The War That Gets No Respect

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When it comes to the War of 1812, the ignorance depicted in the above video is no exaggeration.  Of all our major conflicts, our Second War For Independence is the most obscure to the general public.  In this bicentennial year of the beginning of the War, I will do my small bit on the blog Almost Chosen People , the American history blog that Paul Zummo and I run, to help correct this situation.   The War of 1812 was an important struggle in American history for a number of reasons, a few of which are:

1.      Until the War of 1812 the British tended to treat the United States as if it were a wayward colony that would ultimately become part of the British Empire again.  After the War the British understood that we were an independent power and a permanent factor in their calculations.

2.     The War established the United States Navy as an aggressive and resourceful combat force, unafraid to pit daring and skill against the massively more powerful Royal Navy.

3.     The War ended American dreams of conquering Canada.

4.     As a result of the War, the Indian tribes east of the Mississippi could no longer provide serious resistance to American expansion into the Northwest and the Southwest.

5.     The Star-Spangled Banner symbolized the new surge of nationalism that the country experienced as a result of the War.

6.     The War made Andrew Jackson a national hero and set him on his path to the White House, with ramifications still playing out today.

7.      Opposition to the War effectively destroyed the remnants of the Federalist party.

8.      The War solidified American control over New Orleans, and helped bring a wave of American settlement into Louisiana.

9.       Winfield Scott, the man who would lead American forces to victory in Mexico, and devised the blueprint for Union victory in the Civil War, first rose to the rank of General in the War.

10.       The War gave a strong impetus to the development of domestic industries to supply the military.

It is very difficult to understand American history in the crucial decades leading up to the Mexican and Civil Wars without understanding the almost forgotten, in the mind of the public, War of 1812.

44 Responses to The War That Gets No Respect

  • 6. Check! Check! Although, the man was not so nice; sometimes I long for the days of settling matters of honor with pistols or rapiers.

    I think that war cemented American nationality. Our forefathers bore defeat and rapine, on our soil, and came out strong and united.

    It could have ended much differently.

    Little remembered land and naval battles in the Great Lakes areas of NYS are an interesting side bar.

    One of my least favorite wars.

  • Would that war deserve the later epithet “War is Hell”? Was number 4 above good for the native population or did they enjoy losing their land and broken treaties? Some of us who descended from conquered people and part of whose family still lives under colonial rule have a whole different take on war and occupying armies.

  • Well HT I am part Cherokee, as well as Scot and Irish. I have a standing offer to help assuage any white guilt for the wrongs done my people, in exchange for a substantial monetary payment to me, by sending out a personal letter of forgiveness and absolution. For a large enough contribution the letter will be sent out in Cherokee! ( I would note that I have absolutely no intention of sharing any of these funds with tribes dispossessed by the Cherokee, so descendants of the Muscogee should not even bother asking.)

  • I disagree, Don, With your point 3. Amanda Foreman writes in ‘A World on Fire':

    “One of the legacies of the War of 1812 was a British fear that the United States might try to annex [Canada} and a conviction among the Americans that they should never stop trying. It was neither forgiven nor forgotten that precious ships and men had to diverted from the desperate war against Napoleon Bonaparte in order to defend Canada from three invasion attempts by the United States between 1812 and 1814. London regarded the burning of Washington and the White House by British soldiers in August 1814 as a well-deserved retribution for the sacking of York (later Toronto) by American troops.”

    Another legacy was a hubristic assumption thet the Americans had “licked the British twice” when in fact in the first instance they relied on foreign support (and a lot of luck) and the second (the Battle of New Orleans) was fought after the peace treaty had been signed, accepting what was essentially a draw, and therefore in cricketing terms was the equivalent of a catch outside the boundary.

  • London was concerned John with an attack on Canada in the event of war with the US in the Civil War. However, Lincoln was adamant that one war at a time was quite enough, and had no intention of provoking one with Great Britain.

    In regard to Great Britain in the War of 1812, the Brits had been impressing American seamen off American ships into the Royal Navy for a generation, and stirring up the tribes in the Northwest against the US since the glorious American victory in the War for Independence (Cue the trumpets!) The US had sufficient casus belli to justify going to war in 1812.

    In regard to the Revolution we would ultimately have triumphed in the War in any case, although it might have taken longer. The War in the North had largely been won by the time of French intervention, with the Royal Army clinging only to New York and its immediately surrounding areas, and the British forces during the Southern campaign were too small to have posed a lasting occupation force. One could argue that the French intervention caused the War to last longer by increasing British reluctance to recognize the obvious: they were never going to conquer the 13 colonies. However, I do not believe this. King George was too pig-headed to admit his ghastly mistake in trying to suppress the American patriots any sooner than he did.

    In regard to New Orleans, one of the most lop-sided defeats in British military history, I have my doubts as to whether the Brits would have easily relinquished it if they had taken it. Facts on the ground tend to be stronger than words printed on parchment. My guess is that they would have wanted some concessions in exchange. However, Old Hickory made such considerations purely speculative.

  • It never fails to disappoint me that some people always take the view of liberal revisionist history about the American Indians. Did the white man do wrongs? Yes. Did the red man do wrongs? Yes. Does that mean that the white man alone is guilty? All men have sinned and come short of the glory of God. PS, somewhere in my family tree – great grandmother on my father’s mother’s side – is Mohawk Indian. As Donald indicated, does anyone want to pay?

    PS, there is no equivocation to be made between the paganism of the native American Indian and Christianity. That doesn’t mean that the white man always (or even often) acted in accord with Christian principles. But it does mean that just as too many white men in today’s society are pagans, so also were most native American Indians back then. I have seen zero improvement in the donning of paganism in modern society for either white or red man. BTW, there’s only one race: the human race – just in case anyone had any doubts.

  • I suggest that it was only after the Civil War that the US abandoned her designs on Canada; once Canada had self-government it was more difficult for American politicians to justify invasion on the grounds that they were simply having another crack at the old enemy. There is ample evidence of US bellicosity in the half-century before the Civil War, and during the latter conflict Seward’s war-mongering is in sharp contrast to the measured statesmanship of Palmerston and Russell. England was an established Great Power, America an aspirant one, and it shows. I’m surprised at the extent to which present-day Americans still mythologize their Revolution.

  • I find no justification for any need to repeat comments that all humans are flawed and no race, ethnic group, or faith group is free now or ever was free of sin. My study of some areas of history is limited even now as an adult but as a very young child I learned all about Original Sin.

  • Then HT, one should kindly stop pointing out the white man’s guilt to the exclusion of all other guilt. The white man didn’t live up to his Christian principles. The red man was pagan. The inevitable happened – “the wages of sin are death.”

    Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing how those of my ancestors who by accident of birth were white were so violent towards those of my ancestors who by accident of birth were red. I don’t hate either of my ancestors, and I loathe this self-hatred that liberals (who invariably are white themselves) like to foster on the rest.

  • My views of Andrew Jackson can be summed up thusly:

    Tis a pity that Jesse Benton wasn’t a better shot, or that Chief Junaluska lacked the foresight at Horseshoe Bend that he later lamented.

  • I do not understand. I made a semi-serious reply to the post about that war. I simply asked a question about whether it was hell or not and if the Native population enjoyed losing their land and broken treaties. Re-read it and see if that is accurate, I said absolutely nothing about anything else. I happen to believe that war is hell, few are justified. I have also said over a lifetime as a teacher since Vietnam to the present, if American cities, were for the most part pawns in a surrogate war how would that be today? Electrical systems, and water supplies were bombed, shelled and overrun by foreign Troops who knew nothing of the local culture, political or religious system, ethnic rivalries and faith-group differences they would have cried foul many wars ago. Pearl Harbour and 9/11 versus Nagasaki and Hiroshima? 8.5 years, one trillion dollars and thousands of dead allies, ten times that many injured for life in body and mind,? No one knows how many civilians dead and refugees exiled and religious rivalries all over the whole Middle East as new “martyrs” for Allah are created. “The beat goes on, ” and the killing is still going on. Reminds me of the old saw that ” I am up to my backside in alligators but all I wanted to do was drain the swamp. “

  • Paul, I’m generally in agreement with your commentary, but what you refer to as the so-called “liberal revisionist history about the American Indians” could probably just be shortened to “history”. The “revisionist history” was the one that portrayed the native peoples of this land as savages, who could, at times, prove noble, and portrayed those who took their lands from them by force and chicanery as “civilized” Christians “taming the Wild West”.

    Just as slavery is a blight on this Nation’s history, so is the shameful treatment of the Indians. Now, I’m perfectly inclined to admit that the clash of cultures made the Indians’ decline inevitable, but the way it went down is absolutely shameful.

  • The wars around the world will not stop till the war against children in the womb stops.

  • Yes, Jay, I am in agreement, but I would revise your statement to say that savage were both the native Americans and their opponents, the descendants of white Europeans.

  • HermitTalker, you are absolutely correct that the War of 1812 proved to be absolute hell for the Indians. The death of Tecumseh, alone, meant that there would never be any organized resistance by the native peoples to westward expansion.

    American hubris regarding “besting the British” aside, there were no winners in the War of 1812 (although if anyone has a claim in that regard it is probably Canada). But the Indians proved to be the biggest losers.

  • To HT, let’s not bring the necessary but aweful and terrible nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki into this. BTW, as I mentioned before here at TAC, I was a reactor operator on a nuclear submarine. I had virtually no involvement with the nuclear weapons with which my submarine was armed (though due to limited bunking space in bearthing, I did sleep on a mat right next to one in the torpedo room). But being submarine qualified, I was trained in the rudiments of how to launch, assuming I were the last man alive. And if I had been given the order to launch, then I would have remorsefully but immediately carried out my orders. Liberals cannot understand such a sense of duty, nor did they ever understand the MAD doctrine that preserved the free world from communist aggression, and when defense – the SDI or “Star Wars” Program – was proposed as an alterantive to MAD, they opposed that tooth and nail, too. But none of that is relevant to the topic of this blog post.

  • Mr Paul P: War will not end unless and until every leader and every citizen creates the climate wherein we hear God’s Message; we are made in His Image, the Earth and its resources are His and are given to us in Trust as stewards. Our flawed human nature whose root is Hubris, ” I am god or I want to know good and evil as the Genesis story tells us explains that. We trick ourselves, or are tricked into thinking we have it right so life from womb to tomb is disposable and subjected to “my” decision as to whether I can make money on it or get rid of it or decide that “they” have no right to it- whether land, jobs, property or life, for political, economic or national or religious reasons. The SIN takes many forms whether in colonial Aamerica, or in the battle against the Native Americans or Palestinian humans or sunni versus shia in the Middle East. I read a good line from the DC March for Life on Monday; “abortion is ripping the knitting out of God’s hands.” (Msgr C Pope). I add to that the rest of destroying life is like burning all the sweaters and jackets HE already finished.
    Peace.: from a Catholic Christian Humanist, which includes being a pacifist as Jesus’ BEATITUDES teach us.

  • You’re right, HT, war won’t end until we all repent.

    But in the meantime, thank God there were men like Charles Martel to turn back the Islamic Moors at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, and thank God for the intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary that led to the victory of the Holy League’s fleet against the Ottoman Sultan’s fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 AD. There are many other examples, a great number that include Biblical heroes and heroines like Joshua, Deborah, Judith, David, etc. Personally, I thank God every day for our nuclear submariners who patrol the ocean’s depths, ever ready to unleash hell against enemies that might attack us. You see, regardless that that man of sin Obama is in charge, I love the US and we are the good guys, however flawed we may be. Indeed, when an Islamist bullet kills a woman or child, it’s a direct hit, but when an American does, it’s a complete miss.

  • Being 1/8th Native American myself I am in agreement with Don. Of course one should also consider the Native American habit of waging war against other Native Americans, their introduction of slavery (of other Native Americans) into the New World and other acts of barbarism which Europeans took issue with as they colonized the Americas. In fact many a Southwest tribe was pleased by the arrival of the Spanish in the hopes that these Europeans would be able to stop the Cheyenne agression in their lands.

    This European outlook influenced subsequent generations of Americans as they moved West.

  • “Peace of Earth to men of good will.” Everyone else “gets it.”

  • “‘Peace of Earth to men of good will.’ Everyone else ‘gets it.’”

    Having been rescued from men of ill will in two world wars, European liberals have gratitude for neither the country that did the rescuing nor the benevolence of the God who enabled that country’s efforts to be successful.

    In equal measure is their gratitude for the victory had at both the Battle of Tours and the Battle of Lepanto. Indeed, perhaps if the War of 1812 had gone differently, then perhaps 130 years later they would have gotten what they really wanted after all, and we’d all be speaking German with no Jewish synogogues anywhere.

  • I never like to second-guess what GOD could have pulled out of His hat over the centuries in all the wars and ills of society, we humans decided what or who or which battle plan fed HIS Grand Plan the best. Neither do I give much credit to people who are not taught their own history or forget the lessons. Someone referred up there a while back about God and the Old Testament wars. They reflect the culture of the time and do not necessarily reflect His take on war and violence, nor do the wives and concubines of HIS Patriarchs reflect His current views on marriage. Neither would HE have approved Abrahan passing off his wife as his sister to get out of trouble or making a baby by his wife’s servant-woman. I do think GOD had some fun when little David’s slingshot got the Big Bad Goliath. By the standards of the day, and the later David’s tactics, and what might have happened if Goliath killed the boy, that was pretty mild.

  • You still, HT, have no gratitude to the USA for what it did in enabling you to say the disrespectful things you say about the USA, and I for one obviously do not subscribe to your revisionist view that the “USA is evil, USA is evil.” Two world wars and the end of the cold war say you are incorrect (though I do agree that unlike former President Bush, Obama is indeed evil). I am not going to talk on this any further with you because arguing with a liberal is trying to convince a person who will forever remain adamantly unconvinced still, facts to the contrary of his viewpoint be darned. I love my God and my country. For all her faults, these United States are still the very best of the best. Hate her all you wish, I only pray that when the time comes we will still be able to rescue European liberals from the consequences of their decisions one more time. But that can only happen if first we repent of our liberalism.

    And PS, I not only pray for the safety of our troops overseas, I pray for their overwhelming and unconditional victory against the enemy – radical fundamentalist Islamic terrorists.

  • War of 1812 and Mexican War are definitely in the top 5 wars that still shape the US today, but neither is remembered well enough or given the sort of public monument on the National Mall that they deserve. The Vietnam War gets a memorial, but there is no monument to the victorious war that added almost a third of our territory and gave us Pacific ports?

  • I have absolutely no idea as to which of my comments you are replying. My last post above was a philosophic opinion about our humans not knowing what God would do or not do to see our problems solved. I went on then to comment in lessons from the OT with a little humourous take on Boy David and the Unjolly Giant. As a believer you are aware of the fact that JESUS, God’s Son came later to give us the Beatitudes and rejected even calling our enemy a fool. GOD is pro-life, His SON died trying to tell us to cut the crud that passes for “religion.” Your “primavera” “spring” name comes across to me Paul as dark, dreary winter mumbling on here as far as your treatment of some posts and your opinions are concerned. Do you actually try to see the points of view I express with the eyes of faith and knowing the immediate hands on effect of guerilla war and lying Government propaganda. Taking a look from my vantage point about life, and the fragile earth and its wasted resources ( people, cash and the land and its resources ) and dumb military moves that litter the history books. “Radical islamist fundametalists” Ask earlier generations how they were trained to see “the Enemy” dehumanised, every insulting name and li they could manufacture. emotionally healthy human beings cannot kill others- they are “products of conception ” or “commies ” or “dirty catholics” or ” terrorist palestinians” or Fxxxxing whoever else is sub-human in whatever theatre of war. GOD of course is always called on as being on “our” side. My earliest memory is on an Englishman in London chewing my backside because he saw some photo of Pope Pius X11 supposedly blessing some military equipment. Anything to dehumanise your presumred enemy, Truth be darmed.

  • “War of 1812 and Mexican War are definitely in the top 5 wars that still shape the US today, but neither is remembered well enough or given the sort of public monument on the National Mall that they deserve.”

    It’ll never happen because neither war is politically correct. Both wars are rightly seen as wars caused primarily by American expansionism (so-called “Manifest Destiny”), one at the expense of the Indians and the other at the expense of the Mexicans.

  • At the expense of very few Mexicans Jay. The Mexicans of course brought in the Americans into Texas to serve as a buffer against the Comanches who were the real rulers of Texas. The Mexican population of Texas in 1824 when American immigration began was 3000. By 1830 the Texans outnumbered the Tejanos by two to one. California had about 10,000 Mexicans in 1845, and a foreign, mostly American population of 2000. Mexican population was too sparse to hold onto such a vast region. If we hadn’t taken it in the Mexican War, I have no doubt that California would have come under British or Russian rule, and that Texas would ultimately have formed a break away Republic with or without American immigration.

  • “There is ample evidence of US bellicosity in the half-century before the Civil War, and during the latter conflict Seward’s war-mongering is in sharp contrast to the measured statesmanship of Palmerston and Russell. England was an established Great Power, America an aspirant one, and it shows. I’m surprised at the extent to which present-day Americans still mythologize their Revolution.”

    There is no need to mythologize the Revolution John; the history of that conflict is spectacularly pro-American enough, as underfed, dressed in rags America troops developed a Continental Army that could go toe to toe with the best Army on Earth.
    Palmerston almost caused a war with America due to his overreaction to the Trent affair. He will always get my vote as the most overrated British prime minister. It was the dying Prince Albert and his toning down of the ultimatum to the United States that crucially helped avoid war, along with Lincoln’s willingness to release the Confederate emissaries when he could politically do so.

    Canada was not a major factor in the conflicts between the British Empire and the US in the first half of the nineteenth century, after the War of 1812. It would obviously have become the main theatre of a war, but the conflicts were about other important issues, like the division of the Oregon Territory or the slaying of an innocent American pig (no, really!)

  • Non-Texans like to conflate the two, but 1836 and 1845 are two different wars.

  • All one big war Jay, or so the Texans thought at the time, especially since the Mexican government repudiated the Treaty of Velasco and thus remained at war with the Texan Republic throughout its existence.

  • Different wars fought over different territories by different constituent powers. But even if one were to accept your interpretation, which I don’t and few Texans would (and even at the time it was only the latecomers to Texas who saw the Texas Revolution in larger terms than independence from a country that couldn’t get its act together), it still doesn’t explain why expelling the Mexican forces across the Rio Grande wasn’t enough to accomplish the alleged goal of securing Texas. There was no need to invade and capture Mexico City and humiliate the Mexican people in order to achieve the peaceful annexation of Texas. No, the war was nothing more than an excuse for a great-big land grab.

  • Jay,

    That’s how long I’ve been out of school!

    The US declared war against the indians in 1812? Who’d a thunk!

    Did the brits go to war to save the Indians from us? That would be just like them. They acted in a similar charitable manner regarding Ireland in the late 1840’s.

  • C’mon Jay, if there’s a monument to our biggest defeat on the National Mall there’s certainly the possibility of a monument to our defense against the British and our glorious victory and expansion to the Pacific.
    Even the Canadians are putting up a War of 1812 monument

  • We need to give back AZ, CA and NM to Mexico before they drag down the rest of the country. They are obama states, right?

    Do you think Mexico would take meager Maine and insolvent Illinois off our hands, too?

  • Jay, your Texan ancestors would have vigorously disagreed with you. The Mexican War was immensely popular in Texas. The disputed land between Mexico and Texas that sparked the war had always been claimed by Texas. The Texans had also claimed Santa Fe. The idea that there was any reluctance on the part of the Texans to take part in the Mexican War is simply ahistoric. I would note that the history of the Texan Republic is filled with filibustering expeditions into Mexico by Texans intent on conquering more Mexican land. Likewise the Mexicans invaded Texas several times during this period, twice in 1842. The Texas Rangers who fought in the Mexican War were noted both for extreme courage and extreme brutality to the Mexicans luckless enough to fall into their hands. (The Mexicans usually showed small mercy to any Texan troops who fell into their hands.) If the Mexican War is to be considered a huge land grab, it all started with the land grab by American settlers in Texas. Of course the Mexicans grabbed the land from the native inhabitants, so I guess by rights the really aggrieved parties should be the Comanches and the Apaches and the other tribes, although they had of course displaced other tribes before them. If the Mexican War is viewed purely as a land grab, the Americans were only following a time honored tradition in the southwest.

  • “The US declared war against the indians in 1812 …”

    Don’t believe I said that. Might want to read what I wrote again. I said that the War of 1812 was about American expansionism (and it was since (a) annexation of Canada was a major goal of the U.S. side in the war, and (b) removal of the Indians from the Northwest Territory was a catalyst for Indian involvement on the side of the Brits) and that said expansionism came at the expense of the Indians.

    Is there really any disagreement about that fact?

  • “Jay, your Texan ancestors would have vigorously disagreed with you.”

    They’d have disagreed with me about stealing land from Mexicans? Imagine that.

    They’d have probably disagreed with me on the issues of slavery, too. And Indian policy. And being anti-Catholic freemasons, no doubt they’d have disagreed with me on a much wider variety of issues on top of those.

  • No doubt they would disagree with you about a whole hosts of issues Jay, but I believe we were debating history, and the history is as I have stated it. That it rubs some 21rst century Americans the wrong way is of little consequence to me.

  • “Even the Canadians are putting up a War of 1812 monument …”

    That’s because (a) they arguably won the war, (b) it’s not considered politically incorrect in Canada because they’re seen as fighting on the side of the Indians, and (c) the War is sort of a defining national moment for the Canadians – arguably, the thing that defined them as a nation.

    By the way, I would favor a memorial to the War of 1812 on the mall, just don’t think it very likely for PC reasons (the actual Star Spangled Banner in the Smithsonian sorta serves the purpose anyway).

    For my part, I plan to take my kids to as many War of 1812 commemorations as I possibly can over the next 3 years. Fort Meigs and Put-in-Bay are only about an hour a way, so those are definites. Probably will try to get to Niagara for some of their commemorations, and will try to make it for Baltimore’s celebration of the bicentennial of the Star Spangled Banner.

  • Well, Don, I can tell you how it’s taught in Texas History classes, and there’s a chapter on the Texas Revolution, followed by several chapters on the Republic of Texas, followed by a chapter on annexation, and THEN there’s a chapter on the Mexican War. Texas History books are hardly paragons of PC, so I don’t think they’re trying to sugar coat anything. It’s just that Texans don’t view the war in 1836 as part-and-parcel with the war in 1845. And with good reason. There had been conflict with Mexico off and on during the ensuing years, including the Mier Expedition, but Texas had existed for almost a decade as a Republic (a struggling one financially, but a Republic nonetheless) before the Mexican War began. It’s not the same thing, and upon my extensive reading of Texas history (and I assure you it is quite extensive), the two wars are and always have been seen in Texas as separate events. Related, but separate. Texans have always seen themselves as having won their independence in 1836. Whether the Mexican War was ever fought a decade later, that fact was not going to change.

    As far as the history being as you state it, or my allegedly “being rubbed the wrong way” being of little consequence to you, I consider myself to be not wholly illiterate on the topic, and just happen to disagree with your interpretation of the facts in this instance. It need not become a matter of sharpness.

  • I meant no offense to you personally Jay. My comment was not intended for you alone but for general application. When it comes to history I strive to relate the facts of it and that people may find the facts unpalatable is always of little consequence to me, even when I greatly respect the individual I am debating, as I greatly respect you. Interpretation of historical events will always vary, but they have to be based on the facts of the history being interpreted. Fidelity to the historical record is very important to me.

    We will simply have to disagree as to whether the Mexican War was a continuation of the Texas war with Mexico that began in 1836. Texas was in a state of war with Mexico until the signing of the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo in 1848. Mexico threatened war with the US if the treaty of annexation with Texas was approved. The start of the Mexican War of course was over the issue of whether the Nueces River or the Rio Grande was the boundary between Mexico and Texas. The Republic of Texas also claimed vast territories beyond the present borders of Texas, and those claims ensured conflict with Mexico following annexation. In the US it was long recognized that annexing Texas would probably mean war with Mexico which was one reason, slavery being the other main reason, why annexation took ten years. Texas annexation meant taking up the Texan war with Mexico, something that was understood by all three governments involved.

  • Don, by the time Palmerston became PM he was arguably past his best and a generation older than Gladstone or Disraeli. His reputation rests on his time as Foreign Secretary, particularly his first stint 1830-1841. The enormous workload of the job effectually killed two of his predecessors, Castlereagh and Canning, but Pam was up to it. His skilful handling of the protracted and extraordinarily complex negotiations which resulted in Belgian independence was admired by contemporaries, and he himself regarded it quite rightly as his greatest achievement. His skill in preventing what seemed inevitable conflict between the Great Powers as the Vienna settlement began to unravel is justly praised by historians, and the consensus is that he would have avoided the Crimean War had he been in office.

    He had no intention of declaring war on the United States (had war eventuated, the US would have declared it) but at the same time would not allow Britain to be insulted and diplomatically humiliated, although both he and Russell, well briefed by the British Minister in Washington, knew that Seward’s posturing was motivated by personal political interests. The British regarded US politics as mired in corruption, and with good reason.

    The chief myth about the American Revolution, which I fear still persists in certain quarters is that the Americans were victims of ‘colonialism’ who engaged in a popular and successful revolt against a foreign Power. In truth the so-called ‘Old Colonial System’ benefitted the colonies, and the Americans were not only colonists, but colonizers on a grand scale. In the 19th century we described expansion as imperialism, and did not dress it up in the euphemistic phrase ‘manifest destiny’.

  • I suppose the differing perspectives come from the fact that Texans interpret the event in light of independence from Mexico. For Texans, the defining event was becoming an independent Texas after years of being a province of the Mexican state of Coahila. For many years, they had sought independence from Coahila as a separate state within Mexico, and when this was viewed by the Mexican authorities as rebellion, it eventually led to the state of affairs that became the Texas Revolution and led to full independence for the Republic of Texas.

    Non-Texans, however, interpret the event in light of U.S. expansion, so annexation becomes the defining event and therefore the key focus of their historical perspective. Clearly, the annexation of Texas would never have happened (at least not when and how it happened) without the Texas Revolution. And, clearly, the Mexican War was a direct result of the annexation of Texas.

    But the reason Texans (and I believe even non-Texan historians should, as well) view the events as, although related, not the same conflict is because Texas’ existence as an independent entity from Mexico did not come about as the result of the Mexican War or the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. It came about because of the revolution fought a decade earlier by Texans. For 10 years, Texas existed in fact and in law as a free and sovereign (though financially struggling) republic (whether Mexico repudiated the terms of peace or not is somewhat irrelevant in that they were in no position to try to recapture what they had lost), and it did not come about because U.S. troops captured Mexico City a decade later.

    Mexico might seethe about losing Texas, but they weren’t going to regain their lost province, and were somewhat content to fight an ongoing border skirmish with the Republic. But what they would not tolerate was the United States becoming their next-door neighbor to the north, and they had good cause for concern given that U.S. interests in territorial expansion into Mexican lands weren’t going to end there. The Mexican War was about Texas’ annexation, not Texas’ independence. That war had already been fought and won by Texas. Certainly, closely related events from a historical perspective, but nonetheless distinct events.

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