Results of The War of 1812 - Canada


Some in Washington had expected the largely American population of Upper Canada to throw off the "British yoke", but that did not happen. After 1815, British officials, Anglican clergy and Canadians loyal to the Empire tried to spot and root out American political ideals, such as republicanism. Thus the British and Loyalist elite were able to set the different colonies of what would later become Canada on a different course from that of their former enemy. Canada discouraged further American immigration.

When the United States attacked British North America, most of the British forces were engaged in the Napoleonic Wars. Thus British North America had minimal troops to defend against the United States, who had a much larger (though poorly trained) military force. For most of the war, British North America stood alone against a much stronger American force. Reinforcements from the United Kingdom did not arrive until 1814, the final year of the war. The repelling of the American force helped to foster British loyalties in the colonies that later became Canada.

The nationalistic sentiment caused a suspicion of such American ideas as republicanism, which would frustrate political reform in Upper and Lower Canada until the Rebellions of 1837. However, the War of 1812 started the process that ultimately led to Canadian Confederation in 1867. Canadian writer Pierre Berton has written that, although later events such as the rebellions and the Fenian raids of the 1860s were more important, Canada would have become part of the United States if the War of 1812 had not taken place because more and more American settlers would have arrived and Canadian nationalism would not have developed.

The War of 1812 was highly significant in Britain's North American colonies. After the war British sympathizers portrayed the war was as a successful fight for national survival against an American democratic force that threatened the peace and stability the Canadians desired.

A related (and historically false) Canadian myth from the war was that Canadian militiamen had performed admirably while the British officers were largely ineffective. Jack Granatstein has termed this the "militia myth", and he feels it has had a deep effect on Canadian military thinking, which placed more stress on a citizens' militia than on a professional standing army. The United States suffered from a similar "frontiersman myth" at the start of the war, believing falsely that individual initiative and marksmanship could be effective against a well disciplined British battle line. Granatstein argues that the militia was not particularly effective in the war and that any British military success was the work of British regular forces and the result of British dominion over the sea. Isaac Brock, for example, was reluctant to trust the militia with muskets. The U.S. Army won most of its land victories late in the war, which subsequently ended all British invasions of the United States.

During the war, British officers constantly worried that the Americans would block the St. Lawrence River, which forms part of the Canadian border with the United States. If the U.S. military had done so, there would have been no British supply route for Upper Canada, where most of the land battles took place, and British forces would likely have had to withdraw or surrender all western British territory within a few months. British officers' dispatches after the war exhibited astonishment that the Americans never took such a simple step, but the British were not willing to count on the enemy repeating the mistake; as a result, Britain commissioned the Rideau Canal, an expensive project connecting Kingston, on Lake Ontario, to the Ottawa River, providing an alternate supply route that bypassed the part of the St. Lawrence River along the U.S. border. The settlement at the northeastern end of the canal, where it joins the Ottawa River, later became the city of Ottawa, Canada's fourth-largest city and its capital (placed inland to protect it from U.S. invasion—known then as the 'defensible backcountry'). Because population away from the St. Lawrence shores was negligible, the British in the years following the war took great lengths to ensure that backcountry settlement was increased. They settled soldiers and initiated assisted-immigration schemes, offering free land to farmers, mostly tenants of estates in the south of Ireland. The canal project was not completed until 1832 and was never used for its intended purpose.

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