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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4563

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Population.]

[Sidenote: Financial resources.]

In every respect except in the numbers available for land operations the Americans seemed inferior to the English. It was a war between a people of eight millions and a people of nearly twenty millions. The United States had been deceived by eleven years of great prosperity, and failed to see that the revenues of the government rose almost entirely from import duties, which would be cut off by war; and Congress showed a decided unwillingness to supplement these with other taxes. In 1811 the customs produced $13,000,000, in 1812 but $9,000,000; and the total revenue of the government was less than $10,000,000. The war, once begun, cost about $30,000,000 a year. The government was therefore thrown back upon loans, and it borrowed $98,000,000 during the war. As the credit of the government began to diminish, those loans were sold at prices much less than their face, and the country was obliged to issue $37,000,000 of Treasury notes. Meanwhile, England was raising by taxation nearly ?70,000,000 a year, and in 1815 was successfully carrying a debt of ?860,000,000. The remnant of Republican prejudice against Federalist finances was just sufficient to prevent the re-chartering of the United States Bank in 1811. The country, therefore, entered on the war with insufficient means, impaired credit, and a defective financial organization.

[Sidenote: National spirit.]

[Sidenote: Disloyal utterances.]

In national spirit, also, the United States was the weaker. The British had for twenty years been carrying a popular war with France, in which they had shown themselves far superior at sea, and had gained great military experience. In the United States sectional spirit was more violent than at any time since 1798. We now know that some of the leading Federalists were, up to the outbreak of the war, in confidential communication with British envoys. In 1809 and 1810 the Republican governor and legislature in Pennsylvania were opposing with military violence the service of the writs of the United States District Court in the Olmstead Case. The disaffection of the Federalists was publicly expressed by Josiah Quincy, of Massachusetts, in a Speech in 1811 on the admission of Louisiana: "If thi

s bill passes, it is my deliberate opinion that it is virtually a dissolution of this Union; that it will free the States from their moral obligation; and, as it will be the right of all, so it will be the duty of some, definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably if they can, violently if they must."

[Sidenote: The two armies.] Nor did the military and naval preparation of the country make up for its political weakness. The regular army of the United States was composed of 6,700 men. The service was so unpopular that two proclamations were issued in 1812 promising pardons to deserters. The highest number of officers and men in the regular army was during the war but 34,000. The dependence of the government, therefore, for offensive operations was upon the State militia. The general officers were old Revolutionary soldiers or men who had seen no service; the military organization was defective; and the Secretary of War, Eustis, was incompetent. In this very year, 1812, the British regular troops under Wellington were steadily beating back the French, who had been supposed to be the best soldiers in the world.

[Sidenote: The two navies.]

In naval affairs comparison between the two powers was almost impossible. The American navy consisted of twelve vessels, the largest of which were the three 44-gun frigates "United States", "Constitution," and "President". The number of men was 4,000, with 1,500 marines. The British navy was composed of eight hundred and thirty vessels, of which two hundred and thirty were larger than any of the American ships; they had 150,000 seamen, and unlimited power of impressing sailors.

[Sidenote: The theatre of the war.]

The theatre of war was to be much the same as in the French and Indian war (§ 14). The lines stretched from Nova Scotia to the Great Lakes, but settlement had extended so far westward that Detroit marked the flank of both powers, and Lake Erie was included in the field of operations. Like Braddock in 1755 (§ 16), the Americans expected to roll the enemy's line up from west to east; and at the same time they meant to penetrate where Loudon and Abercrombie had attacked, through Lake Ontario and Lake Champlain. For harbor and coast defence they relied chiefly on the fleet of gunboats.

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