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   Chapter 117 1814). No.117

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3941

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidebar: Russian mediation.]

[Sidebar: American commissioners sent.]

Three months after the war broke out, the Russian government had offered mediation; it regretted to see the strength of the English allies wasted in a minor contest with America. Madison eagerly seized this opportunity, and on May 9, 1813, Gallatin and Bayard were sent as special commissioners. On arriving in Russia they found that the British government had refused the offer of mediation. The immediate effect was to take Gallatin out of the Treasury, and he was followed by Secretary Campbell, to whose incompetence the financial impotence of the war is partly due. Toward the end of 1813 an offer of direct negotiation was made by the British government, and John Quincy Adams, Jonathan Russell, and Henry Clay were added to the negotiators. The absence of Clay, who had exercised such influence as Speaker of the House, accounts for the apathy of Congress in 1814.

[Sidebar: The effect of European peace.]

[Sidenote: Impressment.]

It was not until Aug. 8, 1814, that the commissioners finally met English commissioners at Ghent. Of the grievances which had brought on the war, most had been removed by the European peace: neutral vessels were no longer captured; the blockade of American ports in time of peace was not likely to be resumed; and the impressment of American seamen ceased because the English navy was reduced. The two countries were therefore fighting over dead questions. The Americans, however, naturally desired, in making peace, to secure a recognition of the principles for which they had gone to war; and the British had now no other enemy, and were incensed at the temerity of the little nation which had attempted to invade Canada and had so humiliated England at sea. Gradually, the commissioners began to find common ground. Gallatin reported to the home government that in his judgment no article could be secured renouncing the right to impress Britis

h subjects wherever found. With a heavy heart, Madison consented that that point should be omitted from the treaty.

[Sidenote: The war unpopular in England.]

[Sidenote: Effect of American defence.]

During 1814 great pressure was put upon the British government to make peace, on account of the loss inflicted by American privateers. The war was costing England about ten million pounds sterling a year, and no definite result had been gained except the capture of a part of Maine and of the American post of Astoria in Oregon. The Americans were unable to make headway in Canada; the English were equally unable to penetrate into the United States. Wellington was consulted, and reported that in his judgment the British could hope for no success without naval superiority on the lakes. The brave resistance of the Americans at Fort Erie and Plattsburg had won the respect of the great military commander. The ministry, therefore, resolved upon peace.

[Sidenote: Territory.]

[Sidenote: Fisheries.]

[Sidenote: The treaty signed.]

The first question to settle was that of territory. The British consented to restore the territory as it had been before the war; some attempt was made to create a belt of frontier neutral territory for the Indians who had been allies of the British, but that point was also abandoned. Next came the question of the fisheries: the British held that the American rights had been lost by the war; Clay insisted that the British right of navigation of the Mississippi had also been forfeited, and that the fisheries might therefore be sacrificed as a "matter of trifling moment." Adams stood out for the fisheries, and the result was that neither question was mentioned in the treaty. In 1818 a special convention was negotiated, defining the fishery rights of the United States. Upon these general lines agreement was at last reached, and the treaty was signed Dec. 24, 1814, several weeks before the battle of New Orleans.

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