Monthly Archives: June 2012

June 19, 1812 – US Declares War

And so it begins.


June 19th.

Not yesterday.

Today was the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812.  Many uninformed souls claim that it was June 18th, but the Proclamation is dated on June 19, 1812. Have a look….

US President James Madison signed the War Bill June 18th after passage through the Senate the previous day.  Earlier, on June 4th, the House passed the War Bill 79-49, which was debated by the Senate for two more weeks. The Senate passed the War Bill 19-13 along party lines.

The stated reason was the impressment of US citizens into the British navy; British ships stopping and searching American vessels; the British naval blockade, by which United States’ “commerce had been plundered in every sea”; the British Orders in Council; British inciting of natives on the western frontier against the United States, a clear violation of U.S. neutrality laws.

Ironically, it was on June 16 that Britain finally repealed the 1807 Orders in Council, the primary cause of the War of 1812. The Orders in Council authorized the Royal Navy to bar all shipping and trade with France and her allies.

War had been in the air for years, and after the election of the so called “War Hawks” in November, 1811, it was inevitable.

In Upper Canada, Major General Isaac Brock (Administrator of Upper Canada) had been preparing for this inevitability.  More about that later for it was a crucial step that paid huge dividends later on.

Sometime early in May, 1812, May – the British consul-general in New York, Thomas Barclay, wrote a letter to Sir George Prevost (Governor General of British North America): “You may consider war as inevitable. It will take place in July at the latest. Upper Canada will be the first object. Military stores of all kinds and provisions are daily moving hence towards the lines. Thirteen thousand five hundred militia, the quota of the state, are drawn and ordered to be in readiness at a moment’s notice.”  

His words were generally true, but some things the Americans intended actually turned out to thwart their efforts.

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Upper Canada

I really have neglected this.  The declaration of war is about a month away and I am still stuck in 1791.

What happened in 1791?  To accommodate approximately 10,000 English speaking loyalists that arrived following the American Revolution, the British parliament carved out the middle third of the Province of Quebec (1774) and established the Province of Upper Canada. The province was originally divided into four districts: The Lunenburgh District, renamed “Eastern” in 1792; The Mecklenburg District, later “Midland”; Nassau District, later “Home” and the Hesse District, later “Western”. Interestingly, for the last 220 years, these divisions have been continually evolving, changing names and boundaries.

The capital and site of the first parliament was Newark (Niagara-on-the-Lake), originally settled in 1781 by Col John Butler, and was a haven for loyalists.

In 1792, John Graves Simcoe became Upper Canada’s first Lt Governor, and his wife, Elizabeth kept an illustrated diary of their travels, which provides a glimpse of life in Upper Canada in the 1790’s.  They took up residence at Navy Hall in Newark,

“Navy Hall is a House built by the Navel Commanders on this Lake for their reception when here – it is now undergoing a thorough repair for our occupation but is still to unfinished that the Gov’r has ordered, 3 marquees to be pitched for us on the Hill above the House which is very dry ground & Rises beautifully, in parts covered with oak bushes…”  – July 26th, 1792

The first session of Parliament in this province was also held in a tent nearby and made history by passing the Act Against Slavery, on July 9, 1793, becoming the first jurisdiction in the British Empire to do so.

The seat of government was soon moved to York, as war with the Americans was anticipated as early as 1794. Originally Simcoe planned for the capital to be located at the forks of the LaTranche River in the Hesse District, later to become London.

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