The War of 1812 (1809-1815)

Treaty of Ghent (December 1814)

Summary Treaty of Ghent (December 1814)

At the Ghent peace talks, Britain was more willing to negotiate than would usually be expected; Britain had far bigger problems than the War of 1812 to worry about. As Britain was busy negotiating a balance of power in Europe at the Congress of Vienna, Napoleon suddenly escaped from his exile on Elba. Faced with the sudden prospect of a resurgent, militarist France, Britain wanted to withdraw its forces from the American entanglement and return them to Europe. Thus, although Americans proudly believed that their military valor and ability changed the course of the Ghent negotiations, Britain's decisions regarding the War of 1812 were as influenced by events in Europe as the outcomes of the Battles of Baltimore and Lake Champlain.

Although the Treaty of Ghent addressed none of the original grievances that started the War of 1812, most Americans considered it a success. This just goes to show how little the War Hawks really cared about these issues: they had just wanted an excuse to go to war. Having started the war in hopes of conquering Canada, the US now barely got out without serious damage. Although celebrated as a victory in the young US, the war really had been a draw, and one in which Britain had fought with one hand tied behind its back by Napoleon. The treaty gained none of the initial US goals. Yet in England, many people were impressed by American scrappiness. Not even Napoleon's Grand Navy had been able to stand up to the British Navy at Trafalgar, but the US had won several naval victories. In some sense, then, stalemate became victory: no matter the particulars, the US had once again stood toe to toe with Britain, and survived.

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