The last time I went to the movies, I entered the cinema just as the new Government of Canada video on the war of 1812 was on. I thought, “Holey moley, is that a new movie? That looks awesome!” Anyone who has cringed through a low-budget, low quality film featuring a few reenactors who, like me, are too old and too fat, will be impressed by this GovCan video.

But what’s the point of the video, and how should we remember the War of 1812? Peter Jones in the Globe and Mail suggests that the story of Canada defending itself from rapacious Americans is not really true (thanks for defending us, Great Britain) and is not really what should be celebrated. Jones notes that if we celebrate anything about the war, it should be that it never happened again. What the War led to, Jones argues, is “The North American regional consensus”.

“Whatever the reasons, the North American regional consensus is now so deeply ingrained on both sides of the border that anyone who tried to promote the idea of fighting a war over anything would rightly be regarded in both countries as insane. Social scientists refer to such regions as “security communities” – places in the world where the idea of conflict is so remote that societies and individuals have developed, as Karl Deutsch put it many years ago, “dependable expectations of peaceful change.”

So there you have it. The real legacy of the War of 1812 is that it helped set the stage for a regional security community. Hardly stirring stuff, but, if you look around the world today, you will quickly realize just how rare a thing ours is. And it is a thing very much worth celebrating.”

0 Responses

  1. As a reenactor too old and fat to be a good model for professional films, the "Regional Security Community" is well worth celebrating. Good post, Padre!

  2. Each of the separate British North American administrations formed fencible units, and both full-time and part-time militia units, most of which played a major part in the fighting the war. A few of the units had 'Canadan' in their title – ie The Canadian Voltigeurs.

  3. Thanks Thomas. I've fixed the Fight For Canada link. And thanks for the remninder of the Arrogant Worms song. Not strict tly accurate but good fun.

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is true that there were militia units in the War of 1812 that identified themselves as "Canadian", and they gave good service. It's also true that the British military authorities viewed the loyalties of the Canadian colonists with considerable suspicion, as the Ancaster Assizes demonstrates.
    Anyone who didn't know their history who saw the GovCan video would think that the defence of Canada was an All Canadian affair.

  4. It certainly set into motion political stability along the border – something the governments on both sides found important. But, it's also important to note that it took some time for it to reach what we've enjoyed in the past century (and continue to, despite the collateral damage of post-9/11 border control). Consider the Fenian Raids and Riel's rebellions.

    This Sunday will mark the 150th anniversary of the battle between USS Constitution and HMS Gurriere. And I'm looking forward to the encampment at Fort Niagara the weekend of September 1.

  5. Well it petty much was a Canadian affair in the early part of the war, remember Britain was completely engaged in a struggle for survival with Napoleon. There were more casualties in the Battle of Austerlitz than the entire War of 1812. Only after Napoleon abdicated on April 6, 1814, could Britain send veteran armies. Even then the Royal Marines were re-enforced by Colonial Marines (liberated American slaves). The Sappers and Artificers reinforced by Black Canadian soldiers – used in the burning of Washington.

    We seem to be going from one extreme to another, On the one hand a Canadian victory, on the other poor Canadians saved by Britain.
    Ex 1st Wessex Reg (Rifle Volunteers)
    Royal Corps of Transport