tv History of the Treaty of Ghent CSPAN May 31, 2015 1:22pm-1:56pm EDT
to join us on the conversation like us on facebook at c-span history. >> ratified in february 1815 the treaty of ghent brought an end to the war of 1812. up next on american history tv park ranger jim bailey at the fort mchenry national monument and historic shrine discusses the history and importance of the treaty of ghent. he examines the origins of the war and how british and americans responded to the treaty. this half-hour event is hosted by the octagon museum, the same house and temporary executive mansion where president madison signed the treaty in february 1815. jim bailey: good afternoon. my name is ranger jim bailey and i am a park ranger with the national park service in baltimore. come on in. at fort mchenry national monument and historic shrine, the birthplace of our star-spangled banner. the national anthem written by francis scott key.
just a few months ago back in september, we observe the 200th anniversary of that moment. today, and the rest of this weekend, we are observing the 200th anniversary of the end of the war of 1812 and the treaty of ghent. that is what we will be talking about today. what was the treaty of ghent? what was the war of 1812? as we go through slides, please don't hesitate to call out the question or ask me to back up if i go too fast. they told me i had about two hours. i hope you brought snacks. we are going to talk about the treaty of ghent, or how i learned to stop worrying and love canada. this is a postwar painting of the exchange of the treaty as it was negotiated on christmas eve of 1814. we have the british commissioners on the left, the american commissioners on the right. it is called the piece of christmas eve.
but while the treaty is signed on december 24, it does not go into effect, not yet. the british understood that 200 years ago. that is something that 200 years of americans have forgotten, the treaties don't go into effect until two things happen. anybody know what they are? they have to be ratified. who ratifies a treaty in the united states? the senate. very good. what else? >> the president has to sign. jim bailey: the president has to sign. you got it. the british knew this. they had been burned by the americans in earlier negotiations, where they figured, we are working with the americans, they negotiated this, and they sent it back, and all of a sudden the american congress is making changes. that's not how it is done in europe. we will talk more about that. you can see kind of the plane
diplomatic clothing of the american civilians versus the british admiral, the undersecretary for the colonies, and an admiral warrior. these are actual quotes taken from original documents. feel free to have a seat. history is fun, right? [laughter] jim bailey: this is john adams, and this is the former senator from delaware. don't tell the vice president. real quick, think to remember is the treaty of ghent and the war of 1812 all took place against this larger backdrop of global events, the napoleonic wars and the french revolutionary wars. we declare our independence, we fight the war for independence we win, and we inspire the french to have their own revolution. this starts about 20 years of conflict. to give you an idea, this is the
battle of leipzig, called the battle of the nations. over half a million men were engaged, the largest battle before world war i. this is not only the 200th anniversary of the war of 1812, but also the 100th anniversary of world war i. roughly 150,000 casualties. the war of 1812, by comparison will have battles where the largest battle will amount to maybe 10,000 men total from both sides. the war of 1812 is a tiny sidelight to this larger global conflict. it is what causes the war of 1812. it is what helps the united states negotiate an end to the war that doesn't andend with us surrendering large amounts of territory did what was the word 1812 about? free trade and sailors' rights.
what the heck does that mean? while this big war is going on between great britain and her allies and france and her allies, americans are getting pulled into it. the british are going to impress or forcibly draft into their navy over 6000 american citizens before 1812. think about that. 6000 american civilians, not american sailors off of u.s. naval ships, but american citizens plying their trade on board american merchant vessels are going to be removed from the decks by british warships and forced to serve in their navy. this obviously would not be put up with today, 200 years ago americans are up in arms. also the british and the french , are also seizing american ships. 900 vessels are seized by great britain and france before 1812. the british are seizing ships that they believe are bound for france. they don't want americans
helping out the french economy because they're at war with france. not to be outdone, the french don't want to supply great britain either. they both passed conflicting orders that say you can trade with us, but not the other guys. you're in the proverbial rock and a hard place if you are an american merchant. the french are seizing ships and also impressing sailors. but great britain has a bigger navy. also who was our ally during the , revolution? right. who was our enemy? no matter what the french do we're also going to push that off to the side. we are not going to pay attention to that because the greater threat is great britain. this will lead to a declaration of war in june of 1812 for free trade and sailors' rights. this work could have been declared in 1810, 1808, 1806. by 1812, a host of factors kind of combined that congress is finally going to push for a vote of war. we know they voted in favor of
the war, but it barely passed. the war of 1812 will be the most unpopular war and the most divisive war in american history. one other war will divide the country more than this, and that is of course the civil war. less than 51% of congress will vote in favor of a war. we declare war against the greatest empire in the world. and the government is split right down the middle. the american people are split right down the middle. now 6000 men, 900 ships. everybody agrees that is not cool, but people voting against the war are saying, the british are only doing this to us because they're fighting this war against france. there have got to do what they need to do to win. what would the world look like if france wins versus great britain wins? that is why they're voting against the war. let this war in europe take care of itself, then they will stop
seizing men and ships. oh by the way those of you who , are declaring war, what are you going to fight it with? we only have about 12 ships and our navy, 12,000 men in our about 10,000 men in our army. 250,000 armed medicines -- veterans and a global empire. on paper, who is going to win this war? great britain. the war is going to go. as you might imagine, very badly will for the united states. there are a few bright spots such as the constitution versus guerrier in 1812. one of those dozen warships sinks a british warship. to great britain, they have gone from 500 ships to 499. not a big deal. but their pride. their pride has taken a huge hit, which means our morality
has gone through the roof -- morale has gone through the roof. it doesn't affect the war at all. with the exception of the constitution versus the guerrier and a couple other naval actions, essentially an unmitigated series of disaster and if -- defeat for the united states. a man will be court-martialed and sentenced to death, and his sentence will be committed only because of his revolutionary war service in his age. these are dark times for the united states. 1813 is not much better. 1814, the british invade the chesapeake and burn the white house just a few blocks away in august of 1814. a foreign army is marching at will throughout maryland. they've turned chesapeake bay essentially into a british lake. by 1814, the treasury is practically empty.
there is no draft. nobody wants to fight the war. war loans are not being bought. there's not only no money in the treasury, there is no money being pumped into the war effort. remember how divisive things were at the beginning of the war? what do you think two years of disaster and defeat have done to that division? unified us as one people? absolutely not. the federalist party and democratic republican party are tearing the political fabric of the country apart and the americans themselves. the governors of two new england states refuse to call out the militia when ordered to by the president of the united states. this looks really, really bad. we would kind of like to negotiate an end to this year --
this but does not involve the whole thing going under. we try right away, in august of 1812. a lot of democratic republicans thought, just by declaring war the british will take it seriously, and then we can negotiate. however, the british are like no, you want to step into the ring, we are going to see how this goes. two of the reasons we went to war, the seizure of ships and the seizure of men. one of them is dealt with before worse even declared. the british say, we will stop that. if there had been a red phone or that direct connection to great britain in 1812 200 years ago, maybe the war would not have been declared. but we declared war. we don't feel we can back off without getting something. the british aren't going to seek an armistice. that doesn't work. in 1814, russia is going to offer to mediate an end the war for a couple reasons. one, keep great britain focused
on europe. they just barely beat napoleon back out of russia in 1812. they don't want a repeat of that. they are an important trade with the u.s., with the war. had ceased. they are saying, we will negotiate an end to the war and as soon as russia makes that offer we say, that's great, and we send off some peace commissioners to st. petersburg. we did not wait to find out what the british want to do. they said thanks but no thanks. our commissioners are cooling their jets in st. petersburg. in november 1813, the british will say, i guess we do need to make a counter offer here. and so they offer to set up direct negotiations. we will not do this to a third party. we will do it direct so we can stick it to these americans. it's not until may of the following year that the envoys are appointed.
negotiations will run from august to december. while this is happening, the british are also trying to negotiate a postwar europe. in the spring of 1814, napoleon is defeated. at the same time the british are worried about this war 3000 miles away, they won this 20 year conflict. what is going to look like? how will they hold together this fragile alliance that defeated napoleonic france? if you're great britain, what is your number one priority? europe, or america? europe first. what are some of the advantages going into the negotiations? we are fighting on home soil. things can't get any worse than they are right now. we are going to send the cream of the crop to negotiate this treaty. these are some of the smartest americans this country will ever
produce. the best british negotiators are in vienna, working on the europe issue. they will send their second stringers to ghent. second stringers are still really good. they're not bad, they're just not the best. in britain, people want to end the war. they have been fighting the war for 20 years. they have been economically supporting it for 20 years. the british negotiators know that whether they want to prolong the war are not, the home front is going to call the shots. they've got to get this done.
british advantages. we did just kind of defeat the greatest military genius ever. we have a huge economy. that 500 ship navy that can blockade the united states and strangle its, supported native americans on the frontier. canada is still behind us. we just found cool. the british -- sound cool. the british have the upper hand in negotiations, or so it would seem. who are we sending? john quincy adams, minister to russia and federalist. james madison, what party is he from? micronic republican. he's appointing one of the highest-ranking members or one of the smartest minds of the opposing political party to these negotiations, because he knows to end the war, we will have to have a partisanship here. john q.a. will go on to become president of the united states. henry clay, who will go on to dominate the scene for the next few decades, brand-new speaker of the house. jonathan russell, who's already in great britain. he was in charge of the affairs.
james bay art, who is no longer in congress but a very well respected senator, and a federalist. and the former secretary of the treasury and a democratic republican. three democratic republicans john quincy adams, henry clay, albert ellison. and then russell and they art -- bayard. this is the team you want. there is a connection to my home park afford mchenry, christopher hughes. he's the secretary for the commission. he was commander of artillery -- artillery. john quincy adams did not think too highly of mr. hughes. he said, houston leave the whole science of diplomacy consists in giving -- hughes believes the whole science of diplomacy consists in giving dinners. who are the british sending?
dr. william adams, admiralty lawyer. he's on the team because americans are known to favor legalistic arguments. lord gambier will look out for the british naval interests. they're not going to budge on this issue. the reason they can't is the minute they give up the idea of impressment, what any british sailor does not want to be part of the navy, what are they going to do? desert to an american flag vessel. if you're great britain, if you give up impressment, you just shot yourself in the foot. henry goulburn, is there to look after canada. still some very smart people. any questions so far? ok.
what are the main issues they're going to tackle? we know the seizure of ships that was done. what is the number one issue? impressment. the u.s. will draw back immediately when negotiations began in august. in august, what is over? the polyphonic -- napoleonic wars. we no longer are negotiating with someone who's distracted. we are negotiating with someone whose military might is sitting there, ready to move. we will say ok, we know we're making this big deal about it. we will kind of drop down. free trade and sailors' rights at the beginning of negotiations, that is off to the side. were not even negotiating over the causes of this war. the british for their part are going to come back and say, any treaty has got to include a buffer zone in the northwest for
native americans. this is not out of any deep rooted beliefs or effort to advance the cause of native americans, it is that they want a buffer zone for future invasions of canada. they want the native americans to be the first-line of defense. they soak up any american invasions, which gives them time to ship over troops and get organized. what does this buffer zone look like? 1/3 of ohio, all of michigan wisconsin, have of minnesota all of indiana and illinois. the american commissioners were a bit shocked. it would also include half of the massachusetts territory that would become maine. it would also mean no american military power on the great lakes. we can't agree to this. and so after two months of negotiations going nowhere great britain is going to quietly drop it as well. they're going to abandon their native american allies in october.
so than the british say, ok, we are not going to create a buffer zone, but now the negotiate treaty means whenever anybody held at the end of the war, they keep. bad for us, because we have not seized any part of canada. good for great britain because they have this whole part of maine, and they have these forts along the niagara river and up here at the michigan territory. we say no, nothing doing. not going to work. they're going to drop back in november. august, september, october november. four months, no negotiations, no compromises. finally, the last big issue is british navigation of the mississippi river and american use of the fisheries off new england and newfoundland. american and british negotiators
cannot agree on that either. they say, we will just leave that out of the treaty. both sides aren't compromising. the remaining sticking point they put to the side. why do they drop these issues? what is great britain retreat from their demands? -- why does great britain retreat from their demands? here is a british view of a sketch of the regions [indiscernible] here is great britain, here is james madison being led by napoleon, and who is this? it's the devil. nice. that is the british view, that the americans are under the thumb of napoleonic france, and satan.
the british aren't interested in negotiating. here is the american view. the british are insistent on a native american buffer zone out on the western frontier. that will not fly. they see the british actively using native americans to resist westward expansion. there was no thought that the native americans might be actors for their own benefit. two things that will help turn things around is in september, two major battles are fought that are both big american victories. baltimore in september 1814 is going to say the third largest city in the national anthem. at the same time, another british invasion is stopped on lake champlain. the british are invading in new york and maryland, and both massive invasions are stumped with major american victories just two weeks after the burning
of washington. what this means is that fighting is going to go into 1815. the british will say, they were holding out. they were hoping the news arriving from america would come up with another major victory where they could then stick it to the american negotiators. it did not happen. if we had either burned baltimore or held plattsburgh, i believe we should have had peace on our terms. since that did not happen, and they put the issue of mississippi and the fisheries to the side, they basically come up with a treaty that does nothing but end the war, and return american and british relations to june of 1812 as if the war had never happened. same as before the war. none of the issues that led to the war are addressed. so if you are america, is this a victory? yes, no? did we survive? yeah. is that a victory? yeah. there is this thing that wasn't invented recently. it's called political spin. and so the democratic republicans are going to start spinning what the war was actually about.
pulitzer prize winning historian alan taylor said it best, having failed to conquer canada or compel british maritime concessions, the republicans redefined national survival as victory. munro assured the senate that our union has gained strength. our troops, honor. and the nation, character by the contest. he concluded, by the war we have acquired a character and rank among other nations which we did not enjoy before. pay no attention to impressment and free trade. they are going to spin this. we did not buy the farm. that in and of itself is a victory. the treaty is going to meet with opposition in great britain.
why weren't there concessions from the americans? we should have made them give something up. it is unpopular in great britain, wildly popular in the united states because it means the war is over and we did not lose it all. here you see the different signatures. here's john quincy adams, henry clay. so, we signed a treaty on the 24th of december.
you can't send it out on social media. american and british representatives each with copies of the treaty deparle and then on january 2. they try to get into the chesapeake bay to go directly to washington, d.c., but ice and bad weather mean they have to go up to new york and overland. the treaty does not arrive, and they both sailed [indiscernible] there is a picture of the type of ship. february 14, the treaty arrives in washington. 200 years ago, today. on the 15th, madison is going to review the treaty. on the 15th he will give it to the senate and say, make this happen. on the 16th, the senate is going to ratify it. madison is going to sign it later on that afternoon here at the octagon house, and the very next day, a ratified copy of the treaty will be given to anthony baker. he was the british representative that came from london in washington, d.c.
war of 1812 is over. right? right. the octagon house. that's an old photo. i've got to get an updated photo. this is really cool. this is a baltimore newspaper. baltimore, saturday, fairbury 1815. glorious news! orleans saved and peace concluded. literally at the same time the treaty arrives and is ratified and signed, news finally arrives overland about the eighth of january, where andrew jackson won the battle of new orleans. we not only get to celebrate the end of the war, we get to celebrate going out with a bang. and having both of those things arrive at the same time means that it's very easy in the american mind to say that one gave way to the other.
we won the battle of new orleans, and the war is over. we stuck it to the british. did we give anything up in the treaty? no. and we won the last three major battles of the war. this is great! now, what's really cool is look at what is underneath the headlines. 'tis the sparse -- star-spangled banner entrance -- in triumph shall wave. it has become incredibly popular, and they are using that song to kind of sum up how they feel about the end of the war. so a lot of historians, like don hickey, will say, the war was not a success because the treaty did not address the issues that brought about the war. however, while the treaty did not address those issues subsequent relations between the two countries did. britain is going to avoid impressing americans during the 100 days. it comes up leading up to waterloo. the british have to be very
careful not to impress america. in 1817, great britain -- or member, canada is still a colony of great britain. great britain and america will demilitarize the great lakes. they are trying to avoid any reason for tension along the border, and again, [indiscernible] said it best. unable to defeat impressment during the war or at ghent, the americans instead prevailed by pressing postwar confrontations along the detroit river. by abandoning impressment and leaving the indians to their american fate, the british gave the united states a belated victory in the worth 1812. -- war of 1812. you can make the argument we spin the treaty a little too
favorably, but as you look at postwar relations between the two countries, that reinforce that sense of we stood up to great britain, we came out with our honor intact, now we're at the big boy table, and they're taking us seriously. that did not happen before 1812. that is the treaty of ghent. questions? yes, ma'am. >> at the end of the american revolution, there was a treaty treaty of paris 1873. we acquired that big chunk of land. how is it that the british think they can actually use that exact same land as negotiating points regarding the buffer zone? the treaty is both sides agree to it, and they were violating their own treaty by offering negotiating points to the treaty of ghent. jim bailey: i think they figured third time is a charm, right? after the french and indian war,
the british basically true a line through the ablation mountains and said, ok, no westward settlement from this line. the american colonies ignored it. ok, fine. after the end of the american revolution, the british say, we want this buffer zone out in the northwest. we said, no. again, the treaty of ghent was saying, let's try again. the idea being that especially after the revolution on the war of 1812, this buffer zone is to guard against future american invasion. when this war ended, it was generally thought on both sides this was not the end of it, that there is going to be a future conflict. what is interesting is that because the treaty was simply ending the war, both sides could
claim victory. both sides could ignore the fact that the war had taken place. nobody really loses. if nobody loses, that tends to take a lot of tension out of your relationship. ironically, when the war ended and everybody thought, this is only a temporary truce, but the way it ended actually helped preserve peace and allowed for those future agreements to the point where 200 years later we have the longest undefended border in the world, and we're observing not only 200 years since the end of the war, but 200 years of peace between the united states, great britain and canada.
good question. any other questions? ok, great. thank you very much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] x you are watching american history tv pair follow us on twitter for information on our scheduling programs upcoming. james garfield served nine terms in the house of representatives and oman -- only 200 days as 20 president of the united states before he died from gunshot wounds from 1881 assassination a chat.