Canadian Military Heritage Project
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Guide to Finding a Loyalist Ancestor in Upper Canada (Ontario) will help
genealogists find their Loyalist ancestor. Explanations are given for
each of the set of records available for research. The reader will learn
how to manoeuver through the more challenging obscure records.
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Past Voices Scads of letters from 1800s & 1900s
Historical Overview War of 1812By Lorine McGinnis Schulze
There were three causes of the war:
Britain and France had been at war since 1793. British naval supremacy was unchallenged. American ships thought they could remain neutral and thus traded freely, but neither France nor Britain could accept this. They forbad trade with either country. President Madison had offered to resume trade with Great Britain but they refused. Madison turned to Congress for help and in May 1810 they passed Macon's Bill Number 2. Macon's Bill Number 2 restored free trade with Europe but in March 1811 Madison renewed the embargo against Britain. Feelings ran high.
British ships could stop and search Merchant ships on the high seas in their hunt for runaway sailors. Many sailors deserted but American merchant captains were angry when British captains took their sailors, claiming they were British runaways.
Acitivities in the northwest raised American fears. Native tribes banded together under Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet, to defend their lands against settlers. The US government believed that the British were encouraging the natives to attack.
MADISON ADDRESSES CONGRESSIn June 1812, Madison brought his war message to Congress.
"The conduct of her (Great Britain's) government presents a series of acts hostile to the United States as an independent and neutral nation. British cruisers have been in the continued pratice of violating the American flag on the great highway of nations, and of seizing and carrying off persons sailing under it...Not content with these occasional expedients for laying waste our neutral trade, the cabinet of Britain resorted at length to the sweeping system of blockades under the name of orders in council...
We behold our seafaring citizens still the daily vicitims of lawless violence...
We behold our vessels...wrested from their final destinations...
We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of war against the United States, and on the side of the United States a state of peace towards Great Britain."
Thomas Jefferson himself said
WAR IS DECLAREDOn June 18th the USA was officially at war with Great Britain. The vote was close - 19 for and 13 against. Although this war was supposed to be about rights at sea, the principal target was Upper Canada (present day Ontario). The Maritime Colonies were not targeted because they were strongly Loyalist and easily defended by the British Navy. Lower Canada (present day Quebec) was strongly anti-American, and had a well organized militia. That left Upper Canada, whose population, while stemming from a large Loyalist population originally, was now populated with settlers, many of whom who had migrated from the USA. Upper Canada was thinly populated and weakly defended. American politicians believed that the inhabitants would accept American troops, not as invaders, but as liberators from British rule.
MADISON DELIVERS A PROCLAMATION TO UPPER CANADAWhen war began, Hull delivered Madison's proclamation to Upper Canada:
"Inhabitants of Canada! After thirty years of peace and prosperity, the United States have been driven to arms. The injuries and aggressions, the insults and indignities of Great Britain, have once more left them no alternative but manly resistance or unconditional submission.
The army under my command has invaded your country....To the peaceable, unoffending inhabitant it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I come to find enemies not to make them. I come to protect, not to injure you.
Separated by an immense ocean and an extensive wilderness from Great Britain, you have no participation in her councils, no interest in her conduct. You have felt her tyranny, you have seen her injustice...
I promise protection to your persons, property and rights...Many of your fathers fought for that freedom and independence which we now enjoy."
BROCK RESPONDSTen days later, Sir Isaac Brock, military and civilian leader of Upper Canada, responded:
"Where is the Canadian subject who can truly affirm to himself that he has been injured by the Government in his person, his property, or his liberty?
Settled not thirty years ago by a band of veterans exiled from their former possessions on account of their loyalty, not a descendant of these brave people is to be found who...has not acquired a property and means of employment superior to what were possessed by their ancestors..
Are you prepared, inhabitants of Canada, to become the willing subjects - or rather slaves - to the despot (Napoleon) who rules the nations of continental Europe with a rod of iron? If not, arise in a body, exert your energies, co-operate cordially with the King's regular forces to repel the invader, and do not give cause to your children, when groaning under the oppression of a foreign master, to reproach you with having so easily parted with the richest inheritance of this earth - a participation in the name, character and freedom of Britons."
Not all of the United States was in favour of war ~ and critics of Madison did not believe his reasons for declariing it. John Randolph of Roanoake, Virginia loudly proclaimed:
"Agrarian cupidity not maritime rights urges this war. Ever since the report of the Committee on Foreign Relations came into the House, we have heard but one word like the whip-poor-will, but one eternal monotonous tone - Canada! Canada! Canada! Not a syllable about Halifax which unquestionably should be our great object in a war for maritime security. "
THE BATTLESIn Canada the war was fought on five fronts:
Michilimackinac on Mackinac Island at the mouth of Lake Michegan
The western shores of Lake Erie
The St. Lawrence River between Kingston and Cornwall
South of Montreal
The War ended on Christmas Eve, 1814, when The Treaty of Ghent was signed. There was no clear cut winner of the War of 1812, and history books disagree on a victor. However, both the United States and Canada emerged from the war with an increased sense of national purpose and awareness.
Encarta Encyclopedia 1996
Canada: Years of Challenge to 1814. Elspeth Deir. Paul Deir. Keith Hubbard
The American Challenge. James R. Christopher. Bryan C. Vickers. 1987
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