On this day in 1814, just in time for Christmas,The Treaty of Ghent is signed, ending the War of 1812 between the US and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The treaty recommenced relations between the two nations to status quo ante bellum, restoring the borders of the two countries to their lines before the war started in June 1812.
The war itself had been declared by the US in response to the British blockade of trade goods bound from France, the impressment of American citizens into the Royal Navy and Brit adventuring and agitation in the frontier regions of the fledgling US. “War Hawks” in Congress also urged President James Madison to make war with an eye toward territorial conquest in Canada.
With most of its army in Europe fighting Napoleon, Britain adopted a primarily defensive strategy. American prosecution of the war effort suffered from its unpopularity, especially in New England, where it was derogatorily referred to as “Mr. Madison’s War.” American defeats at the Siege of Detroit and the Battle of Queenston Heights thwarted attempts to seize Upper Canada, improving British morale. American attempts to invade Lower Canada and capture Montreal also failed miserably.
Largely fighting to a stalemate, and notably losing Mackinaw Island to the Brits at the start of the conflict (no fudge at Christmas for three full years), the war brought little in the way of tangibles, but for invaluable experience gained by American fighting men on land and sea.
It took a full month for news of the peace treaty to reach the US, and in the meantime American forces under Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815; this failure to communicate would come home to roost in Jackson’s two-term presidency 13 years later, and help Johnny Horton score an insufferably cheesy #1 hit in 1959.
The Treaty of Ghent was not fully in effect until ratified by the Senate unanimously on February 17, 1815. It ushered in “The Era of Good Feelings,” and indeed began two centuries of peaceful relations between the US and Britain, although there were a few tense moments such as the Trent Affair, and more recently, the elevation of a pair of ignorant oafs to the highest offices of government on both sides of the Atlantic.
And here, on Christmas eve, let us give warm thanks and good tidings to all, as the lesson mercifully endeth.