Remembering the War of 1812

Article 4 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Remembering the War of 1812

This year, the Canadian government has decided to commemorate the War of 1812 bicentennial by recognizing key battles and heroes in re-enactments and other events, restoring various heritage sites pertinent to the war, and honouring a number of military regiments with connections to the militias of the war era. This article looks at the history of the War and how it has been perceived by the various parties who participated.

Two hundred years ago, an anxious American president reluctantly signed a declaration of war on Great Britain. Indeed, on the face of it, James Madison was sensible to be concerned. His new nation was in a state of political and financial disarray. Its army and navy was miniscule in comparison to the British war machine, which was in high gear fighting against Napoleon and the French. But in the nearly thirty years since the conclusion of the American War of Independence, British authorities had never fully reconciled themselves to the loss of thirteen of their colonies in North America and had been pursuing policies that angered raw, youthful American sensitivities.

Parliamentary Tradition and the Legacy of 1812

Article 5 / 12 , Vol 35 No 3 (Autumn)

Parliamentary Tradition and the Legacy of 1812

This year, for the bicentennial of the War of 1812, many Canadians will be celebrating Canada’s military tradition. Our parliamentary traditions go back more than two hundred years and we tend to take them for granted. Had the outcome of the war with the United States been different, we may have had another governance system. The parliamentary debt that is owed for those who fought in that struggle should never be forgotten. This article suggests we should spend a bit of time reflecting on our parliamentary traditions as well as our military ones.

Our parliamentary tradition developed from two basic sources: the backwoods legislature of Upper Canada whose first sitting on September 17, 1792 near Niagara Falls was held, according to historian W.C. Croften, “under a tree, a large stone serving for the Clerk’s Table,” and the much larger provincial parliament of Lower Canada which met in Quebec City in a seventeenth century church. At least five major characteristics of the modern Canadian Parliament can be traced to the procedures and practices that these assemblies developed before 1812.