This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, we look at a crucial war in American history that’s often overlooked, the War of 1812. I’ll speak with historian Willard Sterne Randall about his book, Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution. As you’ll hear, he argues that the American Revolution didn’t really end in 1783. Rather, it wasn’t until the US won the War of 1812 that the nation truly gained its independence. That’s because after the US gained its independence in the American Revolution, Great Britain was committed to dominating its former colony economically, seeking to control it like a semi-independent satellite state.
That really became a problem when war between Great Britain and France broke out in 1792 and continued nearly unabated until 1815. The US declared itself neutral in the conflict and claimed the right to trade with both sides. But the British rejected this claim. It blockaded French ports and then began seizing US ships it suspected were trading with the French. And, to make matters worse, the British also seized thousands of American sailors and forced them to serve in the British navy, a policy known as impressment. President Thomas Jefferson wanted to avoid war at all costs, so in 1807 he imposed an economic embargo that closed all US ports and maritime commerce. The embargo proved to be a disaster for the United States economy, and it failed to strengthen US neutrality. The British kept seizing US ships and forcing thousands of American sailors into the British Navy. Finally, in 1812, under a more hawkish President James Madison, the US declared war on Great Britain.
It was the ultimate David Goliath matchup, featuring the tiny and weak United States versus the world’s foremost military power. Fortunately for the US, Great Britain was locked in a global military struggle with Napoleonic France. The US managed to build a navy and create an army out of scratch. Then it scored enough victories on land and water to convince the British to agree to a peace treaty in 1815. This US victory, says Willard Sterne Randall, finally achieved national independence.
Among the many things discussed in this episode:
Why the American Revolution Didn’t End Until the US Won the War of 1812.
Why US Victory in the War of 1812 Spelled Disaster for Native Americans.
Why the British burned Washington, DC in the War of 1812.
Why the American victory on Lake Champlain is far more significant than Andrew Jackson’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans.
How Dolley Madison managed to save the Declaration of Independence when the British burned Washington, DC
How Francis Scott Key came to write the Star Spangled Banner during the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
More about Willard Sterne Randall – website
Willard Sterne Randall, Unshackling America: How the War of 1812 Truly Ended the American Revolution (2017)
George C. Daughan, 1812: The Navy’s War (2011)
Allan W. Eckert, A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh (1993)
Donald R. Hickey, Glorious Victory: Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans (2015).
Douglas R. Pratt and Donald R Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (1989)
Robert V. Remini, The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory (2001)
Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (2010).
Related ITPL Podcast Episodes:
Carol Berkin talks about her book, A Sovereign People: The Crises of the 1790s and the Birth of American Nationalism http://inthepastlane.com/episode-028/
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Discovery” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
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