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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

In 1816 Madison was succeeded by Monroe


Before

this last and most brilliant of American victories had been fought and won, peace had been signed at Ghent. News travelled slowly across the Atlantic, and neither British nor American commanders knew of it for months later. But early in the year negotiations had been opened, and before Christmas they reached a conclusion. Great Britain was more weary of the war than her antagonist. If she had gone on she might have won a complete victory, or might have seen fortune turn decisively against her. She had no wish to try the alternative. Napoleon had abdicated at Fontainebleau, and been despatched to Elba, and there were many who urged that the victorious army of the Peninsula under Wellington himself should be sent across the Atlantic to dictate terms. But England was not in the mood for more fighting. After twenty years of incessant war she saw at last the hope of peace. She saw also that the capture of Washington had not, as had been hoped, put an end to American resistance, but had rather put new life into it. To go on meant to attempt again the gigantic task which she had let drop as much from weariness as from defeat a generation before. She preferred to cry quits. The Peace, which was signed on behalf of a Republic by Clay--once the most vehement of "war-hawks"--was in appearance a victory for neither side. Frontiers remained exactly as they were when the first shot was fired. No indemnity was demanded or paid by either combatant. The right of impressment--the original cause
of war, was neither affirmed nor disclaimed, though since that date England has never attempted to use it. Yet there is no such thing in history as "a drawn war." One side or the other must always have attempted the imposition of its will and failed. In this case it was England. America will always regard the war of 1812 as having ended in victory; and her view is substantially right. The new Republic, in spite of, or, one might more truly say, because of the dark reverses she had suffered and survived, was strengthened and not weakened by her efforts. The national spirit was raised and not lowered. The _mood_ of a nation after a war is a practically unfailing test of victory or defeat; and the mood of America after 1814 was happy, confident, creative--the mood of a boy who has proved his manhood.

In 1816 Madison was succeeded by Monroe. Monroe, though, like his successor, a Virginian and a disciple of Jefferson, was more of a nationalist, and had many points of contact with the new Democracy which had sprung up first in the West, and was daily becoming more and more the dominant sentiment of the Republic. "Federalism" had perished because it was tainted with oligarchy, but there had been other elements in it which were destined to live, and the "National Republicans," as they came to call themselves, revived them. They were for a vigorous foreign policy and for adequate preparations for war. They felt the Union as a whole, and were full of a sense of its immense undeveloped possibilities. They planned expensive schemes of improvement by means of roads, canals, and the like to be carried out at the cost of the Federal Government, and they cared little for the protests of the doctrinaires of "State Right." To them America owes, for good or evil, her Protective system. The war had for some years interrupted commerce with the Old World, and native industries had, perforce, grown up to supply the wants of the population. These industries were now in danger of destruction through the reopening of foreign trade, and consequently of foreign competition. It was determined to frame the tariff hitherto imposed mainly, if not entirely, with a view to revenue in such a way as to shelter them from such peril. The exporting Cotton States, which had nothing to gain from Protection, were naturally hostile to it; but they were overborne by the general trend of opinion, especially in the West. One last development of the new "national" policy--the most questionable of its developments and opposed by Clay at the time, though he afterwards made himself its champion--was the revival, to meet the financial difficulties created by the war, of Hamilton's National Bank, whose charter, under the Jeffersonian _regime_, had been suffered to expire.


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