Christmas: A Time of Peace in America

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The signing of the Treaty of Ghent, December 24, 1814

On June 18, 1812, President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Britain on account of the nation’s providing arms to American Indians as well as their practice of impressment (abduction of foreign nationals to fight for Britain) of American sailors for the Napoleonic War. Two years in, although the British had managed to blockade U.S. ports and burn down the White House, the Americans had successfully blocked efforts to carry out an invasion and political pressure mounted from merchants to end the war and resume trade between the nations. Additionally, the British had stopped impressments as the Napoleonic War had concluded.

In August 1814, the peace negotiations between Britain and the United States began and on December 24, 1814 the Treaty of Ghent was signed that ended the War of 1812, returned all conquered territory, and established a commission to determine the border between the United States and Canada. The Senate voted to ratify unanimously on February 17, 1815. The end of the War of 1812 had also notably ended the threat of European intervention in westward expansion, which was a great long-run victory for the United States. The treaty signed on Christmas Eve was widely celebrated and began the era of greatest American unity, known as the Era of Good Feelings, with James Monroe being reelected president with no major candidate opposing in 1820. Although during the Monroe Administration divisions eventually arose again, I thought that in a time of division as great as ours, it is worth remembering at this time of year a Christmastime peace treaty that brought America together.

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