Deeply Flawed Poll on War of 1812 Awareness

10 12 2009

The Canadian newspapers have published the results of a poll that has tried to gauge the average Canadians’ level of knowledge of the War of 1812. The pollsters asked Canadians: ”

Who won the War of 1812? Canada or the United States?”

The fact many Canadians were unable to give an answer has been the occasion of some debate and angst.

This is one of the most ridiculous polls I have every heard. I’m disturbed that so many people thought that “Canada” won the war. It is anachronistic to speak of “Canada” as being a combatant in this war. One might as well speak of the Roman conquest of the “United Kingdom”. The war was fought in a variety of places, including what is now “Canada”, between British and American forces, not to mention a variety of First Nations. War was declared by the United States on Britain and was ended with an inconclusive peace treaty between those two Powers. Most of the English-speaking colonists in Upper Canada were bystanders in this conflict between two empires.  The Dominion of Canada was formed in 1867 and only gradually acquired a diplomatic personality. In suggesting that “Canada” was a combatant in this war, the creators of this poll are suggesting a gross ignorance of history.

One might say that this was the war that both sides won, but that would involve restricting our focus to just Britain and the United States. Britain’s Native allies lost this war, big time.

The War of 1812 has become something of a touchstone for left-wing anti-Americans in Canada. Part of the folklore of this war is that Canada’s army burnt down the White House. Have a look at the video for this song by the Arrogant Worms, a Canadian group. The video shows George Bush Junior being chased out of the White House by Canadian troops in 1812.

For Canadians to celebrate the alleged British victory over the US in the War of 1812 is to miss the point. Canadians should instead be asking why Britain and the United States have remained at peace since 1815. The two countries drew close to war at various points in the nineteenth century, but their diplomats were always able to work out a solution. Someone should explain the democratic peace theory to the public.