tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN September 4, 2014 8:00am-8:31am EDT
crew back. the one thing they were shot of was sailors as we know from prewar impressment, american ships won the battles instead of carrying on to destroy british merchant ships had to go home from winning repairs. for the cost of winning some glory, the americans had ruined their mission. as was said, these were strategically irrelevant victories but did provide government, which had a lot to explain, with some very useful propaganda. the fact the administration had hamstrung the navy for 12 years, it made it all more ironic it was the navy that rode to their rescue. british government belatedly ordered reprisals against united states on the 3rd of october, 1812, news that didn't reach the new world until the end of november. november 21st, british government imposed strict and rigorous on the delaware river.
the british read division list of congress. they knew who voted for war and who didn't. if your congress voted for war, british blockaded you and attacked you. if your congressman didn't vote for war, what was left to lurn. the best way to defeat the enemy, divide and conquer, not overwhelm. a history of overwhelming anybody. furthermore, northeastern providing huge amounts of resource for british war effort in spain in particular and duke of wellington eight american grown grain. food supplies crossed into north america. good people of vermont fed the british army encanada for the entire war. to their enormous profit one has to understand. critically economic blockade finally established eight months after the war had begun. they had been a golden eight
months in which it was operating both peace and war at the same time. ultimately this blockade would be the decisive strategy. it would break american economy, bankrupt the state and leave it unable to borrow money or raise credit internally or internationally. united states would run out of money. money, money, and more money. when you run out of that, you have to stop fighting. there's the constitution -- unlike the picture, this is by a british artist. it gets the scales of the ships, well -- [ laughter ] >> that's actually not quite as accurate as it might be. the java was a little bigger than that. it does look like the constitution is shooting at a rowing boat. the decisive battle of the war of 1812 happened september 1812, battle of bar dino. you're familiar with it. one of the great moments, enough to write a vast symphonic work, a significant novel and bring
down a great emperor. on a single fieldwork on this day of battle more russians died than were killed or died of illness in the whole war of 1812 on all sides. this really was a titanic clash of two emperors and two vast armies numbering close on 200,000 men each. the war of 1812 would not be fought by armies of 200,000 men. wouldn't be fight by 200,000 men all tolled. this also took the pressure off britain and released naval reinforcements from fleet, an important fleet keeping baltic open for trade for the previous five years. those ships and key personnel
were moved across to the north american station. the british very carefully picked out the right ships and right officers to send to blockade united states, best men, many of them proteges of nelson, many we come to. furthermore with british trade open, british didn't need to buy grain from russians anymore. russians had plenty of grain. it was a lot closer to britain. by the summer of 1813, vast british battleships and numerous frigates available to blockade boston, chesapeake. united states navy would find it very difficult to get to sea and the privateers would not find it easy to attack well organized and protected british convoys. among the men mo ho would arrive in 1813, none more famous or relevant to this conference than a man made captain by nelson, picked out by one of the stars of the future by the great man
himself. he was sent over here to take the offensive onto the american coast and accelerate peace. we know what he did. his reinforcements enabled warren to impose naval blockade for the entire american coast in 1813, pinning frigates in boston and new york. this meant threats to convoys was merely from privateers. a convey with a frigate alongside was safe from american predation. new york, the largest american port producing one-quarter of the national revenue from customs due was closed. the revenue was drying out because most federal revenue came from import and export dues. state revenue fell to catastrophic levels. it was impossible to pay for the war, it would have to be paid for on borrowing. american stock failed to sell, a clear sign something was wrong.
quote, pressure of the blockades was immediately felt. turned in britain's favor june. first states in macedonia driven into new london by british squadron from which they emerged until the war was over. uss chesapeake seen her stars and stripes under union jack captured in a battle that lasted 11 minutes. the most brill yaiantbrilliant, heroic feet. the fact he won the battle meant that james lawrence, captain of the chesapeake picked the wrong enemy. against an ordinary british frigate he would have done very well. with those three frigates removed from the american navy's list of ships at sea, the american naval threat effectively evaporated. maybe now focused on privateers. by the end of the war 6.5,000 privateer crew locked up in
british prison, a particularly unpleasant place to send them. we built them out of french but ran out of frenchmen, so sent americans there as well. british hoped the war would go away. they wanted americans to say, we're sorry, we'll go back. on the table from day one to the very last day because that's what the peace treaty was. that's all the british wanted. 1813 shannon action got the british quite excited. the contemporary cartoon by crookshank summed up british vie of the war. this was annoying and rather wished it would go away. 1813 was not about america, it was about napoleon. there was another great battle in september 1813. napoleon lost 73,000 men from an army of a quarter of a million. german empire collapsed, retreated into france, the writing was on the wall for his empire. the british poured many and munitions into europe to defeat
napoleon. they did not send men or money to north america. british would have taken status quo any time. they defended canada but didn't have resources to do anything else. in 1813, raid in chesapeake bay closed down bases, damaging property for those that voted for war. end of 1813, economic blockade stretched to maine, new england block aided, too. this ld promote sectional conflict. but british options were very limited. 1813, they had a chance to do something they wanted to do for 20 years to capture estuary, one place to invade england from. they sent all the troops to do this. they lost. it was embarrassing. they just didn't have the manpower to do anything serious in europe. europe was far more important than north america. the idea they had any offensive
plans here is untrue. throughout the war, more british troops in the west indies than defending canada. the political power of west indian memphis ants was far greater than political interest in canada. west indian commercial interest saw admiral warren replaced by vice admiral cochran in the spring of 1814. he, too, will feature in the war. as peace approached in europe, the british foreign secretary told europeans he would not discuss maritime belligerent rights at a peace conference. blockade, impressment. he told americans the same thing. these were the bases of power. as a small, weak state, it maximized the strechngth of its
navy. british naval power kept apart and condemned matters into a solitary conflict. once americans had taken maritime belligerent rights off the agenda peace could be discussed again. a town in belgium occupied by british troops, they might as well have the treaty in britain. americans resorted interesting mechanisms to defeat the navy but not hugely impressed. you may kiss my -- mr. yankee doodle. not impressed. here is a german cartoon from napoleon, emperor of the world to emperor of a very small island. the germans loved this. here is the main player in our story. this is admiral george cockburn. this is how he wished to be remembered. this is the man telling about himself. he thought this was one of the
more important events. as we know, the occupation of washington and destruction of public building was a major event. more important it sparked a run on the american banks. everybody who had any cash took it out of american banks and put it to canadian banks in british government securities which paid better and weren't defaulting. october 4th, united states became insolvent, a month later defaulted on the terms of the louisiana purchase. yet neither the destruction of washington or the defeat of british forces had any serious effect on british policy. the british offered status quo ante because they wanted the war to go before even after the the downfall of napoleon, there was not a war here they wished to fight. the peace treaty signed on 18th september, 1814, was little more than a recognition of that fact. here is some of dockburn's handiwork. the battle an interesting event.
an important signing of the treaty. by the time the treaty was signed, the united states was in default by 3 million pounds, $3 million, $15 million outstanding on interest payments. national debt rose by 200%. little wonder canada impressment british maritime rights abandoned. two more battles. the battle of new orleans you all heard of. this is one that's not in the textbooks. british captured american flagship uss president of sandy hook january 15 in another action both captains fought brilliantly. the british captain was more brilliant. no accident, the president, direct descendant of this ship. when you walk into the mess, if you stop before under the circumstances to the bath, you'll see four engravings of this battle.
this is one british remember. war of 1812, what 1812 is about, not interfering in settlement of europe. congress of vienna, open for business and unlikely to lead to another major conflict. that was britain's war aim. in the whole course of 22 years fighting the french, british took from the rest of europe two very small islands. one in the mediterranean called malta and another and that was the entire access of territory in this war. they gave it all up for peace and stability. and then, of course, napoleon came back but not for long. he was rapidly arrested after waterloo, the man who run the block aid in new york for the previous two years. when the war was over, the republican party did what you normally do as a political organization when you presided over a failure, they declared it
a great success. the republican party's speechwriters and newspaper men and everybody else celebrated a great victory and they erected a great victory. three frigate victories in new orleans which came down in years. scott understood how to create fabulous stories realized what the americans were doing and rather regretted they hadn't been taught a more severe lesson. they realized british weren't to fight a war for nebulousafter suspects as teaching lessons. new americans pens would create a victory. also understands the enduring legacy of 1812 would be not territory, not maritime belligerent rights but a distinct american culture. the war of 1812 forced united states to face up to themselves and recognize it wasn't part of something else. it was of itself, a country that
would have its own culture, paint its own picture, write its own stories, create an american identity and this war is the spark from which that emerge. a distinctive new world identity, one with privileged landscape, scale and westward opportunities over the narrow confines and dusty histories of europe. perhaps the fiery destruction of a mansion was the conflict's most appropriate metaphor. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> we now have a short time for question-and-answers. i'll be more than happy to do some questions. please.
>> how did america's finances recover after the war, was trade sufficient to rebuild the treasury? did we default on loans. >> economic problems of the you united states were ended by the conclusion of peace. it opened up international money markets to america. it also persuaded american financiers something worth investing in. you really don't think this country is something you want to invest in long-term. the resumption of peace opens up domestic taps. it also leads to a massive boom in trade. all that trade that didn't happen from 181 to 1815, it happens pretty much as soon as the war ends. news of peace in london prompts every memphis ant in the whole of the united kingdom to load up
with goods they think will sell in america. huge armada crosses atlantic, flooded with goods, business booms again. then an economic setback but essentially the united states was able to recover its equilibrium and recover economic a activity in the aftermath. peace is good for the economy, war is not. a lesson the british had learned many years before. >> yes. have you seen what you call public record -- >> sorry. mic coming. >> have you seen from the public record office any orders to coburn and ross to burn the public buildings in washington? the implication being retaliation. >> thanks very much.
this is one of the great questions about what happens in washington. were they operating under specific orders to do something as specific as burning the white house. certainly there was a sense after the occupation of what is now toronto and destruction of the public buildings ending other parts on the niagara front where there had been cross-border destruction of public and private buildings by both sides, the public buildings of the state that started the war were fair game. nobody in europe would have thought this was in any way surprising. the whole operation was organized by george coburn. he's the only man among those in command who had been here to work out what the target was and how to get there. the chronology is quite clear. the army with ross and alexander cochran arrives in the che chesapeake and the next morning they set off and land. it's coburn's operation and he is responsible for everything that happens.
he had no problem with that, but he didn't have specific orders to do it. his boss alexander cochran was very supportive. he had lost his brother in the revolutionary war and harbored some dislike of americans because of that. it was pa divisive war. many remembered the conflict. they fought as young men. or in the case of alexander cochran as a ship captain in the royal navy. memories of the last war were still very strong. they were quite raw for most people. >> you mentioned burning of government buildings. we've heard it often said no private buildings were burned.
pamela scott showed me a drawing i noticed before but hadn't thought about in this context. a drawing by latrobe in december 1815 that shows george washington's buildings burned, ruins of them, and a large tavern nearby near the capital also in ruins. this is a year after the british were there. it seems as though they must have done the burning. >> thank you for that. did the british destroy any other buildings in washington other than public buildings. the one private building they destroyed was a building from which a sniper shot general ross's horse, missing general ross i think was the target. they didn't burn the building, part avatar i have, so they pulled it down. they destroyed offices of national intelligence but any sound a general and admiral would like to see the press suppressed. george coburn took out letter c
out of the box so they couldn't write any more scurrilous articles about him. they had with satan, not to satan's advantage. he took a particular delight. he decided he hadn't done enough and got the press out as well. remember, in the aftermath of that occupation, there was a tremendous storm. there was a lot of damage done by the storm as well. so that may have been storm damage. certainly no record british destroys any other private buildings. >> thank you very much for being here. as part of coburn and ross's operation, of course there was squadron under captain gordon which came, ascended potomac river, a rather remarkable
adventure themselves. as they came up, engaged for washington, they sailed by mt. vernon. the very symbol of america with george washington. why didn't they just blow up mt. vernon? >> thank you very much. tomorrow evening i'm going to be speaking onabout that very operation. the reason they didn't blow up mt. vernon, george washington was a liberal hero. as far as british liberals on the left of politics were concerned, george washington was a very significant figure in the creation of british democracy. he taught important lessons by representation. they didn't burn the building. they stopped and the band came up and played washington's march. so the british were not making war on america. they were making war on the american government. they recognized that half the population of america were not enthusiastic about this war. the federalist response to the
war was not particularly engaged. they saw that this was very much a partisan conflict within america, and they very carefully targeted those americans they believed to be the causes of the war. hence, the use of the division list. george washington, he's off limits. he's part of the history of britain and america. remember, he's an officer in george's army first. he is spared as are almost all public buildings, private buildings the british can spare. >> thank you. >> one left. >> at one point was part of the british warnings for concluding the conflict to create some sort of native american territory in the old northwest and what happened to that for it to go status quo? >> the british government's position on the peace treaty was
not entirely unified. the british minister, who was most involved in running the war, secretary of state for war, was also responsible for british colonies. and his view was it would be a really good idea if we could build a buffer zone between united states and british north america to reduce possibility of conflict. the native american people were seen as an ideal opportunity to do this. his cabinet colleagues disagreed vehemently. they didn't want to spend $10 million a year to improve the border of canada. it was outvoted. international lawyers started a look at the problems of creating a buffer zone which belonged to a people who had no residential qualifications and did not have any national identity. it would have been almost impossible to create a territory to give to native americans.
there was simply no framework to do this. european legal systems did not recognize rights of native peoples, which is how you're able to sweep west across the continent. no legal framework for giving them national identity. it was an idea. it was used as a way of pushing americans away from talking about maritime rights. the british put something up which they had no intention of trying to execute, because it was inchoate, no particular form. there was a line out west. it was never determined what that line was, who was inside it, how it would be policed. it was a great negotiating position because it made the americans think they had won something. what the british had done is make the americans worry about something which they couldn't care about. in exchange they got maritime rights off the treaty table. it's a nice way of everybody feeling they won something, but there was no way this could have
been set up. we would have to have agreed, washington and london, that native american peoples were a nation and they had a national identity rather than tribal people spread across the countryside in a completely different way. question? >> there's a william charles cartoon -- pair of cartoons, baltimore and other condemning alexandrians. i wonder if you could comment on that. >> william charles famous cartoonist makes fun of came alexandriaans. lives and works but is british. his cartoon is very much the republican view of the alexandrians, which was very unpleasant. he then used baltimore cartoon as a way of showing british could be beaten. british weren't beaten in baltimore, they just decided they didn't want it.
if you want to stop we can do it. 20,000 americans in a strong position in baltimore. british have less than 4,000 ground troops. how are they going to get into baltimore? the british didn't have another army. if they burned their army attacking baltimore, they had no more troops left. [ inaudible ] >> with alexandria, the picture is clear, a truly terrible mythic beast has got the citizens of alexandria on their knees with hair standing up on end, as, indeed, if you saw a real one. the british sailors are saying we need to get out of here before those american naval heroes turn up. john rogers. david porter, perry. they did turn up and tried to stop british leave but they failed. british got back after some interesting exchanges of fire.
it's a very important political cartoon but you have to read it as very much a partisan cartoon. just like the shannon chesapeake cartoon, it's one side of the argument. internal cartoon. it has no resonance with the british at all. this is republicans pointing the finger at the federalist and saying you're not patriotic. >> the score is even. last weekend alexandria challenged british navy to sporting events and the city won all three. >> i'm very pleased to hear that. the score of frigates was three each. as britain took tleef their prizes home and americans only got screeria -- nigeria. -