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ing two centuries. The second year of the war, after proposals for a cessation of hostilities and for further negotiations on the subjects in dispute, between the two nations, were rejected by the American administration, a large number of ships of war visited the coasts of the United States, and created much alarm in many places, and greatly interrupted the usual pursuits of navigation and trade.They were too formidable to be met by the American ships, which were often employed with more effect in distant and separate parts of the ocean. In the Chesapeake bay, and near the eastern coasts of Massachusetts, they were of great force, and landed at several places; some of which they retained for a long period, as there was not a sufficient naval force of the United States to encounter them.
The fleets on the lakes and the troops on the northwestern and western frontiers, continued their operations till late in the season, with varied success. The American vessels on lake Champlain and lake Ontario were vigilant, and ready always to act where duty and occasion called ; and served to prevent the British inflicting injuries in the territory of the United States. Several small armed vessels belonging to the British, fell into the hands of the Americans: who also made prisoners of about three hundred of the enemy's troops which were on board.
The main body of the land troops on the northwest frontiers, left Plattsburg in the month of October, and entered the territory of Canada in the vicinity of Montreal, under command of General Wade Hampton. But did not advance so far or so rapidly as had been expected. The enemy were prepared to meet them; and attacked them so powerfully that they returned within the line of the United States, and most of them to Plattsburg; having lost a number of men in Canada. The army of the west under General Harrison, after a long period of apparent inaction, either from want of warlike stores, or of sufficient naval force to unite in any offensive operations, was able to pass over lake Erie to the Canada shore, as related; where they attacked and took Malden, defeated the British in that vicinity, and took many prisoners, and then recrossing the lake, landed at Detroit, which soon surrendered, after having been in possession of the British more than a year. In these rencounters, the enemy had large numbers of Indians in their ranks, who proved a great assistance to them.Some of the tribes attached themselves to the United States troops, but they were less numerous. But wherever they
were found, they were charged with great cruelty towards their captives. A part of the American army, under General Boyd, remained in possession of Fort George on the Canadian side of the Niagara river, and near the head of lake Ontario, for some months. Generals Harrison and Wilkinson also proceeded to this part of the country; and a plan was probably formed to march into Canada, with this large united force. But it was not carried into execution. The return of General Hampton probably prevented.
Thus ended the various and expensive expedition for conquering Canada, in 1813; and little more progress was made than in the year 1812. The invasion of the Province, for conquest, was unsuccessful, though the British were defeated at Malden. The expenses of these several armies were very great; and the loss of human lives was also great, though mostly by sickness. On lake Erie, the naval force of the United States, under commodore Perry, it has been seen, was completely victorious : and on lakes Ontario and Champlain, the British were kept in check, by the small American fleets; so as to be prevented from doing much injury to the people of the United States, as they attempted, in retaliation for the invasion of their territory.
The ships of the United States, on the ocean, were successful in most of the naval actions which occurred in 1813; and the patriotic pride, kindled by these achievements, led many to support the war, who were before opposed to it; and prevented that calamitous measure from fatally injuring the popularity of the administration. The people, however, in various parts of the country, expressed an opinion that the war was unnecessary; that negotiation would probably better settle the dispute and secure the just claims of the United States; and became, therefore, more desirous of peace. The general voice was opposed to an invasion of Canada; for it was not believed, that the conquest and annexation of that extensive territory would add to the stability or welfare of the United States. It was perceived also, that the British government had abandoned one of its obnoxious measures ; and that the other cause of the war would not probably
be removed, though it should be continued many years. For it was well understood, that Great Britain would never consent to relinquish the right of taking her own subjects in time of war from neutral merchant vessels : and the contest had also now become very popular in England.
The policy of the federal government, at this period, and
the views entertained* as to the propriety of the war, cannot be so justly and fully stated, as by referring to the public message of the President of the United States to the national legislature, at the opening of the session in December, 1813.
On the subject of national disputes with France, he spoke in a very short, but not very satisfactory manner. The views of the French government on the subjects, which have been so long committed to negotiation, have received no elucidation since the close of the last session of Congress. The minister of the United States, at Paris, had not been enabled, by any proper opportunity, to press the objects of his mission, as he was instructed.” He said he had hoped to lay before Congress some effectual progress in negotiations for peace with Great Britain ; inasmuch as the American government, in a liberal and magnanimous spirit, and with a desire for peace, had assented to a proposition for the mediation of the Emperor of Russia, offered by that Prince for an adjustment of the disputes between the two nations; but in this expectation he had been disappointed.
“But the British Cabinet,” says the President, “mistaking our desire of peace for a dread of British power, or misled by other fallacious calculations, has disappointed this reasonable anticipation. No information has been received from our Envoys on the subject; but it is known that mediation has been declined, at first; and there is no evidence since offered, that a change of disposition in the British Councils has taken place, or is to be expected. “Under such circumstances, a nation, proud of its rights and conscious of its strength, has no choice but an exertion of the one for the support of the other.” “To this determination, the best encouragement is derived from the success, with which it has pleased the Almighty to bless our arms, both on the land † and on the water.”
* The paper, most in favor of the government, which was then considered semi-official, the week before Congress assembled, stated what it deemed of vital importance to the favor and interests of the country—which was as follows" retaliation on British prisoners for alleged severe treatment of Americans by the British-an extension of the term of enlistments for twenty regiments of regular troops—restraining all traitorous intercourse with the enemythe expulsion of the various tribes of Indians, on the northern and southern frontiers from their habitations, and obliging them to take refuge in the distant wilderness—the seizure of East Florida-provision for increasing the navy, and the right of naturalization.” Several of these, the President was modera ate or prudent enough not to recommend. But they were probably in the views and plans of some of the political friends of the administration.
+ This was considered a strange declaration, when the land forces had been
The message referred to the employment of the Indians by the British, and the cruelties which had been perpetrated by them, on several occasions; and it was observed, " that it became necessary to send a military force against the Indian tribes, both in the West and South. A force had been called into the service of the United States from Georgia and Tennessee, to check and keep in awe the savages on the south western borders. General Andrew Jackson was appointed to command in that part of the country, and was successful in opposing the inroads and depredations of the Indians.''
The subject of impressment was introduced in the message, and the injustice of the British, in their practice relating to those claimed as their natural-born citizens, was again brought to view, in strong terms. It was stated, that in Canada, great abuses, under their own doctrine, were committed; for all born in the British provinces, and who had early settled in and become citizens of the United States, were considered as traitors, if found in the American army, and yet they employed in their ranks, natives of the United States, who had become inhabitants of the British territory.
In presenting the state of the public treasury, the message states, “that the receipts exceeded thirty-seven and a half millions dollars; twenty-four millions of which were the product of loans; and that, after meeting the demands on the treasury, there were nearly seven millions remaining. Further sums, to a considerable amount, will be necessary to be obtained by loans, during the ensuing year; but from the increased capital of the country, and from other causes, it may be justly expected, that the necessary pecuniary supplies will not be wanting.”
The general tone and spirit of the message was calculated to awaken or to maintain a disposition for war among the people; and therefore, the reverses which had occurred were passed over as comparatively trifling, and the few successes achieved as far greater, or more beneficial to the nation, than facts would justify. The people were told that they were a brave and powerful nation, and their resources infinite; so that the war might be long prosecuted almost invariably unsuccessful ; when defeat had followed the invasion of Canada ; when there had been a great loss of lives, and two seasons passed in attempts to conquer the British provinces, attended with utter failure, except in the dispersion of the British troops and Indians, at Malden, by the American troops, under General Harrison. “ That expedition," the President said, was signally honorable to Major General Harrison, by whom it was planned and prepared.”
without greatly impoverishing the country; and that the reasons for continuing it were cogent and numerous. And yet it will be seen, that before another year had elapsed, peace was earnestly sought for by the federal administration, even with yielding some points at first declared to render a war just and necessary."
The first act of importance, and of a general character, passed at this session of Congress, was an embargo act, to continue till the first of January, 1815; "unless a cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States should previously take place.” The provisions of this act were very restrictive and severe. It forbid boats, having provisions or any military stores on board, passing from one port or harbor to another, at small distances; and was construed as extending to small craft employed in fishing by the day, and within a few miles of the land. The reason given for such severity and strictness of prohibition, was that the small vessels and boats sometimes conveyed provisions to the British ships of war hovering on the coasts. The act operated very grievously on the fishermen and coasters, who were generally an indigent and harmless class of people.f An embargo act of a similar character was recommended by the President, in July, 1813, to be in force till the
In December, 1813, and soon after the United States troops withdrew from Canada, and took up their winter quarters at Plattsburgh, and other places near the northwestern borders, a large British force crossed the Niagara river, captured Fort Niagara, burnt Lewistown, Buffalo, and some other small, villages, and entrenched themselves on Niagara heights. The detachment consisted of about 1500 British regulars, militia, and Indians ; and almost the whole of the American troops in the fort were killed or taken. General Wilkinson was at this time at Plattsburgh, with about five thousand troops.
† The legislature of Massachusetts passed resolves" That the embargo act contained provisions not warranted by the Constitution of the United States, and violating the rights of the people of this Commonwealth—that they have always enjoyed the right of navigation from port to port within the State, and of fishing on its coasts—that they have a right to be secure from all unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons, houses, &c.—that the law rendering the property of an individual liable to the discretion of every one, without warrant from a magistrate, is unjust and tyrannical—that the people have a right to be protected in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws; and that all attempts to prohibit them in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property, by persons under executive directions, and power only, and armed with military force, are destructive of their freedom, and altogether repugnant to the Constitution.”
An eminent political character, who took neutral ground in the war; or was disposed to support it after it was declared by Congress, expressed the following opinion of the embargo and non-intercourse laws, “ I believe the restrictive system overleaps the bounds of Constitutional power—that it is impossible to execute it—that the attempt to do so, corrupts the people, by destroying the correct habits of our merchants, and rendering perjury familiar—that it would