Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The War of 1812 - It Still Matters - A Lot


View from the Lake over at Progressive Bloggers linked to an article from the National Disgrace about the War of 1812. NatPo's fluff piece treated that war pretty much as Canadians themselves do, essentially irrelevant. They even quoted some lady from the Sackets Harbor state park as saying America won the war because, had they lost, they'd be using loonies and toonies now.

First of all, the War of 1812 remains of enormous importance to Canada. Second, America lost that war - and lost badly. Third, if you're Canadian you ought to be grateful, every day, to Brock and Tecumseh and the 49th Regiment of Foot, the Voltigeurs, the 41st, King's 8th and Canada's militias including the Canadian Volunteers.

The War of 1812 was America's first foreign war. Like so many since, it was an American war of conquest. The United States initiated the war. Its Congress declared war on us. Canadians were expressly warned to submit or be enslaved. The Americans waged war on us knowing they had enormous superiorities in population and soldiers.

The goal of that war was to drive the British out of Upper and Lower Canada that they might be conquered and annexed to the United States. It is by the goal on which the war was launched that questions of winners and losers are determined.

The United States had the British, Canadian Militias and Indians outnumbered by roughly 10 to 1, about the same ratio as their population advantage.

Population, in a land still being settled, has a huge effect. For example, there were enough American settlers along the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario to justify development of roadways. We had even more territory but only a fraction of the settler population so we had no effective land routes, forcing us to use the lakes and leaving our forces vulnerable to superior American naval power. That was just one example of the advantages enjoyed by the Americans.

Our goal in that war was survival - defeating the enemy in the field and driving his regiments from our soil. If we failed, we were conquered. There was no middle outcome for us. Our enemies' advantages assured that.

Yet it was two centuries ago so how could it remain relevant? To the Americans it was a sorry defeat, their first of many, so it isn't particularly relevant. To us, the underdogs, however, it was an enormous victory that carries with it so much that we take for granted today.

It's not about Americans not having to use loonies or toonies, that's just plain silliness. To us, however, it was thousands of Canadian youth not having to be sacrificed in places like Vietnam or Iraq or any of America's other pathetic lunacies. Had we lost that first and most critical war, had we not overcome our numerical and tactical inferiorities, we would have been American today and for that alone each of us should sincerely thank our own particular God that we prevailed.

Commiottees are being formed in Ontario and New York and elsewhere to turn the bicentennial of the War of 1812 into some perverse Disney-style event. The theme will all be "water under the bridge." Hardly. But for the War of 1812, George w. Bush would be your president today. Think about that.

4 comments:

Canadian Leaf said...

Too true! Excellent post. I was telling an American friend just recently that I feared a repeat of that war when our loonie reached par. He laughed and said "as long as Canada has water and oil for us to steal, you're safe". This is the general attitude of Americans apparently. Still, I could see it happening if we stand our ground on oil and water with the USA. Thankfully, our strategic forces are smarter than the Americans (and always have been) so hopefully, we would win again.

The Mound of Sound said...

Hi CL: I'm not sure our strategic forces are significantly smarter than the Americans. 1812 was a very close win. Yes, in the first year Brock did a terrific job in keeping the American attackers off balance, good enough that we were able to weather the rest of the storm. There was an awful lot of courage, resolve and luck that had to come into play for our homeland to make it through that dark episode. We did but we should never take that for granted. All we need do is appreciate the enormity of that war and what it means for us, coast to coast, virtually every day.

Anonymous said...

when it comes to that war, or any war, I always said that history teaches us, if ur enemies burn your capitol you lose, simple anough?
As for stealing our oil, not likely, royalies are going up, and anyway, we canadians, look at the americans as our troublesome little cousins who always get themselves in trouble, and we have to take care of them, ww1, ww2, korea, and we were not in vietnam, and iraq, and we all know what hapened there,

Canadian Leaf said...

My comment about us being smarter is from family military members. They said (as do history books) that our strategic planning during wars is always sought after by the Americans. They don't do nearly as well with planning. Example - WWII and more recently, Iraq. So that's what I meant. We may not have the equipment or number of soldiers, but we still do a better job than Americans. That's why they always look to us for help. At least that's what I think :)