Category Archives: United Kingdom

Canadian Missionaries in Africa and the NGO Model

For more than a century Canadians have gone abroad to do “good” in poorer parts of the world. Whether they spurred positive change or simply became foreign agents should be of interest to international non-governmental organizations.

Last week the Globe and Mail reported on the Canadians Christians who set off to proselytize in China in 1891. Focused on their medical achievements, the laudatory story hinted at a darker side of their work. It quoted a missionary who was “critical of the lifestyle most of the missionaries led, with their large houses, many servants and imported comforts which contrasted with the far lower standard of living of their Chinese fellow Christians.”

Of more consequence than their opulence, Canadian missionaries aggressively supported colonial officials, as I discovered researching Canada in Africa: 300 years of aid and exploitation. By the end of the colonial period 2,500 Canadian missionaries were proselytizing in Africa and Canadian churches raised large sums to support mission stations across the continent.

Four Québec Jesuit fathers left for the Zambesi Mission in southern Africa in 1883. Alphonse Daignault rose through the ranks of the Catholic male congregation to become Prefect Apostolic of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). Then Superior of the Jesuits’ Zambezi Mission, Daignault backed the British South Africa Company’s invasion of Mashonaland (Zimbabwe) in 1890. With their evangelizing shunned by the Ndebele people, the Jesuits and other foreign missionaries supported the “destruction of [the] Ndebele system.”

Granted a charter from London in 1889, Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company offered white men in Kimberley, South Africa, 3,000 acres of land and mining rights if they joined the Company’s fight to conquer part of today’s Zimbabwe. Daignault offered the invading force chaplaincy services, mobile ambulances and nurses. The British South Africa Company paid the Jesuit nurses’ costs and compensated Daignault’s mission with conquered territory, including a major piece of land on the outskirts of today’s Harare. In A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe C. J. M. Zvobgo writes that the Harare “farm which consisted of 12,000 acres, beautifully surrounded by hills, was given to the Jesuits by the BSA Company in recognition of FR Alphonse Daignault’s service to the [Company’s] sick.”

The Québec Jesuit leader worked with Rhodes and British officials for years. He also supported the colonial authorities’ efforts to drive Africans from their traditional economies into wage work. Reflecting the settler community’s attitude in 1897, Daignault told the deputy administrator of the city of Bulawayo in 1897 that the “natives of this country… are but grown-up children” prone to “idleness”. “Men in authority who have the true interests of the natives at heart ought to treat the natives not only as children but are also to do all they can to make them acquire habits of work. As this cannot be obtained by mere moral persuasion, authority must necessarily be used.”

To the north, dozens of Canadian missionaries helped the colonial authority penetrate Ugandan societies in the early 1900s. The preeminent figure was John Forbes who was a bishop and coadjutor vicar apostolic, making him second in charge of over 30 mission posts in Uganda. A 1929 biography of the founder of the White Father in Canada describes his “good relations” with British colonial authorities and the “important services Forbes rendered the authorities of the Protectorate.”

In 1918 Forbes participated in a major conference in the colony, organized by Governor Robert Coryndon in the hopes of spurring indigenous wage work. The Vaudreuil, Québec, native wrote home that “it’s a big question. The European planters in our area, who cultivate coffee, cotton and rubber need workers for their exploitation. But the workforce is rare. Our Negroes are happy to eat bananas and with a few bits of cotton or bark for clothes, are not excited to put themselves at the service of the planters and work all day for a meager salary.” British officials subsidized the White Fathers schools as part of a bid to expand the indigenous workforce.

During World War I, Canadian White Fathers Ernest Paradis and Wilfred Sarrazin helped Brigadier General Edward Northey conquer German East Africa. Serving as civilian transport officers, Paradis and Sarrazin focused on organizing African carriers, who were generally press ganged into service. Paradis became Senior Transport Officer for all British forces east of Nyasaland and North of Zambesi in today’s Malawi and Zimbabwe.

By volunteering to join the war, the White Fathers sought “respectability … in the eyes of planters and government officials.” Afterwards, Paradis used his heightened status to gain the colonial administration’s support for the White Fathers’ educational work.

Paradis evangelised in Malawi for several decades. He led the White Fathers campaign to supress “the Nyau”, a religious belief among the Chewa and Nyanja people that included elaborate dances. In May 1929 Paradis wrote an East Africa article titled “Devil Dancers of Terror” that claimed Nyau dances were seditious.

Another Canadian missionary engaged in the White Fathers’ efforts to outlaw Nyau customs in Nyasaland. Father Superior David Roy called on colonial officials to criminalize their dances and in 1928 Christians in the Likuni district, which he oversaw, killed two Nyau.

Thomas Buchanan Reginald Westgate was a Canadian missionary who joined the Church Missionary Society in German East Africa in 1902. With the support of the Ontario branch of the Church Mission Society, Westgate remained in Tanzania for over a decade. The Watford, Ontario, born missionary translated parts of the Old Testament into Cigogo, the language spoken by the Gogo nation in the central region of the colony.

Westgate worked with the colonial administration. His son, Wilfrid Westgate, authored a book about his father’s life titled T. B. R. Westgate: A Canadian Missionary on Three Continents. In the biography, Westgate writes: “Governor [Heinrich] Schnee looked upon the mission as an asset to this part of the German colonial empire.” German soldiers protected the Canadian’s mission post when the population rose up in 1905 against the colonial authority. Dissent was sparked by measures to force Africans to grow cotton for export, and an uprising known as the Maji Maji rebellion swept across the vast colony. It lasted two years. During the rebellion, Westgate coordinated with German Captain von Hirsch. Westgate’s wife, Rita, later wrote, “at times we feared the Germans could not suppress the rising.” The Germans succeeded, however, and the Westgate’s fears did not come to pass. In The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective, Isabel Hull writes that 15 Europeans and 389 allied African soldiers were killed by the rebels. By contrast, writes Hull, whole areas of the colony were depopulated with 200,000 to 300,000 Tanzanians killed between 1905 and 1907.

Another Ontario native by the name of Marion Wittich (later Marion Keller) felt called to missionary work while working as an Anglican schoolteacher in Parry Sound, Ontario. She set off with her husband to proselytize in Tanzania in 1913. Her husband died in Tanzania and several years later she remarried a man by the name of Otto Keller, a German born US émigré, who the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada sponsored to set up a mission station in western Kenya. In 1914 Otto Keller claimed that “here [Africa] we see the power of the devil in an astonishing form, almost beyond belief. The noise of drunken men and women, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh come to our ears. All seemingly bound and determined to fulfill the cup of their iniquity.” By the time Marion Keller died in 1942, the socially conservative Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada had over 200 branch churches in Kenya.

An official history of the Canadian church attacked the anti-colonial movement in Kenya as “a resurgence of primitive animism.” Published in 1958, What God Hath Wrought: A History of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada notes: “Unfortunately, sinister forces were bidding high for the souls of Kenya’s millions. In the 1950s there was to be a resurgence of primitive heathenism which had as its aim the expulsion of the white man from Kenya and the extinction of everything Christian in their land. This was the Mau Mau uprising.” In putting down the uprising the British killed tens of thousands.

In 1893 Torontonians Walter Gowans and Rowland Victor Bingham founded what later became the largest interdenominational Protestant mission on the continent: the Sudan Interior Mission (Though SIM initially focused on modern- day Nigeria, at the time “Sudan” generally referred to the area south of the Sahara and North of the equator from the east to west coast of the continent.) Head of SIM for four decades, Bingham described “facing millions of people in the darkness of their heathenism” and “seeing the people in all their savagery and sin.”

In the 1950s SIM described growing Nigerian nationalism as “dark and threatening”. Adeleye Liagbemi writes that “the nationalist upsurge of the post Second World War era engendered a new spirit of independence and experimentation; positive, forward-looking, purposeful and militant. The situation sent chills down the spines of some Christian missionary organizations in the country — including the S.I.M.” In response SIM ramped up its literature output, deciding to “take the offensive out of Satan’s hands”, which it felt had “been winning the war of words among the new literates” of Africa.

Official Canada generally supported these Christian activists. Missionary leaders were well-regarded and received sympathetic media coverage. Leading business people financed mission work and Ottawa sometimes looked to missionaries for advice.

Most of the Canadians who proselytized in Africa were “good Christians” who saw themselves as helping to “civilize the dark continent”. While formal colonialism is over and paternalism has been tempered, Canadians supportive of international NGOs should reflect on missionary history.

Theresa May’s Snap General Election: The Mother of All U-Turns

Theresa May ruled out an early snap general election on the Andrew Marr show on 4 September 2016 on the grounds that the country needed stability.I think the next election will be in 2020, she said. Fast-forward to 18 April 2017, explaining her decision to hold a general election on 8 June 2017, she said:

Since I became Prime Minister I have said there should be no election until 2020 but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election and seek your support for the decisions I must take,

Is it any wonder, then, that the public trust in politicians is rock bottom? In another phrase she used to justify an early general election, the Prime Minister said: “The country is coming together but Westminster is not”. How so, Prime Minister? The 48% who voted remain in the EU referendum haven’t suddenly changed their minds! The country is divided and parliament is reflecting the confusion and the uncertainty of the country.

One is left with the inescapable conclusion that the decision to hold an early general election is in the interest of the Conservative party and not that of the country. Having a substantial lead in the polls over Labour, Theresa May believes that all opposition to her extreme Brexit will be crushed by this cynical decision. Additionally, going to the electorate before the muck of Brexit hits the fan is an added advantage.

We have been here before. The EU referendum was held in the interest of the Conservative party to silence the Brexiteers within, and to thwart UKIP’s advance at the expense of the Tories. The Cameron government never expected the leave campaign to win.

They were wrong. Is this another miscalculation by Cameron’s successor, Theresa May? Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, believes so, and she may well be right.

And what of fixed-term parliaments? The idea here is to remove the substantial advantage it gives the government to hold the election at a time of its choosing within the five year period.. It now turns out to be not worth the paper it is written on.

Opposition parties dare not oppose the government if it chooses to hold an early snap general election for fear of being accused of cowardice in front of the electorate. This is the case now and the government duly got its way to hold a general election on 8 June 2017.

There is a strong case for a second referendum on EU membership as demanded by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, that can be put as follows:  if people had known that: (a) almost all fellow Europeans already in Britain would continue to reside in the UK; (b) immigration would only be cut by 15%; and (c) there would be no extra £350 million a week for the NHS, would a majority have voted for Brexit?

Here is the thing. If Theresa May can change her mind so spectacularly within months about the merits and demerits of an early general election, then we must give the people the opportunity to change their minds once the terms of Brexit are concluded. Offer a second referendum, and let the people decide.

Nuking The West Coast: BBC News Massively Hypes North Korean “Threat” To The United States

One of the longstanding functions of the ‘mainstream’ media is to channel government ideology about who are ‘the Good Guys’ – that’s ‘us’ and our allies – and who are the ‘Bad Guys’ – ‘Putin’s Russia’, ‘Saddam’s Iraq’, ‘Chavez’s Venezuela’, ‘Gaddafi’s Libya’ (until rehabilitated for a while by Blair) and North Korea.

Of course, ‘we’ often help ‘Bad Guys’ into power, even give them poison gas, sell them arms, and support them through thick and thin. But let’s put all that to one side.

Consider a recent BBC News at Ten segment on the US, China and North Korea that began with presenter Huw Edwards saying:

President Trump has said the United States will “solve” the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme. In an interview with the Financial Times, the president said the US would act alone if China would not intervene. He made his comments ahead of a visit to the US by the Chinese president later this week. Our North America editor, Jon Sopel, is at the White House.

And, Jon, what does this tell us then about President Trump’s approach to this upcoming visit?

Jon Sopel: ‘Well, Huw, for all the talk of surveillance and phone tapping and wire taps and Russia, this is the major strategic national security issue, at least as far as this White House is concerned. What to do about North Korea and their growing ability, it seems, to launch a nuclear missile that could hit the west coast of America.1

As we will see, far from being responsible, ‘impartial’ journalism, this was blatant propaganda, depicting North Korea as a serious threat to the United States, capable of hitting California with a nuclear missile.

Consider, by contrast, a careful analysis by the US writer Adam Johnson in a piece for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting last month.

Johnson noted that:

Tensions between the United States and North Korea are making their way back into the news after a series of missile tests and presidential Twitter threats. Meanwhile, a conservative think tank—previously thought all but dead—has seen a resurgence in relevancy, thanks to its alignment with Donald Trump. The result is that the Heritage Foundation has provided much of the narrative backbone for North Korean/US relations in the age of Trump, making the rounds in dozens of media articles and television appearances.

Johnson continued:

One key feature of reports on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is the Hypothetical Scary Nuke Map that shows an entirely hypothetical, not-yet-proven-to-have-been-built intercontinental ballistic missile hitting the US mainland.

Two types of missile, known as KN-14 and KN-08, are depicted in media reports as capable of reaching the United States.

Johnson highlighted the crucial fact that:

These missiles have not been tested by North Korea.

In other words, the media have been publishing ‘misleading’ maps that ‘buried the fact that the range indicating the US could be nuked had not, in fact, been demonstrated.’

Recall Sopel’s words:

What to do about North Korea and their growing ability, it seems, to launch a nuclear missile that could hit the west coast of America.

The sole extent of Sopel’s journalistic scrutiny was to insert two words, ‘it seems’, in a report blatantly boosting the US propaganda message of North Korea as a nuclear ‘threat’ capable of attacking the west coast of the United States.

As for the right-wing Heritage Foundation, Johnson raised questions about its funding ties to the South Korean government and to the US weapons industry:

In the late ’90s, it was criticized for accepting $1 million in funding directly from the South Korean government. A 2015 report in The Intercept (9/15/15) showed the cozy relationship between the foundation and military contractor Lockheed Martin, with Heritage building the requisite marketing collateral to lobby Congress to expand the F-22 program, urging the purchase of 20 planes for resale to Japan, Australia and “possibly South Korea.”

He also points out that:

The Heritage Foundation has been incredibly influential in the Trump administration, having written many of its budget-slashing proposals and shaping policy at a high level.

On April 4, 2017, we emailed Sopel (ku.oc.cbbnull@lepos.noj):

Dear Jon Sopel,

On last night’s BBC News at Ten you reported that the White House is concerned by ‘North Korea and their growing ability, it seems, to launch a nuclear missile that could hit the west coast of America.’

But surely responsible journalism should include scrutiny of government claims, rather than channelling them uncritically to your audience? Indeed, BBC editorial guidelines say that journalists must show ‘appropriate scrutiny… to those who are in government, or hold power and responsibility’. You have not done so here.

By contrast, US media analyst Adam Johnson has examined the claims surrounding the supposed threat posed by North Korea’s missile programme. Many of the lurid claims and ‘scary nuke maps’ originate with the right-wing Heritage Foundation which has (or had) funding links to South Korea and US military contractor Lockheed Martin.

Crucially, Johnson notes of the missiles that are depicted as being able to hit the west coast of America:

‘These missiles have not been tested by North Korea’.

Even a BBC News article concludes of the claim for long-range nuclear missiles:

‘experts have cast doubts on this given the lack of evidence.’

Why did your report not include these balancing facts and concerns?

Best wishes

David Cromwell & David Edwards
Editors, Media Lens

Sopel did not reply.

Current news coverage about North Korea omits significant history. The fact that the United States devastated the Korean peninsula in the 1950s is regularly buried. US General Douglas MacArthur testified to Congress in 1951 that:

The war in Korea has already destroyed that nation of 20,000,000 people. I have never seen such devastation. I have seen, I guess, as much blood and disaster as any living man, and it just curdled my stomach, the last time I was there. After I looked at that wreckage and those thousands of women and children and everything, I vomited.2

US Air Force General Curtis LeMay wrote:

We burned down just about every city in North Korea and South Korea both…we killed off over a million civilians and drove several million more from their homes, with the inevitable additional tragedies bound to ensue.3

All this is regularly forgotten in news reports about North and South Korea today. Instead, BBC News and other outlets dutifully report, without blinking, that:

US Vice-President Mike Pence has said his country’s “era of strategic patience” with North Korea is over.

One BBC News article stated:

North Korea has long been seen to use provocation and brinkmanship to raise tension for its own strategic advantage.

That this sentence applies to the United States in global affairs, where it goes beyond brinkmanship into actual full-scale invasion and war, is an irony that will not be lost on many readers.

As if on cue, the US Navy has just provoked North Korea by deploying a strike force, including a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, in its direction. The Guardian said this was ‘to provide a presence near the Korean peninsula’. Why the US should provide ‘a presence’ is not questioned; it is simply taken for granted that Washington is the world’s policeman. The Guardian also noted casually that the recent:

US strike against a Syrian base is also being seen as a warning to North Korea.

Again, it is just a given that the US is entitled to make such threats.

In an interview with Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky sketched the more recent history of US – North Korea relations that is also routinely missing from ‘mainstream’ media reporting:

1994, [Bill] Clinton made—established what was called the Framework Agreement with North Korea. North Korea would terminate its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. The U.S. would reduce hostile acts. It more or less worked, and neither side lived up to it totally, but, by 2000, North Korea had not proceeded with its nuclear weapons programs. George W. Bush came in and immediately launched an assault on North Korea—you know, “axis of evil,” sanctions and so on. North Korea turned to producing nuclear weapons. In 2005, there was an agreement between North Korea and the United States, a pretty sensible agreement. North Korea agreed to terminate its development of nuclear weapons. In return, it called for a nonaggression pact. So, stop making hostile threats, relief from harsh sanctions, and provision of a system to provide North Korea with low-enriched uranium for medical and other purposes—that was the proposal. George Bush instantly tore it to shreds. Within days, the U.S. was imposing—trying to disrupt North Korean financial transactions with other countries through Macau and elsewhere. North Korea backed off, started building nuclear weapons again. I mean, maybe you can say it’s the worst regime in history, whatever you like, but they have been following a pretty rational tit-for-tat policy.

Thus, despite standard media misrepresentations to the contrary, North Korea has been following ‘a pretty rational policy’ in the face of ‘hostile acts’ and ‘harsh sanctions’ from, in particular, the US. You would never know that if you relied solely on ‘mainstream’ media such as BBC News.

  1. April 3, 2017; kindly captured and uploaded to YouTube for us by Steve Ennever
  2. Napalm – An American Biography by Robert Neer, Belknap Press, 2013, p. 100
  3. Ibid., p. 100

The Costa Rica Lesson

I recently returned from a holiday in Costa Rica, a country I’d wanted to visit for some years. I bought two T-shirts there. One has an image of an automatic rifle with a flower sticking out its barrel and the words “NO ARMY” written across it in the colour of blood. The other T-shirt has an image of an artillery piece, with the words “No army since 1948” on it.

Just after Costa Rica had its revolution in 1948, one of the first things its new visionary leader Jose Figueres Ferrer did was scrap its army. Contrary to what one might think, this immediately increased Costa Rica’s security, rather than weakening it, and it’s the only country in an otherwise war-torn part of the world to have had sustained peace and prosperity ever since.

Ferrer’s action suggests that he realised that, counterintuitively, armies are more of a threat to freedom and national security than providers of it. Costa Rica has a lightly armed police force which is quite enough for its security needs. Scrapping their army has allowed Costa Rica to spend billions of dollars providing standards of health, education and pensions for all its citizens that are unknown in that part of the world. It provides almost carbon-neutral energy supplies, and protects and preserves huge swathes of its natural environment from the wanton destruction of property developers. Much of this is paid for with the money it doesn’t spend on keeping an army. Switzerland also has no standing army, yet has remained secure for almost two hundred years – even when completely surrounded by war, twice.

The world doesn’t need armies – especially today. They’re a curse, not a blessing. The primary use of armies has always been to loot and plunder others – and it’s still their primary use today. It can be argued that through most of our history armies have sometimes provided security. But in 1948 the continued need for armies was dispensed with by the creation of the United Nations. The UN scrapped the need for armies by creating an international law instead, a law that states that it’s illegal for any country to be the first to attack another. Costa Rica immediately recognised the significance of that and scrapped its army. The fact that the UN has been singularly unsuccessful in policing this law is not the fault of the UN. It’s the fault of the biggest military machine on the planet which simply refuses to obey or support the law whenever it wants to ignore it. Why? Because war is big business. It makes lots and lots of money for super-rich Americans – no matter the cost in human suffering and environmental catastrophe.

Like Costa Rica, Britain hasn’t needed an army since 1948. Imagine the good that could have been done if the trillions of pounds that have been wasted since then on our armed forces and their affiliates (such as pointless spying organisations) had been used instead on health services and education, public housing and transport, renewable green energy systems. Instead of being seen as the allies of international war criminals we could instead have been true champions and ambassadors of global peace – as Costa Rica is. All we have to do is insist our government and others, such as the US government, obey the law. It’s not too much to ask.

“Mr. Madison’s War”: An Imperialist War of Conquest

The United States (US) government, only 23 years old, had declared war on the British Empire, beginning Mr. Madison’s War. This article continues the series about this war, showing that the largely agrarian US engaged in an imperialist war, lasting from June 18, 1812 until February 18, 1815, with an economically and commercially superior foe, the Royal Crown.

While some say that the war was the last act of decolonization for the US or a “second war” of independence, this is not true. It was more about “nine invasions of foreign sovereign territory,” fighting over expansion of trade, with the US growing into a “great and thriving nation of commerce,” making it one of the US’s early wars of empire.1 Thomas Jefferson himself made this abundantly clear. He argued that the acquisition of Canada would be “a mere matter of marching,” leading to “the final expulsion of England from the American continent,” stripping the British Empire of all of “her possessions on this continent.”2 Apart from this, there was one more element proving that the war was an expansionist one.

One of the first moves, apart from preparing an invasion of Canada, was an attempt to take over Florida from the Spanish, engineered by Madison’s advisers.3 Since the previous year, General George Matthews worked with five prominent inhabitants in Spanish East Florida: affluent planters John Houston McIntosh and George Flemming, wealthy military man Don Fernando de la Mesa Afredondo, revolutionary war veteran Andrew Atkinson Humphreys and Spanish military commander Lieutenant Justin Lopez, all of whom had started a rebellion and asked for US assistance. This shows that the CIA-planned coups across the world, starting with the overthrow of an Iranian moderate named Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, replacing him with the Shah, were not unprecedented since similar events had already happened in US history.

At the beginning, the fighting of the war was focused in Upper and Lower Canada, especially near Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and in the Old Northwest, with fighting in the southern US and Chesapeake Bay region later in the war. Some were concerned about foreign trade because of a broadly successful blockade by the Royal Navy, only having to face a 16-ship US navy in 1812. Despite victories over Royal Navy early in the war because of their “overconfidence; inaccurate gunnery…[and] ships that were simply less powerful and less well prepared,” their economic superiority predominated. As a result of the blockade, the US economy’s exports dropped by about 93% from 1811 to 1814, assisted by privateers. Since it was not always easy for the Royal Navy to maintain the blockade, the war would not be a “triumph for Britain’s naval reputation.”

Albert Gallatin and James Monroe were some of those concerned about trade. Monroe, then Secretary of State, wrote to Gallatin, in June, arguing that at the present it is important to “attempt…maritime war only” and worrying about difficulty experienced in Congress.4 Gallatin echoed this in a letter to Madison later that month. He told Madison that weekly arrivals from foreign ports averaged at $1-1.5 million dollars each week, saying that protecting these arrivals and US commercial vessels is of “primary importance” because the “British still have an inferior force on our coasts,” implying that the blockade was not, at the time, fully in force.5 While this may have been a focus, Gallatin clearly was interested in acquiring resources in Canada. In a letter to Langdon Cheves, a War Hawk and chairman of the Naval Committee, later Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee (1813) and speaker of the House (1814-1815), he argued that it is “in our interest now to draw from Canada all the furs and merchandise belonging to our citizens.”6 He further said that if the British allow exports of such property it cannot be imported into the US, and that US citizens should “snatch their property from the enemy’s hands,” engaging in smuggling by sea! While the British were clearly imperialists, this statement by Gallatin shows his greediness and imperialistic tendencies.

With the seizure of Florida underway, the invasion of Canada was “on schedule.” In June, Brigadier General John Armstrong told William Eustis, then the Secretary of War, that the “primary military objectives” in the war would be protection of the frontier and “seizure of Montreal.” ((David Skaggs and Gerald Altoff, A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Companion (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000, First Bluejacket Books printing), 189; Hickey, The War of 1812, 3.)) This seemed possible because Britain had few troops in Canada and former Loyalists there were falsely thought to have pro-US sympathies.  This militaristic sentiment was to be expected. It was echoed by the pro-Republican National Intelligencer which declared “Canada once ours shall have no enemy,” even though Canadians had little sympathy for the Americans and worked with indigenous nations to reverse every strike by the US.7

The invasion was doomed from the start. Not only was the US army unprepared for a three-ponged invasion, but many of the battles in the war were small skirmishes. Additionally, US settlers were afraid that masses of indigenous peoples would attack Detroit but, in fact, a US commander would surrender the city later that year, and the US military command structure was deeply flawed, with “considerable bungling and mismanagement.”8 Furthermore, the British recruited enslaved and runaway Blacks for Royal Navy and worked with Tecumseh, who was tasked with defending Canada. Still, the US pressed on. By August, when the British reportedly wanted to stop hostilities, the US did not relent. Plans to continue the invasion of Canada, cut off British communications with indigenous nations, secure the Great Lakes, since it was of “greatest importance” strategically, and work to pay off military expenses continued.9

In November, in his message to both houses of Congress, Madison noted the real motives for the war:

…a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan Territory with a general view to its security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain cooperating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employed against other parts…the enemy has not scrupled to call to his aid their [the indigenous] ruthless ferocity, armed with the horrors of those instruments of carnage and torture which are known to spare neither age nor sex…The misfortune at Detroit was not…without a consoling effect…our charge’ d’affaires at London was at the same time authorized to agree to an armistice founded upon them…It remains only that, faithful to ourselves…we prosecute the war with united counsels and with the ample faculties of the nation until peace be so obtained.

Not everyone agreed with the war. Those in favor of the war put up a fuss, unsuccessfully trying to promote a Sedition Act to squash criticism, and some even engaging in riots targeting pro-Federalist individuals. One such disturbance happened when Alexander Contee Hanson, publisher of the Federal Republican, declared that the Republicans were a “mostly European rabble” to pervert the Constitution, argued that Madison’s Administration sold out to Napoleon, and said that “the last hope of civilization, law, and order was old Mother England.” Of course, this led to anger from the Baltimorean masses. On June 20 they hauled Hanson and his supporters from jail and beat them, showing the first casualties of the war were in this port city, not on the battlefield. Some Virginian legislators, balked at British impressment and waged a “racial crusade against the British, damned for allying with scalping Indians and rebelling slaves,” which outraged Black Americans, free and un-free alike.10

The Federalist bourgeoisie were the strongest opposition to the war. For this reason, pro-war Republican bourgeoisie believed that such Federalists were conspiring with the British to break up the union, accused Canadian Loyalists of covertly giving aid to indigenous nations, and hoped that the invasion of Canada could “unite and save the republic from a menacing convergence of internal and external enemies.”11 However, the war only alienated the Federalists instead, caused cotton production and exports to markets, such as Britain, to be temporarily interrupted, angering those who profited from the lucrative trade and hurting those proletariat involved in the cotton production process with ripple effects hitting the enslaved Blacks on southern plantations.

The description so far of antiwar sentiment is only scratching the surface. The war pitted those who were loyal to the republic against those loyal to empire, with militia service in the US as mandatory, leading to increased tension in an environment when many were unsure about war.12 The opposition to the war was strong in New England. Not only did many want the embargo to be lifted but manufacturers, merchants, and mariners were already angry that Madison continued the economic policies of his predecessor, Jefferson.13 Such opposition went beyond the Federalist bourgeoisie. An antiwar movement in the region, interconnected with religious beliefs, included Quakers, and manifested itself at town meetings, public fasts, peace conventions, and in newspaper editorials.14

Within New England, those who opposed the war ranged from Reverend Elijah Parish of Byfield, Massachusetts, Noah Worchester, a New Hampshire Unitarian Minister, and Senator William Hunter of Rhode Island. Their messages varied from seeing Britain as a bulwark against Napoleonic absolutism (Parish), proclaiming “honorable neutrality” (Parish), arguing that war is “the effect of delusion…one of the most horrid customs of savage men” (Worchester), saying that the war was unconstitutional (many antiwar religious clerics), and arguing that the war was “unjust,” “wicked” and a form of “robbery” (Hunter).15

A small group of Republicans, led by John Randolph, had their own reasons for opposing the war. While Randolph saw the war as not protecting Virginians from “Indian hostilities” on the frontier, a man named Daniel Sheffey told the Virginia General Assembly that the war will “be for luxuries, not necessaries” and it will not “pay our debts, but it will increase the distortions and place us deeper in debt. We are to go to war for what must be destroyed by war.”16 Later that year an antiwar meeting held in the state saw the war as unnecessary and “little short of madness.”

It is important to recognize the British perspective in order to understand this conflict. The British were not enthusiastic for war: they were in disbelief and felt betrayed, feeling that US complaints about impressment were exaggerated in an attempt to distract from the seizure of Canada, with Canadians seeing the war as a form of aggression, and the US as hypocrites of the highest order. Once involved, the British worked with indigenous forces, which they had already helped in “roll[ing] back American expansion” and keeping “a lid on frontier tensions.”17 The British did not let up. Apart from support for the indigenous, on the high seas British officers treated US citizens as traitors “captured while fighting in the American service,” and committed crimes against civilians, like the US.18 They also engaged in a propaganda war focused on indigenous people at a time that they were divided between allying with the US or the British in the war itself.

As for the proletariat of England, they were still suffering. With the war, the uncertainty and fluctuation in textile industries continued. As markets for finished goods and supply for materials were disrupted, a few British bourgeoisie profited, and the standard of living for the proletariat declined.19 Marxist historian Peter Limbaugh goes further, describing how domestic merchants, who distributed raw materials, and craftspeople, working at home, were brought together in factories and by manufactures. He adds that the British Empire’s ability to control the world’s oceans for commerce, the British war economy, and its subsequent industrialization went hand-in-hand. As he artfully puts it, with “the smoke of the factory and the smoke of the cannon, the hapless soldier’s cry and the orphan’s cry, vast fortunes of war and the machine morphed politically into the military-industrial complex.”20 While some may grumble about the term military-industrial complex, saying that what existed in England at that time was not in the same category as what Dwight Eisenhower described in his 1961 farewell address, there is no doubt that there was a bustling war industry at the time.

The funding of the costly war, at least for the US, was not an easy affair. With inflation of the currency, a bankrupt administration, “Yankee commerce” hurting from the blockade, and capital cut off from Europe, proposals for war payments were abound.21 They ranged from reviving internal taxes, which had been first proposed by the Federalists in 1802, and having to resort to loans. In order to do the latter, the Madison Administration felt forced to turn to the capitalist class, to those capitalists without pro-Federalist sympathies but those with pro-Republican, pro-war viewpoints. These capitalists ranged from a German fur monopolist, Astor, who had asked Jefferson, before the war, to assist his fur company, a US banker named Girard, who owned the successful Girard Bank, Barker, a Quaker merchant, Isaac Bronson, a former veteran of the revolutionary war, land speculator, and merchant, and Parish, a German-born son of a British banking dynasty, later on.22 Such separation of the capitalist class was because, as one publication points out, the US economy had a “thin” market in that it was “devoid of prominent merchant banking houses or any specialized firms…underwriting new securities…or [engaged in] related investment banking activities.”

These individuals did not come forward selflessly. While his apologists claim that Girard was being “selfless” for “risking his entire fortune by loaning money to the United States government,” he gave huge loans to the US government to increase his standing, influence, and make a profitable investment. As for Barker and Bronson, they took advantage of the situation to drive down government bond prices, as they bought the first $5 million of one-year Treasury notes issued by the US Congress, with $31 million more issued during the war, leading to wild speculations and market fluctuations.23 Astor’s interests explain the reason he funded the US government loan. Because of the war, his fur trading business was disrupted. The fur trade lapsed “into a state of demoralization for the time” and his American Fur Company traded in the Great Lakes region, upper Mississippi, and an area east of Lake Huron, where most of the fighting occurred.24 Hence, Astor lost money as he tried to cement his place in the US’s “empire of liberty.”

There was another group that profited: City Bank of New York. This bank, the third largest company by 1816, was chartered only days before war broke out. One of their first customers, if you will, was the US government. War veteran Osgood, the bank’s President, joined by New York merchant John Swartwout and William Irving, whose brother was Washington Irving, on the Board of Directors, used the bank to raise money and pay the government’s war expenses, specifically half-a-million of the first war loan.25 While this led to high stock prices for City Bank, with high yields on government bonds, the war prevented the bank from developing along “intended” lines. After Osgood died in 1813, William Few became the next President, continuing contributions to war loans. Interestingly, Few, who died in 1828, a lifelong politician and signer of the US Constitution, originally opposed the creation of the First Bank of the United States.

By 1813, the war gained a new dimension. The Revolutionary War already was, as bourgeois progressive historian Gary Nash put it, “the greatest slave rebellion in the long history of American slavery.”26 Mr. Madison’s War was different. While there wasn’t the same type of uprising, the war shook the foundation of southern slavery in the US. With enslaved Blacks on the Chesapeake Bay seeing sailing ships as “freedom’s swift-winged angels,” as Frederick Douglass put it, these angels appeared in 1813 as British warships. Hundreds of enslaved Blacks paddled out to the warships every night seeking protection, pressuring British admirals to become liberators. About 3,400 enslaved blacks fled from Tidewater Maryland and Virginia plantations to British ships during the war, many of whom reached Nova Scotia by the end of the war.

This transformed the British approach from only seeking a few Blacks as pilots and guides to welcoming them as a solution to their manpower shortage and “lack of local knowledge.”27 As a result, British agents encouraged mass escapes from plantations by 1814. The local geographic knowledge they imparted to the Royal Army assisted them with their military operations. With the help of runaway Blacks, the British could raid deeper into the countryside and hurt the Chesapeake economy, with Black marines plundering “their former masters,” as the “internal enemy” that Maryland and Virginian slavemasters had created through their exploitation and domination, coming to fruition.28

With the British encouraging enslaved Blacks to join their ranks, just like they had during the Revolutionary War with Lord Dunmore’s “Ethiopian Regiment,” southern slave owners were worried. With their racialized nationalism, they were concerned that the Madison Administration ordered their new recruits to march to Canada, saying it was foolish because Virginia’s coasts lay undefended and slave revolts were a possibility.29 The US military also tried to counter Britain’ measures. After March 1813, Blacks were allowed to enlist in the US military, ultimately comprising 10-20% of naval crews, along with some in armed forces on land even as the British had their own Black regiments comprised of those from the West Indies.30

In terms of military operations, the expansionist actions of the US continued. While heroines like a Canadian proletarian, named Laura Secord, engaged in acts leading to the defeat of Americans, the march of imperialists went on. The US invaded Mobile Bay in West Florida, then Spanish territory and the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific, where they built a fort on the island of Nuku Hiva to protect the three prize ships they had captured from British. Such expansionist actions were carried out by, as Madison predictably described, “a brave, a free, a virtuous, and an intelligent people…[with each to]…bear…his share of the common burden.”

Of course, this was complete hogwash. The US was really engaging in indigenous genocide, death, and destruction. Madison acknowledged this by saying that Britain enlisted “the savages into war,” that the Creek Nation has become the “unfortunate victims of seduction,” that indigenous people are engaging in “bloody fanaticism,” and that the war itself is illustrating “the capacity and destiny of the United States to be a great, a flourishing, and a powerful nation.” Sound familiar? Later on that year, some British, such as Tory and merchant banker Alexander Baring, of the wealthy Baring family, pleaded for peace. Baring told Gallatin in October that “we wish for peace. The pressure of war upon our commerce and manufactures is over…the war has no object…our desire of peace…cannot be doubted.”31 Not every British capitalist agreed with him, but some likely held similar views and were tired of war.

In the months of April and May, there were heated debates within the high circles of the US foreign policy establishment about the seizure of Florida. Gallatin worried that taking possession of Florida was an act of war, with Russia and Britain allying with Spain against the US.32 Monroe, the Secretary of State, had a different idea. He said that while the actions of General George Matthews were disavowed, US military maneuvering would not end, declaring that “with respect to West Florida, possession will be taken of it,” and that East Florida will be evacuated.33 He said that such actions are justified because Florida had been sold to the British government.

The truth was that, as dictated by Articles V and X of a separate peace treaty between Spain and England in 1783, the British ceded and guaranteed full territorial rights to Spain for East Florida (the panhandle) and West Florida (the peninsula).34 This was recognized by mapmakers and part of the Treaty of Paris. While this British-Spanish peace treaty obviously doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of indigenous people, just like many other treaties between European powers, it does mean that legally the land was Spanish soil. As a result, the short-lived Republic of West Florida, in 1810, encouraged by secret scheming of the Madison Administration, with subsequent US military occupations, and US military intervention in other parts of Spanish Florida, were illegal and violations of existing international law.35 As for the stated differences between Gallatin or Monroe, within their respective letters, it could be said that neither fundamentally opposed the acquisition of West Florida.

Indigenous forces, specifically those fighting for indigenous independence, faced a setback. With the end possibly seeming near, Tecumseh addressed Henry Patrick Procter, a British Major General who some saw as inept, saying that defeat by the US was not imminent:

The war before this [Revolutionary War?], our British father gave us hatchet to his real children, when our old chiefs were alive…summer before last, when I came forward with my red brethren, and was ready to to take up the hatchet in favour of our British father, we were told to not be in a hurry…when war was declared, our father stood up and told us he was ready to strike the Americans…when we were last at the Rapids it is true we gave you little assistance. It is hard to fight people who live like groundhogs…we are much astonished to see our father trying up everything and prepared to run away…the Americans have not defeated us by land. Neither are we sure that they have done so by water…if they defeat us, we will retreat with our father…we now see our British father preparing to march out of his garrison…You have got arms and ammunition…if you have an idea of going away, give them to us…we are determined to defend our lands, and if it be his will, we wish to leave our bones upon them [the Americans].36

Sadly this vision would not come to be. While the British, including generals like Isaac Brock, had hoped that victory in the war would have allowed an independent indigenous nation to exist under British protection in the Old Northwest, this was not to be. On October 5, in Upper Canada, a battle was fought near the present-day city of Chatham, Ontario, called the Battle of Moraviantown or the Battle of the Thames, the latter due to the fact that it was fought within the Thames First Nation which sat along the Thames River. 500-1000 indigenous warriors who were part of the indigenous Confederacy, under the command of Tecumseh, and 600-800 British regulars, under Major General Procter, were overwhelmed by over 3,700 US soldiers under the command of William Henry Harrison, along with 260 indigenous warriors.37 With Tecumseh dying during the fierce fighting, likely at the hand of a well-off Kentucky plantation owner named Robert Mentor Johnson, his vision of a unified indigenous homeland, of multiple nations resisting White settler expansion, would not come to pass.

Like the previous year, payments for the US to continue their murderous war of aggression were impossible to come by, throwing the government into a state of financial crisis. Madison admitted this much in May, saying that there was a “limited amount of the actual revenue and…dependence on loans,” calling for a “well-digested system of internal revenue in aid of existing sources,” to pay off the $16 million loan at a 7.5% interest rate, arguing that it is a form of “patriotism.” With Gallatin trying to “seek and win Congressional approval of new Federal excise taxes on carriages, sugar refining, and distilled spirits in 1813,” it showed that the Republicans were embracing a Federalist policy. But, that didn’t matter to them because they were able to continue their military operations.

With such funding in doubt, Gallatin made recommendations to Madison: cutting militia expenses and possessing the Great Lakes only for “offensive” reasons, while he noted that $11 million was being spent on the war that year alone.38 In order to fund this expensive war, the Madison Administration felt that it had to turn to wealthy capitalists once again, as they had the previous year. These capitalists took the bait, in part because of an increased interest rate. Most of the money paying for the war loan came from those in the State of New York, the District of Columbia, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, with specific firms including Biddle & Wharton (brokerage house), Minturn & Champlain (securities firm), and individuals including French-born shipping merchant Louis Clapier and President of the Bank of America, Oliver Wolcott.39 Parish, Astor, and Girard loaned the US government $16 million dollars to continue the war, while a merchant, Barker, bought war bonds. In addition, City Bank loaned the US government thousands upon thousands of dollars, showing that their actions were more about raking in money than being “patriotic” as defenders of their actions will claim.

Each capitalist had their self-interested reasons for giving money to the US government. Parish, a German capitalist, caused the most annoyance for the Madison administration. Gallatin complained that his “reliance on Parish is not great…[because] he…refused to join with LeRoy…Bayard…[and] Mr Astor in making proposals for ten millions of the loan.” Interestingly, Astor had suggested to financiers in New York that Parish be recruited for payment of a war loan! As Parish gained influence in the “weak and diffuse” US government, he procured the understanding from them that the St. Lawrence River would not be disrupted since any disturbance there would hurt his property and further stifle development of his land in the postwar environment.40 He also played a double game. He worked with the British to protect his ironworks along the St. Lawrence and to curry favor with them by giving them intelligence on US troop movements. Some argue that Parish convinced the US government to stop its invasion of Canada in certain areas so that his interests could be protected.41

Like Parish, Astor had his own pet interests. In July of 1813, Astor told Madison that for many years fur trade and trade with indigenous people had been corrupted by the “British traders from Canada,” and that the influence and trade should “be in American hands,” saying that he had a plan for “wresting from the Briti[s]h the trade with Indians” within US territories, with a possible post established near or at the Columbia River’s mouth. It just happens that the mouth of that river was near a city he founded named Astoria, so this would directly benefit his American Fur Company. In other letters Astor lobbied his case. He told Jefferson the same year that the war had already confined “British traders to British Dominions” but that peace in a speedy manner would allow “some millions of dollars” to be made, with less of a “loss [of] our Property & the Labour” gone into developing a “plan.” This was nothing new. In earlier years, Astor had urged Jefferson to allow the US to “embrace the greater part of the fur trade on this Continent,” saying that it “will in time be made productive and leave advantages to the country.” Such actions, among his other attempts, fit with his uneasiness: his assets on the frontier, including his Pacific Coast enterprise and US colony in the area was sold by his partner to his competitor, the North West Company, run by Scottish-born fur trader William McGillivray.42

Last but not least was Girard. As one of the richest men in America, a multi-millionaire with his fortune later stretching into the hundreds of millions, his boosters claim he “risked his entire fortune without asking concessions” to “heroically” “save” the US government, for the reasons of “public service.” ((Sandy Hingston, “12 Things You Might Not Know About Stephen Girard,” Philadelphia magazine, March 3, 2016; John Keats, “Legacy Of Stephen Girard,” American Heritage, June/July 1978, Vol. 29, issue 4; Joseph N. DiStefano, “David L. Cohen on Stephen Girard,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 6, 2011; Steve Hargreaves, “The richest Americans in history,” CNN, June 2, 2014; The American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812: People, Politics and Power, p. 222.)) As they grudgingly admit, he, through his Girard Bank, made a “rousing profit” of $4 million from the war loan.  Hence, he was like other capitalists who helped the US government continue its imperialist war to subjugate indigenous people, greedily snatch Canada, parts of Florida and elsewhere, giving the US government money to benefit his bottom line, not out of some higher “civic duty.”

In 1814, enslaved Blacks were still helping the British and asserting their freedom from the brutal slave masters in the southern US. The British were terrifying Chesapeake Whites by invading their plantations, farms, towns, and villages, freeing thousands of enslaved Blacks, living at plantations such Corotoman, in Lancaster County, Virginia co-owned by St. George Tucker and Joseph C. Cabell, and another in Southern Maryland, called Sotterley. ((Taylor, The Internal Enemy, 6, 14, 31, 107, 215, 217, 288, 381, 477; James Oakes, “THE INTERNAL ENEMY: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832,” Washington Post, November 1, 2013.)) This meant that the thousands of dollars spent by the state of Virginia to defend their state were utterly worthless. Apart from this, and seizure of Pensacola Bay from the Spanish in September 1814 by forces under the command of Andrew Jackson, the US military strategy was in crisis. Major general James Wilkinson, who had suspicious dealings in previous years and had raided towns of the Miami nation in 1791, did not fare well in this war: he encountered British regulars in Canada, and retreated, allowing the British to continue burning US cities, such as Washington, D.C., for which he was exonerated.43

While he was not the only one engaged in incompetent actions, there were other reasons for worries among Madison’s senior advisers. For example, Gallatin was concerned that continuation of the war would led to more military forces employed by Britain against the US, and that the British would engage in more aggressive measures.44 Without any form of self-reflection, Jefferson declared that the British made the conflict “a war of conquest” to take “our fisheries, the province of Maine, the lakes, States and territories north of the Ohio, and the navigation of the Mississippi,” until the US is pushed into servitude. This is hypocritical considering he was a brutal slave owner but also because the US had started the imperialist war, a war that the British Empire did not want. Jefferson complained further, saying that “too many enterprises are open, offering high profits, to permit them to lend their capitals on a regular and moderate interest.” Hence, he supported imperialistic expansion but also wanted more “regulated capitalism.” Madison was on the same wavelength, noting in a September speech, that “our enemy is powerful in men and in money, on the land and on the water” condemning the “plunder and wanton destruction of private property” within the US, by which he undoubtedly was talking about raids in the Chesapeake on Tidewater plantations without saying that explicitly.

On August 24, the US faced a major setback. The British came into the city of Washington, D.C., burning, in response to “wanton destruction” by the US in Upper Canada, the “public edifices…costly monuments of taste and of the arts, and other depositories of the public archives,” including the capital and the President’s House (later called the White House) on the direct order of British commander George Cockburn, as Madison described in a speech on September 1st. This action, under which one man related to George Washington, John Lewis, was killed, could be said to be the result of an “intelligence failure.” The marching of about 4,500 British soldiers on Blandensberg could have been stopped by a larger group of “American soldiers, sailors, and militiamen.” This did not happen because even though the Madison Administration knew of the threat they were divided on what to do, unlike the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 or the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, meaning they were “unprepared and poorly organized.”45

Madison’s advisers did not meet to discuss the pressing situation until July, as the British tried to mask their intentions, leading to debates among cabinet members about the British military’s next moves. The US suffered from, as some would say, “barriers to perception,” with deceptive tactics by Cockburn to distract from his real objective: an attack on Washington, D.C., which some, like Secretary of War George Armstrong and others, including Madison, dismissed as an impossibility. The three-hour battle at Bladensberg ended quickly with a new form of advanced military technology, rockets, also used in the Battle of Baltimore, fired into the crowd of the US forces by the British.46 This led to their panic and flight, allowing the British to arrive at Washington unencumbered, burning “prominent public buildings,” which only stopped because of a torrential rainstorm the following day. It is possible that even a warning about the coming events wouldn’t have changed anything because it may have been ignored. While a hearing was held about the administration’s handling of the burning of Washington, the conduct of William Henry Winder in the Battle of Bladensberg was exonerated, and no commission was convened to find what went wrong, to examine the “intelligence failures” that led to the short-lived British capture of Washington, as the war was quickly coming to a close.47 In terms of finances, banks suspended payment on bank notes, as some citizens feared the loss of the war and “prolonged economic crisis,” even as stopping payments violated many of their bank charters.

The payment for the war, like in previous years, had allowed capitalists to consolidate their control over the government. The actions by capitalists over the past few years showed that the state was becoming, as Marx and Engels have argued, an effective manager of the affairs of the bourgeoisie, while it is independent because the capitalist class and state are different institutions, which allows capital to thrive.48 In terms of the US government, this manifested itself in demands for the creation of a new Bank of the United States, the Second Bank of the United States as it would later be called, by Astor, Parish, Girard, and Barker. They had institutional support from soon-to-be Secretary of the Treasury and War Hawk John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Barker lobbied for it directly to Madison, saying that its creation would allow for more money to be borrowed by the US government and connect with “bankers in London, Paris, Amsterdam & Hamburg.” While such letters, as the one by Barker, led Madison to support the creation of the bank, he withdrew his support when he heard that the end of the war was near, feeling that such a bank was only necessary to finance the imperialistic expansionism of the US during the war.49 As Vladimir Lenin explained in Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, monopoly comes from banks, which collect money revenues and put them at the “disposal of the capitalist class.” Hence, monopolistic expansion of these banks during the war, in terms of new influence and power, would help them in the postwar environment.

The opposition to the war continued in 1814. Connecticut Presbyterian ministers like David Low Dodge, also a New York merchant, took a strong pacifist stand, saying that people must “ardently desire that wars…cease to be the ends of earth and that mankind should embrace each other as brethren…renounce everything that leads to wars and fighting,” and Reverend Francis Brown said that the amount of property wasted on the war was “immense and altogether incalculable.”50 With such views, it is no surprise that antiwar sentiment was so strong that when British raided the coast in the summer of 1814, the “union appeared to be in danger.”

The strongest expression of antiwar sentiment during the war was the New England Hartford Convention. This secret convention, called by the Massachusetts legislature, was attended by 26 Federalist delegates from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont. It has been called “separationist,” “unpatriotic,” “successionist” and “disloyal” (anti-government) over the years, but it was actually more protectionist, asking for Federal government aid to protect the economy in New England while it proposed numerous constitutional amendments.51 With the final report of the Convention later read into the Congressional Record, the convention, lampooned by editorial cartoonist William Charles at the time, seemed to be organized too late in the war. In order to recognize whether the delegates from the bourgeois Federalist Party had anything substantive to say, it is best to look at the documents they produced. The final report of the convention struck at the heart of the war while also engaging in “state’s rights” sentiments and endorsing “American exceptionalism” in the case of making the traditional founders (“Founding Fathers”) seem like “wise men”:

… when abuses, reduced to system and accumulated through a course of years, have pervaded every department of Government, and spread corruption through every region of the State; when these are clothed with the forms of law, and enforced by an Executive whose will is their source, no summary means of relief can be applied without recourse to direct and open resistance…The fierce passions which have convulsed the nations of Europe, have passed the Ocean, and finding their way to the bosoms of our citizens, have afforded to Administration the means of perverting publick opinion…In…specified cases only, has the National Government any power over the militia…Congress, and of consequence the President as their organ, has no more power over the militia than over the armies of a foreign nation…The arrangement of the United States into military districts…is not warranted by the Constitution or any law of the United States…An iron despotism can impose no harder servitude upon the citizen, than to force him from this home and his occupation, to wage offensive wars, undertaken to gratify the pride or passions of his master…No war, not held in just abhorrence by a people, can require the aid of such stratagems to recruit an army…When emergencies occur which are either beyond the reach of the judicial tribunals…States…must be their own judges, and execute their own decisions…Commerce, the vital spring of New-England’s prosperity, was annihilated…A free Constitution, administered by great and incorruptible statesmen, realized the fondest hopes of liberty and independence…While Europe reposes from the convulsions that had shaken down her ancient institutions, she beholds with amazement this remote country, once so happy and so envied, involved in a ruinous war, and excluded from intercourse with the rest of the world.

Beyond this, the Convention proposed seven amendments to be recommended to the states. The first said that representatives and direct taxes should be apportioned by including the “respective numbers of free persons” but excluding the indigenous and “all other persons” (i.e. enslaved Blacks) while the second said that two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress should be needed to admit states into the US. Other amendments could limit, by a slim chance, present-day US imperialistic measures. These include the proposals that Congress cannot lay an embargo on any state for “more than sixty days,” “interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and any foreign nation” without a two-thirds vote of both Houses, or “make or declare war, or authorize acts of hostility against any foreign nation” without a two-thirds vote of both houses, apart from an actual invasion. The latter is similar in some ways to the Ludlow Amendment. The last two amendments they proposed should not be celebrated. One is anti-immigrant, saying that naturalized persons cannot be members of the Senate, House of Representatives, or “any civil office.” The other is even harsher than the 22nd Amendment, enacted in 1951, saying that the “same person shall not be elected President of the United States a second time…[or] two terms in succession.” All in all, while Hartford Convention was dominated by bourgeois Federalist ideas, a weaker Federal government (reversing from past endorsements of a strong federal government), and pro-English sentiments, good ideas from convention’s reports and documents relating to war can be used in the present to oppose the murderous empire.

In 1815, the war entered its final stage. Since the news of the war’s end had not crossed the Atlantic, the pitched Battle in New Orleans commenced. While it was mythologized into a great battle, there is no doubt that enslaved Blacks and other US soldiers led by Andrew Jackson defeated a superior British force, making Jackson, the merchant, slave trader, land speculator, and killer of the indigenous, a “hero of the war.”52 At the time, Jackson was praised for the British loss, with possible insurrection of enslaved Blacks in the nearby region avoided, with a “brilliant victory…over the very superior force of the veteran troops of Great Britain” as then-Secretary of State Monroe called it. He added that “history recalls no example, of so glorious a victory, obtained, with so little bloodshed, on the part of the victorious.” While similar opinions are widely held to this day, at the time this victory meant that the British withdrew from Louisiana and agreed to abide by the terms of the treaty that ended the war.

The treaty which ended the war on February 18, was the Treaty of Ghent. It was negotiated by none other than Gallatin, among many others, as relayed in his personal papers and elsewhere. While the Treaty of Ghent undoubtedly reduced mutual suspicion by Britain and the US of each other, it also didn’t mention anything about impressment, even as the British practice seemed to abate quickly, said nothing suggesting that the US achieved its war aims, and pledged the US and Britain to abolishing the slave trade even though the US Congress had declared such in 1808.53 The binding treaty had a number of other provisions: a universal peace between Britain and the US, with a commitment to restore “territory, places, and possessions” which include “artillery and public property…slaves or other private property” (Article I), end of naval hostilities (Article II), return of prisoners of war (Article III), deciding US and UK claims, especially in the “West” and Great Lakes regions, by commissioners from both countries (Articles IV-VIII), and a commitment to end wars with indigenous nations provided that they desist in hostilities (Article IX). Not surprisingly, the US refused to abide by Article IX of the treaty, instead engaging in punitive treaties to try and extort indigenous people and lands, leaving many such peoples feeling that they could no longer challenge the US military, leading them to develop new strategies to preserve their sovereignty and political power.54

The end of the war would be celebrated by great fanfare on the streets of New York City. The city’s artisans, masters, journeymen, and apprentices, among many others, were some of the most happy, filling their shops with their finest wares and engaging in “patriotic toasting.”55 One artisan rhymester, Werckmeister, followed this mood, writing that “Work is over, Peace is master / Friendship ties her knot now faster.” Even with such celebration, the war had a negative effect on the populace as a whole. John Adams, the bourgeois traditional founder and former President, at age 84, noted this in 1819, saying it was part of a long-standing trend:

I am old enough to remember the war of 1745 and its end; the war of 1755 and its close; the war of 1775 and its termination; the war of 1812 and its pacification. Everyone of those wars has been followed by a general distress, embarrassments of commerce, destruction of manufactures, fall of produce and lands.

The results of the war were disastrous for indigenous people. The war broke their power, reinforced the “powerful undercurrent of Anglophobia,” as the British stopped backing independent indigenous alliances, while national self-confidence within the US and “peaceable trade” between Britain and the US returned, with the British recognizing the US “right” to westward and southern expansion.56 While the war arguably guaranteed Canada’s existence as a separate nation, indigenous peoples suffered a horrible blow to controlling their fate through methods of armed resistance. As the US and Britain became collaborators in decolonization in the Americas, reinforced later by their enforcement of the Monroe Doctrine until the US was stronger militarily, many of the enslaved Blacks from the Chesapeake Bay region had settled in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Trinidad where they encountered discrimination but had “far more autonomy and material success than they had known as slaves in the Chesapeake.”57

The war also had a number of other effects. The international status of the US became stronger as the “Jeffersonian dream of an agrarian commonwealth” faded way, and thousands of soldiers on both sides died from combat and disease with thousands more wounded.58 Expansionism continued unabated. In 1819, Spain was forced to sell Florida to the United States, Astor’s American Fur Company gained a virtual monopoly on the fur trade, making him even richer, despite some saying that the importance of trade declined.59 The need for “international improvements” within the US increased, investment bank firms expanded, and feelings of intense nationalism flourished even as the suffering of the US proletariat would increase tremendously with capitalists gaining more political and economic control over the structure of US society.

The war had a number of other effects. For one, the amount of total US government debt had risen to $119.6 million in 1815, compared with $45.2 million before the war. This translates, roughly, to about $1.8 billion US Dollars, based on 2015 values, a little more than the amount that ExxonMobil raked in during the first quarter of 2016.60

As the war had ended, British sources accounted for half of the US federal debt, with the British share of such debt rising to 74% by the 1820s, with much of the foreign investment in the US from Britain, and even hovering at 59% by 1913. This begs the question of how independent the United States was financially from the British Empire after the war. Talk of financial interdependence brings us back to the British proletariat. After the war, they continued to suffer. Textile workers and the proletariat in general were negatively effected by repression from the anti-worker British Parliament, a huge rise in prices, beaten down wages, and the end of a peace movement among the proletariat, which had developed during the war.61 Such repression occurred even as “British industry, capital, and empire” became paramount in the new “capital-intensive world of shipping.”

1816 was a banner year for the US capitalist class. While Madison had vetoed a bill to establish a National Bank in January of the previous year, this didn’t stop the Second Bank of the United States from coming to existence. In April, he signed the bill creating the bank. While Astor profited from the war in terms of investments in war bonds and control of the fur industry, Parish benefited from open development of the St. Lawrence River, and Girard with his bank. Hence, it is no surprise that the fortunes of Parish and Astor comprised much of the subscriptions of the Second Bank of the United States, 20% which was held by the US government and 80% by private investors.62

With the Second Bank of the United States opening its doors for business in January 1817, it was clear that, in many regards, the US and its capitalist class had won Mr. Madison’s War. Indigenous nations were struggling to hold back expansion of White settlers, new markets for furs and other products were established, and fortunes blossomed, part of what some call the “Era of Good Feelings.”

In the years of the 1820s and 1830s, textile manufacturers became the wealthiest in the US, and the US war of aggression from 1812 to 1815 seemed to “pay off.” In later years, Girard was honored with a statue and many Canadians remarked that the war was important in the “formation of Canadian identity.” It would be many years until capitalist concentration of production in the US was fully completed, with the US becoming an “advanced country of modern capitalism,” having a powerful capitalist economy replete with “monopolist combines of the big capitalists.”63

The “patriotic echoes” from Mr. Madison’s War would allow the Republicans to maintain their hold on power and push for more “economic growth” which benefited the different levels of the bourgeoisie, but especially the big capitalist firms. At the same time, the seeds for the bourgeois Whig Party were beginning to sprout, the proletariat began to form their own parties opposed to the ideas of those across the political spectrum, and there was “popular pressure for reform” as the war seemed to provide an “industrializing impulse” for the US.


Mr. Madison’s War was not what many historians characterize it as: the second war for US independence from the British Empire. Instead, it was more about territorial acquisition and genocide of indigenous people, which all fits under the banner of imperialism, showing that the war was fundamentally one about empire. Not everyone completely agreed with that agenda, as noted earlier, with opposition from bourgeois Federalists, concentrated in New England, and some bourgeois Republicans who were not War Hawks, based in Virginia. It is hard to know if the war was popular or unpopular due to the fact that public opinion polls did not exist at the time and there was no one newspaper which carried the “conscience” of the nation. The war is important to recognize as it was the first time, apart from the Barbary Wars and military actions against indigenous peoples, that the US engaged in a war for empire. It undoubtedly should have never been fought. The war led to the acceleration of capitalism’s development within the US as agricultural tendencies remained in the South and West, while industrialization boomed in the North. Hence, Mr. Madison’s War, as it should be properly called, rather than the horrible moniker of the “War of 1812,” is important to recognize in order to see the origins of a number of imperialistic tendencies, which still play out today, and formation of the US capitalist class, expanding tremendously after the US Civil War.

• Read Part One here

  1. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy 1730s-1840s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 251; Leon Fink, Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World’s First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), p. 26; Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Campaign, Illinois: University of Illinois, 2012), 1; Jon Latimer, 1812: War With America (London: Belknap Press, 2007), 7; James G. Cusick, The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007, paperback edition), 10, 16; Christina Synder, Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers & Slaves in the Age of Jackson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 6, 44.
  2. Elliot Channing Clarke, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave: How Americans Became the People They Are Today (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2003), 189; Robert O’Neil and Carl Benn, The War of 1812: The Fight for American Trade Rights (New York: Rosen Publishing, 2011), 24; Richard I. Immerman, Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012), 73-74.
  3. Cusick, The Other War of 1812, 1-8, 23, 26; Richard I. Immerman, Empire for Liberty, 73; Lester D. Langley, America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010, Second Edition), 21.
  4. Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin Vol. I (ed. Henry Adams, Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott & Co., 1879), 520-521.
  5. Ibid, 521.
  6. Ibid, 522.
  7. Tony MacLachan, We Spared Not The Capital of America: War Between Britain and the United States 1812-15 (Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2011), 198; Langley, America and the Americas, 22.
  8. MacLachan, We Spared Not The Capital of America, xii; Johnathan Sutherland, African Americans At War: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 597; Elliot Channing Clarke, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave: How Americans Became the People They Are Today (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2003), 190; Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Campaign, Illinois: University of Illinois, 2012), 2; Wesley B. Turner, The War of 1812: The War that Both Sides Won (Canada: Dundurn Press, 2000), 35, 40, 43; C. Edward Skeen, Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), 39, 51-52.
  9. Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, 524, 526-529; Sutherland, African Americans At War, 250; Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (New York: Vintage Books, 2011 edition), 5.
  10. Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013), 138.
  11. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 6; Ishaan Tharoor, “The War of 1812: When the U.S. Invaded Canada — and Failed,”, June 18, 2012; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 20; James H. Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War: New England and the War of 1812 (New York: Agora Publishing, 2009), p. 28; Angela Lakwete, Inventing the Cotton Gin: Machine and Myth in Antebellum America (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005 paperback edition), 78. This idea was likely reinforced by the fact British and US used propaganda in an attempt to win approval internationally. The US talked about Britain supporting indigenous nations in the Old Northwest and rights of sailors rather than expansionism while the British played up assisting natives to protect their homes, played down maritime tensions, and defending their colonies.
  12. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 4, 8, 10, 12; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 22.
  13. Hickey, The War of 1812, p. 5; Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, 29, 35.
  14. Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, 19, 27-28.
  15. O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 72; David W. Kling, “The New Divinity and the Origins of the Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions,” North American Foreign Missions, 1810-1914: Theology, Theory, and Policy (ed. Wilbert R. Shenk, Cambridge, UK: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 2004), 17; Mark Weston Janis, America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 75-77; Timothy L. Wesley, The Politics of Faith During the Civil War, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013), 62; Cusick, The Other War of 1812, p. 9.
  16. Stuart Butler, Defending the Old Dominion: Virginia and Its Militia in the War of 1812 (Lanham: University Press Of America, 2013), 22, 46, 89, 204-205.
  17. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 10; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 24.
  18. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 4, 10; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 20.
  19. A Short History of the British Working Class Movement: 1789-1848 Vol. 1 (ed. G.D.H. Cole, New York: Routledge, 2002 reprint), 39.
  20. Peter Limbaugh, Ned Ludd and Queen Nab: Machine-Breaking, Romanticism, and the Several Commons of 1811-1812 (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012), 12.
  21. Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition And The Men Who Made It, 52; Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (New York: Random House, 2002), 36, 211; Hickey, The War of 1812, 33; Paul Studenski and Herman Edward Krooss, Financial History of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Beard Books, 2003, reprint), 75-76; Edwin J. Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815 (Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1994), 324-327.
  22. Forbes, “The All-Time Richest Americans,” September 14, 2007; Steve Hargreaves, “The richest Americans in history,” CNN, June 2, 2014; Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 207; Jerry M. Markham, A Financial History of the United States: From Christopher Columbus to the Robber Barons, vol. I, 1492-1900 (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2002), 121; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 328-329, 331-332, 339, 358.
  23. Markham, A Financial History of the United States, p. 121; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 351.
  24. Anna Youngman, “The Fortune of John Jacob Astor.” Journal of Political Economy 16, no. 6 (1908): 356, 359, 362; Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 207.
  25. Business Insider, “The Dramatic Highlights From Citi’s 200-Year History,” 2012; New York Times, “America’s Greatest Bank Is One Hundred Years Old,” June 23, 1912; Robert E. Wright and Richard Sylla, “Citigroup Holding Company,” Genealogy of American Finance (New York City: Museum of American Finance, 2015), 101; Moses King, Kings Handbook of New York City, Vol. 1 (Boston: Moses King, 1893), 710; “Celebrating the 125th Anniversary: Through Wars, Fires, Plagues and Panics,” LIFE magazine, June 7, 1927, Vol. 2, no. 23, p. 17.
  26. Gary Nash, Red, White and Black: The Peoples of Early North America (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2000, Fourth Edition), 276.
  27. Taylor, The Internal Enemy, 3-4, 6, 8, 509-510.
  28. Ibid, 5, 7.
  29. Ibid, 10, 149; Sutherland, African Americans At War, 151-152; Butler, Defending the Old Dominion, 362.
  30. Sutherland, African Americans At War, 250-251.
  31. Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, 587.
  32. Ibid, 540, 545.
  33. Ibid, 541, 543.
  34. Charles Jenkinson, A Collection Of All The Treaties of Peace and Commerce Between Great-Britain and Other Powers (London, J. Debrett, 1785), 396, 399. Britain also pledged to remove Royal artillery, property, and emigration of former British citizens to British colonial realms.
  35. US justified the seizure of West Florida as part of the Louisiana Purchase. However, the St. Ildefonso treaties (1800 and 1801), which transferred the land to French control before the purchase, did not mention Florida. Hence, this US claim is completely invalid. The US increased its military involvement after 1814 to fight the Seminoles and while the Spanish protested they could not defend their territory so they agreed in the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 to cede “to the United States, in full property and sovereignty, all the territories which belong to him, situated to the eastward of the Mississippi, known by the name of East and West Florida” while both renounced claims “to indemnities for any of the recent events or transactions of their respective commanders and officers in the Floridas” and the US said it would consider “injuries, if any,” there obviously were some, caused by the US army which had resulted in “Spanish officers, and individual Spanish inhabitants” suffering.
  36. Tecumseh, “Father, Listen! The Americans Will Have Not Yet Defeated Us By Land!,” Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chiefs (ed. W. C. Vanderwerth, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 66-68.
  37. David Hurst Thomas, Jay Miller, Richard White, and Peter Nabokov, The Native Americans: An Illustrated History (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1995), 290-1; John Sugden, “The Shooting Star,” New York Times, 1997, excerpt of Chapter 1 of Sudgen’s book titled Tecumseh: A Life; Synder, Great Crossings, 5, 44-47, 199.
  38. Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, 532-533, 536-537; Studenski and Krooss, Financial History of the United States, 75. Some argue that the war was ill-managed financially and militarily
  39. Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, 538; Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 58; Markham, A Financial History of the United States, 128; Donald R. Adams Jr., “The Beginning of Investment Banking in the United States,” Pennsylvania History, April 1978, Vol. 45, 103-104, 106-112, 114-116;  Studenski and Krooss, Financial History of the United States, 77-78; The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History, Vol II (ed. William S. Dudley, Washington, D.C: Naval Historical Center, 1992), 1-2; John M. Austin, St. Lawrence County in the War of 1812: Folly and Mischief (Charleston: The History Press, 2013), 30;  The US government took out five loans to pay for the war, between 1812 and 1815! Other groups named by Adams include the New York Association (headed by Bank of America cashier George Newbold, well-off lawyer David B. Odgden, and the Minturn & Champlain firm), and insurance companies based in Philadelphia at the time (Philadelphia Insurance Company, Pennsylvania Insurance Company for Insurance on Lives and Granting Annuities, the Insurance Company of North America, Union Insurance Company of Philadelphia, and Marine Insurance Company of Philadelphia). He also names unspecified financiers William Overman, William H. Bell, George Griswald, and George Simpson as others who paid the war loan. He gives more details on the investments by Joseph Taggert, the president of the Farmer and Mechanics Bank of Philadelphia, and possibly Russian diplomat Andre Daschkoff. Many of these loans may have been organized by then-US attorney Alexander J. Dallas, a friend of Girard and Gallatin confidente, later the Secretary of the Treasury from 1814 to 1816.
  40. Austin, St. Lawrence County in the War of 1812, p. 30; Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 269-270, 273, 292-293.
  41. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 276; Peter Shawn Taylor, “War of 1812: Did the Americans throw the fight?,” Maclean’s magazine, June 25, 2012.
  42. Dennis Drabelle, “‘Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire’ by Peter Stark,” Washington Post, March 21, 2014.
  43. Thomas Ayres, That’s Not in My American History Book: A Compilation of Little Known Events and Forgotten Heroes (Lanham: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004, First Paperback Edition), 1000; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 339-340, 342.
  44. Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, 612, 638.
  45. William T. Weber, “Strategic Surprise: The British Capture of Washington, DC, 1814,” Studies in Intelligence Vol. 58, No. 2 (Extracts, June 2014), 47-51.
  46. Limbaugh, Ned Ludd and Queen Nab, 12; Weber, 52.
  47. Weber, 53; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 339-340, 342.
  48. Richard Schmitt, Introduction to Marx and Engels: A Critical Reconstruction (Boulder: Westview Press, 1987), 171-172, 174-175.
  49. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, “The Second Bank of the United States: A Chapter in Central Banking,” Federal Reserve, December 2010, 2-3.
  50. Mark Weston Janis, America and the Law of Nations 1776-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 74-76; Ellis, A Ruinous and Unhappy War, 29.
  51. James M. Banner, “A Shadow of Secession? The Hartford Convention, 1814,” History Today, Sept. 1988, Vol. 38, issue 9; Cincinnati Gazette, “The Hartford Convention Revived–Its Unconstitutionality and Danger,” New York Times, March 1, 1863; New York Times, “The New Hartford Convention The Issue Fairly Presented,” February 21, 1863.
  52. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2003, Fifth Edition), 122; Latimer, 1812, 1; Sutherland, African Americans At War, 338.
  53. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 252; Fink, Sweatshops at Sea, 23; Hickey, The War of 1812, 2; Miriam Greenblatt, War of 1812 (New York: Facts on File, 2003), 143; Butler, Defending the Old Dominion, xix.
  54. Synder, Great Crossings, 46-47.
  55. Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 23; Victor S. Clark, The History of Manufactures in the United States 1607-1860 (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1916), 134.
  56. Hickey, The War of 1812, p. 3; Synder, Great Crossings, 46; Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 251; Langley, America and the Americas, 22; Latiner, 1812, 3-4.
  57. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 248; Taylor, The Internal Enemy, 3.
  58. Michael Bronski, A Queer History of the United States (Boston: Beacon Press, 2011), 40; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History Vol. 1, No. 1, page 14; Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition And The Men Who Made It, p. 53.
  59. Matthew Mason, Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 47; Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 251; LeftistCritic, “Annotating a section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History Vol. 1, No. 1, page 15; Markham, A Financial History of the United States, 154; Studenski and Krooss, Financial History of the United States, 78-79, 90; Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 22, 36, 234; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 323.
  60. Studenski and Krooss, Financial History of the United States, 78-79; William R. Thompson, The Emergence of the Global Political Economy (New York: Routledge, 2003 edition), 214. According to another inflation calculator, $119.6 million in US debt is worth about $1.7 billion in 2016 money. Roughly, that’s the same amount the US paid Iran almost as reparations for past imperialist subversion, which was roughly $1.7 billion.
  61. A Short History of the British Working Class Movement, 63-64; Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 176; Fink, Sweatshops at Sea, 22.
  62. Markham, A Financial History of the United States, 134; Hugh T. Henry, “Stephen Girard,” The Catholic Historical Review, October 1918, Vol. IV, No. 3, p. 291; Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, “The Second Bank of the United States: A Chapter in Central Banking,” Federal Reserve, December 2010, 6, 8; Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, p. 20-21, 207; Perkins, American Public Finance and Financial Services, 1700-1815, 348.
  63. Vladimir I. Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972, reprint), 17, 25, 29, 82; Alexander Saxton, The Rise and Fall of the White Republic: Class Politics and Mass Culture in Nineteenth-Century America (New York: Verso, 2003 edition), 23-24, 44, 53, 59, 62, 65, 70, 113-114, 132, 146, 186, 349; Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), 159, 189; Lakwete, Inventing the Cotton Gin, 80-81, 119, 124, 222; Clark, The History of Manufactures in the United States 1607-1860, 235, 238, 243, 256. Some argue that the war highlighted shifting dynamics in the Republican Party.

Palestine Retold: Palestine’s Tragic Anniversaries Are Not Only About Remembrance

For Palestinians, 2017 is a year of significant anniversaries.

While historians mark May 15th as the anniversary of the date on which Palestinians were expelled from their historic homeland in 1948, the fact is the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians began in earnest in 1947.

In strict historical terms 1947 and ‘48 were the years in which Palestine was conquered and depopulated.

The tragedy, which remains a bleeding wound until this day, started 70 years ago.

June of this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the 22 percent of historic Palestine that was not seized by Zionist militias in 1947-48. Among other notable dates, November 02 is starkly remembered as the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

While the roots of the Zionist campaign to claim Palestine as a Jewish state go back much earlier, the document signed by British Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour, was the first official commitment made by a major world power to facilitate “a national home for the Jewish people.”

The British made their infamous ‘promise’ even before the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine and most of the modern Middle East officially capitulated in World War I.

A few years after the declaration was made, Britain was entrusted by the League of Nations in 1922 to be the caretaker of post-Ottoman Palestine, mandated to lead the country, like other Arab regions, towards independence.

Instead, the Brits worked to achieve the opposite. Between 1922 and 1947-48, with direct British assistance, Zionists grew more powerful, forming a parallel government and a sophisticated and well-equipped militia. Britain remained decidedly pro-Israel after all these years.

When the British mandate over Palestine officially ended in November 1947, that parallel regime simply moved in to fill the vacant space, in nearly perfect tandem, claiming territories, ethnically cleansing most of Palestine’s Arab population and, as of May 14, 1948, declaring as a reality the State of Israel.

The following day, May 15, has since been recognized by Palestinians as the day of the Nakba, or the catastrophe of war and exile. Nearly 500 Palestinian villages and many cities and towns were depopulated, seized or destroyed. An estimated 800,000 Palestinians were made refugees.

These anniversaries are important not because they form convenient numbers, but because the political context surrounding them is unprecedented.

The United States government has abdicated its long-term commitment to the so-called ‘peace process’, leaving Israel alone to decide the course of its own action, while the rest of the international community stand hapless.

The ‘peace process’ was certainly not designed to create favorable outcomes for Palestinians, but was part of a larger design to formulate a ‘solution’ in which Palestinians were to be granted semi-autonomous, disconnected, mini regions to be called a state.

Now that pipe dream is over – Israel is expanding its illegal settlements at will, constructing new ones and has little interest in adhering to even the US-envisaged ‘negotiated agreement’ paradigm.

In the meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership remains visionless.

Although politically defunct and practically impossible, the Palestinian Authority (PA) still insists on the two-state solution formula, wasting precious time that should be geared towards arranging a future that is predicated upon co-existence in a shared land and a joint future.

It is important that the Palestinians are freed from the stifling discourse which rendered the Nakba of 1947-48 extraneous and molded an alternative narrative in which only the Israeli occupation of 1967 seems to matter.

Indeed, the official Palestinian discourse has been quite confusing and consistent for some time.

Historically, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was forced to concede under American, and sometimes Arab pressures, and alter its demands throughout the years.

The greatest of these concessions was made in 1993 when the PLO agreed to the Oslo Accords, which redefined Palestinian rights around specific UN resolutions 242 and 338. It relegated or discarded everything else.

Not only was this a great folly, but also a strategic mistake for which Palestinians continue to bear the consequences to this day.

Existing now are several Palestinian depictions of the history of their struggle against Israel, while the truth is that there can only be one way of understanding the so-called conflict – one that starts with Zionist settlements in Palestine and British colonialism 100 years ago.

The strange thing is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is himself sending mixed messages. While on one hand he seemed disinterested in contextualizing the struggle of his people back to the Nakba 70 years ago, his authority announced that it will be suing Britain for the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

Britain, on the other hand, had brazenly announced that it will be ‘celebrating’ the 100-year anniversary of the declaration, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the guest of honor.

The country that facilitated the ongoing tragedy in Palestine still refuses to acknowledge the enduring harm it committed one hundred years later.

Israel is experiencing no moral awakening either.

Aside from the small school of Israel’s ‘new historians’, Israel continues to hold into its own version of history, much of which was constructed in the early 1950s under the guidance of then Israeli Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.

Compelled by pressures, fears and lack of vision, the Palestinian leadership failed to grasp the need to hold onto and explain these anniversaries combined as a roadmap towards a solid, unified and sensible discourse.

Politics aside, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 cannot be appreciated without understanding its dreadful consequences which played out in 1947-48; and the Israeli occupation of the remaining 22 percent of Palestine is entirely out of context if read separately from the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948.

Moreover, the Palestinian refugee crisis, which continues to manifest itself in Syria and Iraq until this day, cannot be fathomed or explained without examining the origins of the crisis, which date back to the Nakba.

True, 2017 is burdened with significant and tragic anniversaries, but these dates should not be used as opportunities to protest, registering only a fleeting movement of solidarity. They should offer the chance to re-articulate a unified Palestinian discourse that crosses ideological and political lines.

Without honest understanding of history, one cannot redeem its many sins.

Caribbean Reparations Movement Must Put Capitalism on Trial

Why is the reparations movement in the Anglophone Caribbean not putting capitalism on trial in its campaign to force British imperialism to provide financial compensation for its industrial and agricultural capitalists’ enslavement of Africans? To what extent is capitalism such a sacred spirit or god whose name should not be publicly called in order to avoid attracting its vindictive and punishing rebuke? Are the advocates of reparations truly convinced that British imperialism’s payment of financial compensation for the enslavement of Africans would end the economic marginalization of the labouring classes who are toiling under capitalist regimes throughout the region? Why are we willing to place racism or white supremacy in the dock but not its creator – capitalism?

On 17 December 2007, the United Nations’ General Assembly passed a resolution that made March 25 the annual commemorative International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This day should be used as a rallying point by people of good conscience to press the former major slaving states such as Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal, Russia, Spain and Sweden to pay reparations for their participation in the economic exploitation and racist dehumanization of enslaved Africans. The General Assembly’s initiative is an acknowledgement of the over fifteen million Africans who landed in the Americas and the over thirty million captives who died during the process of catching and delivering them into the Holocaust of Enslavement.

Capitalism and Slavery in the Caribbean

A key goal of all yearly progressive remembrance activities in the Caribbean and elsewhere should be to educate or remind people of the fact that capitalism was the primary force behind the extraction of the labour power of enslaved Africans. Of equal importance is the need to etch into the consciousness of the public that white supremacy or racism was simply an ideological tool used by the capitalist enslavers and various European states to morally justify the enslavement of Africans. Racism was deployed by these early capitalists and their respective national states to mask the purely economic motivation behind the development of an enslaved labour force.

In the seminal and classic book Capitalism and Slavery that was written by the late historian and statesman Dr. Eric Williams, he states that the brutal, exploitative and exacting labour condition of white indentured workers served as the template for the institution of African enslavement or slavery:

Here then is the origin of [African] slavery. The reason was economic, not racial; it had not to do with the color of the laborer but the cheapness of the laborer…. The features of the man, his hair, color and dentifrice, his “subhuman” characteristics so widely pleaded, were only later rationalizations to justify a simple economic fact: that the colonies needed and resorted to [African] labour because it was the cheapest and the best. This was not a theory; it was a practical conclusion deduced from the personal experience of the planter.1

Williams asserts that slavery, as “basically an economic institution,” gave birth to racism. He further states that “Unfree labor in the New World was brown, white, black and yellow; Catholic, Protestant and pagan.” Racism or white supremacy is now an autonomous system of oppression that intersects with patriarchy and capitalism to create differing degrees of labour exploitation within the ranks of the working-class.

The point that should be centred in the minds of revolutionaries and radicals in the Caribbean is that capitalism, the architect of racism, is still negatively impacting the lives of the working-class descendants of enslaved Africans as well as the societies that were built by their exploited labour. The late revolutionary, organic intellectual and historian Dr. Walter Rodney convincingly argues and documents in his ground-breaking text How Europe Underdeveloped Africa that capitalism was the main contributor to the stagnation of Africa’s economic development (see Chapter 4 – “Europe and the Roots of Africa’s Underdevelopment – To 1885).

Rodney’s indictment of capitalism and its retardation of the potentiality of the greater portion of humanity (the labouring classes) should be duly noted by the reparations activists or advocates who are playing footsie with capitalism:

… the peasants and workers of Europe (and eventually the inhabitants of the whole world) paid a huge price so that the capitalists could make their profits from the human labour that always lies behind the machine. That contradicts other facets of development, especially viewed from the standpoint of those who suffered and still suffer to make capitalist achievements possible. This latter group are the majority of [humanity]. To advance, they must overthrow capitalism; and that is why at the moment capitalism stands in the path of further human development. To put it another way, the social (class) relations of capitalism are now outmoded, just as slave and feudal relations became outmoded in their time.2

Dr. Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies, has written an excellent and easily comprehended book, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide. It is a must read for people who would like to understand the basis of the claim for reparations from Britain for its role in the enslavement of Africans and genocide against Indigenous peoples in the Caribbean.

Unfortunately, Britain’s Black Debt has placed the misbegotten child of capitalism – racism- on trial, but not the inherently exploitative and soul destroying parent – capitalism. If we are going to throw the book at capitalism for chattel slavery, we are morally and politically obligated to do the same for the wage slavery of capitalism under which the Caribbean working-class is currently being exploited.

Caribbean States and Reparations

Today, we are witnessing the unconscionable, but politically understandable behaviour of the neocolonial states in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in divorcing their call for reparations from measures aimed at throwing capitalism into the cesspool of history. These member states of CARICOM are all committed to the implementation of social, economic and political policies that have enshrined capitalism in the region.

They are interested in reparations as a way to deal with their balance of payment, budgetary and development challenges as seen in the call for debt cancellation, technology transfer and a formal apology and not statements of regrets in this regional body’s Ten Point Action Plan for Reparatory Justice.

While these governments are acting like capitalism was not the real culprit behind the economic exploitation of enslaved Africans, progressive civil society groups and individuals who are advocating for reparations should not be silent or conveniently forgetful of this historical fact. We should expect the liberal petite bourgeois or middle-class reparations advocates to not indict capitalism. Their class interests and aspirations are totally immersed and dependent on the continued existence of capitalism. The petite bourgeois elements, unlike the labouring classes, display high levels of class consciousness and the former group tends to allow its class interests to guide its thoughts and actions.

However, radical and revolutionary reparations activists and supporters have no business not putting capitalism on the stand in their activism and general public education initiatives. As political activists who are committed to ending inequity and exploitation that are rooted in the social, economic, political and cultural structures of society’s principal institutions, they should know that capitalist economic relations and practices are a major source of oppression.

As such, they ought to educate the public on the reality that the capitalism that exploited the labour of enslaved Africans is the same capitalism that exploited them as wage slaves after the end of slavery. Capitalism is still exploiting Caribbean workers and taking the lion’s share of the profit that comes from the labour power of the working-class.

CARICOM’s ten-point reparations proposal is implicitly using the societies in the global North as the model of social and economic development. The mature capitalist societies in North America and Europe are characterized by widespread income inequality and concentration of wealth as well as the political marginalization of the working-class. How can such societies in good conscience serve as the standard of social, political and economic development for the Caribbean?

Reparatory Justice for Social Transformation and Dual Power

In the Caribbean, the revolutionaries and radicals must advance a reparations agenda that demands Britain/Europe’s financial compensation for the economic exploitation and racist dehumanization of enslaved Africans. It has been estimated that Britain’s reparations payment to Africans in the Caribbean would be in the region of £7.5 trillion.3 The £20 million paid to the enslavers of Africans after the 1838 abolition of slavery in the British Empire would be worth about £200 billion in today’s currency.4

The proposals below ought to be a part of the Caribbean reparations movement’s programme and be seen as a part of the general class struggle. The neocolonial Caribbean states do not need the immediate payment of reparations to undertake some of these demands. The social movements in the region must organize around these demands as a part of a dual power strategy or infrastructure of dissent or anarchist transfer cultures:5

Promote labour self-management and economic democracy: The governments in the Caribbean must capitalize national and regional Worker Self-management and Entrepreneurship Funds from allotments out of the respective annual national budgets. These funds would be controlled by progressive civil society forces. These financial resources would be used to finance and support worker cooperatives and other labour self-managed companies as well as the work of the support organizations and structures that are necessary to ensure the viability of the workers’ ownership, control and management of their workplace.

It would be the duty of the revolutionary and radical organizers to ensure that a critical mass of the worker-cooperators embrace labour self-management as a part of the class struggle and the fight for socialism. The worker’s democratic control of the workplace combined with popular assemblies would be the laboratory or training ground for the self-management of the future stateless, classless and self-organized (communist) society.

Include labour self-management in school curriculum: The governments in the Caribbean should restructure the curriculum and place at its centre knowledge of the oppressive nature of chattel slavery and wage slavery as a system of labour extraction and exploitation. Of equal importance is the strategic need to adequately educate the students in primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions about workers’ control, ownership and management of the workplace.

Further, the students would be equipped with the knowledge, skills and attitude to collectively self-manage worker cooperatives and other worker self-managed companies. We must challenge the public education curriculum that prepares learners, at public expense, to work in capitalist enterprises. The worker self-management ideas and practices should be integrated throughout the curriculum.

Develop comprehensive land reform programme: According to  Tony Weis in the paper “Restructuring and Redundancy: The Impacts and Illogic of Neoliberal Agricultural Reforms in Jamaica”:

Jamaica’s landscape still bears the scars of the most ferocious form of agricultural production ever devised, as plantations kept their vice-like grip on the best land after Emancipation in 1838, with all subsequent distribution programmes only ever acting on the margins of these inhumanly constructed yet sacrosanct institutions.6

The preceding state of affairs is essentially the situation in the rest of the Anglophone Caribbean.

The governments in the Caribbean must undertake a comprehensive land reform programme that puts flat, arable land in the hands of the labouring classes. Enslaved Africans and indentured South Asians and the Indigenous peoples worked the land and their descendants must now exercise stewardship and control over it.

In order for them to take land out of the capitalist speculative market and to end the idea of the ownership of land by individuals, these governments must create the legislative framework for the establishment of community land trust (CLT). CLT are structures that are used to protect land from the rise or fall in the value of land based on speculation or the whims and fancies of capitalist demand and supply of land and housing. The access to land should be based on the right of collective use or usufructuary rights and not the right of private ownership. Each generation should be the steward of land and not its owners as under capitalism.

Create a cooperative housing programme: The condition of a large proportion of the housing stock in the Caribbean is an assault on human decency, especially for those who live in urban squatter settlements or overcrowded, ill-repaired housing in urban and rural communities. The state must create national funding programmes to support the development and maintenance of cooperative housing by the people through their organizations.

Cooperative housing is a way to engender popular, democratic and collective control and management over the housing by the people who live in these units and to undermine the idea of housing as a tradeable commodity. The members of cooperative housing would have security of tenure but would not be able to pass on the property to their heirs.

Establish working-class friendly labour laws: The system of chattel slavery in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas was a very vile form of labour exploitation. The slave masters did not simply exercise power over the labour power and the fruit of the labour (profit) of the enslaved African workforce. These capitalists also owned the enslaved Africans.

The brutal legacy of exploitation of African workers continued after Emancipation in 1838. In the Anglophone Caribbean of today, progressive organizations ought to develop broad national and regional campaigns to force these neo-colonial governments to create worker-friendly labour laws that make it easier for workers to join or form trade unions. Severe or prohibitive fines must be levied against employers who violate the rights of workers to form or join trade unions. It is hypocritical of governments to demand reparations from British imperialism for slavery, while facilitating the exploitation of workers through laws that are titled against the power of workers in the workforce.

The rate of unionization is very low in the Caribbean and it must become a priority of progressive social movement organizations, socialist organizations, the revolutionary petite bourgeoisie and trade unions to push for legislation that will give workers a greater level of bargaining power in the workplace-based class struggle.

Establish popular, democratic and horizontal assemblies of the oppressed: The revolutionary and radical forces in the Caribbean’s reparations movement must work with other progressive forces throughout society to establish a federated system of popular, democratic and horizontal assemblies of the oppressed. These assemblies would function as the direct democratic structures of political self-management that seeks to approximate the communist self-organizing concept of “the administration of things and not the governance of people.”

The assemblies would be the local, regional and national organs through which the labouring classes discuss, plan and determine their economic and social priorities. The masses would implement their main concerns through their alternative and oppositional institution as well as organize and impose them on existing and domination economic, social, cultural and political institution. In this contestation for power, the peoples’ organizations would use all available and ethical means to advance their liberation.

Perry Mars documents in his book Ideology and Change: The Transformation of the Caribbean Left that a section of the The Left in the Caribbean has a tradition of using or advocating the deployment of assemblies to connect with the people:

What these parties have in common is their strong advocacy of what are called variously ‘people’s parliament’ or ‘people’s assembly’ representing mass democratic participation in grass roots self organizations.7

Further, The Left sees assemblies as political instruments that compensate for the fact that the liberal capitalist democracies in the region are not responsive or represent the needs of the people. Assemblies should not be used as consultative or information-sharing bodies by nationalist and socialist revolutionaries or radicals.

These political assemblies are supposed to be proactive and positive structures that familiarise the people with the idea and practice of shaping all decisions that impact their lives. Mars notes that in the Caribbean:

The problem with the ‘people’s assembly’ is that the implementation does not necessarily eliminate the tendencies towards political centralization and elitism as far as leadership of the movement is concerned.8

From the period of chattel slavery to the current period of neo-colonial flag independence, the Caribbean labouring classes have yet to exercise substantive power over the political institutions that govern their lives. A system of popular assemblies with the capacity to challenge the authoritarian liberal capitalist democracies for power would be one of the best expressions of reparatory justice in the Caribbean.


The struggle for reparations in the Caribbean should become a site of the class struggle and organizing the people for socialism or communism. Capitalism must be put on trial for aiding and abetting the enslavement of Africans and genocide against the Indigenous peoples.

The proposals that are outlined above for adoption by the Caribbean reparations will not become a reality in the absence of national campaigns that organize the people into their self-organized class-based and other popular organizations. We are seeking to build a counterhegemonic force or alternative power bloc to contest the existing forces of domination and to advance the long-term struggle of putting them out of business.

The neo-colonial governments have jumped in front of the reparations bandwagon and are trying to set the agenda. It is incumbent on the popular forces to organize the people in order to wrest the agenda setting initiative from the state and impose their programme of action on the state through the organizing of the labouring classes and other oppressed groups within its ranks.

It is critically necessary for the organizers who are organizing the people from below to do everything possible to utilize all available opportunity to build the capacity of the oppressed to challenge and undermine the existing white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist political order. It is for this reason that a dual power strategy must build the embryonic economic, social and political structures of the future socialist society, while engaging and contesting the existing institutions of power.

It is in this light that the development of worker self-management over their workplaces and the establishment of a system of popular assemblies as the seat of working-class political power becomes necessary. The reparations movement can play an important catalytic role in helping to ideologically prepare the people for the completion of the Second Emancipation in the Caribbean and the rest of the Americas.

  1. Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, (London: Andre Deutsch, 1964), 18-19.
  2. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, (Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1974), 10.
  3. Hilary Beckles, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide, (Kingston: University of the West Indies Press, 2013), 175
  4. Ibid, 144.
  5. Jeff Shantz, Re-thinking Revolution: A Social Anarchist Perspective, Philosophers for Change. Shantz is opposed to using the concept “dual power” but his preference for “infrastructure of dissent” or “anarchist transfer cultures” is not a variance with a dual power strategy that focuses on self-organization of the working-class and oppressed identity groups within that class.
  6. Tony Weis in the paper “Restructuring and Redundancy: The Impacts and Illogic of Neoliberal Agricultural Reforms in Jamaica”, Journal of Agrarian Change, 4, no. 4, (October 2004): 463.
  7. Perry Mars, Ideology and Change: The Transformation of the Caribbean Left, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), 113.
  8. Ibid, 113.

Love, Western Nihilism and Revolutionary Optimism

How dreadfully depressing life has become in almost all of the Western cities! How awful and sad.

It is not that these cities are not rich; they are. Of course, things are deteriorating there, the infrastructure is crumbling and there are signs of social inequality, even misery, at every corner. But if compared to almost all other parts of the world, the wealth of the Western cities still appears to be shocking, almost grotesque.

The affluence does not guarantee contentment, happiness or optimism. Spend an entire day strolling through London or Paris, and pay close attention to people. You will repeatedly stumble over passive aggressive behavior, over frustration and desperate downcast glances, over omnipresent sadness.

In all those once great [imperialist] cities, what is missing is life. Euphoria, warmth, poetry and yes – love – are all in extremely short supply there.

Wherever you walk, all around, the buildings are monumental, and boutiques are overflowing with elegant merchandize. At night, bright lights shine brilliantly. Yet the faces of people are gray. Even when forming couples, even when in groups, human beings appear to be thoroughly atomized, like the sculptures of Giacometti.

Talk to people, and you’ll most likely encounter confusion, depression, and uncertainty. ‘Refined’ sarcasm, and sometimes a bogus urban politeness are like thin bandages that are trying to conceal the most horrifying anxieties and thoroughly unbearable loneliness of those ‘lost’ human souls.

Purposelessness is intertwined with passivity. In the West, it is increasingly hard to find someone that is truly committed: politically, intellectually or even emotionally. Big feelings are now seen as frightening; both men and women reject them. Grand gestures are increasingly looked down upon, or even ridiculed. Dreams are becoming tiny, shy and always ‘down to earth’, and even those are lately extremely well concealed. Even to daydream is seen as something ‘irrational’ and outdated.


To a stranger who comes from afar, it appears to be a sad, unnatural, brutally restrained and, to a great extent, a pitiful world.

Tens of millions of adult men and women, some well educated, ‘do not know what to do with their lives’. They take courses or go ‘back to school’ in order to fill the void, and to ‘discover what they want to do’ with their lives. It is all self-serving, as there appear to be no greater aspirations. Most of the efforts begin and end with each particular individual.

Nobody sacrifices himself or herself for others, for society, for humanity, for the cause, or even for the ‘other half’, anymore. In fact, even the concept of the ‘other half’ is disappearing. Relationships are increasingly ‘distant’, each person searching for his or her ‘space’, demanding independence even in togetherness. There are no ‘two halves’; instead there are ‘two fully independent individuals’, co-existing in a relative proximity, sometimes physically touching, sometimes not, but mostly on their own.

In the Western capitals, the egocentricity, even total obsession with one’s personal needs, is brought to a surreal extreme.

Psychologically, it can only be described as a twisted and pathological world.

Surrounded by this bizarre pseudo reality, many otherwise healthy individuals eventually feel, or even become, mentally ill. Then, paradoxically, they embark on seeking ‘professional help’, so they can re-join the ranks of the ‘normal’, read ‘thoroughly subdued’ citizens. In most cases, instead of continuously rebelling, instead of waging personal wars against the state of things, the individuals who are still at least to some extent different, get so frightened by being in the minority that they give up, surrender voluntarily, and identify themselves as ‘abnormal’.

Short sparks of freedom experienced by those who are still capable of at least some imagination, of dreaming about a true and natural world, get rapidly extinguished.

Then, in a short instant, everything gets irreversibly lost. It may appear as some horror film, but it is not. It is the true reality of life in the West.

I cannot function in such an environment for more than a few days. If forced, I could last in London or Paris for two weeks at most, but only while operating on some ‘emergency mode’, unable to write, to create and to function ‘normally’. I cannot imagine ‘being in love’ in a place like that. I cannot imagine writing a revolutionary essay there. I cannot imagine laughing, loudly, happily, freely.

While briefly working in London, Paris or New York, the coldness, purposelessness, and chronic lack of passion and of all basic human emotions, is having a tremendously exhausting effect on me, derailing my creativity and drowning me in useless, pathetic existentialist dilemmas.

After one week there, I’m simply beginning to get influenced by that terrible environment: I’m starting to think about myself excessively, ‘listening to my feelings’, instead of considering the feelings of the others. My duties towards humanity get neglected. I put on hold everything that I otherwise consider essential. My revolutionary edge loses its sharpness. My optimism begins to evaporate. My determination to struggle for a better world begins to weaken.

This is when I know: it is time to run, to run away. Fast, very fast! It is time to pull myself from the stale emotional swamp, to slam the door behind the intellectual bordello, and to escape from the terrifying meaninglessness that is dotted with injured, even wasted lives.

I cannot fight for those people from within, only from outside. Our way of thinking and feeling do not match. When they get out and visit ‘my universe’, they bring with them resilient prejudices: they do not register what they see and hear, they stick to what they were indoctrinated with, for years and decades.

For me personally there are not many significant things that I can do in Western cities. Periodically I come to sign one or two book contracts, to open my films, or to speak briefly at some university, but I don’t see any point of doing much more. In the West, it is hard to find any meaningful struggle. Most struggles there are not internationalist; instead they are selfish, West-oriented in nature. Almost no true courage, no ability to love, no passion, and no rebellion remain. On closer examination, there is actually no life there; no life as we human beings used to perceive it, and as we still understand it in many other parts of the world.


Nihilism rules. Was this mental state, this collective illness something that has been inflicted on purpose by the regime? I don’t know. I cannot yet answer this question. But it is essential to ask, and to try to understand.

Whatever it is, it is extremely effective – negatively effective but effective nevertheless.

Carl Gustav Jung, a renowned Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, diagnosed Western culture as ‘pathological’, right after WWII. But instead of trying to comprehend its own abysmal condition, instead of trying to get better, even well, Western culture is actually made to expand, to rapidly spread to many other parts of the world, dangerously contaminating healthy societies and nations.

It has to be stopped. I say it because I do love this life, the life, which still exists outside the Western realm; I’m intoxicated with it, obsessed with it. I live it to the fullest, with great delight, enjoying every moment of it.

I know the world, from the ‘Southern Cone’ of South America, to Oceania, the Middle East, to the most god-forsaken corners of Africa and Asia. It is a truly tremendous world, full of beauty and diversity, and hope.

The more I see and know, the more I realize that I absolutely cannot exist without a struggle, without a good fight, without great passions and love, and without purpose; basically without all that the West is trying to reduce to nothing, to make irrelevant, obsolete and ridiculous.

My entire being is rebelling against the awful nihilism and dark pessimism that is being injected almost everywhere by Western culture. I’m violently allergic to it. I refuse to accept it. I refuse to succumb to it.

I see people, good people, talented people, wonderful people, getting contaminated, having their lives ruined. I see them abandoning great battles, abandoning their great loves. I see them choosing selfishness and their ‘space’ and ‘personal feelings’ over deep affection and inseparability, opting for meaningless careers over great adventures of epic battles for humanity and a better world.

Lives are being ruined one by one, and by millions, every moment and every day. Lives that could have been full of beauty, full of joy, of love, full of adventure, of creativity and uniqueness, of meaning and purpose, but instead are reduced to emptiness, to nothingness, in brief: to thorough meaninglessness. People living such lives are performing tasks and jobs by inertia, respecting without questioning all behavior patterns ordered by the regime, and obeying countless grotesque laws and regulations.

They cannot walk on their own feet anymore. They have been made fully submissive. It is over for them.

That is because the courage of the people in the West has been broken. It is because they have been reduced to a crowd of obedient subjects, submissive to the destructive and morally defunct Empire.

They have lost the ability to think for themselves. They have lost courage to feel.

As a result, because the West has such an enormous influence on the rest of the world, the entire humanity is in grave danger, is suffering, and is losing its natural bearing.


In such a society, a person overflowing with passion, a person fully committed and true to his or her cause can never be taken seriously. It is because in a society like this, only deep nihilism and cynicism are accepted and respected.

In such a society, a revolution or a rebellion could hardly go beyond the pub or a living room couch.

A person, who is still capable of loving in such an emotionally constipating and twisted environment, is usually seen as a buffoon, even as a ‘suspicious and sinister element’. It is common for him or for her to be ridiculed and rejected.

Obedient and cowardly masses hate those who are different. They distrust people who stand tall and who are still capable of fighting, people who know perfectly well what their goals are, people who do and not just talk, and those who find it easy to throw their entire life, without the slightest hesitation, at the feet of a beloved person or an honorable cause.

Such individuals terrify and irritate those suave, submissive and shallow crowds in Western capitals. As a punishment, they get deserted and divorced, ostracized, socially exiled and demonized. Some end up getting attacked, even thoroughly destroyed.

The result is: there is no culture, anywhere on Earth, so banal and so obedient as that which is now regulating the West. Lately, nothing of revolutionary intellectual significance is flowing from Europe and North America, as there are hardly any detectable unorthodox ways of thinking or perceptions of the world there.

The dialogues and debates are flowing only through fully anticipated and well-regulated channels, and needless to say they fluctuate only marginally and through the fully ‘pre-approved’ frequencies.


What is on the other side of the barricade?

I don’t want to glorify our revolutionary countries and movements.

I don’t even want to write that we are the “exact opposite” of that entire nightmare that has been created by the West. We are not. And we are far from being perfect.

But we are alive if not always well. We are standing, trying to advance this wonderful ‘project’ called humanity, attempting to save our planet from Western imperialism, its nihilist gloom, as well as absolute environmental disaster.

We are considering many different ways forward. We have never rejected socialism and Communism, and we are studying various moderate and controlled forms of capitalism. The advantages and disadvantages of the so-called ‘mixed economy’ are being discussed and evaluated.

We fight, but because we are much less brutal, orthodox and dogmatic than the West, we often lose, as we recently (and hopefully only temporarily) lost in Brazil and Argentina. We also win, again and again. As this essay goes to print, we are celebrating in Ecuador and El Salvador.

Unlike in the West, in such places like China, Russia and Latin America, our debates about the political and economic future are vibrant, even stormy. Our art is engaged, helping to search for the best humanist concepts. Our thinkers are alert, compassionate and innovative, and our songs and poems are great, full of passion and fire, overflowing with love and longing.

Our countries do not steal from anyone; they don’t overthrow governments in the opposite parts of the world, they do not undertake massive military invasions. What we have is ours; it is what we have created, produced and sown with our own hands. It is not always much, but we are proud of it, because no one had to die for it, and no one had to be enslaved.

Our hearts are purer. They are not always absolutely pure, but purer than those in the West are. We do not abandon those whom we love, even if they fall, get injured, or cannot walk any longer. Our women do not abandon their men, especially those who are in the middle of fighting for a better world. Our men do not abandon their women, even when they are in deep pain or despair. We know whom and what we love, and we know whom and what we hate: in this we rarely get ‘confused’.

We are much simpler than those living in the West. In many ways, we are also much deeper.

We respect hard work, especially work that helps to improve the lives of millions, not just our own lives, or the lives of our families.

We try to keep our promises. We don’t always succeed in keeping them, as we are only humans, but we are trying, and most of the times we are managing to.

Things are not always exactly like this, but often they are. And when “things are like this”, it means that there is at least some hope and optimism and often even great joy.

Optimism is essential for any progress. No revolution could succeed without tremendous enthusiasm, as no love could. No revolution and no love could be built on depression and defeatism.

Even in the middle of the ashes to which imperialism has reduced our world, a true revolutionary and a true poet can always at least find some hope. It will not be easy, not easy at all, but definitely not impossible. Nothing is ever lost in this life for as long as our hearts are beating.


The state in which our world is right now is dreadful. It often feels that one more step in a wrong direction, another false turn, and everything will finally collapse, irreversibly. It is easy, extremely easy, to give up, to throw everything up into the air, and to land on a couch with a six-pack of beer, or to simply declare “there is nothing that can be done”, and then resume one’s meaningless life routine.

Western nihilism has already done its devastating work: it has landed tens of millions of thinking beings on their proverbial couches of defeatism. It has spread pessimism and gloom, and a general belief that things can never improve anymore. It has maneuvered people into refusing to ‘accept labels’, into rejecting progressive ideologies, and into a pathological distrust of any power. The “all politicians are the same” slogan could be translated clearly into: “We all know that our Western rulers are gangsters, but do not expect anything else from those in other parts of the world.” “All people are the same” reads: “The West has been plundering and murdering hundreds of millions, but don’t expect anything better from Asians, Latin Americans or Africans”.

This irrational, cynical negativism already domesticated in virtually all countries of the West, has successfully been exported to many colonies, even to such places as Afghanistan, where people have been suffering incessantly from crimes committed by the West.

Its goal is evident: to prevent people from taking action and to convince them that any rebellion is futile. Such attitudes are brutally choking all hopes.

In the meantime, collateral damage is mounting. Metastases of the passivity and nihilistic cancers which are being spread by the Western regime are already attacking even that very human ability to love, to commit to a person or to a cause, and to stand by one’s pledges and obligations.

In the West and in its colonies, courage has lost its entire luster. The Empire has managed to reverse the whole scale of human values, which was firmly and naturally in place on all the continents and in all cultures, for centuries and millennia. All of a sudden, submission and obedience have come to vogue.

It often feels that if the trend is not reversed soon, people will increasingly start to live like mice: constantly scared, neurotic, unreliable, depressed, passive, unable to identify true greatness, and unwilling to join those who are still pulling our world and humanity forward.

Billions of lives will get wasted. Billions of lives are already being wasted.

Some of us write about invasions, coups and dictatorships imposed by the Empire. However, almost nothing is being written about this tremendous and silent genocide that is breaking the human spirit and optimism, throwing entire nations into a dark depression and gloom. But it is taking place, even as these lines are being penned. It is happening everywhere, even in such places as London, Paris and New York, or more precisely, especially there.

In those unfortunate places, fear of great emotions has already been deeply rooted. Originality, courage and determination are now evoking fear. Great love, great gestures and unorthodox dreams are all observed with panic and mistrust.

But no progress, no evolution is possible without entirely unconventional ways of thinking, without the revolutionary spirit, without great sacrifices and discipline, without commitment, and without that most powerful and most daring set of emotions, which is called love.

The demagogues and propagandists of the Empire want us to believe that ‘something ended’; they want us to accept defeat.

Why should we? There is no defeat anywhere on the horizon.

There are only two separate realities, two universes, into which our world had been shattered into: one of Western nihilism, another of revolutionary optimism.

I have already described the nihilism, but what do I imagine when I dream about that better, different world?

Do I envision red flags and people forming closed ranks, charging against some lavish palaces and stock exchanges? Do I hear loud revolutionary songs blasted from loudspeakers?

I actually do not. What comes to my mind is essentially very quiet and natural, human and warm.

There is a park near the old train station in the city of Granada, Nicaragua. I visited it some time ago. There, several old trees are throwing fantastic shadows on the ground, providing a desirable shade. Into a few big metal columns are engraved the most beautiful poems ever written in this country, while in between those columns stand simple but solid park benches. I sat on one of them. Not far from me, a couple of ageing lovers was holding hands, reading cheek to cheek from an open book. They were so close that they appeared to be forming a simple and totally self-sufficient universe. Above them were the shining verses written by Ernesto Cardenal, one of my favorite Latin American poets.

I also recall two Cuban doctors, sitting on a very different bench, thousands of miles away, chatting and laughing next to two goodhearted and corpulent nurses, after performing a complex surgery in Kiribati, an island nation ‘lost’ in the middle of South Pacific.

I remember many things, but they are never monumental, only human. Because that is what revolution really is, I think: a couple of ageing peasants in a beautiful public park, both of them in love, holding hands, reading poetry to each other. Or two doctors travelling to the end of the world, just in order to save lives, far from the spotlight and fame.

And I always remember my dear friend, Eduardo Galeano, one of the greatest revolutionary writers of Latin America, telling me in Montevideo, about his eternal love for his wonderful lady called “Reality”.

Then I think: no, we cannot lose. We are not going to lose. The enemy is mighty and many people are weak and scared, but we will not allow the world to be converted into a mental asylum. We’ll fight for each and every person who has been affected, and drowned in gloom.

We’ll expose the abnormality and perversity of Western nihilism. We’ll fight it with our revolutionary enthusiasm and optimism, and we will use the greatest weapons, such as poetry and love.

Toronto’s Jewish Defence League Fascists

We live in strange and dangerous times. While Toronto thugs export their violence and extremist ideology to the USA and the Jewish Defence League works with neo-fascists to bash Muslims, the dominant Canadian media has placed a cone of silence over these disturbing developments.

At the recent American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, D.C., a mob organized by JDL Toronto attacked counter-protesters. In the worst incident, a 55-year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye.

Thornhill JDL member Yosef Steynovitz was charged with assault causing significant injury and a hate crime.

Despite video of JDL thugs assaulting protesters in the US capital, no Canadian media except the Canadian Jewish News reported on the confrontation. Also ignored are JDL’s efforts to parlay Donald Trump’s xenophobia into a bigger presence down south. In January, JDL Toronto organized a meeting in the Big Apple. “We are trying to get something off the ground in New York. We have to resurrect it in other states in the US, in LA, Chicago, Florida, Philadelphia, I get emails from all over the US, we have to get this thing going,” JDL-Toronto leader Meir Weinstein told the New York meeting, according to a Ha’aretz story headlined “Drawing Inspiration From Trump, Far-right Kahane Movement Seeks U.S. Revival”.

The US JDL was labelled “a right-wing terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001. Its members were convicted of a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre two decades ago.

Most people involved in Palestinian solidarity activism in Toronto have experienced JDL thuggery. During Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza in 2014, I was shoved, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by members of the JDL at a protest on the grounds of the Ontario legislature. The following day at Queen’s Park, a JDL member who worked with children at the Schwartz/Reisman Jewish Community Centre and was on a B’nai Brith softball team, Isaac Ezra Nacson, knocked a pro-Palestinian counter demonstrator to the ground and kicked him in the face. Half an hour after Nacson’s attack, a JDL member walked some 50 metres around a barricade to where I was standing alone chanting at the pro-war rally and spat on me three times. Both incidents were caught on tape by major media outlets, but little was done.

In 2014 the JDL sparked a violent confrontation at Palestine House in Mississauga. Three years earlier the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House.

While they’ve organized with the far right English Defence League and Pegida UK in the past, JDL has deepened its coordination with other local white supremacists in recent months. They’ve joined the Soldiers of Odin at Nathan Phillips Square on a couple of occasions to protest M-103, the anti-Islamophobia parliamentary motion.

Despite its racism and violence, the JDL finds support from much of the organized Jewish community and other powerful institutions. JDL has cosponsored demonstrations with B’nai B’rith and provided “security” for pro-Israel rallies. Canadian Jewish News coverage of the group has often been sympathetic, including publishing video of a speech by Meir Weinstein. Two years ago Barbara Kay penned a National Post column titled “In defence of the Jewish Defence League” and six weeks ago the Toronto Sun published an article headlined “Jewish Defence League alleges hate crime”. In 2014 former Prime Minister Stephen Harper even included a JDL member in his official delegation when he traveled to Israel.

Tacitly accepted or actively supported by much of the establishment, the JDL is probably the most powerful far right group in Toronto. The group is now using its influence to build neo-fascist alliances in the city and export its toxic politics south of the border.

People should be concerned.

The Road to War in 1812: Imperialism, Empire, and the Proletariat

With Donald Trump, President of the United States, visiting Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson before the 250th Anniversary of his birth, it is best we remember when the US government declared war on the British Empire in 1812, beginning Mr. Madison’s War, falsely and deceptively called the “War of 1812.” This article is part one of a two-part series on the war, beginning with the events and years leading up to military conflict.

The roots of Mr. Madison’s War spring out of the Revolutionary War’s aftermath. In 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed between the US and the British Empire, the same day as other documents between Britain and European imperial powers. The “empire of liberty,” as brutal slave owner Thomas Jefferson called it, was born, with the treaty granting the new country “vast territory west of the Ohio River” and the Appalachian Mountains.1 Granting of this territory, central to the fur trade, meant that indigenous sovereignty was violated, since Britain had no right to cede such land to the US. Yet it was declared regardless, which was no surprise because treaty was never signed by any indigenous peoples, enslaved Blacks, women, English or US proletariat. At this time in US history, the US proletariat was very small. Sure there were seamen, hawkers, booksellers, immigrants, retailers, artisans, and other dwellers, along with members of the more propertied middle class and established bourgeoisie in the US’s urban cities. However, even if you put all of these people together, they do not constitute a majority and are still very small and concentrated in urban areas, with the only major expansion of their ranks after 1815 when industrialization began to dramatically expand. Even so, the biggest cities within the US “offered fertile ground for political consciousness, political persuasion, and political action,” which allowed the existing proletariat to organize themselves effectively.

Getting back to the Treaty of Paris, while it recognized the claims of illegal US sovereignty over indigenous peoples, it didn’t fulfill all of the US aims. In 1775 and 1776, the nascent US tried to invade Canada as part of a war of conquest.2 While this was an obvious failure, in the Articles of Confederation, written in 1777 but entering into force in 1781, the US constitution in force until 1791, declared US ownership of Canada. Article XI of this constitution said that “Canada…shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union,” and that no other “colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States,” despite the fact that making Canada a part of the US violated British sovereignty and was wishful thinking.

In the later 1780s, friction began to build. The creation of the Northwest Territory, which comprises the present-day states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota, in 1787, along with proposals for new states in the region, and the push of White settlers westward, led to justifiable anger from indigenous nations.3 While this feeling was not unanimous, numerous nations and their leaders expressed their outrage with passion and energy. One such person was Buckongahelas, a Lenape warrior chief. In 1781, he addressed the Delaware Nation, in the present state of Ohio, arguing that the British had asked them for assistance, which they had agreed to because of massacres of their people by US colonists, the “Long-Knives,” warning that such massacres would continue to occur if there wasn’t resistance.4 Such a defiant stand was assisted by the British. While they were obligated by the Treaty of Paris to leave the area west of the Appalachian Mountains and east of the Mississippi, they did not do so. Instead, they clung to their forts, supplying weapons and giving advice to indigenous nations who were resisting US expansion into the Ohio River Valley.5

In 1790, the US issued its first Federal Census. This census revealed that a total of about 3.9 million people were living within the US, including over 694,000 enslaved Blacks. The rest of the populated included “free” White men over age 16 and under 15, “free” White females, and “other free persons.” The latter category seemingly included “free” Blacks and possibly indentured servants, foreigners or immigrants but not indigenous people as such people were considered “Indians not taxed,” and not counted in this Federal Census. Interestingly, while most of the enslaved Blacks lived in the South, 40,370 lived in northern states, except Maine and Massachusetts, above the Mason-Dixon line, poking a hole in the “free”/“slave” state dichotomy used too often. In a show of how small the proletariat was, it is worth noting that about 95% of US residents lived in rural areas and about 5% in urban areas, with the majority of those in the US not living in urban areas until 1920 and onward. The agricultural nature of the country at the time was further proven by the fact that the geographical center of the US in 1790 was Kent County, Maryland, 23 miles east of the port city of Baltimore.

By the 1790s, the “glorious Revolution of 1776” was showing its true colors. During the following decade, tentacles of White settlers spread further beyond the Appalachian Mountains: there were speculators in the Northwest Territory, trade rights to the Mississippi River were gained by the Spanish, and the US gained control over the Mississippi territory (present-day Mississippi and Alabama) from the Spanish.6 In 1791, the same year that General Arthur St. Clair was roundly defeated by the Western Confederacy in the Battle of a Thousand Slain, Congress, under the new, and illegal Federal Constitution we know today, instituted the first tax. The new tax was levied on whiskey, which made it very unpopular, especially in poorer areas. Due to the fact that the tax benefited big distillers and hurt farmers, and petty bourgeoisie, which constituted small distillers, there would be a rebellion in Western Pennsylvania, and similar ones cropping up in other parts of the US, by angry individuals, falsely called the “Whiskey Rebellion.” This rebellion came to a head in 1794. Despite the appeals of “moderating voices” such as Hugh Henry Brackenridge and Albert Gallatin, a Pennsylvania state legislator and land developer, later calling his participation “only political sin,” for a peaceful resolution, local militia responded. Without going into too much detail, since historians such as William Hogeland and Thomas P. Slaughter have already written extensively on the topic, the rebellion was crushed by federal force. This meant that the “thread of aristocracy in the United States,” had been reinforced rather than eliminated, disproving that it was removed by the Revolutionary War.7

In later years, tensions with greedy European empires came to the fore. In 1795, the US tried to make peace with the British by adopting the Jay Treaty. The treaty was seen unfavorably, domestically, as promoting “pro-British foreign policy.” Beyond such squabbles, it arguably postponed hostilities with the British Empire until 1812.8 By this point in US history, two political parties had emerged: the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, or Republicans for short. The former included (and voiced) the interests of “large-scale mercantile bourgeoisie,” large Northern landowners, and some Southern planters, basing their behavior off England.9 As for latter, they consisted of petty bourgeoisie, specifically “small and medium-scale planters, farmers and petty urban bourgeoisie,” who supported Revolutionary France by contrast.

The uneasy neutrality put in place by the Federalist administrations of John Adams and George Washington, did not last. At sea, the European empires of France and Britain were on the offensive. With the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799 and his further consolidation of power in 1804, there was the seizure of hundreds of US vessels.10 This made some very nervous. Philadelphia merchant Stephen Girard, later to be a close ally and benefactor of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison’s administrations, wrote to Alexander Hamilton, the slave-owning Secretary of Treasury. Girard argued that the US government needed to: “Take Such Steps therein as Justice and the Interest of a Citizen of the United States may requiere” to protect his property, and that of others, on the high seas.11

With such hostility, there was bound to be conflict. The British engaged in wide-ranging impressment of sailors on US ships, meaning that they forced US sailors to serve in the Royal Navy, sailors who already had ambiguous citizenship. The British engaged in such harsh measures officially to “catch” deserters from the Royal Navy in order to fight the menace of Napoleon and unofficially to bully the US out of its neutrality. Anger from the US government grew when they searched US warships. Not only did the British want to maintain maritime supremacy, with impressment and blockades to restrict trade, but shipping interests within Britain felt that the US “merchant marine was profiting immensely from European wars” and was a threat to their commercial monopoly. Hence, the English bourgeoisie, with George III, the same king who had ruled during the Revolutionary War, sought to take advantage of the US economic dependence on them, and their military weakness. They did this by continuing domination of the “Old Northwest” through the maintenance of forts and seizure of US ships, a number of which were commercial vessels.12  Between 1789 and 1815, less than 10,000 US sailors were impressed by the Royal Navy’s press gangs, expanding the manpower of the British Navy from 10,000 men before the Napoleonic War to 140,000 by 1812. Most of these men came into the Royal Navy due to the efforts of press gangs, which swept British streets, ports, and coastal areas to grab men for naval service. While this is often cited as a reason for war in 1812, it is too simplistic. For one, the British suffered from shortages in manpower “due to the low pay and a lack of qualified seamen,” and on the hundreds of US ships, as many as 10-15% were foreign born and 15% were Black.13 This is why some have said that the British Navy patrol of the West Coast of Africa was a cause of war, since the British were supposedly freeing enslaved people on US vessels, and others have claimed that anti-slavery language in a British Order in Council (trade embargo measure) led to war.

By 1800, the United States had changed. The second Federal Census asked for the names of the local area where the families lived, “free” white men and women, and “other free persons,” including over 61,000 “free” Blacks, along with a number of enslaved individuals. This census, which included states and territories northwest of the Ohio River and Mississippi Territory, determined that there were over 5 million individuals living within the United States, with occupations including merchants, laborers, domestic servants, and paupers, along with the “learned” bourgeoisie. The economy was relatively small, growing from $668 million in 1799 to $901 million in 1809, with the majority of national income in the agricultural, transportation and communication sectors. A very small amount of income came from the mining and quarrying, manufacturing, construction, trade, service, and finance sectors. With only 73,000 bales of cotton, 300,000 feet of lumber produced, over 67,000 acres of land sold, and an almost negligible amount of lead smelter production that year, the economy was clearly not developed to the level of a more industrial one like Britain. Hence, the proletariat did not constitute the mass of the population. While the US bourgeoisie were in a fragile state because of a weak economy and agricultural status of the country, the proletariat did not have much political power. Instead, control was held in the nascent US capitalist class. However, with the county’s geographic center in later-day Howard County, Maryland, and slightly more of the population in urban areas, the proletariat had a chance to expand. Once again, while most of the enslaved Blacks, numbering over 875,000, lived below the Mason-Dixon line, 36,080 lived in states above the line, apart from Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont, a reduction from 1790. Even with this, the division showed, just like the previous census, that the “free”/“slave” state division was a false one in many respects.

In what some called the “revolution of 1800,” perhaps inaccurately, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr won slightly more votes from the Electoral College, making them the new administration.14 Some, such as Col. Samuel Osgood, who would be central in war with Britain years later, agreed with this assessment. He said it was a pleasure for a “change in the politics of our common country” and said that Jefferson had “richly merited the Confidence of his Country…[and] ably supported the genuine Principles of civil Liberty.”

The undeclared naval war with France, lasting from 1798 to 1800, which included the capturing of a French privateer and numerous other land battles, came to an end. What did not change was the justifiable anger (and resistance against) toward White settlers and frontiersmen by indigenous nations and peoples. In the early 1800s, nations such as the Osage and Mandan were friendly toward the US, but others were clearly not.15 This, and broad anti-indigenous racist attitudes by White individuals, led many Whites to feel that indigenous peoples were not “politically or economically necessary.” Jefferson himself talked about similarities between Whites and the indigenous even as he backed a ruthless war against them.16

Not everyone felt the same way. In 1805, Sagoyewatha, or Red Jacket, chief of the Seneca people, criticized a White missionary, named Cram, who came to covert the indigenous people to Christianity. He told the history of the White man, on the North American continent, saying that the indigenous people had tried to be friendly by giving food, but were given the poison of rum in return. He added that the White man is ravenous, always wanting more:

They wanted more land; they wanted our country. Our eyes were opened, and our minds became uneasy. Wars took place…they also brought strong liquor amongst us. It was strong and powerful and has slain thousands…you have got your country, but you are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us…you say that there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it?…we have been told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place [the frontier?]…we will wait…and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them less disposed to cheat Indians, we will consider again what you have said.17

While the hideous Alien and Sedition Acts, the first of many restrictions on bourgeois “free speech” within the US, were gone, the Jefferson Administration took a more strident approach when it came to military engagement. Apart from the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana from the French, leading to the establishment of the Illinois territory and the state of Ohio, in 1803, imperialistic incursions by the US had begun.18 These included the First Barbary War from 1801 to 1805, when marines landed in Tripoli to free a crew, invasion of Spanish territory by Captain Z.M. Pike in 1806, and US gunboats operating in the Gulf of Mexico to fend off Spanish and French privateers near the Mississippi delta. While the Jefferson Administration may have thought that a treaty with Britain in 1806 would end British harassment of US ships, this did not happen.19

In 1807, the Chesapeake affair raised the strains between the British Empire and the US to an even higher level. Off the coast of Norfolk, a US frigate, the Chesapeake, encountered a British sloop named the Leopard, with the sloop asking for the frigate to turn over possible deserters. When they refused, the sloop fired on the US ship, which ultimately surrendered, allowing the British to “board and arrest the suspected deserters.” Relations soured even more when Britain refused to “offer any compensation for the…Chesapeake incident” or revoke the Orders in Council, leading to war nearly breaking out, even as the number of people harassed on the high seas was likely exaggerated.20 The result of this was the passage of the Embargo Act, barring trade with Britain, France, and whole world. The measure was ultimately self-defeating. It led to renewal of conflict and economic paralysis, in the form of an economic depression within the US, hitting Southern slave plantations and Northeast trading cities very hard, and serving as one of the causes of war.21

In 1808, the same year that Spain, under French military occupation, allied with the English against Napoleon, a German fur trader John Jacob Astor entered the picture. Astor wrote to Jefferson, arguing that the US government should “give our own traders great advantages over their foreign competitors” on this side the Mississippi and “oust foreign traders” who he claimed led the indigenous to war against the US, the truth of which is in question. The same year, Girard, another capitalist, told Madison what interests he had in other countries: “the property which I have in England and Holland exceeds Five Hundred Thousand Dollars.” It is likely that a number of bourgeoisie of the same character also had capital in Europe, which would be negatively affected in the years to come.

The political landscape was changing by 1809. The 1807 Embargo Act was suspended, replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act, which continued only until the following year. However, the law, which was also a failure like the Embargo Act, led to a “steady clamor of war talk.”22 The same year, Tecumseh, of the Shawnee Nation, led his confederacy of indigenous nations to oppose Western expansion. While there were defeats, there were also victories. Tecumseh’s Confederacy allied with the British, just like other indigenous nations, who supplied them for strategic reasons not because they sympathized with the indigenous people’s plight.23

The next year, the Third Federal Census was conducted. It involved personal visits by the assistant marshal with census takers required to collect “available economic data.” However, such data collection seemed “erratic” since it was all over the place with no order. Despite this, the Tench Coxe, in his report on the US economy to the Secretary of the Treasury, Gallatin, in 1812, argued that cotton would become one of the next big areas of manufacturing and in favor of “labor saving” operations/devices to increase economic “efficiency.” Parts of his report also showed that boots, “wool and cotton cards,” and cables were the most expensive goods on the market. Other related reports noted that most of the cotton production, in the home and in “manufacturing establishments,” occurred in five states: Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee (the western half), while mixed cloths were almost exclusively produced in Pennsylvania. As for other manufactures, most of the “carding machines” were located in New York and Pennsylvania, the latter which had the most furnaces, with both of these states having the highest amount of “manufactures” of any US state at the time. This meant that of the small proletariat, most of them were concentrated in production of cotton, cloth manufacturing, and elsewhere. They worked in factories that were precursors to those that Karl Marx and Frederick Engels described in Communist Manifesto. These factories existed in the form of textile mills, mainly in Southern New England, under the Waltham-Lowell system, with mainly women working in such mills, a demographic which changed in later years.

This information is only scratching the surface. There were 4,250 miles in surface roads that year, an increase from1,200 miles ten years earlier. Additionally, $1.1 million in gold and silver coins were produced, 28 banks within the US held $6.6 million in capital, and a combined $152 million in export and import trade was conducted that year. The latter explains why, in part, the US bourgeoisie was so furious about British impressment and blockades. The census itself showed that more people were moving to urban areas, but the majority of the 7.2 million people, including almost 1.2 million enslaved Blacks, still lived mostly in rural regions. This was buttressed by the fact that the country’s geographic center was Loundun County, Virginia, 40 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., showing that the country was, in a sense, moving southward.

The same year the enmity between the British and US continued to grow. The Republicans, who would hold power continuously from 1801 to 1829, had trimmed the existing army from 5,400 to 3,000 men, which was later increased to 10,000, but still a small number if war occurred.24 While the war with Britain was two years away, the US government had the hunger for military action. In West Florida, which was then Spanish territory, Governor William Charles Cole Claiborne of the Louisiana territory, on President Madison’s orders, occupied territory east of the Mississippi River, seizing land as far east as a the Perido River.25 This act of blatant imperialistic annexation was followed by “conciliatory” trade policies. A law, that passed Congress, created a three-month period where trade with Britain and France would be allowed, saying that if one country stopped attacking US shipping, the US would end trade with the other until neutral rights of US shipping was recognized by that country. This was broadly ineffective. Trade with Britain continued to be prohibited, and some trade with France commenced until they stopped trading with the US altogether, making the Republicans seem to be “pro-French” even though US capital accumulated in Britain.26 As the embargo failed, US merchants still traded with countries such as Britain and France, sometimes at great cost. At the same time, others in the US were doing well, such as Astor. He worked to expand his fur empire, by bankrolling agents and giving them instructions, with a vision of buying and selling “furs on a gargantuan scale,” with such actions as key determinant of his role in Mr. Madison’s War.27

In 1811, the drums of war were deafening. Apart from a US warship, commanded by Commodore John Rodgers, attacking a British ship on the high seas, pro-war Republicans, often called the “War Hawks” were elected. They didn’t want to declare war yet, to “promote Anglophobic American nationalism,” because Madison hadn’t officially asked for a declaration of war. The idea of war appealed to politicians such as Henry Clay, Richard M. Johnson, Felix Grundy, Langdon Cheves, William Lowndes, John C. Calhoun, David R. Williams, George M. Troup, Peter B. Porter, and John A. Harper, with Clay as the most “able and articulate” of the bunch. For these War Hawks, the conquering of Canada seemed attractive and a way to achieve their goals. This is because occupying the British colony could “destroy British influence over American Indians,” put an end to the “Indian wars,” and make the British sue for peace, a view which Madison even subscribed to.28 Conflict was also seen as a way to shore up existing Republican institutions, unite the Republican Party, and silence the Federalists. Apart from this, the War Hawks, many of whom were from the frontier, saw Western expansion and destruction of the indigenous resistance as fundamental, thinking that the takeover of Canada would allow them to counter British maritime supremacy.29 They wanted to “negotiate the terms of peace at Quebec or Halifax,” as Henry Clay described it, as part of an “efficient war.”

This imperialistic thinking was only part of the equation. While some, like Governor William Hull of the Michigan Territory, believed that the US needed “naval dominance” on the Great Lakes, others, like Clay, thought of another “prize”: Florida. This territory was already inflamed by disputes and rocked by Madison’s secret encouragement to Georgia’s governor to rouse ruffians for an invasion.30 A joint resolution, authored by Clay and passing both houses of Congress, allowed the US to take possession of Florida “under certain contingencies.” It allowed the President to seize all or part of Florida in the event “of an attempt to occupy the said territory, of any part thereof, by any foreign government.” Hence, it is no surprise that those in the South and West supported the war to come.

The same year, Astor had expanded his trade network and “fur monopoly” beyond the Appalachian Mountains to new heights, even founding cities like Astoria, Oregon, adding another force for indigenous nations to resist.31 For Tecumseh, the pressure was building. While Madison did not want to provoke a war with indigenous nations, he succumbed to pleas by William Henry Harrison for more troops. This led to a victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe where the US forces suffered more casualties but indigenous peoples were driven for field with their food, supplies, and nearby villages destroyed.32 Even with this, Tecumseh’s Confederacy was a strong and formidable block to expansion by White settlers. Apart from the legends and truths of Tecumseh, whether his words played out in the December 16 earthquakes, or at other times, is wholly open to interpretation. What is more obvious is what he said in two speeches. In the first of these, before a joint Choctaw-Chickasaw council, he evokes past acts of indigenous genocide and tells his indigenous brethren to unite together. He goes on to say that Whites are already proving a match for his Confederacy, but that this challenge only means there should be more unification:

…Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mohawks, the Pokanokets, and many other once powerful tribes of our race? They have vanished before…the oppression of the White Man…the annihilation of race is at hand unless we unite in one common cause against the common foe…You [Choctaws and Chickasaws], too will be driven away from your native land…Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws…every year our white intruders became more greedy, oppressive, and overbearing…shall we give up out homes, our country, bequeathed to us by the Great Spirit, the graves of the dead…without a struggle?…Never!…War or extermination is our only choice. Which will you choose?…the white usurpation in our common country must be stopped, or we…be forever destroyed and wiped out as a race of people…if there be one among you enough to undervalue the growing power of the white race among us, let him tremble.33

Later that year, during the winter, Tecumseh gave a reported speech to the Osage Nation of the Great Plains. Once again he spoke of unity and togetherness in fighting against the rabid White settlers:

…We all belong to one family; we are all children of the Great Spirit; we walk in the same path…We are friends; we must assist each other to bear our burdens…The white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death…The white men are not friends to the Indians…The white men want more than our hunting grounds; they wish to kill our warriors…My people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace; but where the white people are, there is no peace for them…The white people send runners amongst us; they wish to make us enemies that they may sweep over and desolate our hunting grounds…Our Great Father, over the great waters [the British], is angry with the white people, our enemies. He will send his brave warriors against them; he will send us rifles, and whatever else we want—he is our friend, and we are his children…The Great Spirit is angry with our enemies…The great waters will cover their lowlands; their corn cannot grow, and the Great Spirit will sweep those who escape to the hills from the earth with his terrible breach.

The same year there were a number of developments that also rocked foundations. Gallatin, the longest serving Secretary of the Treasury (1801-1814), had failed to convince Congress to recharter the First Bank of the United States, the country’s first central bank. This worked out in favor of Girard, the bank’s principal creditor, since he bought the bank’s building and assets, creating his own Girard Bank, an act looked on happily by the Madison Administration.34 This would later help pay for US execution of the upcoming war. Other capitalists also asked for favors from the US government. One such person was a Quaker merchant named Jacob Barker, a Republican-leaning individual “deeply interested in navigation.” He wrote to Madison about duties on cotton, saying that present restrictions imposed on Britain should be removed, which would have likely benefited him personally. The same year, David Parish, a landowner and financier, came into the picture. Parish, who tried to develop shipping along the St. Lawrence River, pushed for Ogdensburg to become a U.S. Customs port of entry, which was granted by the US Congress, increasing his stature in the US government and ruling circles.

By 1812, war was on the tip of the US bourgeoisie. In the days leading up to June 18, there were military preparations despite the fact that the US’s fiscal and monetary system was unprepared for a possible war.35 Since many internal expenditures had been abolished, failure to charter a national bank, low military expenditures, unpopularity of the war in New England among the pro-Federalist bourgeoisie, and an embargo on international trade implemented in April, there was dependence on tariffs for much of the government’s revenue. Gallatin had discussed this with Ezekiel Bacon, then the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, in January, noting that $2.5 million came from shipping duties, as he wondered how to pay for war. He concluded that a big loan would be needed to pay for war expenses and that debt will increase.36 Even with this, the War Hawks still itched for conflict. They openly called for an invasion of Canada, while Madison stayed silent, wanting to blame the British for the fallout.37 In a “strange” coincidence, the City Bank of New York, the predecessor to present-day Citigroup, was formed by a group of New York merchants aligned with the Madison Administration, as was the Bank of America around the same time. The City Bank of New York was comprised of former First Bank of the United States shareholders and led by Osgood, the bank’s first President, the same person who had praised Jefferson’s election years before. It came into existence three days before the war began, opening its doors in the bustling city of New York, officially, on September 12, with more than $2 million in capital, 22 employees, and only one branch.38

While these events were happening in the US, harsh class struggle was occurring on the British Isles. There were food riots in April designed to force down potato and bread prices, and middle-class reformers of the “Hampton Club” were petitioning the Parliament.39 This was not unusual. There was a general strike by weavers in Scotland, and within the textile industry, undertaken by a secret association of workers, broken within three weeks.40 Adding to this were petitions by knitters who argued that trade was decaying due to fraudulent and bad articles rather than the war, as knitter wages were falling and trade with US would soon be lost. This is in line with what Karl Marx and Frederick Engels said in The Communist Manifesto: that competition among the bourgeoisie (in this case the US and British), and commercial crises, results in the wages of the proletariat fluctuating.

There were wage laborers taking more direct action, who can all be lumped in the category of the “Luddites.” These men, all of whom had to take an oath, comprising local militia and other proletarians, carried out raids against “shearing gigs” and industrial machines in the dark of night.41 These men were inspired by a mythical man named Ned Ludd. Such actions threatened “property and persons,” continuing into June 1813 until they subsided. The reason for such industrial protest was described by the Framework Knitters in January. Their statement shows that “Luddites” were trying to protect their livelihood and were not anti-technology as is often stated:

…the framework knitters are empowered to break and destroy all frames and engines that fabricate articles in a fraudulent and deceitful manner and to destroy all framework knitters’ goods whatsoever that are so made…a number of deceitful unprincipled and intriguing persons did attain an Act to be passed…whereby it was enacted that persons entering by force into any house shop or place to break or destroy frames should be adjudged guilty of felony…we are fully convinced that such Act was obtained in the most fraudulent interested and electioneering manner…we therefore the framework knitters do hereby declare the aforesaid Act to be null and void…we do hereby declare to all hosiers lace manufacturers and proprietors of frames that we will break and destroy all manner of frames whatsoever that make the following spurious articles and all frames whatsoever that do not pay the regular prices heretofore agreed to [by] the masters and workmen…all frames of whatsoever description the work-men of whom are not paid in the current coin of the realm will invariably be destroyed.

Such conditions by the English proletariat were only part of the equation. Through the war, some tried to provoke frame-breaking so they could engage in anti-union actions even as the “Luddite” efforts seemed to die away in much of the country, with the diffused “insurrectionary tension” seeming to recede.42 In the years to come, small traders and artisans, part of the petty bourgeoisie, and textile workers, knitters, and those trying to build trade unions, would suffer from the continuing economic depression which would lead to increased poverty and imprisonment. The war would bring (and “justify”) more repression of the proletariat by the English bourgeoisie, who tried to quickly increase their military might so they could defeat the “American rascals.” Conversely the war could allow the proletariat in the US, small because of the nascent “industrial progress” with factory processes and employment playing a small role in the economy, to be repressed by their respective bourgeoisie, keeping a low tariff environment in place, which domestic manufacturers balked at.43 The only ones who weren’t complaining were the woolen and cigar manufacturers who profited handsomely during the war as wages in existing factories began to change.

Coming back to the United States, the beat of war was even stronger. Two days before war was declared, on June 19, the British ended their “orders in council against American ships,” one of the main supposed reasons for war, but the US government didn’t know yet.44 There is one aspect we know for sure: British banker Nathan Meyer Rothschild was not a driving force behind the war. This idea, like all the others connected to it, is a case of weak historical interpretation, ignoring the numerous causes of the war, and showing that conspiracy theorists who subscribe to this unfounded historical distortion do not recognize global power relations or have read actual history books.45 The deluded individuals who believe in this hackneyed theory ignore that Rothschild supplied the troops of Wellington with “gold coin in 1814 and 1815, leading up to the Battle of Waterloo,” and later issued numerous British and foreign government loans, along with selling “large blocks of stock, convincing other investors — falsely — that the British had lost,” betting on British victory at Waterloo. While he was a shrewd business person, it makes no sense that he wanted war with the US. In fact, when the war came, the British saw it as an “irritating distraction” and “annoying sideshow” from the fight against Napoleon, angry because they believed that the US should be a market for British goods and services but not be a competitor.46 The British likely recognized the need, as Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto, of a “constantly expanding market” and conquering new markets, but they did not want to engage in an invasion as they profited broadly from British goods sold in the US market, a train of money they didn’t want to disrupt.

Originally, most congress members opposed the war, including the Federalists, who were backed by New England merchant bourgeoisie who profited from French and English trade. In his speech asking Congress to declare war, Madison argued that Britain engaged in hostile acts toward the US, had been harassing US commerce, unfairly impressed US sailors, and that the British were encouraging “warfare…by the savages on one of our exclusive frontiers,” warfare which is “known to spare neither age nor sex and to be…particularly shocking to humanity.” While Canada was not mentioned, the specific mention of the British-indigenous front on the frontier shows that he was of the mind of the War Hawks, wanting to expand US territorial domination across the continent, giving the signal that there would be an invasion of Canada.

The dual nature of the United States was reflected in the war: defense of the bourgeois federal republic from the British Empire but also a “lust for expanding the nation’s boundaries,” as the US government encouraged industrialization to enhance this and break from the “dependence on Europe.”47 Capitalist labor discipline would end up shaping the lives of the US proletariat in the “Anglo-American world of labor,” with these proletariat looking like those in England by 1830. With US proletariat arrested for indebtedness and “petty commodity exchange” in New York City before the war, the large number of laborers, skilled and unskilled, mechanics or non-mechanics, journeymen or “small masters,” comprising over 65% of New York City’s population, like other developed urban centers, would suffer as a result of the war.48 It was not in their interest to fight the British Empire, it was only in the interest of the land-hungry, mouth-watering, greedy US bourgeoisie, including fur-trading, banking, and other capitalists, who would rake millions upon millions of US dollars, allowing them to consolidate their control over the US government.

In the vote for war, there was division among geographic lines: in the House of Representatives, 79 voted in favor, and 49 opposed it, while in the Senate it was more evenly divided: 19 were in favor and 13 opposed, with strong opposition from New England delegates. Still, 60% of each respective legislative body voted for war. With the war begun, a small group of Republicans, led by John Randolph, quickly formed, uniting with New England Federalists against the war. However, the “aggressive, anti-British Republican nationalists,” and some pro-war New York Federalists, were the majority and felt that they had the “spirit of 1776” in their bones even though they were actually expansionists wanting to swallow up more more land for the “empire of liberty.”49 With Louisiana as a new state and desire to take over Canada, these motives are easy to discern. As for fur trading capitalists in Montreal, they were anxious about a declaration of war since it would interrupt their trade, so they heard from their New York business partners about the war. Word reached Montreal by June 24 and British western forts by July 8, where the soldiers waited for coming attacks.50

  1. “Treaty of Paris signed, formally ends 8-year war,” Chronicle of America (ed. Clifton Daniel, Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1989), 184.
  2. Jon Latimer, 1812: War With America (London: Belknap Press, 2007), 3.
  3. Chronicle of America, “Congress to create 10 states in West,” 185; Chronicle of America, “State of Frankland formed near Carolina,” 185; Chronicle of America, “Frankland’s name becomes Franklin,” 185; Chronicle of America, “Land law divides U.S. into townships,” 187; Chronicle of America, “Congress approves a colony in the Northwest,” 191; Chronicle of America, “North Carolina recovers the state of Franklin,” 199.
  4. Buckongahelas, “You see a great and powerful nation divided!,” Great Speeches by Native Americans (ed. Bob Blaisdell, Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000), 27-28.
  5. Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (New York: Vintage Books, 2011 edition), 15; “An Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War,” The Debate and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States: Thirteenth Congress—Third Session (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1854), 1417-1418.
  6. Chronicle of America,“Treaty gives U.S. right to Mississippi,” 215; Chronicle of America, “Tennessee becomes 16th state in U.S.,” 216; Chronicle of America, “Speculators arrive in Northwest land sale,” 216; Chronicle of America, “New trading post in the Northwest,” 219; Chronicle of America, “Ex-Spanish area now Mississippi territory,” 221; Chronicle of America, “Kentucky becomes Union’s 15th state,” 209.
  7. Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (New York: Random House, 2002), xxii.
  8. Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Campaign, Illinois: University of Illinois, 2012), 6; Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy 1730s-1840s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 247; Chronicle of America, “Treaty stirs debate; key officials resign,” 214; Chronicle of America,  “British to quit Northwest under Jay Treaty,” 213.
  9. LeftistCritic, “Annotating a section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 12.
  10. Chronicle of America, “French coup hands power to Bonaparte,” 222; Chronicle of America,  “Napoleon plans to seize American vessels,” 241; Chronicle of America, “U.S. adopts neutral position in conflict,” 212; Hickey, The War of 1812, 17-18.
  11. Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 207. Records show that between 1791 and 1823, Gallatin and Jefferson sent over 1,000 letters to each other, so they had a clear friendship in this sense.
  12. LeftistCritic, “Annotating a section of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia,” Soviet History Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 14.
  13. Leon Fink, Sweatshops at Sea: Merchant Seamen in the World’s First Globalized Industry, from 1812 to Present (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011), 11; James G. Cusick, The Other War of 1812: The Patriot War and the American Invasion of Spanish East Florida (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2007, paperback edition), 21; William R. Thompson, The Emergence of the Global Political Economy (New York: Routledge, 2003 edition), 231.
  14. There are no records of a popular vote for President until the election of 1824. This means that the President was selected by a small group of electors, by the Electoral College “process,” without the facade of a popular vote.
  15. Chronicle of America, “Tribe attacks Chief who visited Jefferson,” 239; Chronicle of America,  “Osage pact may solve Cherokee problem,” 241.
  16. David Hurst Thomas, Jay Miller, Richard White, and Peter Nabokov, The Native Americans: An Illustrated History (Atlanta: Turner Publishing, 1995), 261.
  17. Red Jacket, “You have got our country, but are not satisfied; you want to force your religion upon us,” Great Speeches by Native Americans (ed. Bob Blaisdell, Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 2000), 41-43.
  18. Chronicle of America, “Illinois granted territorial status,” 243; Chronicle of America,  “Louisiana returned to France by Spain,” 225; Chronicle of America, “Future state of Ohio writes constitution,”  229; Chronicle of America, “Ohio joins Union as 17th state,” 230; Chronicle of America, “U.S. doubles size; buys Louisiana for $15 million,” 251; Chronicle of America, “Congress sets up 3 separate territories,” 235; Chronicle of America, “Louisiana becomes a state, the 18th,” p. 248; Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2016, Congressional Research Service, 2016.
  19. Chronicle of America, “British may end harassment of U.S. ships,” 237; Chronicle of America, “British fire on U.S. ship, remove four men,” 239.
  20. Fink, Sweatshops at Sea, 14; Hickey, The War of 1812, 11.
  21. Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition And The Men Who Made It (New York: Vintage Books, 1989), 51;  Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 248.
  22. Fink, Sweatshops at Sea, 16.
  23. Hickey, The War of 1812, 22.
  24. Ibid, 8.
  25. Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2016, Congressional Research Service, 2016.
  26. Chronicle of America, “Embargo on trade with Britain reinstated,” 242; Chronicle of America,  “U.S. will trade with France, not Britain,” 245; Hickey, The War of 1812, 20-21.
  27. Dennis Drabelle, “‘Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire’ by Peter Stark,” Washington Post, March 21, 2014.
  28. Hickey, The War of 1812, p. 25-26, 29; Richard I. Immerman, Empire for Liberty: A History of American Imperialism from Benjamin Franklin to Paul Wolfowitz (Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012), 73-74; Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present (New York: HarperPerennial, 2003, Fifth Edition), 127.
  29. Robert O’Neil and Carl Benn, The War of 1812: The Fight for American Trade Rights (New York: Rosen Publishing, 2011), 24, 28; Lester D. Langley, America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010, Second Edition), 22; “America’s invasion of Canada: A brief history,” The Week, August 3, 2012.
  30. David Skaggs and Gerald Altoff, A Signal Victory: The Lake Erie Companion (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000, First Bluejacket Books printing), 9-10; Langley, 21; Cusick, The Other War of 1812, 1, 19-20, 32; Johnathan Sutherland, African Americans At War: An Encyclopedia, Vol. 1 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2004), 250; C. Edward Skeen, Citizen Soldiers in the War of 1812 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1999), 78; Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition And The Men Who Made It, 52; The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, From the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 Vol. III (ed. Ronald Peters, Boston: Charles Little and James Brown, 1846), 417-472. Southerners supported the war because they feared indigenous peoples, enslaved Blacks, resented Spanish policies in East Florida, and were concerned by the trouble on the Georgia border.
  31. Chronicle of America, “Astor’s fur monopoly to expand in West,” 241; Chronicle of America,  “Astor’s expedition reaches Northwest,” 246.
  32. Hickey, The War of 1812, 23-24.
  33. Tecumseh, “Sleep Not Longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws,” Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chiefs (ed. W. C. Vanderwerth, Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 62-66; Christina Synder, Great Crossings: Indians, Settlers & Slaves in the Age of Jackson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 23, 44. Pushmataha, a chief of the Choctaw denounced Tecumseh as an “outside agitator” and helped Andrew Jackson later on in the war, gaining him the rank of brigadier general in the US military.
  34. Phillips, Wealth and Democracy, 20-21; John E. Usalis, “Legacy of ‘America’s 1st tycoon’ continues,” Republican Herald, January 23, 2011.
  35. O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 26; Paul Studenski and Herman Edward Krooss, Financial History of the United States, p. 75; Hickey, The War of 1812, 31.
  36. Albert Gallatin, The Writings of Albert Gallatin Vol. I (ed. Henry Adams, Philadelphia: J.P. Lippincott & Co., 1879), 501-503, 514, 516.
  37. Langley, America and the Americas, 21; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 24.
  38. New York Times, “Founded 2 Days Before War of 1812 Started, National City Bank Marking 140th Year,” June 1955; Justin Fox, “Citibank: Teetering Since 1812,”, January 21, 2009; Jerry M. Markham, A Financial History of the United States: From Christopher Columbus to the Robber Barons, vol. I, 1492-1900 (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2002), 128; Bray Hammond, Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967), 164, 166, 168, 229, 579, 643.
  39. Christopher Lane, Hatred and Civility: The Antisocial Life in Victorian England (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), 95; G.D.H. Cole and A.W. Filson, British Working Class Movements: Select Documents 1789-1875 (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 1965), 116, 139-141.
  40. Cole and Filson, British Working Class Movements, 85, 112-113; A Short History of the British Working Class Movement: 1789-1848 Vol. 1 (ed. G.D.H. Cole, New York: Routledge, 2002 reprint), 61-62.
  41. Cole and Filson, British Working Class Movements, 113-114.
  42. Edward Palmer Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (New York: Random House, 1963), 63-65, 78, 81, 97, 185, 221, 251, 257, 238, 278-279, 303, 316, 411, 421, 485, 493, 495-496, 517, 536, 539, 543, 554-555, 558, 564, 568, 572-573, 576-578, 580, 588, 590-591, 593-595, 597, 601, 607, 609, 618, 668, 714, 717, 735, 835.
  43. Victor S. Clark, The History of Manufactures in the United States 1607-1860 (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution, 1916), 283, 287, 296, 305, 322, 327, 329, 331, 335, 358, 374, 376, 388, 391, 394-395, 403, 425-426, 452-453, 487, 494, 517-519, 521-522, 531, 548, 611, 625.
  44. Elliot Channing Clarke, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave: How Americans Became the People They Are Today (Pittsburgh: Dorrance Publishing, 2003), p. 190.
  45. Business Insider, “The Story Behind The Most Insidious Rothschild Dynasty Conspiracy Theory,” 2013; Modern History Project, “Final Warning: A History of the New World Order”; Richard Cavendish, “Mayer Amschel Rothschild died on September 19th 1812,” History Today, Volume 62 Issue 9, Sept. 2012. For many of these theories quotes by Nathan Rothschild about the central bank of the United States and other aspects are put forward but there is no evidence he actually said these things. Regardless, this does not mean he was not a shrewd capitalist.
  46. Wallerstein, The Modern World-System III, 251; Latiner, 1812, 4; Thompson, The Emergence of the Global Political Economy, 190. Some argue however that there was “reciprocal hostility” between the US and Britain. Even if we grant this as the case, there are no indications that the British wanted to go to war with the United States.
  47. Paul Le Blanc, A Short History of the U.S. Working Class: From Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 1999), p. 21; David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (New York: Verso, 1996 reprint), 44, 96; Amy Bridges, “Becoming American: The Working Classes in the United States Before the Civil War,” Working-class Formation: Nineteenth-century Patterns in Western Europe and the United States (ed. Ira Katznelson, Aristide R. Zolberg, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 158-160, 162, 165-166, 172.
  48. Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York City and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 24, 29, 40, 44-45, 81-83, 85.
  49. Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), 143-144, 154, 157, 162, 164-165, 167, 173, 175, 184, 190, 196, 215, 602, 839; Curtis Putnam Nettels, The Emergence of a National Economy, 1775-1815 (London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1962), 376.
  50. Wesley B. Turner, The War of 1812: The War that Both Sides Won (Canada: Dundurn Press, 2000), 38; O’Neil and Benn, The War of 1812, 25. In contrast to indigenous peoples on the lower Great Lakes, those within British areas of the upper Great Lakes had “closer ties to the fur trade community.”