By Bill Federer
British burning White House during War of 1812
The French Revolution had left that country in chaos. Twenty-six-year-old Napoleon fired cannons down the streets of Paris, mowing down French citizens in the 13 Vendémiaire Revolt of 1795. The French Directory then made the young Napoleon general of the Army of Italy. Napoleon won decisive victories against the Italians and Austrians in 1796. Napoleon conquered Ottoman Egypt in 1798.
In 1799, when the French Directory collapsed, Napoleon staged a coup d’état, and seized power, being installed as First Consul. Needing funds, Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. After winning the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon had himself made Emperor in 1804. After the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon dissolved the thousand-year-old Holy Roman Empire.
In 1805, Napoleon suffered a setback when his combined Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar. Conquering across Europe, Napoleon invaded Russia in June of 1812 with 500,000 men. Six month later he retreated with only 50,000.
The Napoleonic Wars resulted in an estimated 6 million military and civilians deaths across Europe. Napoleon’s power waned till he was exiled to the Island of Elba. Britain was now the most powerful nation in the world.
Napoleon had made an interesting observation: “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”
In 1811, James Madison refused to recharter the Bank of the United States. Powerful British financiers reportedly owned two-thirds of the bank’s stock.
British Prime Minister William Pitt had stated: “Let the American people go into their debt-funding schemes and banking systems, and from that hour their boasted independence will be a mere phantom.”
Jefferson described the Bank of the United States “as a machine for the corruption of the legislature.”
Tensions with Britain escalated culminating in the outbreak of the War of 1812 on June 18, 1812.
James Madison wrote, September 20, 1814: “The capture of nearly a thousand American vessels and the impressment of thousands of American seafaring citizens … by the government of Great Britain. … Our beloved country … persevering hostility … must carry with it the good wishes of the impartial world and the best hopes of support from an Omnipotent and Kind Providence.”
The British backed Indian terrorists attacks on American settlements by supporting Shawnee leader Tecumseh.
James Madison told Congress, March 9, 1812: “The British government, through … a secret agent … was employed … fomenting disaffection … and in intrigues with the disaffected, for the purpose of … destroying the Union. … The discovery of such a procedure … will not fail to render more dear to the hearts of all good citizens that happy union of these States which, under Divine Providence, is the guaranty of their liberties.”
Shawnee Chief Tecumseh, being armed by the British, formed a confederation of Indian tribes across a thousand mile frontier. Incited by Tecumseh, the Red Stick Creek Indians attacked Fort Mims, Alabama, on Aug. 30, 1813. Driven by rumors the British were paying cash for scalps, the Red Sticks killed over 500 men, women and children in the largest Indian massacre in American history.
Outraged Americans volunteered, including Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and Daniel Boone, though Boone was turned down, being age 78.
In a proclamation of war, June 19, 1812, President James Madison stated: “I do moreover exhort all the good people of the United States … as they feel the wrongs which have forced on them the last resort of injured nations … to consult the best means under the blessing of Divine Providence of abridging its calamities.”
On June 1, 1812, President James Madison told Congress: “We behold … on the side of Great Britain a state of war. … Whether the United States shall continue passive under these progressive usurpations and these accumulating wrongs … shall commit a just cause into the hands of the Almighty Disposer of Events.”
The British had captured Maine’s cities of Eastport, Castine, Hampden, Bangor and Machias.
A Second Great Awakening Revival swept America. President Madison, who had introduced the First Amendment in the First Session of Congress, proclaimed a day of public humiliation and prayer, July 9, 1812: “A day, to be set apart for the devout purpose of rendering the Sovereign of the Universe and the Benefactor of mankind the public homage due to His holy attributes; of acknowledging the transgressions which might justly provoke the manifestations of His divine displeasure; of seeking His merciful forgiveness, and His assistance in the great duties of repentance. … and especially of offering fervent supplications that in the present season of calamity and war He would take the American people under His peculiar care and protection.”
Madison stated, Nov. 4, 1812: “The war in which we are actually engaged in … was preceded by a patience without example under wrongs accumulating without end. … Appeal was accordingly made … to the Just and All-powerful Being who holds in His hand the chain of events and the destiny of nations. … We prosecute the war with united counsels … until peace be so obtained … under the Divine blessing.”
On Feb. 24, 1813, Madison told Congress: “Great Britain had already introduced into her commerce during the war … a mass of forgery and perjury … making an unfortunate progress in undermining those principles of morality and religion which are the best foundation of national happiness. … The general tendency of these demoralizing and disorganizing contrivances will be reprobated by the civilized and Christian world.”
On March 4, 1813, President Madison stated: “I should be compelled to shrink if I … felt less deeply a conviction that the war with a powerful nation … is stamped with that justice which invites the smiles of Heaven on the means of conducting it to a successful termination.”
On May 25, 1813, in a Special Session Message to Congress, Madison stated: “The contest in which the United States are engaged appeals…to the sacred obligation of transmitting entire to future generations that precious … independence which is held in trust by the present from the goodness of Divine Providence.”
On July 23, 1813, Madison proclaimed a national day of public humiliation and prayer: “In times of public calamity such as that of the war … it is especially becoming that the hearts of all should be … turned to that Almighty Power in whose hands are the welfare and the destiny of nations … for … He has blessed the United States with a political Constitution founded on the will and authority of the whole people and guaranteeing to each individual security, not only of his person and his property, but of those sacred rights of conscience so essential to his present happiness and so dear to his future hopes … that He would pardon our manifold transgressions and awaken and strengthen in all the wholesome purposes of repentance … so He would … bestow His blessings on our arms in resisting the hostile. … If the public homage of a people can ever be worthy of the favorable regard of the Holy and Omniscient Being to whom it is addressed, it must be that in which those who join in it are guided only by their free choice, by the impulse of their hearts and the dictates of their consciences … that religion, that gift of Heaven for the good of man, freed from all coercive edicts … and making no appeal but to reason, to the heart, and to the conscience, can spread its benign influence everywhere and can attract to the divine altar those freewill offerings of humble supplication.”
The British attacked on Lake Eire.
On December 7, 1813, Madison stated: “It has pleased the Almighty to bless our arms both on the land and on the water … On Lake Erie, the squadron under the command of Captain Perry having met the British squadron of superior force, a sanguinary conflict ended in the capture of the whole. … We may humbly repose our trust in the smiles of Heaven on so righteous a cause.”
The British invaded the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 25, 1814. Fires were set and flames engulfed the White House, the Department of War building, the Library of Congress, the Treasury, the Supreme Court, and the Navy Yard. The Patent Office office was the only government building untouched. President James Madison was directing troops and Dolley Madison had to flee the White House.
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On Sept. 1, 1814, in a proclamation after the British invaded the Capitol, Madison stated: “The enemy by a sudden incursion has succeeded in invading the capitol of the nation. … During their possession … though for a single day only, they wantonly destroyed the public edifices. … An occasion which appeals so forcibly to the … patriotic devotion of the American people, none will forget. The glory acquired by … fathers in establishing the independence … is now to be maintained by their sons with the … strength and resources … Heaven had blessed them.”
A few weeks later, on Sept. 13, 1814, the British bombarded Fort McHenry, as Francis Scott Key wrote of “bombs bursting in air.”
On Nov. 16, 1814, Madison proclaimed a national day of public humiliation, fasting and prayer: “The two Houses of the National Legislature having by a joint resolution expressed their desire that in the present time of public calamity and war a day may be recommended to be observed by the people of the United States as a Day of Public Humiliation and Fasting and of Prayer to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessing on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace. … I have deemed it proper … to recommend … a day of … voluntarily offering … humble adoration to the Great Sovereign of the Universe, of confessing their sins and transgressions, and of strengthening their vows of repentance.”
The British attacked New Orleans.
When the war ended, President James Madison addressed Congress, Feb. 18, 1815: “I lay before Congress copies of the treaty of peace … between the United States and His Britannic Majesty. … We accord in grateful acknowledgments for the protection which Providence has bestowed upon us.”
On March 4, 1815, President Madison proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving: “To be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnity as a day of thanksgiving and of devout acknowledgments to Almighty God for His great goodness manifested in restoring to them the blessing of peace. No people ought to feel greater obligations to celebrate the goodness of the Great Disposer of Events and of the Destiny of Nations than the people of the United States. … To the same Divine Author of Every Good and Perfect Gift we are indebted for all those privileges and advantages, religious as well as civil, which are so richly enjoyed in this favored land … especially for the restoration of the blessing of peace.”
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