Thursday, March 04, 2010

Oh yeah, the War of 1812 (mainly)

The Queen's representative to Canada, Governor General Michaelle Jean, gave the annual Speech From The Throne the other day. As vitally important as this speech is every year to all Canadians, few can actually be bothered to listen which was especially unfortunate this year as there were a couple of chunks of the speech that really caught my attention. The first thing was the info that there may be a change in the wind for the lyrics of the Canadian national anthem, O Canada. In fact it would be a change back to the original 1908 lyric which is considered more gender-neutral than the current lyrics which were adopted in 1914, thus: "true patriot love thou dost in us command", rather than, "true patriot love in all thy sons command". Well heck, why not? Granted, the older lyrics don't exactly trip lightly off the tongue, it was a different time after all, but I suspect we could get used to it, as quaintly antique as the language may be. (This just in: The Prime Minister's Office has announced that the review of the national anthem is off the book and was probably never planned in the first place. Hey! Why are you supporting the terrorists?)

The second chunk o' speech that caught my attention was when the GG mentioned that the bicentennial of the War of 1812 was right around the corner. I much appreciated the reminder since I had completely forgotten (the War of 1912 doesn't cross my radar very often, or ever). I have to admit that when I do think of the War of 1812 I have to wince when I think of how some Canadians seem to think that Canadian forces fought the US invaders, or the even more annoying "Canada beat the US in the War of 1812". This is scrotal-dandruff of the most unthinking kind and it is to the GG's credit that she didn't mention either thought. For the record, in 1812 Canada as a nation did not even exist and would not exist for over another fifty years.

These are ideas that I have heard for years from some of my fellow Canadians. Silly-ness par formidable. The war was fought between the spanking new United States of America (15 stars on the flag of the day and counting) and the British Empire (which had been around for a while). US forces came into the British colony of Upper Canada on April 27, 1813 and pillaged like maniacs as they worked their way up to York where they burned the Parliament building and a library. The British, being gentlemen and everything, returned the favour and on August 24, 1814 they attacked Washington, DC where they burned some public buildings, including the White House. They didn't pillage at all though and no private buildings were harmed. That 'gentleman' thing I suppose.

The war grumbled on until December 24, 1814 when the Treaty of Ghent was signed (in Ghent, United Kingdom of Netherlands), and was then ratified on February 16, 1815. Between the signing and the ratification the Battle of New Orleans was fought (January 8, 1915) where the British got pasted pretty good, and the battle of Fort Bowyer (February 12, 1815) where the British kicked the bejezuz out of the US military, making things even-Stephen.

And after all that war-mongering and stuff, what had changed other than a lot of dead guys and a couple of burned cities? Not much, although burning Washington had been a favour really, since it was built on a swamp. But no land changed hands, not counting Mobile, Alabama, but since that had been taken from the Spanish it really doesn't count. The US did celebrate the War of 1812 as their "second war of independence", although independence from what is a little unclear.

In British North America (which fifty years later would become Canada) the war was considered a victory because although the other side had declared war, no territory was lost.

In Britain the War of 1812 is barely remembered at all and was, in fact, hardly even noticed at the time. The British were far more interested in the war with Napoleon and the exploits of "big-nose" Wellington. Go figure.

Anyway... Humouroceros

The US flag as it was then...

The British flag as it was then and is now.


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