
 Major James R, Jacobs, and Glenn Tucker. The War of 1812: A Compact History (New York: Hawthorn, 1969) pg.14  Major James R. Jacobs, and Glenn Tucker. The War of 1812: A Compact History pg. 13  Margaret Conrad and Alvin Finkel, History of the Canadian Peoples, Volume I: Beginnings to 1867, Fifth Edition. (Toronto:Pearson Longman, 2009) pg.194  Donald R. Hickey. Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. pg 53  Wesley B. Turner. The War of 1812: The War That Both Sides Won. pg.109  Wesley B. Turner. The War of 1812: The War That Both Sides Won. pg.116 Donald
R. Hickey. Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2006) pg. 305  Major James R. Jacobs, and Glenn Tucker. The War of 1812: A Compact History pg.191  Donald R. Hickey. Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. pg 302  Donald R. Hickey. Don’t Give Up the Ship!: Myths of the War of 1812. pg.302