On This Day - 16th june

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The 16th of June 1812

Britain's desire during the Napoleonic Wars to control the seas, and perhaps a certain arrogance arising out of perceived naval superiority, had an unwanted knock-on effect. On June 16 1812, acceding to a request from President James Madison, Congress declared war on Great Britain.

Strangely and tragically the most significant factor in the two nations going to war was actually removed two days prior to that declaration, when the British government repealed the orders in council that legitimised taking sailors from American ships. But of course communications in that period were less than instant. Naval actions took place and the war grew of its own accord.

The USA went on to invade Canada, seeking territory for expansion; they burned what became Toronto; so the British captured Washington and burned the White House; the East Coast of America was blockaded; Andrew Jackson defeated invaders at New Orleans.

And if it seems like Brits bad, Americans good, consider that more than 3000 slaves gained their freedom during the conflict which only ended in 1815: many were settled in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and Britain agreed to pay more than $1.2 million to the US government to reimburse slave-owners.

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