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The current time is: 4/24/2019 8:24:48 AM
 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 9029

Thomas Jefferson rebuilds public library in Washington
Posted on: 1/30/2019 7:50:59 AM
On Jan. 30, 1815, and due to the efforts of Thomas Jefferson to procure over 9,000 books, the library in Washington was re-opened. I am confused as to whether Jefferson bought more books while in Paris or whether he sold his own great collection to Congress.

Note the date. The War of 1812 was supposed to be over but likely the word had not been received. The Battle of New Orleans had only ended on Jan. 26.

So this post is a little sidebar to the greater war.

Jefferson was a wordsmith of note and he had written about the barbarity of the British in a manner to rouse the passions of the American people.

As well, Congress had established a committee to enquire into British cruelties.

This is a copy of the letter sent by TJ to Samuel H. Smith on Sept. 21, 1814 and in which TJ rails against the barbarism of the British forces.

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John Strachan was a Scottish immigrant to BNA and he was the Anglican rector at York (now Toronto) in Upper Canada, during the War of 1812. Strachan will not be well known to any but those who are interested in the history of Upper Canada. Suffice it to say then that he was an important person in the spiritual, educational and political life of Upper Canada.

Strachan was appalled at the behaviour of US troops when they attacked York in April of 1813. York was the colonial capital of Upper Canada. US forces burned and pillaged while their commander remained on board ship.

Why they even took the books out of the library though Strachan protested to the American CO and many books were returned later.

And so John Strachan was compelled to write a long letter to Thomas Jefferson to refute the comments that he had been making about British behaviour and actions during the war.

Strachan's letter is a point by point analysis of the claims made by the Congressional inquiry into British behaviour.

It is also a rebuke of the great American former President, Thomas Jefferson. Strachan even digs at the resurrection of the library, commenting that TJ was only feathering his own nest by selling his collection to Congress when it actually had some value.

This was a nasty war and there was bad behaviour on both sides. Strachan's contention was that the American's initiated scalping and burning and pillaging even as the British showed restraint.

I offer Strachan's letter to Jefferson. Both letters came from an excellent resource, the US National Archives.

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Lastly, I wish to point out that while this war receives little attention in the US and truthfully, little in most of Canada, here in Ontario where many of the most significant and bloody battles were fought, it receives more attention.

And there was a good deal of hatred of the British on say the US side of the Niagara River which had been torched from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie and hatred of Americans on the Upper Canada side where farms and granaries and homes had been burned on that side.

Top level people from the US and from the British colonies were always prepared to point fingers at the other side to indicate who started the behaviours that were contrary to the rules of war.



Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major

Posts: 4882

Re: Thomas Jefferson rebuilds public library in Washington
Posted on: 1/30/2019 8:51:29 AM
Hi George,

On Jefferson's Library:

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Most libraries are good libraries!

"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
top 5
E-9 Cmd Sgt Major
Posts: 9029

Re: Thomas Jefferson rebuilds public library in Washington
Posted on: 1/30/2019 11:20:18 AM
Indeed, libraries are important.

But more to my point, both the British and the Americans engaged in inappropriate conduct during the war.

I, of course, feel that the US started it but that doesn't mean that retribution is the correct course. Too many civilians on both sides say their homes, businesses and farms destroyed.

Of note, is that when the US forces decided to burn homes and businesses up and down the Niagara Peninsula, they did not help their cause. The population of Upper Canada consisted of thousands of Americans, in numbers large enough that the British commanders, including Isaac Brock, were concerned that these Americans would support the invaders.

Initially, the Americans in Upper Canada chose mostly a neutral stance with one significant anti-British development. These were not the Loyalists who had left during the revolution but what have been described as the "Late Loyalists" who headed to UC for inexpensive land and lower taxes.

It was the latter group that worried the British and indeed, one company sized crew, called the Canadian Volunteers, composed of Americans who supported the US invasion and Canadians who did the same.

This group was lead by Joseph Willcocks who had been a thorn in the side of the UC government. Once he aligned himself with the US, he was given the rank of Major. It was the Canadian volunteers who burned down the town of Newark, now Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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In burning Newark and combined with atrocities committed by other US forces, the Americans living in Upper Canada became disaffected and angry at the army of their country of birth.

And so, it seems that by adopting a pillage and burn strategy that the US forces turned people who may have been sympathetic to the cause, against them.

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