|"The Signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Christmas Eve, 1814." British Admiral of the Fleet James Gambier shakes hands with United States Ambassador to Russia John Quincy Adams at center. Painting by Amedee Forestier is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.|
by Rev. John Van Epps
HARTFORD (06/26/2012) -- This month includes the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, on June 18th. This has been called the second war for American independence or "the forgotten war."
In New England this was known as "Mr. Madison's War." The clergy and politicians of New England were greatly opposed to the conflict. It interfered with commerce and exports, even though the war was declared because of the British embargo on American goods and their interference with American neutrality.
Many in New England saw it as an unjust war. It sided our country with Napoleon and imperial France. Evangelical Christians saw the war as impeding the growing cooperation of English and American missionary enterprises. Indeed, the first missionaries had just been sent to India in the spring of 1812.
With the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British turned their attention to America. In Washington, DC, British forces burned the Capitol and the White House. Baltimore was bombarded, and in Connecticut there was the Battle of Stonington on August 10, 1814, when a British naval squadron shelled the coastal village.
|Touchstones with History -- a monthly series from the Connecticut Conference UCC.|
There was a call for a convention of the New England states to oppose the war and seek peace. Delegates from New England gathered for the Hartford Convention in late 1814. In January 1815 they voted to send a delegation to Washington to oppose the war and seek peace with Britain. Later that month, however, Andrew Jackson defeated the British in the Battle of New Orleans, and then news of peace reached Washington, with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent (ratified in February). Consequently the grievances were ignored, and indeed the Hartford Convention was ridiculed. So the War of 1812 ended where it began.
However, there was one further result. The Federalist party continued to lose power to the Jeffersonian Republicans, even in New England. In 1818 the Federalists lost in Connecticut, and the General Assembly voted to abolish the state support of the “established” Congregational churches.
The Rev. John Van Epps is Archivist of the Connecticut Conference UCC.