By Avi Davis
The first thing you learn about the War of 1812 is that it didn’t take place in only that year. In fact the war between the British with their Indian allies and the United States lasted right into 1814 and the first month of 1815.
The second thing you learn is that it was an inconclusive war with neither the British nor the U.S. scoring knock out victories. The resulting peace treaty (The Treaty of Ghent) was brought about not because one party had surrendered to the other but because both sides were exhausted and could not see not much point in continuing hostilities.
What the conflict is mostly remembered for in our present day was the burning of Washington D.C., the writing of the Star Spangled Banner and the faint beginnings of a proud American nationalism.
But perhaps what we should really remember about the War of 1812 and the Battle of New Orleans which concluded it, is that it ended any doubt that the English speaking peoples of the world would ever again become involved in a violent conflict with one another. From 1815 onward they would forge a partnership which would bring unparalleled prosperity, technological advancement and political stability to their dominions and most of the rest of the world.
We are used to looking back on the history of the late 18th Century and the early 19th as a time when the American colonies fought off British tyranny and began to beat an independent path in history.
But this does not begin to assess what really happened in that forty-five year time span.
For as Daniel Hannan has described it in his seminal work Inventing Freedom, the American Revolution was in reality a civil war between British citizens, with the rebellious colonies merely attempting to assert their rights, not as Americans but as loyal Englishmen who had become habituated to the liberties available to them as free men.
The very idea of Britain and America forging an unbreakable bond which would later carry the two nations to victory through two world wars, has been central to worldwide progress and to implanting a consciousness of the rights of the individual, the value of representative government and the sanctity of human life in the mind of humanity.
It might not seem much to celebrate, given how far apart the two nations have drifted on any number of issues. But we should never forget how deeply the bonds of language, values and political tradition still unite the two nations at their very roots. As Western civilization prepares to confront the most serious challenge in its history, it is good to recall that the leadership of the West – at least since 1815 – has always seesawed between one or the other of these two nations.
In the challenging years ahead those bonds will need to grow tighter than ever before.
Let us hope we elect leaders who understand it.