Mr. Madison’s War

I’m doing a history class this week on the War of 1812. This war has confused me and I’ve never been sure what to think of it. There are some very interesting things I’ve discovered so far.

– Madison knew he wouldn’t have a chance for reelection unless he found some way to unite the country and better his public image.

– The First Bank of the United States had just been disbanded, but the new owner of it (Stephen Girard) was very good friends with Madison’s Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Dallas. Girard funded about 95% of the War of 1812. And Dallas was responsible for getting the Second Bank of the United States approved. You think there’s any connection?

– The state militias in New England did not like the war as they depended heavily on trade with the British Empire. They even considered secession at the Hartford Convention of 1814. Some states refused to support the war and others did but only half-heartedly. And even Madison never questioned their right to secede from the union although it was in his interest that they stayed. At least Madison had more principles than that despot, Lincoln.

One Comment

  1. Hello there,

    Correct me if I am mistaken but the official rationale for the war against Britain were her offenses on the high seas against American merchant ships. Madison thought that by attacking the British colony of Canada, America would deter British ships from harassing American merchant vessels (seizing men to get them to fight for Britain against France).

    I think it is pretty clear that the rationale was a mere excuse for an offensive campaign to expand American territory given that a positive outcome in the war wouldn’t guarantee that the British Navy would stop the harassment.

    Another thing has to do with the role of government. If we agree that the government is the group of people with the legal monopoly for the initiation of force throughout a ‘given territorial area,’ then, we will agree that the extend to which the government may act to protect the life, liberty, and property of individuals is limited to the territorial area under which this government has jurisdiction.

    Therefore, if the New England maritime traders want to trade with Britain and Britain is sinking their ships, they must either choose another country to trade with or figure out a way to protect their maritime ships at their own expense, with an escort for example.

    I am not to sure about, but when the British traders were first attempting to establish the British East India Company, they faced violent maritime resistance from Portuguese traders. This was predictable given that the Portuguese were there first. However, these British traders simply started using escorts and traveling in convoy at their own expense.

    The decision makers that fall outside the government territorial jurisdiction must assume the risks and consequences of their acts. It is as if I traveled to North Korea for leisure and then I got kidnapped, I would then expect my country to start a war for me.

    If one gets kidnapped inside the territorial area of America, then it is reasonable to expect authorities to use violence to rescue one.

    Additional controversies of the war include the institution of the draft. The best argument against the Draft was expressed by Daniel Webster in a speech called ‘The Draft Is Unconstitutional.’ Some of his stronger points were:

    ‘The Administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion… Persons thus taken by force, and put into an army, may be compelled to serve during the war, or for life. They may be put on any service, at home or abroad, for defense or for invasion, accordingly to the will and pleasure of the government…. Is this, sir, consistent with the character of a free government? Is this civil liberty? Is this the real character of our Constitution? No….Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section it is contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of government may engage it?’

    Strong words indeed!!!!

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