A War of Words Preceded the Treaty of Ghent, Marking the End of the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Great Britain

During April of 1814, American representatives were permitted to come to England to continue negotiations with their British counterparts in hopes of coming to a resolution of the issues upon which the War of 1812 were based. However, the attempt proved futile, for, by that time, England had brought Napoleon to heel for the first time, and the British were in no mood to negotiate with the Americans, who they thought to be nothing more than a nuisance.

One can have a look at the newsprints of the day to determine some of what the general populace thought of Lord Castlereagh extending a hand to support the negotiations. The British ministers publicly declared a “wish for peace,” but, privately, they were very wishy-washy, allowing the London Times, which was not a ministerial journal, rather being an independent newspaper, to take its own course and to demand an annihilation of the United States in war. The Times had not previously presented its opinions as such, but, when it came to the United States, they displayed a Federalist position.

Therefore, in addition to a hatred for Napoleon, one formed for the American President James Madison. In truth, although Madison, upon appearances, had a calm demeanor, he was known to rub people the wrong way. The American press often criticized their President, but the Times carried the cries of disdain to new levels. For example, they wrote, “The lunatic ravings of the philosophic statesman of Washington,” (The Times, Feb. 4 and 10, 1814) which could be ranked along side of “his spaniel-like fawning on the Emperor of Russia . . . The most abject of the tools of the deposed tyrant; . . . doubtless he expected to be named Prince of the Potomack or Grand Duke of Virginia.” (The Times, April 23, 1814) With some regularity, the Times spoke of Madison as a liar and an imposter.

The Times went on to say on April 15, 1814: “Let us have no cant of moderation. . . There is no public feeling in the country stronger than that of indignation against the Americans; . . . conduct so base, so loathsome, so hateful . . . As we urged the principle, No peace with Bonaparte! so we must maintain the doctrine of, No peace with James Madison!” Later, on April 27 of the same year, they would continue their campaign of criticism: “Mr. Madison’s dirty, swindling manœuvres in respect to Louisiana and the Floridas remain to be published.”

Then on May 17, 1814, the Times declared, “He must fall a victim to the just vengeance of the Federalists. Let us persevere. Let us unmask the imposter. . . . Who cares about the impudence which they call a doctrine? . . . We shall demand indemnity. . . . We shall insist on the security for Canada . . . We shall inquire a little into the American title to Louisiana; and we shall not permit the base attack on Florida to go unpunished.” [Remember, at the time, British West Florida, which was comprised of the modern U. S. states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, was a colony of Kingdom of Great Britain from 1763 to 1783, when it was ceded to Spain as part of the Peace of Paris. The territory subsequently became a colony of Spain, parts of which were gradually annexed piecemeal by the United States, beginning in 1810.]

On May 18, the Times called Madison a “liar in the cause of his Corsican master.” The went on to say, “He has lived as an imposter, and he deserves to meet the fate of a traitor. That fate now stares him in the face.”

May 24 saw the smear campaign continuing. “They are struck to the heart with terror for their impending punishment; and oh, may no false liberality, no mistaken lenity, no weak and cowardly policy, interpose to save them from the blow! Strike! chastise the savages, for such they are! . . . With Madison and his perjured set no treaty can be made, for no oath can bind them.”

On June 2, 1814, British ambassadors left England for Ghent to begin negotiations with the U.S. The Times proclaimed, “Our demands may be couched in a single word, — Submission!”

Meanwhile, the Sun, which was never quite as abusive as the Times said of Madison, “that contemptible wretch Madison and his gang . . ..” (The Sun, August 4, 1814)

Yet, the Morning Post, also an independent papter, took up the cause purported by the Times. As early as 18 January 1814, they said to have discovered more damaging evidence against Madison. “. . . a new trait in the character of the American government. Enjoying the reputation of being the most unprincipled and the most contemptible on the face of the earth, they were already known to be impervious to any noble sentiment; but it is only of late that we find them insensible of the shame of defeat even of the brutish quality of becoming beaten into a sense of their unworthiness and their incapacity.” Of Madison himself, the Morning Post (1 February 1814) called the American President “a despot in disguise; a miniature imitation” and tool of Bonaparte.

The Courier, on the other hand, was seen as a “voice” of the government and customarily received information directly from the ministers. On 31 March 1814, with the surrender of Paris, the Ministry decided to turn the full brunt of the British forces on America. The Courier, therefore, on 15 April, announced that 20,000 men were being sent from Europe to the American front. That number of men was equal to two-thirds of Wellington’s forces. The natural assumption was made that such a force would make easy pickings of the Americans.

Beyond the Times’ call for Submission, the Courier listed the terms for agreement as: (1) The right of impressment must be expressly conceded, anything short of this would be unwise and a disappointment. (2) The U. S. were to be interdicted the fisheries. (3) Spain was to be supported in recovering Louisiana.

Information for this piece is chiefly derived from History of the United States of America: The second administration of James Madison 1813-1817 by Henry James.

Captain Stanwick’s Bride: Tragic Characters in Classic Lit Series Novel [Arriving February 19, 2021]

“Happiness consists more in conveniences of pleasure that occur everyday than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” – Benjamin Franklin

Captain Whittaker Stanwick has a successful military career and a respectable home farm in Lancashire. What he does not have in his life is felicity. Therefore, when the opportunity arrives, following his wife’s death, Stanwick sets out to know a bit of happiness, at last—finally to claim a woman who stirs his soul. Yet, he foolishly commits himself to one woman only weeks before he has found a woman, though shunned by her people and his, who touches his heart. Will he deny the strictures placed upon him by society in order learn the secret of happiness is freedom: Freedom to love and freedom to know courage?

Loosely based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish” and set against the final battles of the War of 1812, this tale shows the length a man will go to in order to claim a remarkable woman as his.

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About reginajeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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