The American people of today, weighed in the balances of the greatest armed conflict of all time and found not wanting, can afford to survey, in a spirit of candid scrutiny and without reviving an ancient grudge, that turbulent episode in the welding of their nation which is called the War of 1812. In spite of defeats and disappointments this war was, in the large, enduring sense, a victory. It was in this renewed defiance of England that the dream of the founders of the Republic and the ideals of the embattled farmers of Bunker Hill and Saratoga achieved their goal. Henceforth the world was to respect these States, not as so many colonies bitterly wrangling among themselves, but as a sovereign and independent nation.
The War of 1812, like the American Revolution, was a valiant contest for survival on the part of the spirit of freedom. It was essentially akin to the world-wide struggle of a century later, when sons of the old foemen of 1812—sons of the painted Indians and of the Kentucky pioneers in fringed buckskins, sons of the New Hampshire ploughboys clad in homespun, sons of the Canadian militia and the red-coated regulars of the British line, sons of the tarry seamen of the Constitution and the Guerrière—stood side by side as brothers in arms to save from brutal obliteration the same spirit of freedom. And so it is that in Flanders fields today the poppies blow above the graves of the sons of the men who fought each other a century ago in the Michigan wilderness and at Lundy's Lane.
The causes and the background of the War of 1812 are presented elsewhere in this series of Chronicles. Great Britain, at death grips with Napoleon, paid small heed to the rights and dignities of neutral nations. The harsh and selfish maritime policy of the age, expressed in the British Navigation Acts and intensified by the struggle with Napoleon, led the Mistress of the Seas to perpetrate indignity after indignity on the ships and sailors which were carrying American commerce around the world. The United States demanded a free sea, which Great Britain would not grant. Of necessity, then, such futile weapons as embargoes and non-intercourse acts had to give place to the musket, the bayonet, and the carronade. There could be no compromise between the clash of doctrines. It was for the United States to assert herself, regardless of the odds, or sink into a position of supine dependency upon the will of Great Britain and the wooden walls of her invincible navy.