August 4, 1812 – Thomas Jefferson Writes of Conquering Canada

The War of 1812 was a two and a half-year military conflict between the United States of America and Great Britain, declared by President James Madison on June 18 of that year. The war was declared for several reasons, including British impressment of British-born sailors serving on American ships, and British support for the Indian tribes in the Northwest Territory bordering Canada. (The British had ceded the area to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but both sides of course ignored the fact that various Native American nations already occupied the land. When Americans began to move into the rich farmlands in the territory, the Native Americans resisted. British supported them because they wanted to keep Native Americans as allies as protection for the Canadian colonies. The British believed, with good reason, that the Americans wanted to annex Canada. But Americans were enraged to find Indians using and benefiting from British arms.)

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, former U.S. President and influential advisor to the current president, James Madison, wrote to his friend William Duane on this day in history:

… the acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching; & will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, & the final expulsion of England from the American continent.”

(William Duane was born in New York but grew up in Ireland, where he developed a fierce hatred of England. In 1796 he came back to America, and eventually became editor of the Aurora, the leading newspaper of the Jeffersonian party. Duane was a fierce polemicist, and Jefferson attributed his election to the presidency in 1800 to Duane’s vigorous support. Jefferson had a long record of correspondence with Duane, trusting his opinions would make it into print.)

William Duane

William Duane

The full text of the letter from Jefferson to Duane is here.


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