Skip to main content

Donald Hickey and the War of 1812


Image result for donald hickey

The nation’s foremost authority on the War of 1812, Donald Hickory, gave a lecture to a select gathering of scholars and students of history at Louisiana State University of Shreveport in March 2015. He discussed the causes, course, and consequences of that often overlooked conflict, and presented a thoughtful and well-studied argument that the event deserved as much attention from modern audiences as a historical milestone in America’s birth story as does Washington’s crossing of the Delaware and the storming of Normandy. He swiftly guided the audience through a dazzling array of cultural, political, and military legacies with which modern audiences are readily familiar, but might be surprised to learn how little they knew about. The title of his presentation is “Legacy of the War, Forgotten Conflict: Why the War of 1812 Matters Today.”



Hickey began with a discussion of the war’s obscurity. He argued that the reasons the conflict and its outcomes are so poorly remembered are that the origins of the conflict are poorly understood, as it was an “outgrowth of the Napoleonic Wars,” that it was the only European war fought on U.S. soil since the colonial period, and that its causes weren’t as flashy as Independence or Slavery; it was fought over issues concerning “neutral trade rights on the high-seas,” such as impressment and freedom of trade. Hickey believes that the U.S. invasion of Canada “muddied the causes of the war for later generations” casting the US as the aggressor in reductive revisionist versions of the narrative. He observes that the war is also the only one of its kind to be named simply by the year it was fought, rendering its meaning unintuitive as a term. Though Canada wanted to forget the war and Europe simply dismissed it as a side-show in the greater wake of Napoleonic pandemonium, Hickey asserts that the war deserves better from modern (presumably American) audiences.

Though the ‘Battle of New Orleans’ may not evoke the same recognition or notoriety as ‘Bunker Hill’ or the ‘Bay of Pigs,’ Hickey reasons that its military, political, and cultural impacts are still ubiquitous, if unnoticed, and have played a major role in shaping the nation’s history as it followed. Among his points to on this line he notes that what began as enmity and insurrection and bloodshed between the two warring nations grew over the next seventy years into an extraordinarily advantageous alliance. Hickey also reminds the audience that the war brought compromise between the administration and their federalist opposition, streamlining the national process of ship-building for which America arguably became such a premiere naval force later in its history. On the map, Hickey adds that Florida was gained from neutral Spain at this time, and also that as a consequence of the war, the “doorway to western expansion” was opened wide, meaning that the Native Americans who were in the way would have no more credible opportunities to negotiate with foreign powers. Britain and France weren’t going to compromise their largest economic market for their sake, and so Manifest Destiny was born.

Among such symbolic legacies as the Kentucky rifle and “Old Ironsides,” as well as a newfound reverence for the flag, the national anthem, and cadet grey, Hickey might also add to the list a rich and rewarding historicity, defined by great American scholars such as himself who have labored their whole lives to leave future generations with such a fascinating history of themselves. Such a thing might not have been if cotton never became King, or if the Anaconda plan failed, or if courageous American sailors hadn’t demanded the right to be treated with the same sovereign dignity at sea as they expected at home. No student, or citizen, will repay the debt.

Image Source: http://gazette.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/CROP-War-of-1812-Don-Hickey.jpg

Popular posts from this blog

Review: The Black Side of Shreveport, by Willie Burton

Burton, Willie. The Black Side of Shreveport. Shreveport : Southern University of Louisiana, 1983, 159. Reviewed by Steven Harkness. With the Emancipation Proclamation, Abraham Lincoln set a race of people free from the indignity of slavery. With the Union victory over the Confederate states, the government promised reform via Reconstruction. With the contentious election of Rutherford B. Hayes though, the political will to carry those reforms forward in earnest fell subordinate to the need for compromise and continuity. Within a generation, the cause of the black citizen passed from pipe dream to political controversy to conflagration to compromise to catharsis. The white man would not help, and would not keep his promises, and could not be counted on for meaningful change. All truth existed on a continuum, and this truth was more true in the south than in the north, more true in the cotton belt than in many other southern areas, and perhaps nowhere at all more true th

Modernization and the Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire is famous for its size, scope, and influence upon the histories of nearly every major European country. Why then, did the concurrent attempts at modernization seem to fail for Turks, where the Egyptians succeeded? In short, the Turks, who wielded so much power and authority, failed to solidify their gains. One argument, and a strong one, is that they bit off more than they can chew. Another argument, equally compelling, is that they were simply beaten into bankruptcy. And yet another argument contends that reforms failed for Ottomans because of an insurmountable surge of internal resistance, from basically every direction.

Cyber Bully: the Self-Perpetuating Cycle

The internet has evolved into a cradle-to-grave platform for social abuse. From the exploitation of small children by sexual deviants, to the pervasive bullying of students, to the radicalization and recruitment of young adults, to the global networks of hate groups and terrorist organizations which receive them, the digital age has failed to achieve the utopian ideals of enlightenment, social justice, and civility. Bullies, of all ages, races, and creeds, flock to the web to find easy targets to victimize, and to locate organizations of like-minded individuals to lend legitimacy and validity to their toxic worldviews. The net also provides them anonymity, and the tools to protect their identities from their victims, from the communities where they live, and from law enforcement agencies who would hold them accountable. And for many groups, the internet offers opportunities to finance those malevolent agendas. What all of these hate groups and bullies have in common is the desi