The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter III
Part VI

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam

 

When Decatur left the hall he was saluted by the citizens who had "assembled to witness the honors paid to this gallant countryman." The number of men enrolled for the force under his orders, including man-of-war's men on the ships and gunboats, and the Sea Fencibles--a kind of naval militia--exceeded 5,000. These Decatur thoroughly trained, while also disciplining the crew of the "President" as a sort of bodyguard, manoeuvring them in person. His squadron consisted of the "President," his flagship, 52 guns; the new sloop "Peacock," 20 guns; and the "Hornet," 20 guns. Destined for the East Indies, these ships now lay at anchor in the bay, closely blockaded by a superior force of British cruisers.

The militia of the city received instruction in drill several hours each day, the battalions twice a week, the regiments once a week, the brigade once a fortnight; and General Stevens, who was a disciplinarian of the Steuben school, reviewed them in parade three or four times in the course of their three months' service. In a general review made by Governor Tompkins at the close of the campaign, the corps consisted of 23,000 men-all, except 500 Untied States regulars, being volunteers. At the close of this review New York City felt confident that , if danger came, she would be able to defend her port and her shores.

Peace and Its Preliminaries--The peculiar conduct of authorities in Massachusetts and one or two other contiguous States, their general nervousness and tendencies to truckle to the enemy, raised apprehensions among the Eastern States that in the conditions of peace they would be left to the mercies of Great Britain. A committee of the Massachusetts Legislature, reporting on the state of public affairs, suggested that the moneys raised fro the prosecution of the war should be retained for their own defense and not be expended elsewhere. A convention of sympathizing States was recommended, to provide "some mode of defense suited to the circumstances and exigencies of those States."

A call was issued and delegates from every New England State met at Hartford on December 15, 1814. The sessions were held with closed doors, and the conflicting rumors caused excited comment throughout the country. The convention adjourned finally n January 5, and made a report which went no further than to propose amendments to the Constitution of the Untied States restricting the powers of Congress and of the Executive to declare and make war. The injurious consequences of this movement of secession were not permitted to ripen, for a slackening had come in the war, and the trend towards peace had been definitely taken. New York, which had but little share in these rebellious and centrifugal aberrations, despite the hardships the war brought upon her, tried to make up by her loyalty to the National Government for the disturbances on her borders.

All through the course of the war the support of the treasury of the Untied States came in the main from the Middle States. Of the loan of sixteen millions authorized by congress in December, 1812, New York took $5,720,000, Pennsylvania $6,858,000, Maryland $2,393,300, while the New England State subscribed for but $486,700, and the Southern States $541,000, together but little over a million dollars. The extremely small, subscription in new England (Boston taking but $75,300) can only be explained by an obstinate determination to take none of the risks of the war, one of which appeared to some of the political prophets in the city to be the dissolution of the Union. The work and influence of Albert Gallatin saved the loan, David Parish and Stephen Girard in Philadelphia, and John Jacob Astor in New York, taking over ten millions for themselves and their friends. All three of these men were foreign born.

This was Mr. Gallatin's last financial transaction. Between June 1, 1811, and June 1, 1814, the specie in the Massachusetts banks increased from $,706,000 to $7,326,0000 in the latter year. Of the $41,010,000 supplied to the government in various ways from the beginning of the war to the close, the Eastern States contributed $2,900,000, the Middle States $35,790,000, the Southern States $2,320,0000, and, moreover, four-fifths of the floating debt on January 1, 1915, was held by the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and the District of Columbia.

An application of the text, "Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also," has been said, would appear to be not inappropriate to a review of this narrow and self-centered display of policy. The capture of Washington by the British in August, 1814, precipitated a general suspension of the banks of the Untied States, including those of New York City. The depression of the currency in New York was from seven to ten per cent. the banks of New England, continuing their policy, within a little over a year drew to their vaults over $8,000,000 of specie, one-half the entire stock of the Untied States.

When the overtures for peace began it was a matter for general congratulations that the negotiations undertaken in England, as a result of the vigorous defense of New York territory, had not been embarrassed by any conquests which Great Britain might pretend to claim under the Principe of possession being nine-tenths of the law, and when a claim of that kind was advanced by Lord Bathurst, the American commissioners promptly refused to recognize it as valid despite the bluster of the British. That bluster took the form of threats to prosecute the war against America relentlessly with an army recruited from all the troops at liberty in Europe and flushed with their victories over the Napoleonic forces. But Wellington made it clear to Lord Liverpool that the British held no territory in the United States in other than temporary possession, and a climb down came to be regarded as the prudent course in England.

Nevertheless, the British were doing their worst along the American coast as the negotiations proceeded, and doubtless with the purpose of strengthening the British side in those negotiations. But the news of the burning of Washington so far from intimidating the American commissioners added to their resolution not to budge an inch. The Treaty of Ghent was finally singed on Christmas Day, 1814, on the basis of the American instructions, namely, the status quo before the war. Neither had learned the lesson that the re-conquest of America would henceforth be impossible to her, and the lesson taught her regulars on the Niagara frontier was repeated at New Orleans by General Jackson some day after peace had been signed. It was a fortunate sequel, for it justified the American representatives in their resolute attitude of yielding nothing, and it completed the assertion of the sovereignty of the Untied States over every square yard of her territory, not merely by agreement on paper, but by the might of her own arms.

New York was thrilled to the heart by the happy coincidence of the almost simultaneous arrival of the news of the victory at the mouth of the Mississippi and of the conclusion of peace. The people of New York heard of the battle on February 6, 1815. They learnt of the signing of the treaty of peace on February 14. The universal rejoicing released itself in a succession of public dinners and public parades and illumination. And New York felt throughout its length and breadth that her sons had done their duty to the land of which it was henceforth to be the imperial and favored State.

AUTHORITIES.

Lossing, "Field Book of the War of 1812."
"State of New York, Public Papers of Daniel D. Tompkins," 3 vols.
Alexander, "A Political History of the State of New York,' 2 vols.
Guernsey, R. S., "New York City and Vicinity During the War of 1812-15," 2 vols.
Armstrong, J., "Notices of the War of 1812," 2 vols.
Auchinleck, G., "History of the War Between Great Britain and the United States,"
Bowen, Abel, "The Naval Monument."
Boyd, J. P., "Documents and Facts Relative to the Military Events During the Late War."
Brackenridge, H. M., "History of the Late War Between the United States and Great Britain."
Brannan, J., "Official letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States During the War with
Great Britain."
Brown, Jacob, "Battle of Sacketts Harbor."
Brown, S. R., "The Authentic History of the Second War."
Campbell, F. W., "The War of 1812-14."
Carey, M., "The Olive Branch."
Christie, R., "The Military and Naval Operations in the Canadas."

 

The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

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