James Madison, Jr. (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836) was an American statesman, political theorist, and the fourth President of the United States (1809–17). He is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being instrumental in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution and as the key champion and author of the Bill of Rights. He was President throughout the War of 1812, and served as a politician much of his adult life.
No war monger, Madison found himself pressured into declaring war and was grateful when the chance for peace arose. However, Madison’s chief goal was to defeat and occupy part of Canada, which many in the US believed would eventually be absorbed into the United States anyway as the nation grew. By defeating British forces in North America, Madison hoped to end British abuses of US citizens and trade for good.
Despite having declared war and begun military operations against their enemy, Madison found his nation initially unprepared for serious or sustained campaigns. Congress had not properly funded or prepared an army, and a number of the states did not support what was referred to as “Mr. Madison’s War” and would not allow their militias to join the campaign. Despite these setbacks, American forces attempted to fight off and attack British forces. The U.S. met defeat much of the time both on land and at sea, but its well-built ships proved to be formidable foes.
But that did not stop the British from pressing their land forces closer and closer to Washington. While Madison was gone from the capital, the British carried out a daring and terrible raid and ransacked the White House and the capital building, setting fires and raising hell as payback for the sacking of York [Toronto], which the Americans, after defeating the British, had vandalized and set ablaze 27 April 1813.
But British victories were soon repelled, and with control of the lakes and successful operations in Baltimore and later New Orleans, Madison’s war efforts were now finding the public stoked and supportive. But it was too late. By 1814, both American and British leaders were tired of the conflict, and, finding themselves in mutual agreement, signed the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. The Treaty’s resolutions essentially pretended the war had never happened. Territory and prisoners were returned. Old boundaries were re-established. It was a war for which peace became the only of sign of victory.
Though the war was mismanaged, there were some key victories that emboldened the Americans. Once blamed for the errors in the war, Madison was eventually hailed for its triumphs.
Madison survived this first unpopular war in American history. No lover of military affairs, he quickly turned his attention to matters of economics, law and trade, but now keenly knew the value of a well-armed and prepared army and navy.
PREVIOUS A TO Z POSTS
A is for Anishinaabe ~ B is for Brock ~ C is for Coloured Corps ~ D is for Detroit ~ E is for Erie ~ F is for First Nations ~ G is for Ghent ~ H is for Harrison ~ I is for Impressment ~ J is for Jackson ~ K is for Key ~ L is for Lundy’s
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, we blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.
My theme is ‘The War of 1812’, a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, fought by the United States of America against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, its North American colonies, and its American Indian allies. The Memoirs of a British naval officer from the war is central to my novel “Seeking A Knife” – part of the Snowdon Shadows series.
Further reading on The War of 1812: