| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
MADISON—WAR WITH GREAT BRITAIN
 MEANWHILE in Europe a terrible war between France and Britain was
raging. And the effects of this war were being felt in America.
For in order to crush Britain Napoleon declared that the British
Isles were in a state of blockade, and forbade any country to trade
with Great Britain. In reply the British declared France to be in
a state of blockade, and forbade any country to trade with France.
These decrees and others of the same sort hit American trade very
hard, and under them the American people began to be restive.
Then added to this the British still claimed the right to search
American vessels for deserters from the British navy. And very
often American citizens were carried off and made to serve in the
British navy. This right of search perhaps annoyed the Americans
even more than the Berlin Decree or the Orders in Council, as the
French and British decrees were called, and at length many of them
became eager for war.
Napoleon was doing even worse things than the British. But in
spite of a good deal of friction France was still looked upon as
a friend, while the bitterness against Britain had not yet been
forgotten. Then too it was easier to fight Britain than France.
For to fight France it would have been necessary to send an army
across the sea, while to fight Britain it was only necessary to
march into Canada. A good many of the Americans were rather pleased
with that idea, hoping that they might conquer Canada and add it
to the States.
 But Madison hated war and loved peace almost as much as Jefferson
who had said "our passion is for peace." But many of the older men
who had helped to found the Republic and laboured to keep it at
peace had now gone. In their place there had risen some eager young
men who earned for themselves the name of War Democrats. They
overpersuaded Madison, and on June 18th, 1812, war with Great
Britain was declared.
As soon as war was declared Tecumseh, with all the braves he could
command, immediately went over to the British side. The British at
this time had a very clever General named Brock, and for some time
things went ill for the Americans on land.
But on the sea they had much better success. The first great fight
was between the American ship Constitution and the British ship
Guerrière. The Guerrière was
a good deal smaller than the Constitution,
but the British captain was so certain that any British ship, no
matter how small, could beat any American one, no matter how large,
that he cared nothing for that.
It was afternoon when the two ships came in sight of each other,
and immediately prepared for a fight. Nearer and nearer they came
to each other, but not until they were scarce fifty yards apart
did the Constitution open fire. Then it was deadly. The mizzen mast
of the Guerrière was shot away; very soon the main mast followed,
and in less than half an hour the Guerrière was a hopeless wreck.
Then the British captain struck his flag and surrendered.
The Constitution was scarcely hurt, and after this she got the name
of Old Ironsides. She sailed the seas for many a long day, and is
now kept as a national memorial in the navy yard at Portsmouth,
The loss of one ship was as nothing to the great sea power of Britain.
But it cheered the Americans greatly, and it was the beginning of
many like successes. So this
 way and that, both on land and sea,
fortune swayed, now one side winning, now the other.
At the battle of Queenstown, a city in Canada, on the Niagara River,
the British won the victory, but lost their great leader Brock, so
that victory was too dearly bought.
Yet still the British continued to win, and after one battle
the Indians began to torture and slay the American prisoners. The
British general did not know how to curb the fiery Redmen, and he
let the horrid massacre go on. But when Tecumseh heard of it he
was filled with wrath and grief.
With a wild shout of anger he dashed in among the Indians. Two
Indians who were about to kill an American he seized by the throat
and threw to the ground. Then, brandishing his tomahawk furiously,
he swore to brain any Indian who dared to touch another prisoner.
And such was the power that this chief had over his savage followers
that they obeyed him at once.
Then Tecumseh turned to the British leader. "Why did you permit
it?" he asked.
"Sir," replied General Proctor, "your Indians cannot be commanded."
Tecumseh looked at him in utter scorn. "Begone," he said; "you are
not fit to command. Go and put on petticoats."
Things went so badly for the Americans that instead of conquering
Canada it seemed almost as if they were in danger of losing some
of their own territory. For the British had over-run the great
peninsula of Michigan and had command of Lake Erie. The Americans,
however, determined to get control of Lake Erie. They had no ships
there. But that did not daunt them in the least. There was plenty
of timber growing in the forest and out of timber ships could be
made. So they felled trees, they brought sails and cordage from
New York and
Philadel-  phia in waggons and sledges, and worked so fast
and well that very soon ten splendid vessels were ready.
Meanwhile the British commander watched the work and determined to
pounce upon the ships as they were being launched. But just for one
day he forgot to be watchful. The Americans seized the opportunity,
and the ships sailed out on to the lake in safety. The squadron
was under the command of a clever young officer named Oliver Hazard
Perry. He was only twenty-eight, and although he had served in the
navy for fourteen years he had never taken part in a battle. His
men were for the most part landsmen, unused alike to war and ships.
But while the ships were building Perry drilled his men untiringly.
So when the fleet was launched they were both good marksmen and
It was a bright September day when the great battle took place
between the British and American fleets. Much of the British fire
was directed at the American flag-ship named the Lawrence, and soon
nearly all her men were killed, and the ship seemed about to sink.
But Perry was not beaten. Wrapping his flag about his arm, with his
few remaining men he jumped into the boats, and rowed to another
ship called the Niagara.
Soon after this, two of the British ships got entangled with each
other. The Americans at once took advantage of the confusion and
swept the British ships from end to end with a terrible fire.
For half an hour longer the fight went on. Then the British
Commander struck his flag. For the first time in history Great
Britain surrendered a whole squadron, and that to a young man of
twenty-eight with little experience of warfare.
Perry at once sent a message to headquarters to tell of his victory.
It was short and to the point. "We have met the enemy, and they
are ours," was all he said.
 This great victory gave the Americans control of the Lakes and
made many of the British victories on land useless. Perry's fleet
was now used to land soldiers in Canada and General Proctor began
At this Tecumseh was disgusted. "You always told us," he said to
the British leader, "that you would never draw your foot off British
ground. But now, father, we see that you are drawing back. And we
are sorry to see our father doing so without seeing the enemy. We
must compare our father's conduct to a fat dog that carries its
tail erect till it is frightened, and then drops it between its
legs and runs away."
But General Proctor would not listen. He continued to run away. At
length, however, the Americans overtook him, he had to fight.
In this battle the British were defeated
and brave Tecumseh was killed. It is not quite known when or by
whom he was killed. But when the Indians saw their leader was no
longer among them they had no more heart to fight. "Tecumseh fell
and we all ran," said one of his braves afterwards. Thus the power
of these Indians was broken for ever.
The war still went on, and it was fought not only in the North but
all along the coasts and in the South. The Americans marched into
Toronto, the capital of Upper Canada, and burned the Parliament
House. The British marched into Washington, and burned the Capitol
and the President's House, deeds which no one could approve even
in the heat of war.
The proper name for the President's house is the Executive Mansion,
but it is known, not only in America, but all the world over as
the White House. According to one tradition it was only after being
burnt by the British that it received this name. For when it was
repaired the walls were painted white to cover the marks of fire.
 to another tradition the people called it the White House
from the beginning in honour of the first President's "consort"
Martha Washington whose early home on the Pamunkey River in Virginia
was called the White House.
At sea American privateers did great damage to British shipping,
and so daring were they that even the Irish Sea and the English
Channel were not safe for British traders.
For two and a half years the war lasted. Then at length peace was
made by the Treaty of Ghent. It was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814,
and for more than a hundred years there has been peace between
Great Britain and the United States of America. Let us hope it will
never be broken.
Nothing was altered by this war. No territory changed hands, and as
for the things about which the war began, they were not mentioned
in the treaty of peace. For the war with France was over, so
of course the blockades which had hit American trade so hard were
no more in force. On both sides peace was hailed with delight. In
America bonfires were lit, bells were rung, and men who were the
greatest enemies in politics forgot their quarrels, fell into each
other's arms and cried like women. Everywhere too "The Star Spangled
Banner" was sung.
It was during this war that this famous song was written. The
British were about to attack Baltimore when Francis Scott Key,
hearing that one of his friends had been taken prisoner, rowed out
to the British fleet under a flag of truce to beg his release. The
British Admiral consented to his release. He said, however, that
both Key and his friend must wait until the attack was over.
So, from the British fleet Key watched the bombardment of Fort
McHenry which guarded the town. All through the night the guns
roared and flashed, and in the lurid light Key could see the flag
on Fort McHenry fluttering proudly. But before dawn the firing
 "What had happened," he asked himself, "was the fort taken?"
Eagerly he waited for the dawn. And when at last the sun rose
he saw with joy that the Stars and Stripes still floated over the
fort. There and then on the back of an old letter he wrote "The
Star Spangled Banner." People hailed it with delight, soon it was
sung throughout the length and breadth of the States, and at length
became the National Anthem.
During Madison's presidency two states were added to the Union. In
1812 Louisiana was added as the eighteenth state.
The State of Louisiana was only a very small part of the Louisiana
Purchase, and when it was first proposed that it should join the
Union some people objected. Louisiana should be kept as a territory,
they said, and they declared that Congress had no power to admit
new states except those which were formed out of land belonging to
the original thirteen states.
"It was not for these men that our fathers fought," cried a Congressman.
"You have no authority to throw the rights, and liberties, and
property, of this people into hotch-potch with the wild men on
the Missouri, or with the mixed, though more respectable, race of
Anglo-Hispano-Gallo-Americans who bask on the sands in the mouth
of the Mississippi."
He declared further that if this sort of thing went on it would
break up the Union. But in spite of him and others who thought like
him Louisiana became a state.
In 1816, just about two years after the end of the war with Britain,
Indiana was admitted into the Union as the nineteenth state. You know
that besides the Constitution of the United States each state has
also its own constitution. Thus when a territory wanted to become
a state it
 had to frame a constitution which had to be approved by
In June, 1816, a convention to frame a constitution was called at
Corydon, which was then the capital of Indiana. The weather was
warm, and instead of holding their meetings in the State House the
members used to meet under a great elm which stood near. Under the
cool shadow of its branches the laws for the state were framed,
and from that the elm was called the Constitution Elm. It still
stands as it stood a hundred years ago, and the people of Corydon
do everything they can to protect it, and make it live as long as
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