Extracts from memoirs and diariesby Ian Irvine / February 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
Published in March 2017 issue of Prospect Magazine
The war of 1812 between the United States and Britain in fact lasted until 1815. In 1814, after watching the British bombard Baltimore (following the burning of the White House), Francis Scott Key wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Its third verse is often now omitted:
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,/That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion/A home and a country should leave us no more?/Their blood has wash’d out their foul footsteps’ pollution. /No refuge could save the hireling and slave/ From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave.
“Hireling” refers to German mercenaries and “slave” to 6,000 freed slaves formed into the Corps of Colonial Marines to fight their former masters. With peace, the US demanded the return of its “property.” Britain refused and most slaves settled in Canada. After arbitration by the Tsar of Russia $1.2m was paid in compensation to the slaveowners.
In November 1861, during the Civil War, the Trent Affair threatened war between Great Britain and President Lincoln’s government. A Union warship had seized two Confederate envoys en route to London from a Royal Mail ship, RMS Trent. Friedrich Engels wrote to Karl Marx:
“Have these Yankees gone completely crazy to carry out this mad coup? To take political prisoners by force, from a foreign ship, is the clearest casus belli there can be. The fellows must be sheer fools to land themselves at war with England.”
Public opinion in the North was cock-a-hoop at British humiliation. The Philadelphia Sunday Transcript crowed: “If [Br…