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1812 in the Americas
 0307270696, 9780307270696

Table of contents :
Table of Contents
Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight

Citation preview

1812 in the Americas

1812 in the Americas Edited by

Jean-Marc Serme

1812 in the Americas Edited by Jean-Marc Serme This book first published 2015 Cambridge Scholars Publishing Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2PA, UK British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Copyright © 2015 by Jean-Marc Serme and contributors All rights for this book reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner. ISBN (10): 1-4438-7213-X ISBN (13): 978-1-4438-7213-3


Introduction .............................................................................................. vii Chapter One ................................................................................................. 1 The Paracolonial Republic and the War of 1812 Adam Rothman Chapter Two .............................................................................................. 12 The War of 1812, the US Novel, and Poetry Ed White The Revolution Europe Characters Chapter Three ............................................................................................ 31 A “Sudden Explosion of this Fanaticism”: William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War of 1813-1814 Sheri M. Shuck-Hall William Weatherford and the Métis Creeks The Red Stick Movement Clan Law and Reprisal at Fort Mims The Fate of Weatherford and the Creek Nation Chapter Four .............................................................................................. 52 La guerre de 1812 et la construction du “Canada anglais” John Dickinson Chapter Five .............................................................................................. 63 « Les femmes, ces libératrices » ou la participation des femmes dans les luttes pour l’indépendance de l’Amérique latine Nelly André


Table of Contents

Chapter Six ................................................................................................ 94 “War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812 Marco Sioli Jefferson and the Embargo Madison and the War Opposition and Riots Samuel Woodworth and the War A Civil War Against the War Uncle Sam’s Hard Bargains Madison’s War Conclusion Chapter Seven.......................................................................................... 127 “Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons Lucia Bergamasco Hermeneutics Pro-War Sermons The Jeremiad New England Anti-War Sermons Conclusion Chapter Eight ........................................................................................... 162 La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique entre Appalaches et Mississippi dans les années 1810 Tangi Villerbu Organiser un pôle ecclésiastique : Bardstown comme capitale de l'Ouest catholique Le Kentucky central, foyer du catholicisme transappalachien ? Des marges ou des centres décentrés ? Contributors ............................................................................................. 179


This volume is the end product of a conference held in Brest at the University of Western Brittany, France, in June 1812. The point then was to explore the state of the United States in that period, but also to go beyond the military issue of the conflict to look at the social situation of the republic, its religious environment, trade ambitions, and war goals. It was also meant to assess how the country, through its many populations and social groups, reacted to the war and envisioned the post-war period. That is why the essays presented here deal with a remarkable variety of topics from very different perspectives. From a sweeping view of the place of North America in international politics down to the micro-analysis of Catholic presence west of the Appalachians, these essays depict the huge diversity of circumstances that defined the new nation. The presence of scholars from Europe and the United States reinforced the different approaches and the scale from which the topics were researched. However, the conflict is viewed from the American side of the Atlantic. If the war of 1812 is today one of the least remembered armed conflicts in US history, one might argue however that the complexity of its circumstances, either prior, during, or after the three-year struggle, remains as challenging and exciting as any other historical period. Americans, white, black, and native, mostly built their future views of the nation on the achievements or lack thereof that came out of the war. Here is one short attempt at introducing some of the most pressing questions surrounding the period. Troy Bickham introduces his book, The Weight of Vengeance, with a revealing anecdote on the state of American minds at the end of the war of 1812. Secretary of State James Monroe repeatedly complained to the British diplomat in charge that Britain came first in the wording of all sections of the treaty of Ghent (1814). As the author reminds us, the war “was a catalogue of American disasters,” but Monroe made it clear that the country now did “not stand in the same situation as at former periods” (quoted in Bickham 3). The war changed the United States in many ways. But it was not an ordinary war. First, it came as an offspring of the War of Independence which had ended only nineteen years before Madison signed the declaration of hostility in June 1812. The new conflict seemed to revive the old opposition between Loyalists to the Crown and American Patriots. Tensions had never totally abetted but a “cold war,” to use Alan



Taylor’s phrase, persisted in the Borderlands until the second conflict broke out (Taylor 15). The country was far from united against the old colonial power. The South and West saw the lingering presence of European powers with mounting impatience while New England merchants enjoyed and relished the bounty of English trade. However, Taylor also shows that up in Canada, even more people simply wanted to enjoy the cheap lands and low taxes offered by the British government, and cared little for war. In the old American Northwest, settlers had been flooding Indian lands since the end of the revolution and were demanding federal protection from British-supported native raids. As Donald Hickey phrases it, “[I]n some ways, the war of 1812 looked more to the past than to the future” (Hickey 2). The enemy was still the same and the stakes were no less than American sovereignty. In urging Congress to prepare for war in November 1811, Madison accused Britain of “trampling on rights which no independent Nation can relinquish” (quoted in Taylor 127). It seemed that little had been accomplished since 1783. In The Civil War of 1812, Alan Taylor goes as far as saying that the great revolutionary struggle of Empire vs. Republic that had pitted England against parts of its North American colonies in the 1770s found great echoes in the renewed opposition of the 1810s. Status and independence, again, were the bones of contention. Maritime rights, and particularly the contentious British practice of impressment, were closely linked to issues of nationalities. The British Empire considered that any person born a British subject should remain a subject for life. On the contrary, the new republic viewed naturalization of foreign subjects as a choice of citizenship made by the individual, a re-enactment of the revolutionary act of turning from a British subject to an American citizen. Taylor also suggests that ideological differences ran not only along clear cut lines but crossed every boundary that could be thought of, geographical, national, or political. Even families found themselves at odds during the war. Some had crossed over to Canada and family members on either side fought each other during the American invasion (Taylor 7). Irish-Americans fought Irish soldiers enlisted in imperial forces; Republicans saw Federalists as lackeys to the British; Native Americans had to take sides in a conflict that allowed no neutral bystanders. In a sentence that sums up his whole argument, Taylor writes: “In this North American civil war, brother fought brother in a borderland of mixed people” (7). The revolutionary rhetoric of freedom, independence and sovereignty rang from one corner of the country to the next. Newspapers led the

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charge, publishing pamphlets, articles, and toasts in defense of the republic once again threatened by a cruel and tyrannical empire. As Nicole Eustace reminds us in 1812, War and the Passions of Patriotism, “many more people in the United States read and wrote about the War of 1812 than fought in it” (Eustace x). She argues that feeling played an essential role in that war, carrying images and words that aroused the American and Canadian imaginations and participated in an emotional appeal for or against the war that helped define American and Canadian identities and hopes for the future.1 As Daniel Boorstin warns in a preface, the War of 1812 may well be called a “sobering war” for the United States. It led the country to reorganize its military, recognize its weaknesses and federalize its armed forces. But even more interestingly, Boorstin suggests that “[T]he relatively small scale of its operations, the confusion of its causes, and the uncertainties of its conclusions–all these make a story in which we may see the ambiguities of international conflict drawn more vividly…” (Coles vi-vii). The war of 1812 did not only involve an imperial power and one of its former colonies, but it displayed the incredible diversity of the American continent and its myriad interests. Immigrants, patriots, native Americans, foreign troops all threw their forces into the conflict looking for often contradictory results. The turmoil not only reflected concrete tensions between two countries, it also testified to the efforts at nation building by peoples with widely differing agendas. The war crystallized and engulfed the tensions that had been building for years on the North American continent. However, just as in 1775, many voices were heard and riots were quelled that opposed a conflict between brothers. War was felt to proceed from the “worst passions of the human heart” for a Maine pastor (quoted in Eustace 58). For the Federalists, it was the child of anti-British sentiments and would lead American commerce to ruin. Others looked at the sorry state of American military capacities and felt that the desire to go to war was close to treason against the well-being of the nation. There were two levels to this feeling. Canada quickly stood as the main military objective of the war for the US, particularly in a context where the American Navy and privateers 1

Brock’s words at the opening of the Legislature in July, 1812, testify to the issue: “We are engaged in an awful and eventful contest. By unanimity and dispatch in our councils, and by vigour in our operations, we may teach the enemy this lesson, that a country defended by freemen, enthusiastically devoted to the cause of their king and constitution, can never be conquered.” [Tupper. Life and Correspondence of Brock. (1845). London. 203, quoted in W. J. Rattray. “The War of 1812.” The Scots in British North America. (1880). Maclear And Company. Web.



seemed highly incapable of resisting the mighty power of the British fleet despite the excellence and experience of American seamen (Hickey 9091). Even if demographic advantage seemed overwhelmingly in favor of the United States, republican defiance of standing armies and reliance on state militias and volunteers had weakened the American military organization when it came to fighting against hardened and disciplined British troops. However, as Troy Bickham argues, Canada was not considered as an end in itself, but as a means to negotiate with Britain when time would come to sit at the negotiating table (87-89). Jefferson’s optimistic phrase that Canada’s annexation would only be a “matter of marching” (quoted in Bickham 89) proved however as miscalculated in 1812 as it had been in 1775-1776. Both campaigns fell through in the northern climate as quickly and as miserably. Despite a lack of regulars and a short supply of militia fighters on a stretched-out frontier, British Canada repealed the American attempt once again. Upper Canada had become a refuge to many Loyalists after 1783. That very area was even carved for them in 1791 out of the Province of Québec. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “between 80,000 and 100,000 (Loyalists) eventually fled, about half of them to Canada”.2 80% settled in Nova Scotia, 8,000 in Quebec and the rest of them established villages along the borderlands and the St Lawrence River from Montreal to Detroit (Menig 2: 42; SLMC). This massive influx of mostly English-speaking, protestant populations changed the demographic makeup of Canada. Loyalists and “late” Loyalists who migrated a few years after American independence became quite influential in the regions they colonized, asking the central government for better representation of their interests, exerting “increasing pressure on the government of London to reform the administration of the colony in their favour” (SLMC). These new settlers were not all English speakers: Germans, Danes, Dutchmen and blacks joined them. Along with the already diverse population of the colony, this migration changed the distribution of the languages spoken above the border and initiated a new period in Canadian history. As Menig suggests, it also blurred the national boundaries between the two countries: the movement was “primarily North American. It was land these people were after. Few seemed to care whether they lived under the American or the British flag”.3 Obviously, this ironically reflected the Native American sentiment towards the artificial border which divided up their tribal lands into nonsensical parts. 2

Wilson, Bruce G. (2009). “Loyalists.” The Canadian Encycloepedia. Burt, A.L. The United States, Great Britain, and British North-America. Quoted in Menig 2: 44.


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The second opposition to American war hawks came from within the United States. More dangerously for the stability of the US, internal tensions between parties, towns, and regions threatened to pull the fragile American unity apart. Southerners and westerners as well as northern borderland settlers were in near open warfare against British and Spanish presence in their areas. They accused those foreign powers of arming and exciting Native resentment against American settlers. The British had kept forts along the border in order to maintain their strong relations with indigenous groups such as the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois. Detroit-Fort Malden was a case in point, what Menig has called the “initial focus of international conflict on the mainland” (Menig 2: 46). The situation in the American South was very similar. Spanish support to the Muskogee/Creek confederacy and the presence of British military officers from the Bahamas among southern tribes were mounting threats that regional commanders like Tennessee’s Andrew Jackson were screaming against. A long time before the declaration of war, people settling on the borderlands North and South had been experiencing an everyday guerilla war. American Indians, on the contrary, continued to enjoy the presence of balancing forces against increasing American encroachment upon their lands. In the image of the Haudenosaunee/Iroquois in the North and the Muskogee/Creek in the South, indigenous groups used diplomacy as their “tool of choice” (Shannon 10). As Shannon demonstrates in Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier, “negotiation on the colonial frontier [and later in the early republic] also demanded flexibility and innovation, the ability to create and maintain peace with others who rarely shared your interests and perspectives” (10). Indigenous groups living on the borderlands were able to keep active diplomatic ties with all sides in order to retain control over their lands as long as they could. African-Americans also had a stake in the war. With the flight of Loyalists northward, about two thousand Blacks reached Canada after the American Revolution. Another thirty-five hundred settled mostly in Nova Scotia as a reward for their service during the war on the side of Britain. In 1812, two thousand more Blacks went to Canada and, along with the six hundred maroons from Jamaica shipped to Canada in 1796, they participated in the defense of the region against US invasion in the early stage of the conflict.4


“A Quick History of Black People in Canada.” (2014). Ontario Black History Society. Web. For a quick overview of black history in Canada as well as some more recent trends, see Anne Milan and Kelly Tran. “Blacks in Canada: A long



The seeds of implosion were also contained in American political culture. Despite the country’s rising domination by the Jeffersonian party, tensions ran high in all quarters, fed by radically different political views on Europe, trade, and expansion, with ideas and debates developing thanks to an expanding national press. Jefferson’s ambitious imperialistic policy in the West with the Louisiana Purchase and the subsequent exploratory expeditions he sent out were mixed with a Francophile policy that many in the United States disliked. A highly charged political opposition led many Federalists to secretly inform the British of American movements while New England contemplated secession. Enormous waves of new Irish immigrants filled American battalions with people eager to take revenge on the British for the quelling of Ireland’s rebellion in 1798 (Taylor 7-10, Reid Armies of the Irish Rebellion). Economic interests were also at stake which differed from one end of the federation to the next. If New England merchants favored trade with Britain–and most American trade was done between the two countries– other sections of the country saw Britain as monopolizing international trade and dictating the direction of an increasingly globalized Atlantic economy. Black slaves, fur-trading Indians and Scots in Canada and the American borderlands, Pennsylvania German farmers or northern Irish planters in the South all now relied on a global trade highly dependent on the British industrial revolution. But these groups did not profit equally from such transatlantic commerce nor did they benefit similarly from the policies set up by London or Washington. If the New England merchants enjoyed a highly profitable trade with the British, Scottish, Irish or even British immigrants hated Britain for impressing their nationals under the Union Jack. Western farmers had hated the Jefferson Administration for declaring an embargo in 1807 that had proved both highly inefficient and detrimental to their agricultural interests. Institutions like the Bank of the United States or Hamilton’s national policy of improvements and high tariffs did not please the great barons of the South who bought their products abroad very dearly and adhered to a strict States’ rights policy. Hence, lots of people saw more interest in crossing the border to Canada or for some, as Aaron Burr did in 1806, in devising wild schemes to seize parts of Mexico or divide the US into several smaller countries (Risjord 356-360). However, the dreams of expansion into Canadian immensity were pleasing to speculators, planters, and opponents to the imperial system. American hegemony over the North American continent would

History.” (Spring 2004). Canadian Social Trends. Statistics Canada — Catalogue No. 11-008. Web.

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thus be complete. Jefferson’s dream of the Empire of Liberty would store up even more space for the generations to come. The war, its causes and possible outcome generated an enormous amount of public debate. As I suggested earlier after Nicole Eustace, many words were uttered and written about the war. As Donald R. Hickey reminds us, the United States enjoyed a thriving press of three hundred and forty-five titles on the eve of the war, not counting “country editions of city papers”. These newspapers widely reprinted congressional debates, speeches, but also “editorials, news from home and abroad, long-winded essays, bits of local gossips, literary pieces, poetry, humor, and advertisements” (Hickey 319). They were the American forum. The press truly reflected a widening national debate about issues local, domestic or international which testified to the growing democratic appeal of politics to US citizens. The press was partisan and instrumental either in defending government policies or attacking them. Cartoons slashed at government decisions or ridiculed government opponents as harshly. Famous articles or speeches were not only published in big coastal city papers but widely reprinted in any and all publications around the country only days or weeks following their original appearance, building up a national audience. Nation carving largely profited from the fiery political opposition reflected in the newspapers. Poems also conveyed political ideas and philosophical positions which were daily argued in the tavern and saloon. Pamphlets were circulated, sermons delivered then published in the printed form. Words were everywhere, spoken out in public, printed on the page, listened to, read out, argued upon. They made the stuff of identities, politics, trade, and war. The 2012 Conference that took place in Brest, France, was held in two languages: English and French. I have kept this bilingual opportunity for this volume. Here is a short account of the arguments and approaches developed in this collection of essays. The opening text is a fascinating reflection on the geopolitical environment in which the new republic found itself less than twenty years after the end of the war of Independence. Here, Adam Rothman takes up the concept of the paracolonial republic to explore the surroundings of the United States and to counter the usual view of the period as post-colonial in character. In fact, Rothman reminds us that the US in 1812 was an exception in the Atlantic world. Surrounded by monarchical colonial powers such as Spain and Britain, the republic itself was struggling with an irresistible desire to expand, using the imperial metaphor and acting against indigenous populations as any other colonial state, imposing its



worldview and trade policies as well as its cultural definitions on populations who resisted acculturation and the theft of their ancestral lands. That resistance was partly successful–they have retained a cultural heritage down to this day–but it also failed to shield them from expropriation and cultural oppression. In the words of Gilman M. Ostrander, the Republic of Letters in the new United States was still a “collegiate aristocracy” at the end of the Revolutionary period.5 Literature had a slow beginning in the US. The novel in particular was slow to account for the specificity of American experience. As Ed White demonstrates in his essay, novel production before the war of 1812 was a mere four or five books a year and it failed to provide an account of events that stuck to the speed of change before the war ended. On the contrary, according to the author, “the conventions of poetry were best suited to an engagement with historical events”. Thus Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner”, published as a broadside in 1814 under the title of “The Defense of Fort McHenry”, suggests a “reactivity” and a “temporality” that were far more adequate to the pace of events than the novel. White reviews those works which preceded the great take-off of American literature, before Washington Irving and Fenimore Cooper, reflecting as well as acting the Democratic-Republican cultural revolution of the Jeffersonian party over the national(ist) culture. He looks into the transition from the hegemony of European references in the former colonies to the advent of a sense of national culture in the United States. He thus finds poetry to be a far more flexible form, better adapted to the periodicity and reactivity of the press than lengthier novel productions. Before they became characters in major American novels, American Indians were actors in the great American drama of conquest, playing off one colonial power against the others. As in the previous conflict, alliances with native warriors seemed capital in a region where frontier warfare would eventually decide of the outcome of the war. Whether with the Haudenosaunee in the North or the Muskogee in the South, powerful confederacies were under a lot of pressure by local and national American leaders to join the fight on the “right” side. The British had agitated Indian frustration for years, relying on old connections and also on promises of emancipation from colonization which the Treaty of Ghent eventually all but ignored. Indigenous groups were the great losers in the peace negotiations even if “Article IX restored lands claimed by Indian nations allied to the British during the war” (Shuck-Hall 8). But nobody in the US 5

Don Duhadaway. (January, 2001). Review of Gilman M. Ostrander, Republic of Letters: The American Intellectual Community, 1776-1865. H-Ideas, H-Net Reviews. URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=4858

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heeded such dispositions, and as Sheri Shuck-Hall demonstrates in her essay, the lands taken away by Andrew Jackson from the Muskogee were never surrendered. The author provides a detailed account of the cultural, political, and economic interests at stake within the Muskogee confederation on the eve of and during the war. Concomitant with the beginning of the conflict against the British, the Creek civil war, as it is known, (1813-1814), was the expression of deep rifts within this and other indigenous groups. Shuck-Hall shows how an acculturated metis class was rejected by traditionalist militants who followed Tecumseh’s vision and arguments in rejecting what they deemed the deleterious influence of western civilization. She focuses her study on the fascinating character of William Weatherford, Hoponika Fulsahi (the Truth Maker), who joined the traditionalists despite his strong cultural and economic interests among the metis class. The author insists on the importance of individual biographies in order to personalize often generalizing studies of native behavior and attitudes. She insists on the complexity of such mixed personal experiences which provide vivid accounts of the ambiguous choices native people had to make for themselves and their relatives. John Dickinson takes us to the heart of the early hours of the conflict in his account of the northern borderland and the place of Canada in the North American struggle. As suggested in the first part of this introduction, the war of 1812 unfolded unexpectedly more widely than within the confines of the United States. If Spanish possessions in the American South would soon be lost to the United States, Canada gained a new sense of itself after successfully defending its territory from US invasion. After putting a final stop to an attempt at conquering the vast lands of the North, Dickinson shows that Canadians of all hues and religions set the basis for myths and heroes that greatly participated in forging a national identity in the subsequent centuries. The interest of his text lies also in the links he makes between that founding event–which was far more celebrated two years ago than in the US–and subsequent periods in Canadian history, focusing rather on English-speaking Canada than on the Belle Province, although he writes in French. Dickinson explains that for a long time, English-speaking Canada was thought to be the norm north of the border and received little attention compared to the minorities such as indigenous groups or the French-speaking province. However, it took many decades before Canadian history took shape in history books. Fifty years after the conflict, Laura Secord still did not have a real place in the pantheon of famous Canadians. Worse, until the 20th century, the United States was perceived very negatively and remembered for the atrocities committed north of the border by American troops during the



revolutionary war as well as during the war of 1812. Dickinson reviews the literature of local historians of the 19th century who built upon the painful memories of American “desperados” in order to make sense of who Canadians were. In an attempt to create a wider picture of the period, this volume also contains an essay by Nelly André on revolutionary women in South America. The reason for this topic in a volume on the Anglo-American war is mostly based on the all-inclusive attempt of the 2012 conference held in Brest of providing a wide-ranging view of the state of the Americas at the time. By reviewing the role of women in the different revolutionary conflicts that liberated Spanish colonies from their European tutelage, André points out an aspect of such troubled times that remains to be explored in the North American context. André’s argument revolves around the ideas that the conquest of the “New World” by the Spanish was first of all a conquest of indigenous women’s bodies. Very few books have been written on the subjects, if one excepts noticeable attempts like Karen Vieira Powers’s Women in the Crucible of Conquest: The Gendered Genesis of Spanish American Society, 1500-1600 (2005) or Juan Francisco Maura’s Women in the Conquest of the Americas (1997). The main character in the mythologization of indigenous women in the Spanish-speaking world is the “Malinche,” the Aztec woman who betrayed her people and helped Cortez win over Mexico. The women who resisted Spanish oppression in Latin American history are too often “invisible,” hidden from view by the huge shadows of the men by their side. Too much emphasis on a military-political history has pushed women to the little corners of national narratives. That is one of the reasons why André has chosen to present several women’s biographies and portraits in order to bring forward names and faces of women who did find some recognition in national narratives, sometime centuries after their high deeds. National identity was a vital component of the young American republic. And culture was a fundamental element of the period. More than seven million people lived in the US in 1812. But many had emigrated there, often from Britain, Ireland, Scotland, what is today Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands, not mentioning the forced immigrants from the eastern coast of Africa (Senegambia, the Windward (now Ivory) Coast, the Gold Coast–Ghana, the Bights of Benin and Biafra–Nigeria, Central and Southeast Africa–Cameroon, N. Angola).6 But nationalities 6

“Slave Trade and African American Ancestry,” nd, quoting Philip D. Curtin, The Atlantic Slave Trade, (1969), 221. Web.

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were not the only parameter in the questioning of American identity. Sectionalism flared during those years, almost rifting the young nation apart as it had during the revolution and the years following 1783. Commercial interests, political philosophy, differing views of Europe threatened to tear the national fabric apart. As many recent authors writing about 1812, Marco Sioli here considers the events of the period under their cultural dimension. His essay looks at the ways the press first justified the war and praised US courage and honor, then how American newspapers reflected on the event and helped devise a more affirmed national identity despite the poor record of American military deeds. Sioli shows how newspapers reflected the increasing partisan character of the press in the US. His sources derive from the huge collection of early American newspapers at the Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia. Another genre that had a major impact on the discussions about going to war against the British Empire was the sermon. Little has actually been done on the role of religion at the time of the war since William Gribbin’s 1973 Churches Militant. Lucia Bergamasco’s contribution is then a muchneeded place to call for more research on this important subject at the onset of the great religious revival of the 19th century. Bergamasco delves into the prolific literature of that period to show that ministers were deeply involved in the rhetoric of war. Apart from the Quakers and Catholics, the established churches took sides and bitterly argued for or against the war in front of their congregations. Federalists forcefully rejected the conflict while Republicans massively sided with the government on this issue. The interest of these sermons is also closely linked to the proximity of the preachers with the people. If, as William Gribbin has stated, “the pulpit was the community pulse point,” Bergamasco strives to show the many social and moral issues religious speakers encompassed in their discourses and homilies. Her careful and close reading of these texts takes us to the arguments that shook the nation, such as sectional antagonism, slavery, political and moral reformation. Federalist views may not have died out in the era of Good Feelings. She even suggests, along with some other historians today, that religious revival as well as the moral crusades of the 19th century partly come from the anti-war, mostly Federalist, activities of that period. The last essay is a micro-analysis which centers on the development of the Catholic Church in the Mississippi Valley. Tangi Villerbu argues that far from being a remote frontier region, the Transappalachian West belongs to both Borderlands and Atlantic histories. He looks at the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church to set up an organized system of parishes and dioceses from the Great Lakes in the North down to Kentucky, and



from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. As suggested by Kathleen DuVal in her review of the term, works on borderlands are “multi-perspectival and cross-cultural studies of different peoples coming together.”7 This part of the United States still experienced frontier conditions, and prior to the war, was still mainly Indian country. With the British in the North, the Spanish in the South, and a very strong French presence in towns like St Louis or Detroit, the area was a borderland between very different and competing cultures. The essay explores the way the Church set out to organize space for its own development, caught in a very complex web of resisting Native nations, foreign powers, eastern populations’ migrations, and the uncertain consequences of a continental war. Perhaps another collection of essays should be devoted to the European views of the conflict. British and French attitudes did a lot in the years prior to the war to bring the United States to the conflict. The US was drawn into European affairs despite the cautious policies of four US presidents. Washington’s warning about staying out of imperialistic countries’ business could do little when commerce was in essence already globalized and the US was already so tightly connected to the economies of the “old” continent. After almost twenty years of efforts to fend off conflict with European belligerents in a Europe plagued by Napoleon’s continental ambitions and Britain’s imperial domination of the high seas, the US saw war as the very last resort to salvage what it considered as a sacred heritage bestowed upon that second generation by the luminaries of the American revolution: the new republican experiment of modern times.

Bibliography Bickham, Troy. (2012). The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812. New York: OUP. Coles, Harry L. (1965). The War of 1812. Preface by Daniel J. Boorstin. Chicago: the University of Chicago Press. Eustace, Nicole. (2012). 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Hickey, Donald R. (2012). The War of 2012: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Meinig, D.W. (1993). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History. Vol. 2 Continental America, 1800-1867. New Haven: Yale University Press. 7

Kathleen DuVal. 2014. “Borderlands.” Oxford Bibliographies. Web.

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n.a. “The Arrival of the Loyalists in Canada.” SLMC (Site for Language Management in Canada). University of Ottawa, n.d Risjord, Norman K. (2002). Jefferson’s America, 1760-1815. 2d ed. Lanham, Md.: Rowan & Littlefield. Shannon, Thimothy J. (2008). Iroquois Diplomacy on the Early American Frontier. New York: Penguin. Taylor, Alan. (2011). The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (2010). New York: Vintage.


Historians have recently begun to describe the early United States as “postcolonial.” While some historians use the term simply to identify the new era that followed the Revolution, many others use the term, somewhat paradoxically, to emphasize the lingering hangover of the pre-Revolutionary colonial order. Jack Greene, for instance, draws on the literature of postcolonial theory and early modern state formation to draw attention to fundamental continuities between the structure of the British Empire in North America and federalism in the early United States (Greene 2007). In a different vein, Kariann Yokota emphasizes the ongoing struggle, after independence, to pull the United States out from under Great Britain’s cultural shadow. Her book’s subtitle, “How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation,” advertises its theoretical orientation (Yokota 2011). Recognizing continuities from the colonial era highlights the predicament of Anglo-American creoles, like Thomas Jefferson, who were heirs to the grand heritage of European civilization, whether they liked it or not, yet who were also self-conscious innovators who wished to distance themselves from European corruption and war while building up what they often called a “rising Empire” in North America based on republican values of equality, consent, and popular sovereignty. The very language of empire provides a good illustration of this dynamic, for if American republicans eschewed old world empire, they freely adopted the word “empire” and applied it to their own United States (Onuf 2000). Yet a powerful objection to labeling the early United States as “postcolonial” is that the colonial era did not end in 1783. To call the early United States postcolonial obscures the many ways that the United States as a settler society quickly emerged as a colonial power in its own right, bulldozing over indigenous people in a relentless westward expansion that helped the country to host the world’s most prominent slave system by the


Chapter One

middle of the 19th century. For many scholars, then, the early United States was not postcolonial at all. It was just plain old colonial. From this point of view, the United States did not become postcolonial, if it ever did, until the global decolonization movements of the 20th century gave rise to a new vocabulary of liberation for subaltern people everywhere, including the United States, where one legacy of the various civil rights movements was a radically revisionist historiography in the fields of women’s, AfricanAmerican, and American Indian Studies (Chaplin 2003, 1453-4). Historians now appear poised between understanding the early United States as a postcolonial republic and a plain old colonial empire. In her new cultural history of the War of 1812, Nicole Eustace acknowledges this duality, writing that “In the era of 1812, the United States was simultaneously a postcolonial nation and a neocolonial power,” although it is not clear what was neo about it (Eustace 2012, 43). The two perspectives offer important and valid contributions to historians’ knowledge of the early national era, and they are not mutually exclusive. Republican nationalism gave a powerful ideological boost to the old logic of settler colonialism, while federalism, the crucial solution to the balance of power between the national government and the states, as well as among the states, became a powerful device for national expansion conceived of in exceptionalist terms (Onuf 2000, 65-70). One glance at a map suggests another objection to the idea of the early United States as “postcolonial”: the new republic bordered other powers’ colonies. One map that vividly depicted enduring colonial power in North America has the lengthy title, “Bowles's new and accurate map of North America and the West Indies, exhibiting the extent and boundaries of the United States, the British dominions, and territories possessed in that quarter by the Spaniards, the French, and other European powers” (Bowles 1784). Published in London in 1784, this map was supplemented by a table that meticulously enumerated the colonial possessions of the “several interested powers” in the region. Along with the thirteen United States were listed fifty-nine colonies from Greenland to Trinidad. What were the implications of this geopolitical challenge for the United States? In a recent book on the War of 1812, Troy Bickham argues that what was at stake in the war was the “sovereignty of the United States in a postcolonial world” (Bickham 2012, 20). It may be true that US sovereignty was at stake in the war, but as Bowles’ map reveals, the world was far from postcolonial. The seaboard United States was effectively sandwiched between the British Canadas to the north, the Floridas to the south, and Spanish Louisiana to the west, plus the many islands of the western Atlantic. Given this geopolitical situation, it might be more

The Paracolonial Republic and the War of 1812


accurate to declare that what was at stake in the War of 1812 was the sovereignty of the United States in a still-colonial world (Meinig 1986, 422-428). If the United States was at once postcolonial and plain-oldcolonial, it was also paracolonial in that it existed alongside and within a broader and enduring colonial world.

Source: Carrington Bowles, Bowles's new and accurate map of North America and the West Indies (1784).

The historian of the British Empire C.A. Bayly points out that around the world in the early 19th century, a number of regional states emerged, consolidated themselves, and even thrived in the face of European colonial power, sometimes by taking advantage of European rivalries and selling to European markets. These “para-colonial states,” as he calls them, included Rama I’s Thailand, Iran’s Qajar regime, and Muhammed Ali’s Egypt. Perhaps the early United States belongs in this list, too. It may seem jarring to US historians to compare the early republic to such different states such as these, but the comparison rests on the common question of


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how certain polities raised themselves up on the expanding margins and forced themselves into the shifting gaps of European power (Bayly 1989). From different premises, literary scholar Sean Goudie has also called attention the early United States’ paracolonial situation. Goudie argues that the West Indies featured prominently, if ambivalently, in US American literary production from state papers to novels and plays. While U.S. merchants and their political spokesmen struggled to break into protected colonial West Indian markets, their literary culture papered over the republic’s embarrassing complicity in and exploitation of Caribbean slavery. Goudie uses the idea of paracolonialism to trace a set of political, commercial, and cultural relationships between the United States and the Caribbean that spills outside the postcolonial/colonial dichotomy (Goudie 2006). The idea of paracolonialism draws attention to how the new United States navigated the colonial world around it. European colonial power in America was not doomed to extinction by the American Revolution. That all of North America, or even–in the most grandiose fantasies–the whole American hemisphere would achieve independence, become republican, and confederate together originated in the early national period as the most utopian of republican fantasies. As John Quincy Adams put it in 1811, “The whole continent of North America appears to be destined by Divine Providence to be peopled by one nation, speaking one language, professing one general system of religions and political principles, and accustomed to one general tenor of social usages and customs” (Ford 1914, 209). The Louisiana Purchase may have pointed Adams toward this distant destiny of national unity and cultural homogeneity, although Louisiana’s culturally stubborn Frenchspeaking Catholics resisted assimilation. Moreover, the republicans’ dismal failure to conquer and annex Canada in the War of 1812 suggested that God had other plans in store for North America than unity. The transcontinental ideology of the mid-19th century known as Manifest Destiny was much less popular or plausible in the early national period, when formidable geographic and political obstacles stood in the way of US expansion. John Quincy Adams was not as sanguine about the future of the United States as his grandiose prediction suggests. In the same 1811 letter to his father, Quincy Adams observed that the “common happiness” of this extensive imagined community depended on its political association within a single Union. “But let that federal Union which secures to each member the sympathies of the same body once be dissolved,” he darkly predicted, “and every part will in turn inevitably be trampled upon by the others, and America like the rest of the earth will sink into a common field

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of battle for conquerors and tyrants” (Ford 1914, 209). This fear of falling apart, which would lead to war and ruin, ran deeply through the political thought of early nationalists like Quincy Adams. The fear of disunion was rooted in distance and difference. The technical difficulties of transportation and communication across eastern North America kept people apart. Distinctive interests and values distinguished the different regions (New England, the mid-Atlantic states, the lower South, and the West) from one other. Regional differences could be complementary, but they could also lead to conflict, and those conflicts could be exacerbated by “external” threats and inducements–wedges driven into the Union by foreign powers in neighboring colonies (McCoy 1987). Such wedges included the nagging presence of British fortifications in the Northwest; Spanish control of the rivers that emptied into the Gulf of Mexico; generous land grants designed to entice migrants from the United States; gift-giving and influence-peddling among the Indians; the sponsorship of havens for fugitive slaves; commercial restrictions or liberalizations on trade between the United States and Caribbean colonies. Threats emanating from neighboring colonies were often cast as violations of both the law of nations and the laws of nature, as if U.S. expansion was as organic as the flow of America’s rivers. Tropes of blockage and subversion permeated republican anxieties over the nation’s margins. Warning against French possession of New Orleans, for example, Jefferson famously asserted in 1802 that “France placing herself in that door assumes to us the attitude of defiance” (Ford 1904-5, 9: 364). A decade later, Jefferson deployed the rhetoric of colonial subversion to conceive of the Indians in the northwest as British pawns rather than independent actors with legitimate grievances against citizens of the United States who were intruding upon them. As he wrote in his justification for the conquest of Canada, “The possession of that country secures our women and children forever from the tomahawk and scalping knife, by removing those who excite them” (Quoted in Kaplan 1987, 119). Extending U.S. sovereignty over neighboring colonies thus became a requirement of national security, but it was easier said than done. A close look at Louisiana helps to reveal the multiple dimensions of the young republic’s paracolonial situation. Louisiana was central to what historian Francois Furstenberg calls “the Long War for the West” from 1754 to 1815, when the attachment and incorporation of the region to the United States was far from inevitable. The North American interior served as an arena of imperial rivalry between France, Britain, Spain, and eventually the United States, with asterisms of colonial settlement and fortification amid a vast Indian country anchored at New Orleans. After


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1783, the lower Mississippi valley became a “hot spot of the transAppalachian West” (Furstenberg 2008, 657). Spain consolidated its hold over Louisiana and Florida, envisioning its North American colonies as a buffer between the United States and Spain’s valuable Mexican possessions and vital to its control of the Gulf of Mexico. Just as the British did in Canada, Spain tried to cultivate native allies and attract migrants. In the 1790s, the disintegration of St. Domingue’s sugar-andslave economy provided new opportunities for Louisiana planters to profit from plantation agriculture, and a sugar boom transformed New Orleans and its hinterlands (Rothman 2005, 75-6). Louisiana’s fate was dictated by the intersection of European conflict with local assertions of power by settler communities, indigenous nations, and people of African descent in an intricate latticework of alliance and enmity. Not the westward sweeping movement of Anglo-American settlers, but a transatlantic geostrategic conjuncture caused by the Napoleonic Wars–specifically, Napoleon’s failure to restore French authority and chattel slavery in St. Domingue–resulted in New Orleans and the vast Louisiana territory falling into the orbit of U.S. sovereignty. Nothing illustrates the paracolonial aspect of the early United States better than the slave rebellion in St. Domingue, which contributed to the enlargement of Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” and intensified the security dilemma of slavery that accompanied it. The effort to end slave importation into the United States can be interpreted, at least in part, as an effort to insulate the mainland’s southern ports and plantations from the corrosive effects of revolutionary war in the Caribbean (Dubois 2009). After its absorption in the United States, Louisiana continued to be shaped by its linkages to the circum-Caribbean colonial milieu. The purchase led to diplomatic and military conflict with Spain over the status of the Floridas which were now cut off from the rest of Spanish America (Stagg 2009). Spain rejected the legitimacy of France’s sale of Louisiana to the United States and held onto West Florida which the United States claimed as part of the deal. A strategic prize, the Gulf Coast became a battleground as the United States sought to wrest it from Spain without losing it to Britain, and local people of all stripes, from revolutionary republicans to slave and Indian refugees, vied to stake their own claims to autonomy in the midst of the international turmoil of the Napoleonic wars and the breakdown of authority in Spanish America. The Gulf Coast offers marvelous fodder for what Rafe Blaufarb calls “a transnational diplomatic history ‘from below’” (Blaufarb 2007, 742). Finally in the Adams-Onis or Transcontinental Treaty, ratified in 1821, the United States gave up Texas to secure Florida and other more valuable claims to the Pacific Northwest,

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although the abandonment of Texas proved to be a temporary measure lasting only until the 1840s. The settlement of these questions enabled the United States to take a more assertive position on Spanish American independence that would lead to the Monroe Doctrine. Refugees from the Caribbean infused Louisiana with new blood. Part of a broader diaspora, refugees from St. Domingue had been arriving in Louisiana from the early 1790s, but the largest single influx came in 1809, when more than nine thousand St. Dominguean refugees who had settled in Cuba were driven out of that island in the wake of Napoleon’s invasion of Spain. More than a third were slaves, although as Rebecca Scott and Jean Hebard have recently argued, the classification of some of these refugees as slaves may well have been an act of re-enslavement upon their arrival in Louisiana (Scott and Hébard 2012). The arrival of so many refugees from St. Domingue, especially the wave of 1809, had a powerful impact on New Orleans, strengthening its francophone bloc and acting as a counterweight to cultural “Americanization” (Dessens 2007). Much of the distinctiveness of New Orleans is not simply a holdover from the eighteenth century, exemplified today by its so-called French Quarter, but is a result of its ongoing participation in networks of creole culture throughout the Caribbean in the nineteenth century (Roach 1996). Louisiana’s economy followed colonial grooves. While Louisiana planters benefitted from St. Domingue’s collapse, they had to compete against sugar producers in Jamaica, Cuba, and Brazil who also stepped into the breach. To compete against colonial producers with more favorable ecologies for sugar production, Louisianan sugar planters lobbied for protective tariffs and struggled to stay at the cutting edge of agricultural progress by keeping close tabs on innovation and experimentation elsewhere. Although they wanted to continue importing African slaves, Congress eventually cut them off from the Atlantic trade and forced them to rely on the forced migration of slaves from the Upper South to replenish their labor supply. It was not a clean cut; throughout the 1810s, the Gulf Coast buzzed with slave smuggling, largely through the agency of privateers who preyed on Spanish shipping (Rothman 2005, 193-196). Wherever sugar production boomed in the wake of the Haitian Revolution, it did so amid a newly existential awareness of the potential risks of slave resistance and revolt signified by incessant references to Haiti. Planters and their governments sought to quarantine themselves against the so-called “contagion” of liberty, intensified surveillance over their slaves, and assured themselves that their own slaves were faithful (as long as they were not tampered with). When a conspiracy was discovered


Chapter One

or an insurrection erupted, as on Louisiana's German Coast in 1811, overwhelming force put a bloody stop to it. Not surprisingly, then, local authorities were on guard against a slave insurrection throughout the War of 1812, and it is quite striking that as late as the U.S. Civil War, southern planters were still invoking the memory of Haiti to fend off abolitionism and emancipation, or to describe the collapse of their world in the closest analogy that they could muster: “a repetition of San Domingo” (quoted in Clavin 2010, 145). The War of 1812 in the southern theater takes on a new significance when viewed in paracolonial terms. For Andrew Jackson and many other southern nationalists, Florida was the biggest prize. They resented Spanish authorities there for harboring fugitive slaves, fomenting unrest among the Indians, and offering a foothold to the British in wartime. The threat of subversion permeated Jacksonian rhetoric about Florida and was exaggerated to justify its seizure. Though deeply controversial, Jackson’s incursions into Florida in 1814 and 1818 intensified the pressure on Spain to cede the territory to the United States (Meinig 1993, 24-32). Embedded in the process of absorbing Florida into the United States were other acts of what might be called (following Goudie) paracolonial “negation.” The most dramatic was the destruction of the Negro Fort in 1816, a maroon community of refugees from the Creek War who had hunkered down in a stronghold on the Apalachicola River (Saunt 1999, 273-289). Even more improbably, the Battle of New Orleans can also be placed in the paracolonial context of Afro-Caribbean history during the “Age of Revolution.” It is legendary that Andrew Jackson assembled a multilingual, multinational, multiracial force to resist the British invasion, one that included French–and Spanish–speaking free men of color. But what may have been unusual for the United States had become standard in Caribbean warfare. Less celebrated than the free men of color who fought with Jackson is the presence of black troops among the invaders–African and Afro–Caribbean soldiers from the West India Regiments, which grew out of the British experience of war in North America and the Caribbean in the decades preceding the War of 1812. Moreover, more than three thousand enslaved African Americans fled to the British during the War of 1812. Several hundred settled in Trinidad, including some from Louisiana, where they were provided with land by the British government in one of the first British experiments with free labor in the West Indies (Rothman 2005, 151-152, 160). It may appear only dimly related, but the fate of the black refugees in Trinidad and elsewhere is a reminder that the British had begun to carve out antislavery enclaves in the Atlantic world, most notably, Sierra Leone,

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which was originally populated with Afro-American refugees from the Revolution. Just before the War of 1812, the successful African-American sea captain Paul Cuffee, who was fed up with racist discrimination in the United States, became interested in sponsoring black emigration to Sierra Leone; the war put his plans on hold, but he resumed his project when it ended. At the same time, the model of Sierra Leone helped to inspire a diverse coalition of white northerners and southerners to launch the American Colonization Society (ACS), dedicated to sending free and enslaved blacks to Africa. Understanding the ACS in relation to Sierra Leone and the British antislavery campaign is a step toward grasping the paracolonial dimension of the domestic struggle over slavery in the US. As Edward Rugemer has argued, pro- and anti-slavery forces in the US paid close attention to the progress of abolition and emancipation in the Caribbean; their competing interpretations of events deepened the rift between them (Rugemer 2008). While Jackson’s incursions into Florida set the stage for its cession by Spain, it is important to recognize that the War of 1812 also set a northern limit on U.S. expansion. At the outset of the war, Jefferson infamously– almost comically–predicted that the conquest of Canada during the war would be a “mere matter of marching.” That has to rank among the worst forecasts in American history, up there with South Carolina Senator James Chesnut’s promise to drink all the blood caused by southern secession. But what explains Jefferson’s blithe overconfidence? It was not just that he was mistaken about military tactics and strategy, or that he misjudged the character of the Canadians, but that his assumptions about the direction of History–his republican teleology–were dashed by the grittier reality of the organization of power in real time and space. To put it another way, the answer to Jefferson’s question, “But who can limit the extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively?” was the British Empire. The War of 1812 solidified the border between British North America and the United States; it made Canada a permanent geopolitical fact, a continental counterweight to republicanism, rather than an anachronism (Taylor 2010). Paracolonialism was here to stay. The republican disappointment over Canada was compensated by Britain's abandonment of the idea of an Indian buffer state in the Upper Mississippi Valley, and the shattering of Shawnee and Creek resistance. These were pivotal events. The middle ground was washed away in a political mudslide, and the long war for the American continent moved further to the west, where it did not end until the final pacification of the Plains Indians in the 1890s.


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Bibliography Bayly, C. A. (1989). Imperial Meridian: The British Empire and the World, 1780-1830. New York: Longman, 1989. Bickham, Troy. (2012). The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812. New York: Oxford University Press. Blaufarb, Rafe. (2007). “The Western Question: The Geopolitics of Latin American Independence.” American Historical Review 112, 3: 742763. Bowles, Carrington. (1784). Bowles's new and accurate map of North America and the West Indies, exhibiting the extent and boundaries of the United States, the British dominions, and territories possessed in that quarter by the Spaniards, the French, and other European powers. The whole compiled and laid down from the best authorities, regulated and divided according to the Preliminary Articles of Peace signed at Versailles 20th. Jany. 1783. London. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C., http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g3300.ar010100 Chaplin, Joyce. (2003). “Expansion and Exceptionalism in Early American History.” Journal of American History 89: 1431-1455. Clavin, Matthew J. (2010). Toussaint L’Ouverture and the American Civil War: The Promise and Peril of a Second Haitian Revolution. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Dessens, Nathalie. (2007). From Saint-Domingue to New Orleans: Migration and Influences. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. Dubois, Laurent. (2009). “The Haitian Revolution and the Sale of Louisiana; or, Thomas Jefferson's (Unpaid) Debt to Jean-Jacques Dessalines.” In Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase, Peter J. Kastor and Francࡣ ois Weil, eds. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Ford, Paul Leicester. (1904-5). Works of Thomas Jefferson. 9 Vols. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. Ford, Worthington Chauncey. (1914). Writings of John Quincy Adams, Vol. IV: 1811-1813. New York: The Macmillan Company. Goudie, Sean X. (2006). Creole America: The West Indies and the Formation of Literature and Culture in the New Republic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Greene, Jack. (2007). “Colonial History and National History: Reflections on a Continuing Problem.” William & Mary Quarterly. 64, 2: 235-250.

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Kaplan, Lawrence S. (1987). Entangling Alliances With None: American Foreign Policy in the Age of Jefferson. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press. McCoy, Drew. (1987). “James Madison and Visions of American Nationality in the Confederation Period: A Regional Perspective.” In Beyond Confederation: Origins of the Constitution and American National Identity, Richard Beeman, Stephen Botein, and Edward C. Carter II, eds. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 226260. Meing, D. W. (1986). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Vol. I: Atlantic America, 14921800. New Haven: Yale University Press. —. (1993). The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Vol. II: Continental America, 1800-1867. New Haven: Yale University Press. Onuf, Peter. (2000). Jefferson’s Empire: The Language of American Nationhood. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. Roach, Joseph R. (1996). Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. New York: Columbia University Press. Rothman, Adam. (2005). Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Rugemer, Edward. (2008). The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Saunt, Claudio. (1999). A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816. New York: Cambridge University Press. Scott, Rebecca J., and Jean M. Hébrard. (2012). Freedom Papers: An Atlantic Odyssey in the Age of Emancipation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Stagg, J. C. A. (2009). Borderlines in Borderlands: James Madison and the Spanish-American Frontier, 1776-1821. New Haven: Yale University Press. Taylor, Alan. (2010). The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Yokota, Kariann Akemi. (2011). Unbecoming British: How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation. New York: Oxford University Press.


The relationship of a literary genre to a geopolitical military conflict is most easily and traditionally examined thematically, by considering the imaginative representation of the event within that genre. Not only does such an approach relegate the text to a reactive position, as a kind of vantage-point for the event, but more critically it assumes that of course the genre should have something to say–and can say something–about the event in question. There is a scandalous counter-possibility, however– namely, that the literary genre does not know how to deal with the event in question–in which case the literary critic’s task becomes a different one. Such was the case with the US novel and the War of 1812, a problem which I address here in relation to the very different development of poetry.1 My goal is to outline some of the basic contours and problems for a literary history of this largely neglected moment. One can outline the quantitative parameters of the problem succinctly. From 1800 to 1820, US novel production holds more or less steady. There are a few years when one finds two or three more or fewer novels than usual, but throughout this period, roughly four or five novels appear per year. This holds for the war years as well: 1813 may be a slower year, 1816 a heavier one, because of the war, but in general, the war changes nothing about the steadily meager publication of novels throughout the 1810s. The situation is very different for volumes of poetry. The first decade of the nineteenth century saw the publication of roughly one


A full discussion of the problem would have to address not only drama, historiography, the essay, and life writings, but also the full range of poetic and fictional production. For simplification, I focus here on poetry published in volumes and novels published as stand-alone volumes.

The War of 1812, the US Novel, and Poetry


hundred and thirty monographs,2 while the 1810s (1811-20) saw roughly two hundred and thirty. In the case of poetry, the war clearly inspired and provoked poetic production, with a jump from eleven volumes in 1810 to twenty-four in 1812, twenty-seven in 1813, and nineteen in 1814. This is not surprising, since poetry of the moment was often occasional–or to put this differently, imaginative occasional writing typically took a poetic form. I will return to the problem of poetry at the end of this essay, but here I want to explore briefly the varying stylistic complexity of the respective genres, usefully illustrated through the most long-lasting of the war’s poems, Francis Scott Key’s 1814 broadside, “Defence of Fort McHenry.” I would venture here a quick defamiliarization of the first of the four stanzas: O say can you see by the dawn's early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there; O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?3

This consideration of the flag is perhaps notable for two literary maneuvers: first, the supple overlaying of the metonymic and the metaphorical, such that the flag is at once an obvious symbol of component parts (“broad stripes and bright stars”) and a physical object (the “proof” of an actual flag after an actual battle); and second, the density of narrative time, such that the stanza can accommodate a microevent (the fort’s defense from evening to morning) narrated in reverse (from “dawn’s early light” to “the twilight’s last gleaming”) and concluding with a transcendence to lyrical time (when the “banner yet wave[s]”). What this brief example confirms, I think, is a perhaps counterintuitive point about prose and poetry of the moment–for the conventions of poetry were best suited to an engagement with historical events, 2

I rely on Oscar Wegelin’s bibliography, Early American Poetry, 1800-1820 (New York: Oscar Wegelin, 1907). I have not included the year 1800, which saw 24 volumes (compared with 8 in 1801 or 12 in 1802), a spurt reflecting response to George Washington’s death. 3 I quote from American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century. Volume One: Philip Freneau to Walt Whitman, John Hollander, ed. (New York: Library of America, 1993), 46.


Chapter Two

whereas those of imaginative prose, despite (or because of) the novel’s constitutive temporality, struggled to accommodate such an event. This point can be neatly illustrated through the one novel of the decade to attempt an extensive engagement with the war, Samuel Woodworth’s The Champions of Freedom, which appeared in 1816. This novel, published with the ambitious subtitle or, The Mysterious Chief. A Romance of the Nineteenth Century, Founded on the War between the United States and Great Britain, was perhaps the longest novel to have yet appeared in the United States. Published a mere five years before Cooper’s The Spy and two years after Scott’s Waverly, Champions shows few of the conventions of the Scott-Cooper tradition, and the full title’s juxtaposition of military “champions” with the allegorical “mysterious chief” speaks to some of the problems of presentation that make Champions a fascinating read today.4 The novel follows the career of George Washington Willoughby, son of a revolutionary veteran, and whose introduction speaks to the narrative challenges faced by Woodworth. Willoughby’s father is, not surprisingly, fictional, a veteran of Washington’s army who relocates to the frontier where he wishes for a son, only to receive a promise from the Mysterious Indian Chief of the subtitle who prophesies the birth and glory of the son. Willoughby’s mother, however, is described as the daughter of an actual contemporary figure, William Cushing, a 21year appointee to the US Supreme Court, deceased six years before Woodworth publishes his novel. These basic contours–a fictional father linked to both Washington and a Native American spirit, and a mother who is the daughter of an actual prominent public official–may illustrate the challenges and temptations of the novelist of the war. Where Walter Scott crafted the neutral, mediocre observers as central figures, Woodworth’s negotiation of the tradition of the moralistic novel, patriotic hagiography, and the conservative formulation of historical verisimilitude exemplified in contemporary state histories5 resulted in this very different articulation. Indeed, the novel’s treatment of the war itself struggles to determine the best way to blend fiction and history, and by the final third, its protagonist is typically receiving letters that read like newspaper reports,6 or carrying on conversations about the war in which subjectivity 4 The best discussion is in Joseph J. Letter, “Reincarnating Samuel Woodworth: Native American Prophets, the Nation, and the War of 1812,” Early American Literature 43.3 (2008), 687-713. 5 See the overview in “History as Literature,” in Kevin J. Hayes, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Early American Literature (Oxford: 2008), 569-92. 6 A sample: “The following officers are spoken of as having signalized themselves on this brilliant occasion: lieutenants Brooks, Smith, Edwards, Turner, and Packet;

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yields to reportage. In a typical exchange, for example, one character observes, “We are now... opposite the scene of Forsyth’s successful gallantry; the field where he plucked the first sprig of those laurels with which he has since so profusely decked his brows.” The other character answers, “You allude to his affair at Gananoque?” while a footnote refers the reader to an earlier chapter’s footnote (2.236). I give this example to illustrate the pressures conventional historical narrative increasingly places on the novel, which reads more and more like a magazine, alternating between a romance subplot and large segments of text lifted from newspapers, including blow-by-blow accounts of battles and biographical sketches of prominent military figures. The challenges of the text may explain, as well, why the novel defers consideration of the war for the first third, which is devoted to an interesting subplot involving the Willoughbys’ relationship with their Irish neighbors. This subplot is perhaps the most fascinating of ideological reorientations undertaken by the novel, as Irish Catholics are sympathetically portrayed as US counterparts (both victimized by the British), and easily assimilable immigrants; yet the pressures of historical explication mean this subplot is largely abandoned in the novel’s final third. Indeed, one could almost read the novel’s pastiche qualities as an illustration of historiography’s antagonism with imaginative narration, as if Woodworth could not envision the narrative blend just over the horizon. The Champions of Freedom may thus be said to illustrate less the novel’s engagement with the war than some of the formal obstacles to such an engagement; in other words, it illustrates, as an exception, why the novel does not flourish with and through the war. To clarify some of the implicit observations above, I would identify three primary challenges: The historiographic or journalistic imperative of reportage and documentation rendered difficult the gaps, distances, and distortions that might make history a “backdrop”. The burden of narrative density (the demand for facts even to the point of statistical data) consequently midshipmen Forest, Lamb, Clarke, Claxton, and Swartwout; sailing master Taylor and Champlin; pursers M’Grath and Hambleton; and captain Brevoort, of the army, who acted as a volunteer, in the capacity of a marine officer, on board the Niagara, and did great execution with his rifle. Brooks, Lamb, and Clarke, are fallen, no more to rise. Hambleton, who volunteered his services on deck, was severely wounded, late in the action. Claxton and Swartwout are also badly wounded.” Samuel Woodworth, The Champions of Freedom, or The Mysterious Chief, A Romance of the Nineteenth Century, Founded on the Events of the War, between the United States and Great Britain… (New York: Charles N. Baldwin), 2:214-15.


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undermined the ability to combine the different temporalities that one sees in Key’s poem. The relatively conservative focus on the bourgeois character of high status rendered difficult both the ideological problematization of the war and the clear distinction of fictional and historiographic elements. The character had to be prominently imbricated in events, with the awkward consequence of an accidental fictionalization of historical personages. The ideological demands of a war narrative (whether pro or con) sharply undercut the potential stylistic complexity of metaphorical and metonymic elements.7 Where poetry could take a basic patriotic relationship (citizen loves nation) and complicate it lyrically with temporal complications and expansive connotation, a partisan account within years of the war could not risk any potential ambiguities. Thus the scandalous proposition that the US novel, given its development, could not really register the War of 1812. But here I would like to return to and complicate the literary-historical problem with which I began. Is it possible that the relationship between the war and the novel is better considered in the reverse direction? That is, instead of asking how the novel registered or responded to the war, we might ask how the war registered the novel. More precisely: perhaps the development of the novel tells us something about the ideological possibilities for the war and how it was experienced–an important project given our tendency to tell the story as one of political parties at odds. I would rather suggest here that the War experience illustrates the consolidation of Democratic-Republican hegemony during the Jefferson and Madison years. This achievement was hardly simple, and we may remember that the novel, with only a few exceptions, was the purview of northeastern Federalist writers largely united in their disdain for the Shays Rebellion, their enthusiasm for Washington and Adams, their endorsement 7

It is not that the novel simply endorsed the war, for it traced events to offer a critique of US administrative culture: “To repair the misfortunes and redeem the honor of the American arms, was the grand object on which the congregated wisdom of the nation was now exercised; the first step to the attainment of this desirable end was the abandonment of that system of favoritism to which the recent disasters were thought to be attributable” (2:279). But this brief note of critique is generally masked by the confident hegemony of this formulation of the novel’s title: “Brown, Scott, Ripley, Gaines, Swift, Miller, and some others of well-tried talents and courage, now stood forth as the bulwark of their country–the real CHAMPIONS OF FREEDOM. Each of them commanded the confidence of their country; but, as commander in chief, the eyes of every unprejudiced freeman were directed to Brown, and government confirmed their choice by elevating that hero to the rank of major-general” (2:280).

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of strict class hierarchies, and their hostility toward democracy and dangerous forms of free-thinking. Jeremy Belknap, William Hill Brown, Susanna Rowson, Enos Hitchcock, Samuel Relf, Royall Tyler, Sally Wood, Judith Sargent Murray, Tabitha Tenney, Martha Read, William Jenks, the anonymous author of The Fortunate Discovery and Moreland Vale–all were self-identified Federalists or even Tories, and during the 1790s, the stylistic and ideological exception that proves the rule is Hugh Henry Brackenridge’s Modern Chivalry.8 But by the 1810s one sees a number of non-Federalist intellectuals entering the field of imaginative fiction, including Margaret Botsford, Isaac Mitchell, Jesse Holman, George Watterston, Washington Irving, and Woodworth.9 I’m not suggesting a fundamental political reorientation–from Federalist to Democrat–as much as describing a profound change in the literary field, whereby the intellectual’s association with political authority–a given from 1788 to 1800–was increasingly tenuous, sometimes severed, and Federalist authority no longer taken for granted. The question, again, is whether or not a Democratic-Republican sensibility or complex began to emerge that made possible the pursuit of a war not only opposed by most Federalists but catalytic for the Hartford secessionist movement. And this question should lead us to another problem germane to the novel’s relationship with the war, for the late 1810s witnessed a brief flourishing of harsh antiDemocratic prose satires unseen before the war, including The Adventures of Uncle Sam, in Search After His Lost Honor (1816, Middletown, CT) by “Frederick Augustus Fidfaddy,” Thomas Pettengill’s The Yankee Traveller (1817, Concord, NH), and Fragments of a History of Bawlfredonia by “Jonas Clopper.”10 Did the war, then, suddenly make possible a new form 8

I bracket here the political leanings of Charles Brockden Brown, considered by many critics to be a radical democrat; I rather read Brown, socially close to the arch-conservative Connecticut Wits, as a radical free-thinking conservative, whose 1801 novel Jane Talbot argues for the veiling of one’s free-thought. In any event, his 1803 pamphlets contain classically Federalist anti-Jeffersonian stereotypes. 9 Woodworth, Botsford, Holman, and Mitchell appear to have been Democrats; Irving was among what were once known as the Tertium Quids (in New York he was a Burrite) and like Watterston is best viewed as a post-Federalist migrating toward what would eventually become the Whig movement. The anonymous author of Rosa, as well as that of The Irish Emigrant, appears to have been at least friendly to the Democratic-Republicans. 10 The first two are archly Federalist at the moment of the party’s fading. The partisan leanings of “Clopper” are less clear, though his sharp condemnations of slavery and of James Madison make clear his hostility to the Democratic Party. One might include in this list Robert Waln, Jr.’s Hermit in America of 1819, though the satire is much milder.


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of politicized comic satire in the years after its conclusion? Or, to return to the Woodworth problem, did it belatedly trigger the novel’s slow reckoning with history, allowing Scott to become the favored British author of the moment? I want to venture some answers to these questions via consideration of three rubrics: the Revolution; Europe; and Character Types.

The Revolution One paradox of the early US novel very much germane to the present problem is its relative silence on the American Revolution, through and in which all of the writers of the 1790s had lived or matured. Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte used the Revolution as a backdrop and perhaps as a latent problematic, but tellingly the novel was written in Britain. Domestically-written novels struggled to even know how to represent it. Brackenridge, a propagandizing military chaplain during the war and author of published sermons and poems about the revolution, could make sexual jokes and contemporary political references more easily than he could mention the Revolution. Of the 90s, only Belknap’s Foresters focused extensively on the Revolution, and it did so through an elaborate allegory that ignored events of the fight itself. By 1810, however, and with Jesse Lynch Holman’s Prisoners of Niagara, the Revolution could become a relatively neutral backdrop devoid of the Anglo-French split that characterized the political discourse of the 90s. This was not a nostalgic looking back as much as an insistence on the shared history of the future, illustrated well in a February, 1810, speech by then-Senator Henry Clay. As Henry Adams noted over a century ago, Clay’s speech marked the appearance of a school which was for fifty years to express the national ideals of statesmanship, drawing elevation of character from confidence in itself and from devotion to ideas of nationality and union, which redeemed every mistake committed in their names. In Clay's speech almost for the first time the two rhetorical marks of his generation made their appearance, and during the next half century the Union and the Fathers were rarely omitted from any popular harangue. The ideas became in the end fetishes and phrases; but they were at least more easily understood than the fetishes and phrases of Jeffersonian republicanism which preceded them. Federalists used the name of Washington in the same rhetorical manner, but they used it for party purposes to rebuke

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Washington's successors. The Union and the Fathers belonged to no party, and might be used with equal advantage by orators of every section.11 There are numerous literary equivalents, but one of the clearest may be found in the anonymous 1810 novel Rosa, one of the few novels published in the south. One of the characters, traveling in Boston, hears of a patriot who “hates the French,” then elsewhere in the city hears a “most voluble orator” declare, “Let us all perish, so the nation is saved. And the Lord gives us plenty, and drown all the English.” Finally, he notices “an old man upon crutches,” who explains his limp thus: “Ah! young man,” sighed he, “I was crippled at the battle of Monmouth: but, luck’s all. I should have had something at the close of the war, but like a simpleton I sold my claim upon my country for a song. O! the blessed times of American spirit are gone by. Wherever I go I hear people talking about the French and the English; but America is hardly ever mentioned. Bad times, young man, bad times, indeed, when we lose sight of ourselves to talk about other folks. But, God bless you! young man; I must limp home.”12

The tacit agreement between the elderly and the young, against the middle-aged partisans of the 90s, firmly links the yore of Monmouth with a potential future possible only if the English/French distinction is transcended. This does not, interestingly, seem to be an argument about any potential conflict, unless it’s an argument that the antagonist doesn’t matter as long as the United States is reunified. A similar formulation seems to underlie the anonymous The Soldier’s Orphan of 1812, a novel that begins (literally in the first sentences) with the orphaning of a young daughter of a revolutionary soldier; the novel essentially works through various tropes of the preceding two decades’ novels, as if the loss of one’s parents means one must rediscover and work through the past alone. What is interesting is how this historical self-understanding culminates: with the erection, in the final pages, of a monument to the revolutionary veteran whose death is announced in the first paragraph. Without being central in any way, the revolution so clearly frames the novel as if to broadcast its announcement of a nascent historical sensibility. In short, the Revolution was in some sense solipsized, becoming a matter for Americans alone; French support or English atrocities no longer mattered as much as the 11

Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison (New York: Library of America), 134-135. 12 Rosa; or, American Genius and Education (New York: Isaac Riley, 1810). The novel is largely set in Maryland’s Chesapeake, suggesting to me a southern authorship.


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solidarity, union, and active nationalism of the Founders themselves. And in this sense, the novels of the moment contributed to the war effort not by making particular claims against the British but by glorifying the war to such an extent that a re-presentation or sequel was virtually understood in utopian terms.

Europe Very much a corollary to the reformulation of the Revolution as a western hemispheric affair, the decade preceding the war witnesses a reconfiguration of Europe as a referent in early fiction. In the 90s, England, France, and a few other European sites (Italian, German, Irish, and occasionally Russian and Polish) were of course ubiquitous, but almost without notice or particularity. Though Charles Brockden Brown had not left the United States, his characters traveled the Atlantic with neither awe nor culture shock.13 We know much of the remarkable radicalizing or at least disruptive experiences of a range of travelers of the time–poets like Washington Allston or Joel Barlow, painters like Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley, politicians like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson–the list of whom is easy to construct. No such list can be compiled of literary characters, and it was more common to find a scene like that of Sally Wood’s Ormond, in which a European expressed his wonderment at encountering New England writers and George Washington’s slaves. That the primary spheres of disruptive cultural contact, in a slew of novels from the late 90s to 1810,14 were African and Caribbean probably says more about northern writers finally acknowledging that their own nation was a slave culture than about an appreciation of or anxiety about geo-cultural difference. Yet by 1809 we see Royall Tyler’s Yankey in London; where twelve years earlier Tyler had offered a sensational account of an American in Africa, who incidentally passed through England with barely a comment, he now presented a series of fictitious letters focused on the nuanced and literally semantic 13

Arthur Mervyn, exuberant about a visit to France at the end of that novel, may be the exception in Brown’s oeuvre; the 1801 Jane Talbot features a major character who relocates to France where he successfully become French nobility– barely remarkable, as is Henry Colden’s encounter with closed Japan in the same novel. 14 I would include here Tyler’s The Algerine Captive (1797), the anonymous Humanity in Algiers (1801), Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn (1799), Sally Wood’s Dorval (1801), Read’s Monima (1802) and Margaretta (1807), and Sansay’s Secret History (1808).

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differences between Englishmen and Americans. A decade later, Irving’s well-known Sketch-Book framed its collected pieces similarly, and like Tyler’s fictitious Yankey, used the experience of overseas travel to refine a sense of Americanness; and where the writers of the 90s tried to play it cool in their encounters with Europe, this associate and beneficiary of English literary giants like Scott opened the Sketch-Book as a scenario of a giddy arrival in Europe. We might say, then, that just as England was depoliticized and disassociated from the Revolution, it shifted from being the parent culture to being a foreign one; the diasporic rhetoric may have still framed the matter, but Englishness had become more historical than cultural. (Another marker of this is the shift in depictions of the Irish, mocked in good English fashion through much of the 90s, but viewed as one sub-community among others by the 1810s, before the later antiCatholic backlash.) Again, this long-term cultural recalibration seems to have contributed to a war culturally encoded as an assertion of some American loyalty regardless of the enemies, for the expansion of the menu of international referents signaled a transcendence of the polar world of the Revolution. By 1815, when Gotthilf Lutyen’s Moses Nathan Israel appeared, with its long accounts of Germany and Italy, the French Revolutionary references could almost seem quaint, and the US subplot was one of familial reunion, a gathering of various Europeans in a new tribe. Here the deliberate confusion of New England and Jewish names–mentioned several times in the text, as when Germans assume the protagonist to be a Jew–seems a fascinating play on the late historical books (Kings or Chronicles), as the Jews/Americans look back to an earlier heritage in an effort to reconsolidate against the foreign. A similar revision occurs in the 1808 counterfactual narrative Memoir of the Northern Kingdom, which narrates the collapse of the United States into a southern French-speaking nation of plantations, and an extended Canadian monarchy incorporating the northern secession movement. If this narrative simply confirmed the old binaries of the 90s, its author, William Jenks, could nonetheless also envision a utopian conclusion to the dystopian tale, as the two kingdoms, in the early twentieth century, seek to unite against Illinois radicals. We may appreciate the irony of the scenario: overly Europeanized Americans fuse as a nation in reaction to a small national core.

Character Types As is well known, many of the novels of the 90s treat thwarted marriage plots, typically through seduction. Crudely put, such novels


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consider character in terms of a culturally-endorsed moral norm and a series of predictable deviations or failings. While rakes and coquettes are often more entertaining characters than the surrounding prigs, they are as predictable as types, and hardly represent individuation. In such a context, the Bildungsroman is not generically available, its closest European counterpart–Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werter (in a 1784 translation)–standing as such a danger that numerous novels of the 90s work to exorcise it. With the possible exceptions of Brown’s Arthur Mervyn and Rowson’s Sarah (serialized in 1802, published as a novel in 1813), it is really only around 1810 that the Bildungsroman coalesces. It finds its most polished American expression to date in 1810’s Glencarn, which proceeds through a catalogue of formative episodes in which the romance is secondary if still the narrative endpoint. By 1818, The Life and Adventures of Obadiah Benjamin Franklin Bloomfield, the title of which signals the autobiographical inspiration and the fictional embellishment and elaboration, has made the romance fully subordinate to the narrative of development, as the titular character chronicles his early sexual trysts, two failed marriages, and the trials of a third. A similar reorientation appears in Rebecca Rush’s 1812 Kelroy, the marriage plot of which is foiled as the text focuses rather on the odd Romantic hero of the title.15 Kelroy’s characterological innovation, however, may be said to be the character of Dr. Blake, who is variously described as “a most singular figure” (16), “a great curiosity” (18), “that strange looking creature” (23), “not like any thing else in creation” (59), “so ridiculous” (59), “a most extraordinary creature” (143), “full of... strange remarks” (146). As one character tells him directly, “Sir...you are really–a very–strange person” (61). Where the novels of the 1790s offered plenty of eccentrics, so noted by surrounding characters (Brackenridge’s Captain Farrago is the most obvious example), these were comic types subordinate to a narrative agenda of satirical defamiliarization, not attempts to draw social types. Rush’s character, however, figures more as a social deviant against whom others react. While the novel is rightly considered the closest approximation of an Austenite novel of manners,16 we may consider what it means that manners imply the social oddball. The character appears three times in the novel, the first time as a petty-bourgeois intruder into the sphere of the Philadelphia bourgeoisie; as he retreats, he remarks on his own sense of alienation and oddity. In his second appearance, he answers bourgeois 15

Rebecca Rush, Kelroy: A Novel, ed. Dana D. Nelson (New York: Oxford, 1992), I give page numbers parenthetically. 16 Kathryn Zabelle Derounian, “Lost in the Crowd: Rebecca Rush’s Kelroy,” American Transcendental Quarterly 47-48 (1980), 117-26.

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hostility with a counter-critique, mockingly describing his “awe of great people” (61, emphasis in the original). By his third and final appearance, he is more or less integrated into the social circle (where he is at last serving as a medical professional)–in short, he shifts from being a deviation from character to becoming a type of character. Revealingly, this final scene also features the doctor describing a momentary religious fervor,17 thereby calling attention to another and very much related index of shifting character, the emergence of the religious denomination. Traceable in the almost exponentially increasing references to Methodists during this period of evangelical expansion, religion shifts from being a marker of hegemonic identity (as it is in most of the New England novels of the 1790s) to being a self-designation (a “denomination” signaling the choice of one’s community). To better describe this shift in what we indiscriminately call “characters,” we may turn to Amélie Oksenberg Rorty’s distinction between “figures” and “persons” (1976, 302-11).18 “Figures” are exemplary idealizations, whether cautionary or heroic, as in the early US readings of Plutarch’s Lives. They differ from the earlier “characters” in having an interiorized sense of themselves: they discover what they are (because of ancestry or tradition) and act accordingly. In the novels of the 1790s, “figures” discover their affinity to Young Werther and put bullets in their heads, or they turn their experiences of persecution into circumstances for a life of Christian suffering. “Persons” appear as this sense of one’s role becomes 17

“[A]bout a month ago I felt in such an excellent humour for the business, that not knowing how long it might last, I thought the best way was to strike while the iron was hot, and so took the grand rounds, and went to half a dozen [churches] in one day. –The first place that I got to, had but eleven people in it–I counted to be certain–and thinking there was not much good to be had there, I marched off to another, where the folks were so thick they were standing upon one another’s heads; so thinks I, there must be something more than common going on here; so I wedged myself in among ‘em, and heard a grand discourse, setting forth that when mortals pursue riches, and worldly prosperity, however discreet their plans may be, a thousand unforeseen accidents can frustrate them; but in the pursuits of religion and virtue no such obstacles arise; for a man’s success there depends upon himself, and if his efforts are sincere, they are sure to accomplish the desired end at last. –It fairly electrified me!–I felt every word the parson said down to the end of my little toe!” (148). 18 Here I draw on my essay “Trends and Patterns in the US Novel, 1800-1820,” The Oxford Handbook of the Novel in English, Vol. 5, eds. J. Gerald Kennedy and Leland S. Person (New York: Oxford UP, 2014), 73-88. Rorty’s provocative essay, “Characters, Persons, Selves, Individuals,” appears in Mind in Action: Essays in the Philosophy of Mind (Boston: Beacon, 1988), 78-98.


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increasingly a matter of differentiated choice: the person chooses roles and is judged by those choices. A reader encountering a literary person considers her as a moral, legal actor with responsibilities and liabilities; intention and self-understanding displace social role and habit as foci for judgment. The “figure” does not have identity crises; the “person” does. The figure is, as one character is described in Isaac Mitchell’s The Asylum (1811), “an heterogeneous compound of right and wrong, honour and dishonesty, candour and hypocrisy.”19 In Rorty’s account, “persons” appear alongside legal thinking, and we might note the proliferation of legal frameworks at this moment, whether in the legally-obsessed volumes of Modern Chivalry (esp. the 1804-5 and 1815 installments), Caroline Matilda Warren Thayer’s The Gamesters, or Ruins of Innocence (1805), or Watterston’s The Lawyer; or Man as He Ought Not to Be (1808), which last uses the figure of the lawyer to accentuate the institutional catalysts of one’s immoral choices. This changing sense of character of course corresponds to the changing sense of the Revolution and, more so, the changing sense of Europe that emerged leading up to the War of 1812, such that character signaled choices and assessments rather than moral types. What I have wanted to stress here were changes expressed in the novel that allowed for a very different experience of military-political conflict itself. While the conflict may have had clearly partisan dimensions, I would suggest that the opposition was not that between a Democratic and a Federalist experience of the war, but between a hegemonic and oppositional experience. If there was a Federalist experience that identified itself as a challenge, even inspiring a secession movement, by the later 1810s it was reduced to critique of the Democrats as a collection of “persons”: such is the lesson of The Yankee Traveller, which essentially responds to Democratic hegemony by imagining a world full of radical types. We should appreciate the distance traveled from the 1790s, from the confident hegemony of Hitchcock’s The Farmer’s Friend to the sense, in the late 1810s, that the nation is essentially Democratic, as confirmed by the recent war. The great difference between the novel and poetry at this moment lies in the halting manner in which the former struggled to address the war and the ease with which the latter did. Given the expansion of publication of poetry alongside the steady persistence of the novel, one is tempted to think the patriotic boom and a poetic war economy may have even augmented attitudes toward poetry, anticipating the tremendous popularity 19

I. Mitchell, The Asylum; or Alonzo and Melissa, An American Tale, Founded on Fact (Poughkeepsie: Joseph Nelson, 1811), 1:163.

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of sentimental and lyric poetry in the late antebellum moment. But here I would like to move away from a discussion of content to think about the larger contours of poetic production, sketched here in terms of the trajectories marked by seven careers. If these careers are somehow typical of the pressures on writers of the 1810s, we may begin to see the shifting contours of the literary sphere. We have already seen that Samuel Woodworth produced the only veritable war novel of the moment, an odd detail that renders him an ideal starting point for a consideration of poetry. Woodworth was a New Englander–born in Massachusetts in 1785 and apprenticed to a Boston printer at the age of sixteen–with some itinerant experience in Baltimore and New York. From 1812 to 1814, Woodworth had published a weekly newspaper chronicle simply called “The War.” Two years after The Champions of Freedom appeared, he published the poems he had written in the preceding decade, including a series of love poems; a longish poem about Quarter-Day (May 1), when rents and leases were ratified in New York City; a number of religious and occasional family poems; and a series of patriotic songs and odes, which included eight poems about specific naval victories (“Victory #1, Constitution and Guerriere”; “Victory #2, Wasp and Frolic”; “Victory #3, United States and Macedonia”; and so on). What we see, in Woodworth’s career, is that the war opened up commercial opportunities for the intellectual with strong ties to publishing, and Woodworth attempted ventures in both fiction and poetry. If he demonstrated a generic commitment, it was perhaps to poetry: he did not venture another capital-intensive historical novel, but would eventually become best known for the poem “The Old Oaken Bucket”–still popular in the earliest days of sound recordings. The careers of Benjamin Allen, Jr. and Thomas Branagan may illuminate the writer’s career further. Born in 1789 in Hudson, New York, Allen was orphaned in adolescence and thereafter drawn increasingly to Episcopalianism, under whose auspices he received his education and encountered the “Juvenile Debating Society.” Like thousands of his peers, he allegedly first experimented with poetry upon the death of George Washington, and by his teenage years was beginning to argue for the Federalist anti-Jeffersonian position about the potential for war. By 1811, he was pursuing a clerical education, and by 1816 had relocated to Virginia to serve in the Episcopal Church. By his death in 1829, he had relocated to Philadelphia with the reputation as an author of an extensive history of the Reformation, and the founder of missionary associations within the church. But before his clerical career, in his early 20s, he had published six volumes of poetry, starting in 1811, with three separate


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volumes in 1814 alone. One of these, a 74-page poem published in 1812 under the pseudonym “Juba,” was titled “United We Stand: Divided We Fall,” and essentially argued for a moderate position of national unity in an effort to avoid the war. By 1814, however, he published a relatively short (roughly 35 pages) poem celebrating the USS Essex; “The Phoenix; or the Battle of Valparaiso” declared the author’s patriotism in a preface celebrating US naval prowess. Branagan was born a bit earlier, in 1774 in Dublin, and had left home by 1790 to pursue a career as a sailor, only to be drawn into the world of Atlantic slavery: he worked on a slaver along the Gold Coast, then, via passage to Georgia, was briefly an overseer on an Antigua plantation, before ending up in Philadelphia. There he converted to some Protestant denomination and began a remarkable fifteen or so year period publishing essays and poetry, many, like his popular 1805 Avenia, attacking slavery, many celebrating Protestant salvation, and one significant work, in 1807, defending the “female character.” By 1818, he essentially disappears from the scene, though we have a record of his death, at age 69, in Philadelphia some thirty years later. Yet in the midst of his flurry of publications, this low Protestant radical published, in 1817, “The Pride of Britannia Humbled, or the Queen of the Ocean Unqueened.” Both Allen and Branagan belong to what may be the single most important catalyst for publishing in the first two decades of the nineteenth century–the rise of evangelical and/or low Protestant publishing firms and periodicals. Branagan was firmly part of that tradition, with the bulk of his writings in the evangelical mode. Why, then, as an evangelical and abolitionist, did he not oppose a war that strengthened the party of slavery? From his earliest publications, he attempted to combine the Christian identity with that of the US citizen, making those two identities increasingly inseparable. In that respect, his 1817 poem on the war is less contradictory than it seems, especially when we think about the Christian formulation of “the pride of Britannia humbled,” and perhaps suggests that, in terms of propaganda, one might think of the War of 1812 as the first evangelical war. Benjamin Allen confirms this thesis in interesting ways. He was in some respects far from the evangelical movement, a good solid Episcopalian engaged in the solid traditional scholarship of the Reformation. Yet his poetic writing could not help but intersect with the increasing evangelical presence in poetic production. What is all the more remarkable is that this Federalist, who wrote an anti-war poem, was, two years later, writing pro-war poetry. One wonders if this is the sign that evangelical Christianity, which did have a presence–if minimal–in novel

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writing, nonetheless focused its energies on the more comfortable terrain of poetry. Lydia Huntley adds another dimension to this picture. Better known through her married name of Lydia Sigourney (or “Mrs. Sigourney”), she was born in 1790 in Hartford, Connecticut, amidst the Connecticut Wits. Her father was a groundskeeper, her eventual husband a small merchant; she first pursued her writing career with the support of wealthy patrons, and became a professional writer to supplement the family income. She was to become one of the most popular and influential of sentimental poets in the antebellum era, and inaugurated her career with the publication in 1815 of Moral Pieces in Prose and Verse, a collection that included an occasional poem on the December 1811 Richmond theater fire; a poem expressing deep disappointment with the Federalist losses in the 1814 Congressional elections (Democrats picked up five seats in the House, and lost only two seats in the Senate); a poem praising the British for their successful 1812 ultimatum to the Portuguese to end the two and a half century Inquisition in their territory of Goa on the Indian subcontinent; and a very generally anti-war poem about the burning of Washington. I would make two observations about Huntley. First, she exemplifies a very clear pattern of woman writer entering the marketplace. Evidence is not clear about the economic stress that drove her to publish, but the time and place suggest that the tough economy created by Jefferson’s embargo may have been a factor. Like Woodworth in a very different context, she clearly viewed the war as an opportunity to launch her poetry collection and indeed her poetry career, as did Judith Lomax and Margaret Botsford– both pro-Democratic writers. Here we may note another feature of Huntley’s career: as a Federalist, her writing is consistently against the war, and her celebration of the British for their condemnation of the Portuguese Inquisition was an indirect but still clear way of celebrating British morality. One might thus take Huntley as an illustration of the challenges posed by the war, which forced the traditional Federalist mode of Hudibrastic poetry underground. If Allen and Branagan found their politics mutating under the pressure of the war, Huntley was more simply compelled to cautious insinuation. The career of Thomas Green Fessenden shows a similar muting. Fessenden was born in New Hampshire in 1771, graduating from Dartmouth in 1796; through close friendship with Joseph Dennie and many other Federalist writers of the second generation of Connecticut Wits, he pursued a vigorous publishing career, also writing about and investing in the latest scientific innovations. He published several volumes of poetry, including the 1803 long comic poem “Terrible Tractoration”


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and Federalist political poems like “Democracy Unveiled” (1806) and “Pills, Poetical, Political, and Philosophical; prescribed for the Purpose of purging the Public of Peddling Philosophers, Penny Poetasters, of Paltry Politicians and Petty Partisans, by Peter Pepperbox, Poet and Physician” (Philadelphia, 1809); as well as a collection of his shorter works, titled “Original Poems” (in 1806 as well). In 1812, he relocated to Vermont to practice law and to launch a local newspaper–and then he largely sat out the War of 1812, publishing again about patent law and accounting in the later 1810s. In this respect, his career strongly parallels the fate of the Federalist Party while showing its literary effects: a number of other first and second generation Connecticut Wits, active in the first decade of the nineteenth century, also began to opt out of political publication as their old mode of mocking democracy quickly and dramatically lost its efficacy. Is this not an argument for the decline of poetry, rather than an explanation for the boom? I would note that one very real effect of the earlier Federalist tradition was to condemn rivals and drive them from the literary public, so the waning of the harsh Federalist mode may have encouraged more publication. Let me end with two more brief sketches. Francis Scott Key, born in 1779 in Maryland, fairly steadily pursued a career as a lawyer in the Washington area, where, in 1814, he was asked to secure the release of an American physician from a British ship. While pursuing this task, Key witnessed the British bombardment of Baltimore and wrote “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which was published in the Baltimore American in September; a posthumous collection of his poetry, mostly occasional and written for friends, appeared in 1857. He offers a nice illustration of the amateur poet, perhaps at the moment in which the conjunction of publishing and the liberal professions (medicine, law, theology) begins to wane. We might compare him with the nascent figure of the professional artist, exemplified by someone like Washington Allston. Allston is perhaps the most respected of the poets of the 1810s two centuries later, figuring prominently in the Library of America’s two volume American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, edited by John Hollander. Born in 1779 on a South Carolina plantation, he was sent north for his education, where he became interested in painting; he attended Harvard in the late 1790s, then moved to London where he studied painting at the Royal Academy under Henry Fuseli and fellow expat Benjamin West; he painted across Europe–Paris, Switzerland, Rome–where he became known as the “American Titian,” and also befriended Washington Irving (then abroad) and Coleridge. He returned to the US where he wrote most of his famous poem The Sylphs of the Seasons; he returned to England in 1813,

The War of 1812, the US Novel, and Poetry


published Sylphs with praise from Coleridge; and after conversion to Anglicanism returned to the United States in 1818 to become a northeastern culture maven for the remaining 25 years of his life. A second, US edition of Sylphs of the Seasons was published in the middle of the war, with no reference to the war, and it is worth noting that Allston–named after Washington–repeatedly refused offered commissions to work on the artistic ornamentation of new buildings in the District of Columbia. Key and Allston perhaps mark two ends of the literary spectrum–the non-professional dabbling dilettante who, as a good member of the professional class, represented the emerging hegemonic culture of the United States; and the traditionalist who understood “Art” to be the purview of the great European academies clearly transcending petty nationalist squabbles. Key, building a career around the public employment of the new capital district, stands in sharp contrast to the aesthete moving in international art circles, just as his poem, written on the fly and promptly submitted to the local newspaper, stands in contrast to Allston’s transatlantic volume, written to remain above the fray. Thus we may take these last two writers as indices of high and at least middle culture, appreciating the irony that it is Key who is today generally better known than Allston. I do want to end on a slightly different note, though, and recall that Allston’s close friend in Britain was Coleridge, whose Lyrical Ballads, co-written with Wordsworth, had been published in the United States in 1802 and again in 1807. The impact of Lyrical Ballads is evident in the publications of the subsequent decades, most notably in the large, anonymous 1804 volume The Untaught Bard. Allston’s poetry shows few signs of the primarily Wordsworthian influence, admittedly, but it may be more productive to think about Key’s lyrical poem about looking at a flag over the course of an evening as a poem facilitated by the elite tradition represented by Allston, Coleridge, and their circle. In the long view, the 1810s mark the beginning of a number of poetic careers that arguably signal the high point for the democratization of poetry in the United States, whether through a writer like Whitman, through the tremendous popularity of sentimental women poets like Sarah Josepha Hale, or through the remarkable popularity of the so-called Fireside Poets. One might specifically say that the boom surrounding the War actually had long-term consequences for poetry, such that our task, in looking back at this moment, is the assessment of where the poets fit in relation to one another. But the insularity of the war and its tremendous force as both inspiration and muzzle–evoking so much poetic work, but silencing an


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older Federalist tradition–makes it appear as something of an epochal event. Poetry appears to have been easier to pursue as a literary path, the collection functioning like a thematically diversified periodical, if tables of contents are any indication. In such a context, the war poem provided enhanced value, sometimes diverting writers from prose and at others contributing to the compartmentalizing of genres, even as patriotic expressions increasingly became a favored mode of expression. The celebration of war, a partisan proposition at the outset, became almost banal, open to immigrant abolitionists and quasi-Federalist clergy alike. For those to whom the war remained partisan, or even an embarrassing betrayal of cosmopolitanism, political thematics were increasingly muted and rejected. In any event, the Federalist dominance in literary production in the 1790s at last decisively collapsed, as the cultural hegemony of the Democratic-Republicans was affirmed or conceded.


The onset of the nineteenth century was associated with substantial transformations that challenged numerous American Indian groups of the Southeast. Tribes such as the Muskogee (Creeks), Cherokees, Chickasaws, and Choctaws became more integrated into the developing world market economy. Herding and raising cash crops gradually replaced hunting and barter as methods to pursue wealth. Yet not all Southeastern Indians shared equally in the new prosperity. Among the Creeks living in presentday Alabama and Georgia, growing resentment about westward expansion of white settlers and the concomitant loss of tribal hunting grounds fostered the creation of an Anti-American, Nativist political and religious movement. Known as the Red Sticks (named after the red sticks of war), this faction was inspired by Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, known as the Shawnee Prophet. They encouraged American Indian communities from the Ohio Valley to the southern frontier to resist assimilation into Euro-American society and to fight American encroachment onto Indian lands. The Red Stick movement culminated into the Creek War of 1813 to 1814–in the midst of the War of 1812. During the conflict, loyalties divided between town and clan lines. How should we understand the complex relationships between economic change, cultural preservation, Nativist resistance, and military conflict? To address these kinds of research questions, ethnohistorians have recently turned their attention to studies of individual American Indians in


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the Native South.1 This approach, rather than describing vague groups as a whole, examines actual (if lesser known) historical figures and their thoughts and motivations. It reveals more details of the individual that often are lost in synthesis histories. This paper will examine the Creek civil war through the eyes of one such person–William Weatherford, known as Hoponika Fulsahi (the Truth Maker) by the Creek people. Weatherford is a prominent and controversial figure who holds much mystery to both historians and biographers. Like many Creek leaders, Weatherford’s ancestors were French, Scottish, and Creek. Yet unlike many of his kinsmen with mixed ancestry, he not only joined the Red Stick faction but also led them into battle. Over generations, historians have been baffled when trying to explain William Weatherford’s role in Creek history. Why did he support the Red Stick rebellion when it clearly went against his material interests? Why was he a supporter of the Nativist movement that spread among many American Indian tribes? His story exemplifies the growing internal divisions that led to the civil war within the Creek Nation during the War of 1812. This paper will discuss Creek country on the eve of war, and how William Weatherford’s clan ties and ancestral town connections played a key role in his decision to join and lead the Red Sticks. It will also examine how this civil war weakened clan and town unity among the Creek people, especially among the Métis community (those with mixed Creek and European ancestry). On a larger scale, this paper reveals the complexities of American Indian relationships with each other and with the American Republic during the early nineteenth century.2

William Weatherford and the Métis Creeks Like other southeastern tribes, the Muskogee (Creeks) experienced a new world with European colonization of North America. The people that Europeans lumped together as “Creek Indians”–likely named this way because of the numerous streams and rivers near their towns–were indeed very diverse even though they shared a common ancestral past (known as the Mississippian Culture, 1000-1600 C.E.). The Creek people consisted 1

For the most recent studies using this individual approach, see Stephen Hahn, The Life and Times of Mary Musgrove (Tallahassee: University of Florida Press, 2012) and Joshua Piker, The Four Deaths of Acorn Whistler: Telling Stories in Colonial America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013). 2 In order to fully understand and capture Creek perspectives and worldviews, ethnohistorical data–including historical documents, archaeological and anthropological evidence, and oral history–will be used throughout this study.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


of distinct, autonomous communities and/or towns; members referred to themselves and their neighbors as Alabamas, Coushattas, Abhikas, Yuchis, Cowetas, and the like. These groups joined flexible alliances in order to protect their collective interests in trade and diplomacy vis-à-vis European Indian agents in the eighteenth century. The Coushatta leader Alexander McGillivray later formalized this fluid alliance of towns and declared in 1790 that he was the leader of a united Creek Nation. The Creek Nation’s collective alliance led many Europeans in the Southeast to identify Coushattas, Cowetas, Abhikas, etc. as “Creek,” so it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between groups, towns, and clans within them. To complicate matters, British traders in the eighteenth century labeled the Creek towns above the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa Rivers as the “Upper Creeks,” and to those peoples south on the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers as the “Lower Creeks.”3 Despite this sundry collection of town and clan identities, by the late eighteenth century the Creek worldview as a whole had transformed resulting from a century or more of intermarriage and extensive trade with Europeans. In many cases, trade and intermarriage went hand in hand. Members of Creek talwas (towns) often invited Europeans to establish trading posts and forts within their territory in order to obtain valuable and essential trade goods in exchange for deerskins. For example, Weatherford’s ancestors–the Alabamas and Coushattas who were included among the Upper Creek towns–invited the French in 1717 to build Fort Toulouse in the center of their town at the convergence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers near present-day Montgomery, Alabama. Alabama and Coushatta men assisted with the construction of the fort and it became quickly evident to the French that the Alabamas and Coushattas were an integral part of the survival of the fort. Alabama and Coushatta women sold food and other necessities for the garrison–often at exorbitant prices to the chagrin of the French. Moreover, because of the complete lack of European women at the fort, it is no surprise that intimate relationships between French men and Indian women developed. Here is where many of the Creeks became part of the Métis class, often referred to as “mixed bloods.”4


Understanding these differences is important, but for the purposes of this study the term “Creek” will be used throughout to identify these people as a collective group when town affiliation is unknown or when describing general trends of the whole. See introduction of Sheri M. Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West: The Alabama and Coushatta Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008). 4 Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 52-63.


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William Weatherford, Hoponika Fulsahi, was an example of the amalgamation of European and Creek worlds. Born on 28 September 1780, Weatherford was the product of a very interesting family tree. His great-grandfather was Captain François Marchand, the French commander of Fort Toulouse, who had married (formally or not) a prominent Coushatta woman of the influential Wind Clan, Sehoy I, from the Upper Creek Coushatta town of Coosada.5 He and Sehoy I had a daughter, Sehoy II, who married a Scottish trader, Malcolm McPherson. During this marriage, Sehoy II gave birth to Sehoy III, who later married another Scotsman with at least half Southeastern Indian ancestry, Charles Weatherford (William’s father). Interestingly, Sehoy II’s (William’s grandmother) second marriage to Scottish trader Lachlan Laith McGillivray led to the birth of their son, the renowned Alexander McGillivray (William’s maternal uncle).6 Weatherford’s lineage had a mixture of European and Creek-Coushatta ancestry, but Creek society was matrilineal and matrilocal. It is significant that the Creeks traced both clan affiliation and status through the mother’s family instead of the father’s–different from that of European cultures.7 Weatherford and those like him also were raised strictly by their mother’s family. Children belonged exclusively to their mother’s clan and lineage, not to their European father. Weatherford, for example, was raised by his mother’s extended family, in particular his uncle, Alexander McGillivray, 5

There has been much speculation on Sehoy I’s ancestral town. Some have suggested that she came from the Coushatta town of Taskigi, just north of Coosada. Based on historical evidence and ethnohistorical analysis, it seems likely that she was from Coosada, which was the most prominent Coushatta town in the early eighteenth century. Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 30-31. 6 Benjamin W. Griffith, Jr., McIntosh and Weatherford: Creek Indian Leaders (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1988), 3-4; Gregory Waselkov, A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2006), 36-37. 7 European men had to obtain the approval of the woman’s clan, usually by the maternal uncle, before such relationships progressed; a suitor had to prove he was a good hunter, an appropriate provider, and of good character. After the marriage ceremony, whether European or traditional Creek (which was more common), on the first morning after her marriage, the new bride placed beans on the fire to cook her husband’s first meal. The ceremony, known as asaamachi among the Alabama and Coushatta, called for a wife to “forget” about the food by going back to sleep, thereby scorching and ruining her husband’s first meal–an act that surely astonished European men who were more familiar with patriarchy. This practice, which continued through the twentieth century, indicated a husband’s new place in the woman’s household and that the man’s role was subordinate. Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 60.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


who taught him Creek-Coushatta skills, customs, traditions, and discipline.8 It also is important to note that Creek women in particular had influence over their European husbands concerning politics. Traditionally Creek men dominated political life, but women could influence their husbands with anger, tears, ridicule, indifference, and, above all, matrilineal kinship to bridge the gap between the private and political spheres. Women often received the support and even encouragement of female relatives.9 Such female influence, then, must have factored into Creek men’s decisions, including those of William Weatherford on the eve of the Creek War. Marriages between the two cultures and the Métis (mixed) offspring that were the byproduct of such relationships definitely provided political and economic opportunities for both Creeks and Europeans. Each group stood to gain access to lucrative trade based on kinship ties. By the first decade of the nineteenth century, many Creeks from Upper and Lower towns had embraced the growing Southern market economy. The deerskin trade that had dominated the eighteenth century was in decline due to falling prices and overhunting, but the plantation economy quickly replaced it. Many Métis Creeks, who had more connections with European traders and exposure to new modes of living, began to participate in the slave trade and establish plantations for cash crops or livestock farther south near Mobile. Known as the Tensaw region, these towns were located far from the nuclear settlements of Creek talwas (towns) and the social and political commitments associated with them. These Métis Creeks became knowledgeable on current market prices of slaves, trade goods, and livestock. It was one way to replace their previous, deerskin-based livelihood. This economic and social transition of the Métis Creeks, however, had the unforeseen effect of excluding non-Europeanized 8

The husband usually moved to his wife’s town, where her clan resided. Unlike their European counterparts, Creek women had individual autonomy and depended on their clans, not their husbands, for support. Although the relationship between father and son was meaningful, the two were members of different clans and were not each other’s closest male relatives according to the matrilineage. James Adair, The History of the American Indians, Samuel Cole Williams, ed. (London: Charles Dilly, 1775; reprint ed., New York: Argonaut Press, 1966), 6, 147; Benjamin Hawkins, A Sketch of The Creek Country, in the Years 1798 and 1799 (1848; reprint, Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1916), 73; William Bartram on the Southeastern Indians, Gregory Waselkov and Kathryn E. Holland Braund, eds. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995), 58; Interview of Jeff Abbey, July 25, 1938, in Lyda Averill Taylor Papers, Richard Yarborough Collection, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 9 Ibid.


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peoples. More traditional Creek hunters became increasingly indebted to corrupt traders. This inequity among the Creeks caused conflict; there was a growing divide and resentment between those Métis Creeks who had accepted European hegemony and profited from the market economy and those that retained more traditional roles.10 Though such division grew within the Creek Nation, most of the Creeks agreed that American encroachment onto their lands should be stopped.

The Red Stick Movement After the French evacuation of North American settlements in 1764, Creek power diminished drastically. Southeastern tribes had to accept the British and later American presence in the South. To some groups, the Creek alliance was no longer useful, so they broke their ties and migrated west to seek a new home.11 Those that remained witnessed countless encroachments onto their lands by white Americans in the next decades. During this troubling time, Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, travelled to many American Indian towns in the Southeast and spread their message of returning to traditional ways and restoring sovereignty. They condemned tribal leaders who had allowed the sale of large tracts of American Indian land to unscrupulous traders or government agents. Tecumseh instead argued for a return to traditional values that stressed communal ownership of land and the rejection of Western materialism. Tenskwatawa toured the Indian country, encouraging men to stop drinking alcohol (a habit that he eschewed after it nearly killed him), to avoid eating European foods like wheat or raising livestock such as cattle or pigs, and to leave their white spouses and Métis children. The Shawnee brothers gave other American Indians a religious and political message that focused on renewal of Native beliefs and the promise of American Indian power. Their efforts sparked the onset of a pan-Indian movement.12 In many ways, the Creeks were in the proper mindset for Tecumseh’s exhortations. Under the 1790 Treaty of New York, Creek leaders ceded a large portion of their hunting grounds to the United States government; it 10

Claudio Saunt, A New Order of Things: Property, Power, and the Transformation of the Creek Indians, 1733-1816 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 54, 55. 11 Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 111-113. 12 John Sugden, “Early Pan-Indianism: Tecumseh’s Tour of the Indian Country, 1811-1812,” American Indian Quarterly 10 (1986): 283; R. David Edmunds, Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1984), 148-153; Saunt, New Order, 234.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


settled territorial disputes with the state of Georgia in exchange for government annuities that would later be used to pay off Creek debts. Many of the Creeks faced economic hardship from the decision to harden previously amorphous property lines, especially for those that continued to rely on hunting as their livelihood. Moreover, in 1811 a federal road project brought American settlers straight through Creek country, which of course only exacerbated problems associated with European encroachment.13 That same year, Tecumseh travelled to the South attempting to convince other tribes, especially the Creeks, to join him. Interestingly, Tecumseh had kinship ties to the Creek people. His Creek mother, Methoataske (Turtle Laying Its Eggs), was from an Upper Creek town and met her husband, Puckeshinwa, in Creek country where many of the Shawnee sought refuge in the early eighteenth century; Tecumseh’s parents lived there until 1760 when they returned to western Ohio.14 Tecumseh visited his mother’s ancestral territory when he travelled to the Upper Creek town of Tuckaubatchee–where the annual meeting of the Creek national council was held–on September 19, 1811. There he told the Creek people that they could regain all of their territory that was now in the hands of the Americans with the aid of the Northern tribes and the British, from whom he had support. According to George Stiggins (a Tensaw Métis Creek and Weatherford’s brother-in-law), Tecumseh had “convinced them of the overbearing wrongs they had suffered” and “the successful revenge the Indians would have in exterminating the white people for dispossessing them wantonly and


Saunt, New Order, 235-236. According to R.S. Cotterill, both of Tecumseh’s parents were born in the Upper Creek town of Sauwanogee, a Shawnee town on the Tallapoosa River. R.S. Cotterill, The Southern Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954), 167. Another Shawnee village, Chaouanons, was located near Coosada– Weatherford’s maternal town–on the east bank of the Alabama River. Between 1729 and 1750 the Coushattas welcomed Shawnee refugees from the North, approximately one hundred and eighty adult males and an undisclosed number of women and children. It is unknown whether or not Tecumseh’s mother or father had connections with this town, but it is possible given the time frame of their known habitation in Creek country. Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 33; George Stiggins, Creek Indian History: A Historical Narrative of the Genealogy, Traditions and Downfall of the Ispocoga or Creek Indian Tribe of Indians, Virginia Pounds Brown, ed. (Birmingham: Birmingham Public Library Press, 1989), 83, 158, n. 70; R. David Edmunds, Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership, 2nd ed. (New York: Pearson-Longman, 2007), 17; John Sugden, Tecumseh: A Life (New York: Henry Holt, 1997), 13-17. 14


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insatiably of their lands contrary to the order purposed by the Creator.”15 The Creek admired his speech and prophecy, believing that “what he said, he implied, was dictated to him by the Great Spirit.”16 Though there is no reliable record of the actual speech, it must have been effective because he convinced them to join his cause.17 His Creek connections likely aided the Shawnee-Creek alliance. While many Creek leaders refused to support Tecumseh’s cause, young men who were frustrated with Creek acquiescence of American hegemony whole-heartedly supported the movement. American Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins who witnessed Tecumseh’s talk to the Creek people recognized his powerful message and subsequent impact. Hawkins wrote that the Creeks had many disputes with Georgians over land, but they had remained at peace with the whites since the American Revolution. As conflict seemed inevitable between Great Britain and the United States, ultimately developing into the War of 1812, Hawkins observed open Creek hostility towards American settlers. Upon meeting with some Creek insurgents, Hawkins seemed perplexed about why they had “begun the war dance,” made their “war clubs,” and sent “red arrows and war clubs” to other Creek towns to spread the message.18 According to Hawkins, Tecumseh and possibly British agents influenced and encouraged a portion of the Creek Nation–most notably the Upper Creek towns–to attack the Americans. They “took arms, without the slightest provocation, and at first committed great ravages.”19 Hawkins realized regrettably that a war was underway. Those that ultimately joined Tecumseh’s call to war were known as the Red Sticks, referring to their traditional war club, or atássa, used in battle well before contact with Europeans. Lewis Sewall, a government official in what was then Creek country, described the mortal weapon as a redpainted club approximately two feet long; one end was thick with a piece of sharp bone or iron jutting out. In the hands of a skilled Creek warrior 15

Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 83. Ibid., 87. 17 There are many renditions of Tecumseh’s actual speech, but they are not reliable. One includes how he predicted a comet and an earthquake in Creek country representing an angry Great Spirit, which aided Red Stick power and growing support of the cause. Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 84-86; Gregory Evans Dowd, “Thinking outside the Circle: Tecumseh’s 1811 Mission,” in Tohopeka: Rethinking the Creek War and the War of 1812, ed. Kathryn E. Holland Braund (Auburn: Pebble Hill and University of Alabama Press, 2012), 39. 18 Benjamin Hawkins, The Letters, Journals, and Writings of Benjamin Hawkins, ed. C.L. Grant, 2 vols. (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1980), 2: 647, 650. 19 Benjamin Hawkins, The Collected Works of Benjamin Hawkins, 1796-1810, H. Thomas Foster II, ed. (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2003), 15s. 16

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


(also painted red to look even more terrifying), the red club could crush an enemy’s skull in a single blow.20 It was not only deadly, but also symbolic. By using the war club in battle, the Red Sticks’ purpose was to revive their power and ancient customs that seemed to be diminishing as a result of American intrusion and expansion. The Métis Creeks, then, acted as a barrier to achieve these goals; the Red Sticks viewed those that had immersed themselves in European traditions as traitors. It is understandable why many traditional Creeks, who had suffered economically and politically since the last decades of the eighteenth century, would be sympathetic to Tecumseh’s message and create their own nativist movement. Métis Creeks, on the other hand, stood on the opposite end. Those like Weatherford had considerable wealth, namely in livestock and slaves (see above discussion of talwas).21 The Red Stick ideology of eschewing European values, customs, and materialism threatened Métis status and wealth within the Creek Nation, a development that would have clear and deleterious implications for the worldly wealth of Weatherford. Considering this obvious fact, historians have been perplexed for generations regarding William Weatherford’s decision to join and lead the Red Sticks; his motivations are unclear and there are many contradictory historical claims on the subject. A large part of the confusion stems from his Métis background and his elite status in Creek society. Why would such a man risk his wealth, status, and life for a cause that seemed to oppose those like him? If Weatherford’s motivations were ever recorded, they have been lost to history so we can only speculate as to his thoughts and perspectives. Indeed, unlike many Métis Creeks, Weatherford consciously refused to learn to read and write despite the constant prodding from Alexander McGillivray (his maternal uncle); instead Weatherford mastered the spoken English language and French (from another maternal uncle, Le Clerc Milford), and some Spanish.22 This decision in and of itself reveals an important part of the mystery, in that it demonstrates some antipathy to 20

For an interesting analysis on the origin and use of the “Red Sticks,” see Kathryn E. Holland Braund, “Red Sticks,” in Tohopeka, 84-104; Lewis Sewall, The Miscellaneous Poems of Lewis Sewall, Esq., Containing the Last Campaign of Col. J. Caller–Alias Sir John Falstaff the Second–Alias the Hero of the Burnt Corn Battle; The Birth, Progress, and Probable End of G. F. Mynheer Van Slaverchap 's Grandson–Alias Doctor Furnace; The Battle for the Cow and Calf; The Canoe Fight; And Other Miscellaneous Matters (Mobile, 1833), 27; Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 64. 21 Craig T. Sheldon, Jr., “Archaeology, Geography, and the Creek War in Alabama,” in Tohopeka, 208. 22 Griffith, McIntosh and Weatherford, 11, 94.


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European perceptions of literacy, power, and communication. Despite gaps in the historical record, ethnohistorical analysis can shed some light on this issue. Records indicate that Weatherford identified with his mother’s clan and her relatives in the Upper Creek town of Coosada–not the Métis Creeks. We know that he was raised and remained with his family in the Upper Creek country in or near his mother’s town of Coosada instead of the Tensaw region near the Mobile River, where many of the Métis Creeks lived; only after the Creek War following the destruction of his town did Weatherford move farther south.23 Coosada was a known center for nativist sentiment. A group from Coosada had travelled north to meet directly with Tenskwatawa in 1812 and stayed long enough to “absorb the prophet’s notions of the white man’s oppressive and domineering encroachments on Indian rights.”24 The Coosada headman, Captain Sam Isaacs (who was married to Alexander McGillivray’s daughter), despised the rejection of Native ways by the Métis Creeks, who mostly opposed the Red Sticks and later remained loyal to the Americans.25 According to accounts, Isaacs became one of the leading prophets who would “petrify anyone who opposed or thwarted him.”26 Captain Isaacs told his followers that he had the ability to speak to the Master of Breath and dive to the bottom of the river and stay for days underneath, taking instruction from an all-knowing serpent (possibly the ambivalent Horned Serpent, or Snake-Crawfish who ruled the Lower World in Creek cosmology), who spoke of the unknown and revealed the future to his followers.27 Many men and women from Coosada and other Upper Creek towns believed his teachings and spread the word. Weatherford’s continued residence among his Coushatta kinspeople undoubtedly encouraged his rejection of European values, especially as Coosada-led efforts to gather Red Stick support among other Upper Creek towns increased. We also must understand Weatherford’s connection to his mother’s people, members of the esteemed Sehoy lineage and influential Wind clan 23

This later move to the Little River region near Mobile has confused historians in the past, overlooking the fact that before the war he remained near Coosada. Waselkov, Fort Mims, 93. 24 Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 83. 25 Grant, ed., Hawkins Papers, 612-613, 617. 26 Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 88. 27 The Creek and Coushatta conceived their universe as having a Lower, Middle, and Upper World; each had beings and creatures that dwelled there. The Horned Serpent was the equivalent of the Life Giver of the Upper World. Both were impersonal forces that were neither good nor evil. Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 56; Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 87-88.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


that supported the Red Sticks. Josiah Francis (Hillis Hadjo, or CrazyBrave Medicine) was one of the leading Red Stick warriors from the Wind clan and was known as the Alabama Prophet; Francis’ grandmother was Sehoy I (Weatherford’s great-grandmother). While the historical record for Francis is very murky, it is likely that he influenced Weatherford on a spiritual level. According to reports from Alexander Cornells, a Métis Creek who assisted Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins, prophets like Josiah Francis were attacking the “civilization plan” by advocating “the wild Indian mode of living.”28 Hawkins later reported in July 1813 that there was a “sudden explosion of this Fanaticism.” He was concerned that “its boasted magic powers deter them [the Creeks] from obeying the calls of their Chiefs.”29 Weatherford’s upbringing was strictly traditional in that he had no formal education in the Western sense and relied on his mother’s clan for guidance and instruction, especially on religious matters. Weatherford also likely received encouragement from his third wife, Supalamy Moniac, who intensely supported the Red Sticks. Creek society was matrifocal, so it was acceptable and expected for a wife to sway her husband’s viewpoints based on her own beliefs. Few records exist regarding her opinions, but evidence suggests that she and her father, John Moniac, accepted Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa’s spiritual message of renewal and followed the teachings of Josiah Francis, the Alabama Prophet. According to his relative J.D. Dreisbach, Weatherford had been intensely connected to Native spirituality, even towards the end of his life.30 In the wake of the Red Stick rebellion, Weatherford had a weighty decision–one that had dangerous repercussions–and there is evidence suggesting that he was hesitant. One of William Weatherford’s descendants, J.D. Dreisbach, wrote an account of the events between Weatherford and Tecumseh in 1811 in the square ground of Tuckaubatchee. In it he suggests that Weatherford was cautious about taking sides. According to oral history, Weatherford tried to convince his kinsmen that the Creeks 28 Cornells to Hawkins, 22 June 1813, American State Papers, Indian Affairs, 38 Vols. (Washington, D.C.: Gale and Seaton, 1832-1861), 1: 845-46. 29 Grant, ed., Hawkins Papers, 2: 605. 30 Dreisbach related one memory that while on a hunting trip in 1824, Weatherford spotted a white deer that had been killed. He was deeply moved and went home, where he told his family that a member of the hunting party would soon hunt in the spirit land of his ancestors; the next day Weatherford died. This story demonstrates that despite the defeat of the Red Sticks and his later acquiescence of the American presence in Alabama, Weatherford kept the traditional religious beliefs of his mother’s clan. Waselkov, Fort Mims, 94.


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needed to remain neutral. He believed that both the Americans and British were their enemies and spoke with “a forked tongue.” And as much as he wanted to drive the white man from all Indian lands, Weatherford believed that the Americans were too powerful and would likely conquer again. He was firm in his position that to join either the British or the Americans would lead to his people’s destruction.31 The Wind Clan had benefitted from a policy of neutrality in the recent past, and this may have helped motivate his calls for moderation. In the 1750s, many Upper Creek towns remained neutral during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), and avoided conflict and devastation that afflicted other groups. Upper Creek towns, in particular those associated with Weatherford’s Coushatta kinsmen, were generally able to avoid the majority of the fighting. A minor exception to this general policy was that they participated in a few war parties and skirmishes aiding the French garrison, with which they had kinship ties. Moreover, his renowned maternal uncle (also from the Wind Clan), Alexander McGillivray, was famous for his strategies of playing off imperial powers, including the Spanish, British, and Americans in order to benefit the Creek Nation and his own interests.32 There can be little doubt that Weatherford knew of these past strategies from his exposure to McGillivray. It would appear that on the eve of war in 1811, Weatherford was concerned that this time he and others would be destroyed if partisanship prevailed; the prudent path would be to take a page from the past and opt for diplomacy and nonalignment. Before the Creek War commenced in 1813, each town followed a traditional process. According to tradition, Creek leaders brought together “every man, woman, and child belonging to the nation to their respective town and relatives, whether far or near.”33 After all of their kin people assembled, they were “ready to commence hostilities on the enemy.”34 It is important to note that based on this custom, William Weatherford would have been called back to his ancestral town even though he lived just outside it. At this point he may have decided to join his mother’s people and the Red Stick cause; clan and town connections were probably influential. Weatherford risked his elite status and wealth even by appearing sympathetic to the rebels. Yet even more was at stake when he ultimately joined the Red Sticks against the Americans in the midst of the 31

J.D. Dreisbach to Lyman Draper, 7-8 July 1874, reprinted in Waselkov, Fort Mims, 301, n.49. 32 See Saunt, New Order, for a detailed discussion of McGillivray. 33 Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 75. 34 Ibid.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


War of 1812, as well as his controversial decision to lead a bloody attack on an American settlement at Fort Mims.

Clan Law and Reprisal at Fort Mims Despite British and Spanish interest in seeing Southeastern tribes battle against their American neighbors, European communication with the Red Sticks was sluggish, and the British were initially unwilling to commit funds when they had to consider the campaigns to the North. In one case it took the British eight months to respond to the Creek request for weapons; the Red Sticks were at a true disadvantage because of their lack of firearms.35 Against these odds, on 30 August 1813 at around 11:00 in the morning, Weatherford and seven hundred Red Sticks–armed with redpainted war clubs, knives, and muskets–attacked Fort Mims. The fort was attached to one of the largest plantations in the area (at least ten buildings on the property) owned by Samuel Mims. There were approximately five hundred people that resided within the fort’s stockade, including twenty Métis Creek and white families (with fifty or more children), one hundred of their slaves, and the rest, Tensaw militiamen and Mississippi Territorial Volunteers. Hopoie Tastanagi (Far-off Warrior), who was the principal leader of the war party, gave the signal to begin the attack on the unsuspecting militiamen.36 The Red Sticks began the assault on the outer defenses of the fort, which were incomplete due to a sand drift on the east side as well as some other exposed entrances. Although the first ring of palisades was easily breached, the central part of the fort was well defended. Despite the fact that four Red Stick leaders had been granted magical invincibility from bullets by Alabama prophet Paddy Walsh, they were immediately killed by American gunfire. A melee began and the Red Sticks killed at least half of the Mississippi Volunteers between the fort’s inner and outer gates. Owing to the fort’s faulty design, the Red Sticks fired their weapons from three sides of the fort’s walls, which should have only been accessible to defenders; one hundred militiamen and two hundred and fifty civilians struggled to find safety. Even though Paddy Walsh had thought that the Red Sticks would only suffer light casualties, the heavy initial losses did not discourage him. As the battle continued, Walsh ran around the perimeter of the fort, believing that if he did it three times, bullets would 35

Frank Lawrence Owsley, Jr., Struggle for the Gulf Borderlands: The Creek War and the Battle of New Orleans, 1812-1815 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1981), 28-29. 36 Waselkov, Fort Mims, 116.


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either stop or fly straight up into the sky. On his third lap a militiaman wounded him, but he yelled at his men to take the fort; the besieged Métis Creeks called back at him in the Muskogean language, daring him to come and try.37 Even though the Red Sticks had penetrated the outer walls, they suffered many casualties and the militia held its ground. After three hours of fighting, the Red Sticks understandably withdrew to reassess their situation. Weatherford argued that they should retreat, knowing that they had inflicted great damage but that they too had suffered more casualties than expected. The Red Sticks, however, rejected Weatherford’s suggestion and repeated their assault on the settlement. Weatherford, however, decided to leave the fort and travelled north to the plantation of David Tate (his half-brother), where he told the slaves to hide from the Red Stick war parties. According to later accounts, he refused to stay at the fort because he knew great bloodshed would follow. As he foresaw, the massacre of civilians that resulted from the renewed, eventually successful Red Stick assault was horrific. Based on archaeological evidence and first-hand accounts, approximately two hundred and fortyseven American and Métis Creek men, women, and children died. After the destruction of Fort Mims, the remaining Red Sticks killed livestock, burned surrounding buildings, and looted nearby properties.38 If we can trust the sources noting Weatherford’s reluctance, the question that remains is why did he hesitate and why did the Red Sticks proceed with a violent massacre? There is good reason to believe that Weatherford was reluctant to kill those inside Fort Mims. First, some of them were his fellow Métis Creek kin, mostly through marriage connections. Second, as a leader of the Creek people, he fully understood the ramifications of such a bloodbath; Americans would seek retribution in the not too distant future. So, historians have tried to understand why he failed to stop such a violent attack on men, women, and children. Here ethnohistorical analysis proves useful. When considering the Creek talwas (or towns) and the role of tastanagis (head warriors), these men, or the mikos (or chiefs) lacked dictatorial control over the townspeople. Instead, talwa leaders offered their best advice and sometimes even led warriors into battle.39 The men involved in the Fort Mims massacre were 37

Stiggins, Historical Narration, 62-64. Thomas S. Woodward, Woodward’s Reminiscences of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, Contained in Letters to Friends in Georgia and Alabama (Montgomery: Barrett and Wimbish, 1859), 80-81; Waselkov, Fort Mims, 132. 39 James Adair, The History of the American Indians, ed. Samuel Cole Williams (1775; reprint, New York: Argonaut Press, 1966), 6. 38

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


emboldened by Tecumseh and the Prophet’s messages; Americans were perceived as the true enemy and were viewed as responsible for the murder of Creek lives earlier in 1813. It is important to understand clan law in order to fully grasp the Creek worldview and the Red Sticks’ actions. The Métis group inside Fort Mims included Dixon Bailey and his contingent of thirty warriors. About one month earlier, Bailey and his Creek allies had led one hundred and fifty white militiamen into Creek country and attacked an unsuspecting Red Stick encampment around mid-day during their meal on 27 July 1813 at Burnt Corn Creek. The assault was a reaction to rumors about a Red Stick strategy to gain valuable supplies and ammunition from the Spanish in Pensacola, Florida, in preparation for a larger assault in the region. The combined American and Métis Creek force fought for three hours and killed between twelve to twenty Red Sticks, including a Creek woman, but lost only two of their own. The battle was short and relatively insignificant considering the small amount of deaths on both sides, yet it had a lasting impact on the Red Sticks.40 They believed that the Métis Creeks had betrayed their own people by assisting the white militia that by some accounts also mutilated the slain Red Sticks.41 It is no coincidence, then, that many of the Métis Creeks involved in Burnt Corn Creek, namely Dixon Bailey, were also inside Fort Mims, and that at least some of the Red Stick ferocity was related to the earlier betrayal at Burnt Corn Creek. This activity is entirely consistent with the tenets of clan retribution (sometimes referred to as blood law) in that immediate action needed to be taken in order to redress previous infractions. Clan retaliation or revenge of a member’s death–whether accidental or not–was a long-standing social institution inherited from the Creek’s Mississippian ancestors. Clan members in these circumstances would seek out the offenders. Based on ancient customs that existed before European contact, upon their capture clan members would tie the prisoners to a pole and would encourage them to sing a war song while being tortured. After the prisoners expired, clan members would remove the scalps and cut them into pieces. Then they would tie the pieces to pine twigs and lay them atop the roof of the house of the murdered person, whose blood they had avenged. They believed this act appeased their clan member’s soul. Kinsmen would then celebrate for three days and three 40

Stiggings, Historical Narrative, 56; Pickett, History of Alabama, 2:256-62. Woodward notes that according to Red Stick descendants, another reason for the violence at Fort Mims was due to atrocities committed by the militiamen at Burnt Creek, including skinning Red Stick bodies to make horse bridles and taking scrotum sacks to make tobacco pouches. See Woodward, Reminiscences, 35-36. 41


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nights. Another Creek tradition in the eighteenth century against nonCreek enemies or traitors of the talwas (towns) was death by burning.42 If one considers these traditions, such clan retaliation against those at Burnt Corn Creek was necessary. In particular, the leadership of the Métis Creek, Dixon Bailey, required punishment. U.S. Indian agent Benjamin Hawkins noted rumors had spread shortly after the Battle of Burnt Creek that the Red Sticks sought to take revenge on the Métis Creeks involved. George Stiggins later confirmed this belief when he stated that the Red Sticks’ aim was to destroy the fort because “they knew that there was a great many men in there that they had devoted to destruction to revenge the burnt corn fight.”43 Not only did the Red Sticks burn the fort to the ground (along with many inside), but they also cut up the scalps of their enemies into over two hundred pieces.44 According to Creek customs, this act would have appeased their fallen brethren. The Red Sticks’ actions against those inside Fort Mims, while brutal, were in accordance to their beliefs and traditions. Those at Fort Mims had sided with the Americans–against their Creek brethren–and they would pay with their lives. Based on the teachings of Tecumseh and the Alabama prophets, returning to the traditions that Americans had tried to eradicate was critical if they wanted to restore American Indian sovereignty. Moreover, it was important to remove permanently the Americans and those who supported them from Creek lands in order to reverse the imbalance in their world.

The Fate of Weatherford and the Creek Nation After the battle at Fort Mims, Americans and many Métis Creeks vilified the Red Sticks as reckless murderers. Americans sought their own retribution; they burned Upper Creek towns and villages with a vengeance. Less than four months after the Fort Mims massacre, Weatherford and his men faced a terrible defeat at Holy Ground, a sacred space that Josiah Francis (Weatherford’s kinsman) had blessed, “a spot made sacred by the Great Spirit and consecrated solely for the Indians.”45 According to Francis, the town “was never to be sullied by the footsteps of the white man” and a “destructive barrier circled all around it, which a white man


Interview of Jeff Abbey, 8 July 1938, in Taylor Papers; Adair, Adair’s History, 417; Shuck-Hall, Journey to the West, 125-128; Waselkov, Fort Mims, 316 n35. 43 Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 59; Hawkins, Letters, 668. 44 Waselkov, Fort Mims, 147. 45 Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 116.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


could not pass alive.”46 But after the magical barrier failed, Francis and his party fled, leaving Weatherford and thirty men to unsuccessfully defend the town. It was at this battle that Weatherford made his legendary leap from a high bluff down to the water while on horseback, ensuring his escape.47 Shortly after, General Ferdinand Claiborne and his Mississippi militia destroyed Holy Ground on 23 December 1813. Weatherford’s own plantation near Coosada was burned a day later on 24 December.48 The Red Sticks’ final stand took place at Tohopeka (located about thirty miles northwest of present-day Auburn, Alabama), a refugee town where over one thousand men and their women and children resided. In the Battle of Horseshoe Bend that followed on 27 March 1814, Menawa, an Upper Creek leader from Okfuskee, mobilized the Red Sticks to fight General Andrew Jackson (future U.S. president) and over three thousand Tennessee militia and allied Cherokees and Creeks. The combined American force cut them down. With notable humility, Andrew Jackson occupied the former grounds of French Fort Toulouse and renamed it Fort Jackson. In April 1814, Colonel John H. Gibson of Jackson’s army burned to the ground Weatherford’s ancestral town of Coosada.49 At the end of that month, William Weatherford, the Truth Maker, boldly walked into Jackson’s camp and surrendered himself and his men and, according to Albert James Pickett, he gave the following speech: General Jackson, I am not afraid of you. I fear no man, for I am a Creek warrior. I have nothing to request in behalf of myself; you can kill me if you desire. But I come to beg you to send for the women and children of the war party, who are now starving in the woods. Their fields and cribs have been destroyed by your people, who have driven them to the woods without an ear of corn…. I exerted myself in vain to prevent the massacre of the women and children at Fort Mims. I am now done fighting. The Red Sticks are nearly all killed. If I could fight you any longer, I would most


Ibid. For a vivid description of Weatherford’s escape, see Stiggins, Historical Narrative, 119-120. 48 For an excellent chart and map detailing the destruction of Creek settlements after the massacre at Fort Mims, see Waselkov, Fort Mims, 172-173; Owsley, Struggle for the Gulf, 45-47. 49 Peter J. Hamilton and Thomas McAdory Owen, eds., “Topographical Notes and Observations on the Alabama River, August 1814 by Major Howell Tatum,” in Transactions of the Alabama Historical Society, vol. 2 (Tuscaloosa: Alabama Historical Society, 1897-1898), 2:134. 47


Chapter Three heartily do so. Send for the women and children. They never did you any harm. But kill me, if the white people want it done.50

It is widely known that Weatherford was well versed in the spoken English language, so it is plausible that he gave this speech if Pickett’s rendition is accurate. In this delivery Weatherford’s surrender is not only confrontational but also demonstrates his unexpected strength and resolution in the face of military defeat. Weatherford clearly knew that the fight was over after so many of the Red Sticks perished at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. He focused instead on saving those who had survived the civil war, namely women and children. Interestingly, in this speech he eschews any blame for the Fort Mims massacre–a keen tactic to disassociate his leadership with events occurring there. According to eyewitness accounts, Weatherford fully expected to be executed for his role in the attack on Fort Mims and his other actions against the American troops, but Jackson spared his life. Some historians have suggested that Jackson (who also had Scottish ancestry) pardoned him because he respected Weatherford’s honor and character; he was a defeated, but proud, leader.51 The events after Weatherford’s surrender to Jackson are not easily understood. It is unclear where he traveled after that point, but records indicate that he no longer fought with the last Red Sticks. Instead, Weatherford attempted to persuade them to lay down their weapons and surrender. Other uncorroborated accounts from many of his unreliable biographers suggested that he befriended Jackson and even stayed with him at the Hermitage, the General’s home in Tennessee (which is entirely unlikely). What we do know is that Weatherford assisted American troops in finding the remaining Red Stick warriors and convincing them to surrender, including Coosada King, miko (chief) of Coosada.52

50 Albert James Pickett, History of Alabama (1851 reprint; Birmingham, Alabama: Birmingham Book and Magazine Company, 1962), 594. 51 John Spencer Bassett, ed. Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, 2 Vols. (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1926), 2:24-25; Thomas S. Woodward, Woodward’s Reminiscences of the Creek, or Muscogee Indians, Contained in Letters to Friends in Georgia and Alabama (Montgomery, Alabama: Barrett & Wimbish, 1859), 93; Waselkov, Fort Mims, 173. 52 For unreliable accounts of Weatherford’s relationship with Jackson, see Alexander Beaufort Meek, Romantic Passages in Southwestern History, 4th ed. (New York: S.H. Goetzel, 1857), 287-89 and George Cary Eggleston, Red Eagle and the Wars with the Creek Indians in Alabama (New York: Dodd and Mead, 1878), 342. Waselkov, Fort Mims, 174.

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


These actions have baffled historians for generations. Why would he turn against the cause that he supported and fight the same people to whom he had earlier committed himself? Unfortunately historians do not have any concrete or reliable evidence to answer this question. However, we can speculate that after Weatherford’s surrender, he began to consider how he and his clan needed to preserve sovereignty in face of the Red Stick defeat. He likely understood that Americans had committed to westward expansion, which would eventually cost Southeastern tribes virtually all of their territory. If he aided the Americans in the last stages of the Creek War, he stood to gain favor with diplomats and potentially erase his role as a Red Stick leader. As the war abated in the summer of 1814, Weatherford largely disappeared from public life and established a large plantation supported by three hundred slaves in southern Alabama, where other Métis Creeks embraced what historian Claudio Saunt refers to as “the new order.”53 For most of the Creek people, however, their old world was shattered; the devastation of the Creek War rippled throughout society. The civil war tore apart families and clans, and towns that had existed for generations were burned to the ground after the American victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. The Creek War finally ended on 9 August 1814 with the Treaty of Fort Jackson. The U.S. government forced Creek representatives to cede twenty-three million acres of their lands in what was then considered Mississippi Territory, which included most of present-day central and south Alabama and parts of southern Georgia. Interestingly, the Treaty of Ghent that was signed four months later on 24 December 1814 to end the war between Great Britain and the United States included a provision in Article IX that reversed the Treaty of Fort Jackson. Article IX restored lands claimed by Indian nations allied to the British during the war. Jackson and his supporters, however, ignored this stipulation and the land cessions under the Treaty of Fort Jackson remained intact. Thus, Upper Creek towns, largely destroyed during the end of the war, were in fact rebuilt in locations to the east of the Coosa River. The Treaty of Fort Jackson would ultimately allow white Americans to settle on the prime, fertile lands that the Creeks had inhabited for generations. And this trend continued.54 Before the Creek War, the majority of the Muskogee Creek people had lived in relative peace with whites and it seemed that gradual assimilation into white society seemed possible, especially for the Métis population. It 53

Saunt, New Order, 277. Treaty of Fort Jackson and the Treaty of Ghent, Proquest Congressional Digital Archives.



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has even been suggested that if not for the destruction of Fort Mims and the subsequent deaths of white men and women at the hands of the Red Sticks, Indian removal may not have been as immediate.55 But in any event, Creek land would have proved desirable to white Americans who migrated west in search of their own material wealth. Perhaps more important than their possible role as an accelerant to removal, the Red Sticks’ actions at Fort Mims and the leadership of Weatherford throughout the war had a lasting impact on Americans’ attitudes towards the Creek people (whether involved or not) and the Southeastern tribes as a whole. Surprisingly, Weatherford and his clan fared better than most. After his surrender to Jackson, his kinsmen reinforced his efforts to dissociate himself from the Red Stick movement, especially his involvement with the Fort Mims massacre. He became known as the “Red Eagle,” a “civilized” Métis Creek who had been momentarily led astray. Poems were written about him and he became a legendary figure. Historians later portrayed him in the same light as Robert E. Lee, who, like Weatherford, never wanted to go to war but felt compelled to fight alongside his fellow Southerners. The importance of Weatherford’s role at Fort Mims was deemphasized, and he became part of American Indian mythology.56 After Andrew Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act of 1830, independent Southeastern tribes were no longer able to remain east of the Mississippi River. For the Creeks, including Upper and Lower towns, the Treaty of 1832 led to their removal to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma, in which they lost their ancestral homelands and countless lives of men, women, and children during the long process of emigration. As removal began, eleven prominent Métis Creek family members appealed to the federal government to remain in Alabama because of their assistance with the Federal Road project. The Weatherfords, Stiggins, Durants (all relatives of William Weatherford) and others received approval from the government and remained on their lands in southern Alabama. In 1984 the United States established the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation near Atmore, Alabama. Today, they are the only federally recognized tribe that remains in Alabama.57 55

Owsley, Struggle for the Gulf, 41. See Alexander Beauford Meek, The Red Eagle: A Poem of the South (1855; reprint, Montgomery, Alabama: Paragon Press, 1914); Eggleston, Red Eagle; and Stiggins, Historical Narrative. 57 For the history of the Poarch Creeks, see Anthony J. Paredes, “Back from Disappearance: The Alabama Creek Indian Community,” in Southeastern Indians since the Removal Era, ed. Walter L. Williams (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1979), 123-141. 56

William Weatherford, Red Stick Nativism, and the Creek War


Yet the people who fought in the Creek War who were later removed to present-day Oklahoma also survived. According to Creek historian Ted Isham, the Muskogee Creek people continue to maintain at least fifteen tribal towns out of the eighty that were original to their homeland.58 When the Creek War ended, they united and rebuilt their sacred towns first in Alabama and then eventually again in Oklahoma. The fact that their identity remained intact despite facing these countless hardships is a testament to the Muskogee Creeks’ ability to endure as a people.

58 Ted Isham, “Afterword: The Western Muscogee (Creek) Perspective,” in Tohopeka, 248.


The Americans as a people remind me of a bad pie. The crust may be generous, but inside, rapacity and greed are painfully predominant.1

Je commence par une citation vieille de cent quarante ans mais qui résonne encore de nos jours alors que l’ultralibéralisme a le vent dans les voiles. Toutefois. cette citation reflète la vision de la « démocratie » américaine qui a été transmise à des générations de Canadiens anglophones entre 1776 et 1967 pour mieux faire valoir la démocratie parlementaire britannique garantie par la royauté (encore un sujet d’actualité !). Faute d’une révolution aboutie – les rébellions de 1837-1838 se situent dans un mouvement révolutionnaire libéral du monde atlantique mais ont échoué – c’est la résistance contre les visées impérialistes d’une république qui a fortement contribué à forger l’identité canadienneanglaise. D’abord, par le fait d’avoir sacrifié ses biens pour rester fidèle au Roi en 1783 et, ensuite, d’avoir donné son sang pour préserver le lien impérial entre 1812 et 1814. L’identité canadienne-française – et ensuite québécoise – a longtemps été un thème majeur de l’historiographie du Canada mais il a fallu attendre un engouement pour l’histoire culturelle avant qu’on s’intéresse à celle du « Canada anglais » (Igartua 2006). C’est que le « Canada anglais » est souvent perçu comme une culture normative supérieure contre laquelle on évalue les autres composantes du Canada multiculturel : les autochtones, les Canadiens français et les immigrants (Coleman 2006). La guerre de 1812 contribue fortement à la construction de cette culture normative marquée par la loyauté, le sens de l’entreprise, la discipline, l’énergie, la 1

The Canadian Magazine, 1, 1 (July 1871), 64.

La guerre de 1812 et la construction du “Canada anglais”


persévérance et l’intelligence (Igartua 2008, 106). C’est en effet une période féconde en événements pouvant asseoir des mythes et permettre la construction d’une identité. Si les Etats-uniens considèrent que la Guerre de 1812 est leur seconde guerre d’indépendance (Lossing 1869 ; Macdonell 1893, 161), leurs voisins du nord, surtout ceux d’origine des îles britanniques, considèrent que ce conflit a entériné leur indépendance vis-à-vis de l’empire américain en émergence. En effet, un des buts avoués de la jeune république était de conquérir les territoires restés britanniques au nord des Grands Lacs et ainsi d’assurer le contrôle de tout le continent au nord des possessions espagnoles au sud. L’échec de cette entreprise belliqueuse a garanti un avenir au Canada et la résistance contre l’envahisseur le fondement d’une épopée nationale. Résumons les faits saillants de cette guerre en ce qui concerne l’Amérique du Nord britannique. A l’annonce des hostilités, le lieutenantgouverneur du Haut-Canada (Ontario actuel). Sir Isaac Brock, avec environ 600 troupes régulières, des alliés amérindiens et quelques miliciens assez mal formés, attaque et prend des postes stratégiques sur la frontière, notamment Michilimackinac et Détroit. Mais en octobre 1812, Brock meurt sur les hauteurs de Queenstown, près de Niagara, avec une centaine de ses hommes, tout en repoussant une armée états-unienne qui en perdit mille trois cents. Cette victoire devint un symbole de la résistance des Canadiens à l’agression des États-Unis. En 1813, les forces de l’agresseur qui voulaient ravir la liberté aux colons paisibles réussissent à reprendre Détroit, à occuper une grande partie de l’ouest du Haut-Canada, et à tuer le principal résistant amérindien, Tecumseh, lors de la bataille de Moraviantown (octobre 1813). Elles investissent pendant quelques jours et brûlent une grande partie de la capitale York (la ville de Toronto actuelle). Ce geste est à l’origine de la destruction par les troupes britanniques des édifices gouvernementaux à Washington en août 1814. Au Bas-Canada (le Québec actuel), mille six cents Voltigeurs canadiens sous le commandement de Charles-Michel de Salaberry infligèrent une défaite sévère aux quatre mille deux cents envahisseurs venus du sud en octobre 1813. Une nouvelle invasion dans la région du Niagara échoua à Lundy’s Lane, en juillet 1814, et les envahisseurs durent se reconnaître vaincus, du moins en ce qui concerne leurs ambitions de conquête au nord des Grands Lacs2. 2

Sur la trame événementielle, on peut consulter nombre de manuels destinés aux cours de première année de licence comme Bumsted (2003) : 243-46 ; Conrad, Finkel and Jaenen (1993): 408-11 ; Francis, Jones and Smith (1992), 214-218 ; Finlay and Sprague (1997), 111-17.


Chapter Four

Cette ambition se fondait sur le fait que l’Amérique du Nord britannique était encore très peu peuplée, surtout à l’ouest de Montréal. Dans les colonies du littoral atlantique, la Royal Navy basée à Halifax et des centaines de kilomètres de forêt impénétrable entre les régions colonisées du Maine et du Nouveau-Brunswick présentaient un écran formidable pour les agresseurs du sud qui ne purent qu’effectuer quelques raids sur les bateaux de pêche, notamment ceux des îles anglo-normandes, dans le golfe du Saint-Laurent. Pour le Bas-Canada (le Québec actuel), majoritairement francophone et catholique, les « Bastonnais » représentaient l’ennemi héréditaire qui avait commis les pires atrocités lors de la Guerre de la Conquête en 1758-1760. Qui plus est, le clergé s’opposait aux hérétiques et prêchait la fidélité à la monarchie. C’est donc vers l’ouest que se portèrent les principaux efforts américains. Avec des troupes aguerries par une longue lutte pour exterminer les populations amérindiennes des Grands Lacs (White 1991 ; Dowd 1992 ; Dickinson 2006) et la faible population du Haut-Canada évaluée à environ soixante-dix-sept mille personnes pour toute la colonie en 1811 (Gourlay 1822, I : 139), le gouvernement des États-Unis croyait en une victoire rapide et facile. Surtout que cette population était composée de bon nombre de « late Loyalists » (des colons des anciennes treize colonies attirés par les concessions de terre avantageuses du lieutenant-gouverneur John Graves Simcoe, à partir de 1792, et qui avaient peu d’attaches à l’empire britannique, Macdonell 1893, 164). Les meilleures conditions étaient réunies, en cas de victoire des forces impériales, pour asseoir une mythologie fondatrice du Canada. Malgré une très grande supériorité numérique et une logistique plus commode, les milices états-uniennes (car même aguerries. ces troupes n’étaient pas professionnelles) n’arrivèrent pas à bout des troupes régulières britanniques appuyées par des alliés amérindiens et une milice coloniale peu efficace mais qui prendra une place importante dans la mémoire collective par la suite. Le Canada resta dans le giron de l’empire britannique après le traité de Gand (conclu à la fin de 1814 et ratifié en février 1815) et malgré quelques mésententes et escarmouches, notamment sur les frontières du Nouveau-Brunswick et du territoire de Columbia ainsi que lors de la Guerre civile américaine, alors que des indépendantistes irlandais (les Fenians) projetaient une action contre la Grande-Bretagne au Canada qui ne fut jamais vraiment menacé. La Guerre de 1812 marque donc la fin des véritables agressions extérieures contre la colonie canadienne. D’ailleurs, en 1847, un officier britannique de passage pouvait décrire ainsi les ambitions possibles des États-Uniens:

La guerre de 1812 et la construction du “Canada anglais”


This war with England, so ignorantly and flippantly talked of, will be no gentle journey; all other pursuits and occupations of the people must yield to it; the conscription must allow no exception or relaxation; commerce and the merchant navy must be sacrificed; an enormous debt and weight of taxation incurred (Warburton 1847, I : 311).

En somme, une nouvelle tentative de conquérir le Canada risquait de disloquer complètement les États-Unis. L’appropriation du Canada était impossible sans mobiliser des forces régulières dont le voisin du sud ne disposait pas. Mais ce discours se situe dans un contexte où on cherche à accroître l’émigration britannique vers le Canada. Et les guides destinés aux émigrants, pléthoriques vers le milieu du siècle, n’avaient pas intérêt à mettre en scène une menace de guerre avec les États-Unis. Prenons comme exemple celui rédigé par Adam Ferguson et adressé à la Highland Society of Scotland d’Edimbourg en 1832. Sur trois cent soixante-dix-neuf pages assez denses comprenant des statistiques sur le climat, les prix des denrées essentielles, les routes et communications internes, la qualité des terres agricoles, la moitié d’une seule page concerne la guerre de 1812 et traite de la glorieuse victoire du général Brock à Queenston (Ferguson 1833, 101). Il ne fallait surtout pas effrayer le chaland et décourager l’émigration vers ces terres de cocagne. C’est le mouvement vers une plus grande indépendance des colonies – à l’intérieur de l’empire, toutefois (Berger 1970) – et leur unification sous forme de Dominion dans les années 1860 qui créent le besoin d’avoir une mythologie nationale. Et le patriotisme est plus facile à mobiliser quand il s’agit de dénoncer un ennemi commun. Cet ennemi était tout trouvé : les États-Unis. Voici comment Henry J. Morgan décrit les sacrifices des sujets de Sa Majesté devant les envahisseurs de la Guerre de 1812 : Among the many loyal and valued individuals whose lives fell a sacrifice directly or indirectly3 in the defence of Upper Canada against the unprovoked and atrocious invasions of its soil by a ruthless set of unprincipled adventurers (Morgan 1862, 347).

Sur les quelques cinq cent cinquante biographies que comportent l’ouvrage de Morgan, plus du quart concerne des officiers militaires ayant servis pendant la Guerre de 1812, bien que plusieurs ne méritent que quelques lignes. Les Canadiens renommés (souvent des officiers britanniques n’ayant aucune attache durable avec la colonie) sont tous des hommes et il 3

A noter que dans ce cas le sacrifice fut très « indirect » car la personne objet de la biographie est morte chez lui suite à une infection contractée lors de la visite de compagnies de milices sur le haut Saint-Laurent en décembre 1838.


Chapter Four

n’est fait aucune mention de l’héroïne dont le nom est encore bien connu de la population : Laura Secord4. Pourtant, on avait fait état publiquement de ses aventures et de sa contribution à la victoire de Beaver Dams dès 1853 dans le Anglo-American Magazine (3.5, 467), dans le cadre d’une série d’articles sur la Guerre de 1812, commencée dans le premier numéro du volume 2 et terminée à la fin du volume 5, soit vingt-quatre chroniques historiques d’une vingtaine de pages chacune. Le pathos de la situation est bien traduit par l’historien amateur John McMullen5 : The Americans came to free the Canadian people from what they termed the tyranny of Great Britain; but found them, on the whole, loyal, incorruptible, and satisfied with their condition. They talked to Canadians of the rights of humanity; how all men were free and equal; while thousands of trembling slaves writhed under the lash in the plantations of the South. They boasted of their respect for the rights of property; yet they plundered the defenceless peasantry of Canada; burned their fences and visited their homes with the dreadful horrors of invasion. [Sur les ordres du président Madison, une nuit froide de décembre 1813] four hundred helpless women and children [were turned] into the streets at half an hour’s notice (McMullen 1855, 284).

Les troupes britanniques ripostèrent en brûlant plusieurs villages du côté américain, mais notre historien les excuse : “They had commenced this savage description of warfare […] and it was only fitting they should be taught the miseries they inflicted on others” (Ibid. 286). Un autre historien affirme que c’est la milice canadienne qui a sauvé la colonie pendant cette guerre en défendant leurs foyers, leurs femmes et leurs enfants. Ils sont des soldats irréprochables – ce serait bien la première fois dans l’histoire de l’humanité que des soldats soient sans aucun blâme : « There were no acts of cruelty to be laid to their charge. It was only the unprincipled foe that could be guilty of deeds of barbaric darkness » (Canniff 1872, 568). Je laisse aux spécialistes de la rhétorique guerrière d’analyser cette représentation qui ressemble, à mon sens, à toutes les justifications d’atrocités qu’on a connues depuis lors. 4

C’est le nom de la plus grande chaîne de magasins de chocolats au Canada créée au début du XXe siècle. Le nom est donc connu mais les faits historiques l’entourant, probablement pas ! 5 Les trois chapitres consacrés à la Guerre de 1812 comptent soixante-six pages, soit treize pour cent de toute l’histoire du Canada jusqu’en 1855 et le tiers de tout l’espace consacré à la Nouvelle-France depuis les voyages de Colomb jusqu’à sa cession à l’Angleterre en 1763.

La guerre de 1812 et la construction du “Canada anglais”


De rares voix s’élevaient contre cette condamnation sans appel des voisins du sud avec qui il fallait bien composer. James Croil, par exemple, écrivait au sujet de la mémoire de la Révolution américaine : We have no hesitation in saying, that it is the duty now of every British subject, and especially of every Canadian, to consign all past animosities to oblivion, and to cultivate, by every legitimate means, a spirit of forbearance and amity towards our neighbours (Croil 1861, 71).

Mais cette opinion demeure bien minoritaire et peu d’auteurs sont prêts à pardonner aux révolutionnaires les atrocités commises pendant la Révolution à l’encontre des « loyalistes » et ensuite, lors de l’invasion du Haut-Canada pendant la Guerre de 1812. Il est évident que la Guerre de 1812 occupe une place importante dans la mémoire collective des élites canadiennes anglaises du début du XXe siècle. On peut prendre à témoin la bibliothèque personnelle d’un dentiste d’origine écossaise de Toronto, George Gow (1878-1940), membre de la société Saint Andrews, de la Ontario Historical Society et de la Champlain Society, féru d’histoire et de littérature canadiennes comme l’étaient souvent les élites éduquées de l’époque6. Tous les ouvrages d’avant 1940 cités dans cet article proviennent de sa collection. Les ouvrages dédiés uniquement à la Guerre de 1812 occupent plus d’un mètre linéaire d’espace et on peut ajouter deux autres mètres si on tient compte des ouvrages qui s’intéressent d’une manière ou d’une autre à cette guerre. C’est beaucoup plus que les ouvrages concernant les rébellions qui ont la faveur de l’historiographie actuelle et des manuels destinés aux émigrants britanniques (surtout écossais) vers l’Amérique du Nord7. Regardons donc les histoires locales rédigées au XIXe siècle pour voir la place accordée à la Guerre de 1812 toujours en utilisant les ressources à notre disposition. Les histoires de villes et de comtés, très à la mode au tournant du XXe siècle, fournissent une matière abondante, mais le docteur Gow privilégiait les villes et cantons où sa famille avait résidé et qui ne sont pas nécessairement ceux où les faits de guerre étaient les plus éclatants. Ces histoires locales épousaient un genre particulier qui mettait en avant les généalogies des fondateurs et les personnalités locales ayant exercé des responsabilités. La « grande histoire » était donc souvent reléguée au second plan. 6

Il s’agit de mon grand-père maternel dont j’ai hérité la bibliothèque. La littérature occupe aussi une place très importante avec les œuvres complètes de Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson mais aussi de Charles Dickens et Victor Hugo.



Chapter Four

Dans sa collection, les ouvrages pertinents ont été publiés entre 1877 et 1909 et sont moins importants en nombre que les tomes concernant directement la Guerre de 1812. En ordre chronologique, la première concerne la capitale Toronto dont le chapitre deux (un peu plus de trois pourcent de l’ensemble) traite de la Guerre de 1812 (Timberlake 1877, 2941). Ce travail met en avant la contribution des Amérindiens à repousser les envahisseurs avant l’organisation d’une milice effective. Outre cette originalité, l’auteur reprend les propos de ses prédécesseurs sans beaucoup d’originalité et fustige les Américains pour leur hypocrisie. La seconde concerne le comté d’Elgin où se situe le domaine du colonel Thomas Talbot, un Irlandais qui érigea un domaine quasi féodal sur des centaines de milliers d’hectares au sud de London, Ontario. Son établissement fut victime des « marauders » américains qui détruisirent les infrastructures importantes comme moulins à scie et à farine (Elgin Institute 1890, 1012). Ce récit est repris par C.O. Ermatinger qui consacre près de quinze pourcent de son récit à la colonisation du colonel Talbot pendant la Guerre de 1812 et les maraudages des « desperados » américains (Ermatinger 1904, 44-87). Le récit le plus important des événements pendant la Guerre de 1812 dans une histoire régionale avant la fin du siècle concerne les Ecossais de Glengarry venus en Amérique. Plus du tiers du volume est consacré aux faits et gestes de ces immigrants pendant la guerre (Macdonell 1893, 159-294). Au tournant du XXe siècle, les histoires locales intègrent le récit normatif. Celle de Thorold, dans la péninsule de Niagara, donne une place importante à la pérégrination de Laura Secord et à la victoire de Beaver Dams tous en soulignant que les envahisseurs étaient plutôt des voleurs qui en voulaient surtout aux valeurs sonnantes et trébuchantes des colons haut-canadiens (Thompson 1898 : 35-50). Celles concernant l’est de la Province où les combats étaient moins âpres consacrent moins de place à cette guerre mais soulignent l’ardeur des miliciens. Toutefois, en lisant entre les lignes, on constate que de part et d’autre, l’amateurisme et le manque de discipline militaire prédominaient (Pringle 1890, 75-80 ; Maule Machar 1908, 111-42). Les histoires locales concernant l’ouest de la Province n’omettent pas de souligner leur implication dans la lutte patriotique. Penetanguishene dut sa naissance à cette guerre qui mit en valeur sa position exceptionnelle pour le contrôle des Grands Lacs (Simcoe County (1.5) 1908 , 11-17). Au Sault-Sainte-Marie, l’historien local s’épanche sur les efforts des habitants pour se protéger contre la rapacité des Américains (Capp 1907, 139-49). Celui de Sandwich (Windsor aujourd’hui), en face de Détroit, qui connut une présence américaine continue, passe beaucoup plus rapidement sur les

La guerre de 1812 et la construction du “Canada anglais”


événements belliqueux. Les intérêts économiques étaient déjà tellement entremêlés qu’il ne fallait pas froisser les susceptibilités de la puissance d’en face (Neal 1909, 46-47). La Guerre de 1812 joua un rôle important dans la construction d’une identité canadienne-anglaise avant 1914. Elle conforta l’idée que les habitants du futur Dominion du Canada aimaient la monarchie, refusaient la démocratie libérale sans contraintes des États-Unis et cherchaient à s’en différencier. Comme l’écrit Macdonell, ce conflit permit d’asseoir une vision conservatrice du Canada : The result of the war was practically that the disloyal minority were driven out, and the apathetic, unable to avoid serving the country, soon became enthusiastic in the cause. Three years of war weeded out the bad elements and welded the Canadians into a loyal and patriotic people. It also stopped the Yankee emigration, and afterwards the country was filled up with loyal English, Irish and Scotch, who settled here that they might retain their allegiance and remain under the flag (Macdonell 1893, 171).

Le gouvernement Harper, en valorisant la commémoration de ce conflit et en général des faits d’armes de Canadiens ainsi que le jubilé de diamant d’Elisabeth II, participe à une valorisation de cet héritage d’une autre époque. Les Canadiens d’aujourd’hui suivent-ils vraiment ce chemin ?

Bibliographie Anglo-American Magazine. (1853-1854). 4 vols. Toronto: McLear. Auchinleck, G. (1862). A History of the War between Great Britain and the United States of America, during the Years 1812, 1813 and 1814. Toronto: W.C. Chewett. Berger, Carl. (1970). The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Bumsted, Jack M. (2003). The Peoples of Canada: A Pre-Confederation History. Toronto: Oxford University Press. Canniff, William. (1872). History of the Province of Ontario (Upper Canada). Toronto: A.H. Hovey. Capp, Edward H. (1907). Annals of Sault Sainte Marie. Sault Sainte Marie. Coates, Colin and Celia Morgan. (2002). Heroines and History: Madeleine de Verchères and Laura Secord. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.


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Coffin, William F. (1864). 1812, The War and its Moral: A Canadian Chronicle. Montreal: John Lovell. Coleman, Daniel. (2006). White Civility: The Literary Project of English Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Conrad, Margaret, Alvin Finkel and Cornelius Jaenen. (1993). History of the Canadian Peoples. Vol. 1. Beginnings to 1867. Toronto: Copp Clark Pitman. Croil, James. (1861). Dundas; or, A Sketch of Canadian History, and more Particularly of the County of Dundas, One of the Earliest Settled Counties in Upper Canada. Montreal: B. Dawson & Son. Cruickshank E. (1896-1907). The Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier in the Year 1812. 10 vols. Welland: The Tribune. Published for the Lundy’s Lane Historical Society. Dickinson, John A. (2006). « Les lendemains de la Conquête dans les Pays d’en Haut », dans Roch Legault et Magali Deleuze, éds. Lendemains de guerre. sl. Lux éditeur. Dowd, Gregory Evans. (1992). A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Dunlop, William. (1908). Recollections of the (American) War of 1812. Toronto: Bryant Press. Elgin Historical and Scientific Institute. (1890). Historical Sketches of the County of Elgin. Saint Thomas. Ermatinger, C.O. (1904). The Talbot Regime or the First Half-Century of the Talbot Settlement. St. Thomas: The Municipal World. Ferguson, Adam. (1833). Practical Notes Made during a Tour in Canada and a Portion of the United States in 1831. Edinburgh: William Blackwood. Finlay, John L. and D. N. Sprague. (1997). The Structure of Canadian History. Scarborough: Prentice Hall. Francis, R. Douglas, Richard Jones et Donald B. Smith. (1992). Canadian History to Confederation. Toronto: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. Gourlay, Robert. (1822). Statistical Account of Upper Canada Compiled with a Grand View of Emigration. 3 vols. London: Simkin & Marshall. Hannay, James. (1905). A History of the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States of America. Toronto: Morang. Herrington, W.S. (1915). Pioneer Life among the Loyalists in Upper Canada. Toronto: Macmillan. (Aucune mention de la Guerre de 1812 malgré un certain anti-républicanisme).

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Igartua, José E. (2006). The Other Quiet Revolution: National Identities in English Canada, 1945-1971.Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press. —. (2008). “The Genealogy of Stereotypes: French Canadians in Two English-language Canadian History Textbooks.” Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d’études canadiennes 42.3 (Fall/Automne 2008), 106132. Lossing, Benson J. (1869). The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812 or Illustrations by Pen and Pencil of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the Last War for American Independence. New York: Harper & Bros. Macdonell, John Alexander. (1893). Sketches Illustrating the Early Settlement and History of Glengarry in Canada. Montreal: William Foster, Brown & Co. McMullen, John. (1855). The History of Canada from its First Discovery to the Present Time. Brockville: J. McMullen. Machar, Agnes Maule. (1908). The Story of Old Kingston. Toronto: Musson. Morgan, Celia. (1994). “Of Slender Frame and Delicate Appearance: The Placing of Laura Secord in the Narratives of Canadian Loyalist History.” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association 5: 195-212. Morgan, Henry J. (1862). Sketches of Celebrated Canadians and Persons Connected with Canada. Quebec: Hunter. Rose & Co. Neal, Frederick. (1909). The Township of Sandwich (Past and Present). Windsor: The Record. Pringle, J. F. (1890). Lunnenburgh or the Eastern District: Its Settlement and Early Progress. Cornwall: Standard Printing House. Richardson, Major John. (1833). Wacousta: The Prophecy, A Tale of the Canadas. 2 vols. Philadelphia: Key and Biddle. —. (1840). The Canadian Brothers, or The Prophecy Fulfilled: A Tale of the Late American War. 2 vols. Montreal: Lovell, Armour & Ramsay. —. (1847). Eight Years in Canada; A Review of the Administrations of Lords Durham, Sydenham and Sir Charles Bagot and Lord Metcalfe. Montreal. —. (1902). Richardson’s War of 1812. Alexander Clark Casselman ed. Toronto: Historical Publishing Co. Sellar, Robert. (1890). Hemlock. A Tale of the War of 1812. Montreal: Grafton. Simcoe County Pioneer and Historical Society. (1908). Pioneer Papers. Barrie.


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Snider, C.H.J. (1913). In the Wake of the Eighteen-Twelvers: Fights and Flights of Frigates & Fore-‘n’-Afters in the War of 1812-1815 on the Great Lakes. London/New York/Toronto: John Lane/ Bell & Cockburn. Thompson, David. (1832). History of the Late War between Great Britain and the United States of America with a Retrospective View of the Causes from Whence it Originated; Collected from the Most Authentic Sources To which Is Added an Appendix, Containing Public Documents &c. Relating to the Subject. Niagara: T. Sewell. Thompson, John H. (1898). Jubilee History of Thorold, Township and Town from the Time of the Red Man to the Present. Thorold: The Thorold Post. Timberlake, J. (1877). Illustrated Toronto: Past and Present, Being an Historical and Descriptive Guide-book. Toronto: Peter A. Gross. Tupper, Ferdinand Brock. (1845). The Life and Correspondence of MajorGeneral Sir Isaac Brock, K.B. London: Simpkin. Marshall & Co (Envoyée par l’auteur de Guernesey à Charles Fitzgibbon de Toronto.) Warburton, George D. (1847). Hochelaga or England in the New World. 2 vols. London: Henry Colborn. White, Richard. (1991). The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


L’histoire, c’est ce qui se passe, la suite des événements, des changements, des révolutions, des évolutions, des accumulations qui tissent le devenir des sociétés. Mais c’est aussi le récit que l’on en fait. (…) Les femmes ont été longtemps hors de ce récit, comme si, vouées à l’obscurité d’une inénarrable reproduction, elles étaient hors du temps, du moins hors événement. Enfouies dans le silence d’une mer abyssale. —Michelle Perrot, Mon histoire des femmes Si la historia es una ciencia del tiempo y del espacio, sujeta según Marx a leyes gobernadas por la realidad económica, cabría preguntarse, ¿qué lugar ocupa la mujer en este proceso de continuos cambios, y cómo valorar y proyectar este espacio? Intentar responder a una cuestión tan compleja requiere analizar otra pregunta íntimamente relacionada con la anterior, ¿por qué en el tiempo histórico ordenado en periodos y en el desarrollo de la historiografía la ausencia de la mujer es un hecho axiomático? —Sara Beatriz Guardia, «Las mujeres y la recuperación de la historia»

Bien souvent absentes des grands débats sur l’indépendance, absentes des livres historiques et éducatifs, les femmes latino-américaines ont néanmoins joué un rôle dans les luttes pour l’émancipation de leur pays.


Chapter Five

Les commémorations du bicentenaire de l’indépendance semblent revendiquer cette nouvelle image féminine. Voilà une belle opportunité d’analyser le rôle que le « beau sexe » a joué dans les luttes pour l’indépendance des différents pays en Amérique Latine, ainsi que les différentes sources qui en témoignent. Les exemples sont nombreux dans tout le continent, certaines sont de vraies héroïnes (comme les femmes qui luttèrent au côté des Libérateurs Bolívar et Miranda, par exemple), mais nombre d’entre elles sont restées dans l’ombre. Elles ne sont pas invisibles mais invisibilisées dans les récits historiques puisqu’elles ne furent pas présentes dans les débats publics de l’indépendance, dans la création des nouvelles nations. Ainsi, “El sexo femenino, señor, no teme los horrores de la guerra: el estallido del cañón no hará más que alentarle, su fuego encenderá el deseo de su libertad, que sostendrá a toda costa en obsequio del suelo patrio1.”

Parler du combat des femmes en Amérique Latine, c’est parler de l’histoire de ce continent, c’est parler des luttes qui ont eu lieu dans la majorité des pays pendant plus de 500 ans. Il y eut en effet des soulèvements dès l’arrivée des espagnols dans ce Nouveau Monde, la conquête étant perçue comme un véritable asservissement des peuples autochtones, los indígenas. Elle utilisa également la femme indigène et son corps comme butin de guerre, la violence sexuelle étant depuis tout temps un outil de guerre2. Magnus Mörner, dans son ouvrage Le métissage dans l’histoire de l’Amérique Latine, précise que la conquête des Amériques par les espagnols fut d’abord « la conquête des femmes3 ». Les femmes indigènes furent en effet les premières victimes de la Conquête comme le rappelle l’ouvrage Les femmes au temps des conquistadores : « Quelles 1

Barinas, 18 de octubre de 1811: Firman Nicolasa Briceño, María Miyares, Manuela Méndez, Concepción Villafañe, Josefa Camejo, Joaquina Graciet, María del Rosario Iribarren, Juana M. Norsagaray, Ana Josefa Bragado, Concepción Briceño, Concepción Coeto, Rita Josefa Briceño, Candelaria Coeto, Nicolasa Pumar, Josefa Villafañe, Rita García, Josefa Porras, Josefa Montes de Oca, Josefa Linares, Concepción Arevolasa. 2 Lorsque les Espagnols prirent possession des terres du Nouveau Monde, ils s’approprièrent également les femmes, les enlevèrent pour en faire leurs maîtresses. Les natifs et les caciques tentèrent de cacher leurs femmes, leurs épouses et leurs filles pour que les « envahisseurs » ne les trouvent pas. Ajoutons que cette pratique était également courante avant l’arrivée des Espagnols sur les terres du Nouveau Monde, notamment lors des guerres de territoire entre les natifs. 3 Magnus Mörner, Le métissage dans l’histoire de l’Amérique Latine (Paris : Fayard, 1967).

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


qu’en soient les causes, abus de pouvoir ou faits de guerre, le constat est accablant. Pour beaucoup de femmes indiennes, la Conquête représente-telle autre chose qu’une longue suite de viols, de sévices et de massacres4 ? » Elles furent également invisibilisées par la plupart des chroniques écrites par des hommes, sauf lorsqu’elles étaient baptisées et portaient un nom espagnol5. Des registres de femmes qui affrontèrent les Espagnols depuis le premier moment de la conquête ont été retrouvés ; c’est par exemple le cas de María Bartola au Mexique qui affirma : « ¡Nosotras para hacerle frente ! ». A l’image de toutes ces femmes qui ont lutté pour se libérer du joug espagnol, María Bartola prouve, dès les premiers instants de la conquête, que sa condition de femme, que le genre féminin n’est pas un obstacle à son engagement dans la lutte. Néanmoins, le « sexe faible » a un rôle précis dans la société. Un célèbre exemple repris pour montrer la place assignée symboliquement au genre féminin est celui de la Malinche, cette indigène dont le nom est synonyme de trahison, de nouvelle Eve désobéissant à l’ordre établi et donc de « première interlocutrice du tentateur qui par sa faiblesse a livré l’humanité à la longue histoire du péché et de la mort6 ». Sur cette même lancée négative sont revisitées, au long des siècles, bien des figures de femmes bibliques. Le type de la désobéissante et de l’étourdie est illustré par la femme de Lot changée en statue de sel dans le récit du châtiment de Sodome. La femme de Job, invitant son mari à maudire Dieu au milieu de ses malheurs, illustre autrement cette « folie » féminine qui est l’envers de la sagesse. Tout se passe comme si la Bible servait de point d’accrochage à tout un monde de fantasmes où le féminin n’est connu que comme énigme et menace. C’est ainsi que la rêverie littéraire ne cesse de revenir à Eve, en aggravant les charges contre l’aïeule originelle. Le roman de Balzac, Une fille d’Eve, est typique de ce parti qui attribue une descendance innombrable de tentatrices maléfiques à la première femme. Des voix aussi diverses que celles de Zola (La faute de l’Abbée Mouret) ou de Valéry (Ebauche d’un serpent) reconduisent interminablement la figure d’une Eve négative, voire en connivence avec l’animalité7.


C. Delamarre et B. Sallard, La femme au temps des conquistadores (Paris : Stock/Pernoud, 1992), 66. 5 Ibid., 48. 6 Jean-Claude Eslin et Catherine Cornu (dir.), La Bible 2000 ans de lectures (Paris : Desclée de Brouwer, 2003), 433. 7 Ibid., 433-437.


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La trahison de la Malinche8 envers son peuple fut celle d’être l’amante et l’interprète d’Hernán Cortés. Le mythe oublie toutefois de mentionner que la Malinche fut une esclave offerte à Cortés par les caciques de Tabasco pour qu’elle devienne son interprète. Mais cette image a pesé peu face à celle d’une tentatrice. Ainsi, qu’est-il advenu de ces femmes prisonnières de la violence sexuelle, ces femmes esclaves des Espagnols ? Quelles attitudes assumèrent-elles et comment résistèrent-elles à ces conquistadors ? Des questions qui restent en suspens puisque peu d’études ont été faites dans ce domaine, et peu de registres recensent les divers événements, les différents actes et prises de position des femmes. Cela prouve le peu d’intérêt qu’on leur accordait à l’époque. Elles sont victimes du silence des sources, du silence des récits historiques, « ce silence profond, les femmes n’y sont certes pas seules. Il enveloppe le continent perdu des vies englouties dans l’oubli où s’abolit la masse de l’humanité. Mais il pèse plus lourdement encore sur elles9 ». Selon Sara Beatriz Guardia, lors de la conquête de l’Amérique du Sud, Los pocos ejemplos se reducen a la valiente actitud de la Coya Cory Occllo, esposa de Manco Inca, que al ser apresada por Pizarro con la intención de utilizarla contra el Inca rebelde que luchaba en las montañas de Vilcabamba, se negó a colaborar con el conquistador por lo que fue condenada a morir azotada, y la Coya de Sayru Tupac, que al enterarse del asesinato de su esposo en 1560, convocó a cuatro capitanes rebeldes y les ordenó iniciar la insurrección10.

Ainsi, Coya Cory Occllo est l’une des premières héroïnes qui mourut avec courage, dignité et patriotisme en luttant pour reconquérir ses terres. Il ne s’agit que de sacrifices isolés mais ils prouvent la résistance des femmes face aux conquistadors. 8

« Malinchismo » est un terme qui a servi à nommer la trahison féminine en Amérique Centrale, soulignant la tragédie historique de l’homme métis à cause d’une femme : la Malinche, cette Indienne que reçut en cadeau de bienvenue sur les terres mexicaines le conquistador Hernán Cortés. Dans la culture populaire actuelle, il se réfère à une inclination pour ce qui vient de l’étranger. Le dictionnaire espagnol de la Real Academia Española donne cette définition : «De Malinche, apodo de Marina, amante de Hernán Cortés. Mex. Actitud de quien muestra apego a lo extranjero con menosprecio de lo propio». 9 Michelle Perrot, Mon histoire des femmes (Paris : Seuil, 2006), 16. 10 Sara Beatriz Guardia, «Las mujeres y la recuperación de la historia», in CEMHAL, Primer Simposio Internacional La Mujer en la Historia de América Latina. Lima, 27, 28, 29 de agosto 1997. http://webserver.rcp.net.pe/cemhal/publicaciones1a.html

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Ces luttes anticoloniales se firent plus visibles au XVIIIe siècle sur tout le continent. Les femmes y participèrent, notamment les indigènes et les noires. Citons alors le soulèvement de Santos Atahualpa (1742-1756) auquel participa Ana de Tarma11 ; le mouvement insurrectionnel de Huarochiri en 1750 auquel s’associa María Gregoria, épouse de Francisco Inca12 ; l’acte solitaire de Juana Moreno en 1777 qui assassina le lieutenant corrégidor Domingo de la Cajiza en protestation aux impôts abusifs demandés aux indigènes. Ces mouvements servent surtout la cause sociale dans le but d’en finir avec la soumission aux Espagnols et les impôts abusifs. La présence féminine dans des combats contre le colonisateur est un élément fondamental dans la rébellion conduite par José Gabriel Condorcanqui, appelé Tupac Amaru II, et Micaela Bastidas en novembre 1780 : Micaela Bastidas, esposa de Tupac Amaru II, líder originario que encabezó el mayor movimiento de corte indigenista e independentista en el Virreinato del Perú, primero en pedir la libertad de toda América, exigir la abolición de la mita, las alcabalas, las aduanas y los obrajes y en decretar la libertad de los llamados “negros”. Su movimiento constituyó un pretexto, debido al cual las autoridades coloniales eliminaron a la clase indígena noble y acrecentaron la represión contra lo andino, por el temor de que algo así volviera a repetirse13.

Elle est décrite comme une femme courageuse et audacieuse ; une femme dévouée à la cause révolutionnaire, qui donnait les ordres et dirigeait les troupes. Melchor Paz, par exemple, présente dans ses chroniques, une Micaela, meneuse de troupes, qui se présenta au combat 11 Un groupe de cinquante-deux femmes, des guerrières emmenées par Ana de Tarma, résistèrent aux troupes de l’espagnol Benito Troncoso, lors des combats de Río de la Sal et Nijandaris, qui virent la défaite des Espagnols. Durant treize ans, elles déjouèrent les efforts des Espagnols. 12 Avec son époux, María Gregoria lutta contre les abus commis par les Espagnols. Le vice-roi Conde de Superunda envoya ses troupes pour en finir avec cette conspiration. Dans cette bataille, de nombreux hommes et femmes moururent. María Gregoria fut capturée et interrogée pour connaître les plans et le nombre exact de conspirateurs, en vain. Elle préféra mourir en martyr plutôt que trahir sa cause. 13 «El papel de Micaela Bastidas», extraído de « 100 Personajes del Milenio » de Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Comunicaciones El País. Portal educativo Educabolivia.bo: http://www.educabolivia.bo/educabolivia_v3/index.php?option=com_content&vie w=article&id=2579&Itemid=41


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avec cinq mille hommes armés. Ceux qui l’ont côtoyée la décrivent comme une cacique, (…) de un genio más intrépido y sangriento que el marido. Ella tuvo la mayor inteligencia en el suplicio del Corregidor Arriaga, y en medio de la flaqueza de su sexo, esforzaba las diligencias injustas de aquel homicidio, cargando en su misma mantilla las balas necesarias para la guardia. Suplía la falta de su marido cuando se ausentaba, disponiendo ella misma las expediciones hasta montar en un caballo con armas para reclutar gente en las provincias a cuyos pueblos dirigía repetidas órdenes con rara intrepidez y osadía autorizando los edictos con su firma14.

Micaela Bastidas assuma ainsi des tâches politiques, militaires, administratives qui guidèrent son mari tout au long de cette insurrection. Boleslao Lewin, dans son œuvre Túpac Amarú, souligne son rôle dans l’insurrection : Es realmente admirable la múltiple actividad de Micaela Bastidas. Todo lo que se necesitaba para las tropas se pedía a esta mujer y ella lo proporcionaba todo, desde largavistas hasta cañones, pan, cobre, vestimenta, coca y aguardiente. Cabe tener bien presente que para abastecer había que organizar la producción y el suministro. Micaela Bastidas, con sus colaboradores, dio también cima a esta tarea. En la misión de cortar las comunicaciones enemigas se mostraba asimismo muy activa15.

Elle eut donc un rôle crucial dans le mouvement insurrectionnel et c’est la raison pour laquelle, lors de la défaite du mouvement, le 22 avril 1781, elle fut capturée puis condamnée à mort. Elle avait 35 ans. Ce mouvement insurrectionnel est considéré par les historiens comme un antécédent ou prémisse aux guerres d’indépendance : La fama de sus patrióticas hazañas fue celebrada en toda la América y en Europa misma, donde a propósito de la actitud ejemplar y decisiva asumida por el bello sexo (…) frente a la tiranía española, un ilustre escritor Luis Aimé Martín, dijo proféticamente:


Colección documental de la Independencia del Perú. “La rebelión de Túpac Amaru”. Vol II, (Lima, 1971), 5. 15 Boleslao Lewin, Tupac Amaru, cité par «El papel de Micaela Bastidas».

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


«La América del Sur ha de triunfar, porque es preciso que triunfe una nación en que las mujeres combaten por la causa de la Independencia, y 16 mueren al lado de sus hermanos y maridos .... »

Profitant des anniversaires des différents bicentenaires des Indépendances de l’Amérique Latine qui sont célébrés dans le monde entier, des chercheurs et des colloques internationaux s’intéressent à l’importance du rôle des femmes dans le processus d’émancipation et la formation des Nations, malgré le fait que dans l’imaginaire historique et collectif, leur fonction fut ignorée ou minimisée. Traditionnellement, leur présence dans la formation des nouvelles Nations est cantonnée au domaine privé, à leur rôle d’épouse, de sœur ou de fille qui servent la lutte en tant qu’infirmières, cuisinières ou couturières. Une revue du XIXe siècle, Panorama de las Señoritas, consacrée aux femmes et publiée en 1842 au Mexique, aborde la place de la femme dans un article «De la influencia de las mugeres en la politica»: Nada bueno debe esperarse de la influencia del bello sexo, y continuaremos viendo siempre el triste espectáculo que se presenta hoy a nuestra vista : las discusiones del bello sexo solo estarán reducidas al adorno de los peinados, lo mas o menos largo de los vestidos, y lo mas o menos vistoso de las telas. (...) ¿Por qué las mujeres no podrán aspirar a un porvenir como los hombres? ¡Triste reflexión para las que parece no haber sido llamadas a participar de los bienes intelectuales17!

L’historienne allemande Barbara Potthast, professeure d’histoire ibérique et latino-américaine, auteure de Von Müttern und machos18 affirmait lors d’une conversation avec la journaliste Deustche Welle que les différentes études sur l’indépendance de l’Amérique Latine ignorent le rôle des femmes dans ces luttes. Les analyses se font d’un point de vue strictement politico-militaire, et une vision masculine y prédomine ; comme à cette époque-là les femmes ne jouissaient pas de droits


José Macedonio Urquidi, Bolivianas ilustres: heroínas, escritoras, artistas. Estudio biográfico y artístico, Tomo 1 (La Paz: Escuela tipográfica salesiana, 1918). 17 Panorama de las señoritas, periódico pintoresco, científico y literario, (Imprenta de Vicente García Torres, México, 1842), 99-102. 18 Barbara Potthast, Von Müttern und machos, Ed. (Peter Hammer Verlag GmbH, 2003). 1er ouvrage en langue allemande dédié à l’histoire des femmes et de la famille en Amérique Latine.


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politiques, elles ne pouvaient donc pas avoir joué un rôle actif dans les processus d’indépendance19. Ainsi, une fois acquise l’indépendance, les nations naissantes créèrent leurs propres héros nationaux. Se profilèrent alors les visages des hommes qui avaient forgé l’émancipation, mais aucune femme ne mérita une telle reconnaissance ; même si certaines étaient perçues comme symbole de résistance, notamment grâce aux titres et reconnaissances reçus des mains des libérateurs (Simón Bolívar et José de San Martín, entre autres). Bolívar a notamment rédigé un discours adressé à l’armée de libération du Venezuela en 1813 dans lequel il fait l’éloge de l’engagement des femmes de la province de Trujillo : Vencedores de Carache, sabed que el pueblo que venís a rescatar es tan digno de vuestros heroicos sacrificios que todo él está lidiando por la libertad, o padeciendo por ella, hasta el sexo bello, las delicias del género humano, nuestras amazonas han combatido contra los tiranos de San Carlos, con un valor divino aunque sin éxito. Los monstruos y tigres de la España han colmado la medida de la cobardía de su nación, han dirigido las infames armas contra los cándidos y femeninos pechos de nuestras beldades: han derramado su sangre: han hecho expirar a muchas de ellas, y las han cargado de cadenas, porque concibieron el sublime designio de libertar a su adorada patria. ¡Las mujeres, sí, soldados, las mujeres del país que estáis pisando combaten a los opresores y nos disputan la gloria de vencerlos! Y con estos ejemplos de singular heroísmo en los fastos de la historia ¿habría un solo hombre en Colombia, tan indigno en este nombre, que no corra veloz a engrosar nuestras filas, que deben marchar a San Carlos, a romper las prisiones en que gimen esas verdaderas Belonas20?

Il insiste ici sur l’imaginaire stéréotypé des femmes puisqu’il les définit en des termes certes élogieux mais également superficiels à l’image des écrits dans la revue cité plus haut, comme «delicias del género humano», «bello sexo», «nuestras amazonas», «nuestras beldades», «verdaderas belonas», dans le but de forcer les hommes à s’engager dans la lutte et de discréditer les Espagnols. Il ne s’agit pas de leur accorder quelque rôle politique que ce soit, mais d’utiliser cela à des fins de propagande. 19

«Las mujeres no fueron testigos pasivos de la gesta independentista», http://www.dw.de/las-mujeres-no-fueron-testigos-pasivos-de-la-gestaindependentista/a-6254451-1 20 Simón Bolívar, «Soldados del Ejército Libertador de Venezuela» (22/06/1813), in Proclamas y discursos del Libertador, Vicente Lecuna (Caracas : Lit. y Tip. Del Comercio, 1939), 36-37.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Les femmes elles-mêmes se sont servies des stéréotypes de l’époque (idées préconçues qui les ont définies tout au long des siècles d’histoire patriarcale). En octobre 1811, par exemple, un groupe de vingt-et-une femmes de la province de Barinas au Venezuela, informées de la situation politique difficile et de l’invasion planifiée de la ville de Barinas, envoyèrent au gouverneur une lettre intitulée «Representación que hace el bello sexo al gobierno de Barinas» dans laquelle elles offrent leurs services à l’armée pour prêter main forte sur le champ de bataille à la défense de leur ville Barinas : No ignoran que V.E., atendida la debilidad de su sexo, acaso ha procurado eximirnos de las fatigas militares: pero sabe muy bien V.E. que el amor a la patria vivifica a entes más desnaturalizados y no hay obstáculos por insuperables que no venza. Nosotras, revestidas de un carácter firme y apartando a un lado la flaqueza que se nos atribuye, conocemos en el día los peligros a que está expuesto el país; él nos llama a su socorro y sería una ingratitud negarle unas vidas que sostiene. El sexo femenino, Señor, no teme los horrores de la guerra: el estallido del cañón no hará más que alentarle: su fuego encenderá el deseo de su libertad, que sostendrá a toda costa en obsequio del suelo Patrio21.

Les femmes qui écrivent ce document – telles Josefa Camejo22, Nicolasa Briceño entre autres – se servent des clichés de l’époque pour faire valoir leurs forces. En effet, elles se définissent elles-mêmes comme le sexe faible tout en affirmant connaître les divers événements politiques qui affectent le pays et s’étonner que personne ne compte sur elles pour participer au débat et à la défense de la patrie. Par cette lettre, elles contredisent l’argumentaire patriarcal qui perdurait depuis des siècles et qui excluait les femmes des sujets politiques. Ainsi, elles démontrent que les mêmes idéaux que les hommes les animent, qu’elles sont prêtes à se sacrifier pour leur patrie. Néanmoins, la réponse qu’elles obtinrent du secrétaire du gouvernement, Nicolás Pumor, met en avant leur condition féminine qui ne se laisse porter que par les sentiments et les émotions («que el gobierno 21

«Representación que hace el bello sexo al gobierno de Barinas,» Gaceta de Caracas, 5 de noviembre 1811, 3-4. La carta tiene fecha de 18 de octubre 1811. 22 Josefa Camejo s’est illustrée dans l’Indépendance du Venezuela en tant que soldat. Exilée pendant quatre ans suite à l’échec de la première tentative d’indépendance, elle revient camouflée sous des guenilles et, en 1821, déguisée en homme et à la tête de 300 esclaves, elle provoque une rébellion contre les Espagnols dans la province de Coro. Ses actes lui valurent l’intégration au Panthéon National du Venezuela en 2002.


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ve sus sentimientos nacidos de un verdadero amor a la patria») alors que les femmes de Barinas tentent de mettre en avant leur connaissance («conocemos los peligros a que está expuesto el país»). Malgré leur tentative, les préjugés persistent et régissent la société23. Certes elles essuyèrent un refus mais il est important de signaler que la presse de Caracas (La Gaceta de Caracas, 5/11/1811) a imprimé et diffusé une lettre qui posait le problème de la participation féminine, soulignant que l’imaginaire collectif ne devait pas empêcher la lutte ; même si ce document fut accompagné d’un commentaire soulignant encore leur statut d’épouses, de mères ou d’amantes, c’est-à-dire en rapport avec l’autre sexe : «Las ciudadanas barinesas, dignas esposas, madres y amantes de los venezolanos de Barinas, no podían ser indiferentes a la suerte de su país». Il est donc inconcevable que les femmes agissent par elles-mêmes ; tout acte ne peut se faire qu’en rapport avec l’homme, le mari, etc. Ainsi, dans l’historiographie, les femmes apparaissaient comme les compagnes ou les maîtresses des «libertadores». « Discours et images recouvrent les femmes comme un épais manteau. Comment les atteindre, comment percer le silence, les stéréotypes qui les enveloppent24 ? » Barbara Potthast et Eugenia Scarzanella, dans l’ouvrage Mujeres y naciones en América Latina, révèlent l’existence d’une possibilité pour la femme de sortir de l’environnement privé sans transgresser les normes de femmes respectables et assurent que cette transition : (...) se realizo a través de varias vías, pero la más importante fue, sin duda, la educación laica y estatal. En el último cuarto del siglo XIX, casi todos los estados latinoamericanos y sobre todo aquellos que se consideraban modernos, iniciaron una ofensiva educativa (...) En este proceso, las mujeres, sobre todo las maestras, se convirtieron en figuras claves25.

L’historiographie, jusqu’à la fin du XXème siècle, n’a pas étudié la présence des femmes dans la formation des nouvelles républiques : ce sont des épouses, des filles et sœurs soumises, ayant un rôle d’infirmière... schéma type depuis l’antiquité. Pourtant, comme l’affirme Jean-Jacques Rousseau, dans Emile, « Toutes les grandes révolutions y vinrent des femmes; par une femme Rome acquit la liberté, par une femme les plébéiens obtinrent le consulat, par une femme finit la tyrannie des 23

Voir note 1. Perrot, Mon histoire des femmes, 30. 25 Barbara Potthast y Eugenia Scarzanella, Mujeres y naciones en América Latina: problemas de inclusión y exclusión (Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert-Iberoamericana, 2001), 10. 24

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Décemvirs, par les femmes Rome assiégée fut sauvée des mains d'un proscrit26. » Il faut attendre les années 1970 pour voir apparaitre un intérêt grandissant pour le rôle des femmes, notamment avec l’étude de genre. En 1978, Evelyn Cherpak publia un article, «La participación de las mujeres en el movimiento de Independencia de la Gran Colombia», dans lequel elle signale : Este desprecio por la mitad de la población ya no se puede aceptar. Las mujeres no fueron espectadoras pasivas en este conflicto. Participaron en él y fueron afectadas por él como individuos, como madres y como esposas. Por lo tanto es necesario hacer una nueva estimación de la naturaleza de su contribución y de los efectos que tuvieron las guerras de Independencia en su posición en la sociedad. Este enfoque habrá de conducir a un más completo conocimiento de la época revolucionaria27.

Les commémorations du bicentenaire de l’indépendance semblent revendiquer cette nouvelle image féminine, analyser le rôle que le « beau sexe » a joué dans les luttes pour l’indépendance des différents pays en Amérique Latine, ainsi que les différentes sources qui en témoignent. Des femmes apparaissent lentement à l’occasion de cette commémoration. Ces femmes créoles, notables de la capitale, mais également ces femmes de province (métisses, indígenas, esclaves noires…) qui ont sacrifié leur vie pour une cause commune, participèrent à l’émancipation du Peuple. Elles ont ainsi transgressé les codes de la société du XIXe siècle, défié cette séparation entre le public et le privé, entre le masculin et le féminin, pour devenir de réels sujets historiques. Comme l’affirme Peter Burke, «toda imagen cuenta una historia28». Ainsi, l’Université Andine Simón Bolívar29en Equateur inaugura en 2006 le Salon des Libératrices30, un hommage aux héroïnes qui luttèrent 26

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762), Émile ou de l’éducation : livre V, 38. http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/Rousseau_jj/emile/emile_de_education_5.pdf 27 Evelyn Cherpak, «La participación de las mujeres en el movimiento de Independencia de la Gran Colombia» (1978), cité par Concepción Bados Ciria, «El imaginario femenino en las independencias hispanoamericanas», Omnibus n°26, mayo de 2009. http://www.omni-bus.com/n26/bados.html 28 Peter Burke, Visto y no visto. El uso de la imagen como documento histórico (España: Crítica, 2005), 177. 29 La Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar es un centro académico de cobertura regional, establecido como un órgano del Sistema Andino de Integración, que se dedica a la enseñanza superior, la investigación y la prestación de servicios, especialmente para impulsar el desarrollo de nuestra cultura, y la transmisión de


Chapter Five

pour l’indéppendance. L’hhistorien et reccteur de l’Uniiversité Enriq que Ayala Mora précisse que, «Al inicio se pen nsó colocar im mágenes de todos t los libertadores,, empezando por Bolívar, luego vino idea de equiilibrio de género, perro había más de cuatro mujeres m que ddestacar; ento onces, se 31 decidió que se debía honnrar a las libeertadoras de lla América Andina A .» «Libertadoraas», ce termee est importan nt car seuls soont considéréés comme «libertadorees» les pèress de l’indép pendance (im mage de Bollívar par exemple). C Ce salon préssente huit femmes, huit hhéroïnes de la région andine : il ss’agit d’un hoommage «a miles m de madrres, a las viud das, a las hermanas, a las novias, a las amantes, a las combatieentes, a las en nfermas, a las conspiradoras contra el e colonialism mo, al papel esttelar que la mujer m jugó en el logro dde la independdencia contineental», précisee le résumé du u lieu32. Manueela Sáenz est une patriote équatorien nne, née le 228 décembree 1795 à Quito (Eq quateur) dans une famille aisée et morte en exil e le 23 novvembre 1856 à Paita au Pérou. Allors que touutes les jeun nes filles recevaient une éducattion pour deevenir de bonnes épouses ett mères, Manuela s’intéressaait déjà trèès jeune au ux idées révolutionnaires et ssoutenait less forces conocimientoos científicos y tecnológicos. Fue establecidda en Quito, como c sede nacional paraa el Ecuador, en 1992. Uno de los objetivvos fundamentales de la universidad ees fomentar el e espíritu de integración enntre nuestros pueblos p y coadyuvar all avance de los l procesos in ntegrativos en los espacios andino y sudamericanoo. http://www.uuasb.edu.ec/indeex_publicacion..php?cd=402 30 El principaal salón de sesioones de la universidad, ubicaddo en el Edificio o Manuela Sáenz, honraa y conmemorra a las mujerres de la Indeependencia. Po or ello se denomina “Salón de las Libertadoras” y acoge varias im mportantes obrras de arte dedicadas a eellas. Esta publlicación ofrece un texto que jjustifica la exisstencia del salón, cuentaa cómo se ideó y construyó, describe d las obbras que alberga y ofrece algunas refereencias sobre suus autores. Inclu uye también el ddiscurso pronun nciado por el Prof. Felippe Mantilla, ex Presidente del Consejo Superrior de la Univeersidad, en el acto de apeertura del salónn, el 24 de julio de 2006, que eentrega una sem mblanza de las ocho mujeeres de la Indeppendencia. La publicación p esttá ilustrada con n imágenes del gran vitraal del salón, conn las otras obraas de arte que loo decoran y con n las de su mobiliario. htttp://www.uasb.edu.ec/index_p publicacion.phpp?cd=402 31 «Un vitrall rinde homenaaje a las liberttadoras de la rregión», Andess, Agencia pública de nooticias del Ecuaddor y Suraméricca, 14/04/2011,, http://andes.innfo.ec/2009-2011.php/?p=58469 32 Salón de laas Libertadoras.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


révolutionnaires émancipatrices. De nature rebelle et dotée d’une grande force de caractère, «Manuelita» devint très vite le fer de lance de la révolution et la première femme à jouer un rôle prépondérant dans l’histoire de l’Equateur. Manuela déclarait ainsi sa conscience et son identité américaines : «Mi país es el continente de América. He nacido bajo la línea del Ecuador.» Grande défenseure de l’indépendance et des droits des femmes, elle a joué un rôle d’espionne et de « factrice ». Elle a cherché des ressources financières pour la cause patriotique. Pour cela, elle reçut le titre de «caballeresa del Sol» des mains du général José de San Martín en juillet 1822, après que celui-ci a conquis Lima et proclamé son indépendance. Elle fut également la compagne loyale et fidèle du Libérateur Simón Bolívar33 et fut en charge de ses papiers personnels. Pour cela il la nomma colonel. Jean-Baptiste Boussingault, avec lequel Manuela partagea d’intenses moments politiques et sociaux, la décrivait en 1824 comme une femme qui possédait un don pour se faire aimer des autres. Elle avait néanmoins des ennemis. En deux occasions, elle déjoua les conspirations d’assassinats visant Bolívar, raison pour laquelle elle est surnommée «la libertadora del libertador» en 1828. A partir du moment où Simón Bolívar renonce à la présidence de la Grande Colombie en 1830, les attaques contre Manuela se firent plus nombreuses : Vicente Azuero incita la population à manifester son mécontentement contre Manuela par le biais d’affiches, de pancartes et d’actes divers tel celui de brûler, lors de la fête du Corpus Christi, deux poupées à l’effigie de Manuela et de Bolívar, personnifiées sous le nom de Tyran et Despote. Sa réaction ne se fit pas attendre, elle détruisit les poupées et reçut un soutien inespéré, celui des femmes : «Nosotras, las mujeres de Bogotá, protestamos de esos provocativos libelos contra esta señora que aparecen en los muros de todas las calles […]. La señora Sáenz, a la que nos referimos, no es sin duda una delincuente34.» 33

Leur relation épistolaire révèle un véritable amour, une admiration et une dévotion, comme par exemple la lettre de Simón Bolívar datée du 20 avril 1825 : «Mi bella y buena Manuela : cada momento estoy pensando en ti y en el destino que te ha tocado. Yo veo que nada en el mundo puede unirnos bajo los auspicios de la inocencia y el honor. Lo veo bien, y gimo de tan horrible situación por ti ; por que te debes reconciliar con quien no amabas; y yo porque debo separarme de quien idolatro! Sí, te idolatro hoy más que nunca jamás. Al arrancarme de tu amor y de tu posesión se me ha multiplicado el sentimiento de todos los encantos de tu alma y de tu corazón divino, de ese corazón sin modelo.» 34 Linda Lema Tucker, “Heroína de nuestra América”, diario La Primera, Perú, 25/11/2012, http://www.diariolaprimeraperu.com/online/especial/heroina-denuestra-america_125452.html


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Le gouvernement de l’époque fut sur le point de mettre un terme à la persécution et d’écouter ces femmes, mais un pamphlet de Manuela, « La Tour de Babel », jeta de l’huile sur le feu. Dans cet écrit, elle met en évidence l’inefficacité du gouvernement et révèle des secrets d’État. Son caractère fort et indépendant lui vaut la haine d’une partie de la population et surtout du pouvoir. Ainsi, le 1er janvier 1834, le général Santander signa le décret qui l’expulsa définitivement de Colombie. Elle s’installa alors à Paita au Pérou où elle vécut jusqu’à la fin de sa vie dans la misère. En 1856, victime de diphtérie, elle fut incinérée avec toutes ses affaires pour éviter toute contagion, faisant ainsi disparaître une grande partie de la correspondance avec Bolívar. La sépulture de Manuela Sáenz fut localisée en 1988 et ses restes identifiés grâce à la réplique de la croix qu’elle portait et qui la définissait comme la compagne du Libérateur. Ses restes symboliques reposent, depuis juillet 2010, auprès de Simón Bolívar au Panthéon National du Venezuela. Il faut attendre le milieu du XXe siècle, soit un siècle après sa mort, pour voir apparaître les premières biographies et les premiers essais dans lesquels les auteurs revendiquent le vrai rôle de Manuela dans l’Indépendance des actuels Equateur, Colombie et Pérou. En 1994, Carlos Alvarez Saá créa un musée dédié à sa mémoire. Le 24 mai 2007, lors de la commémoration de la bataille de Pichincha qui, le 24 mai 1822, scella l’indépendance de l’Equateur grâce à la victoire de Sucre, le président Rafael Correa l’éleva au rang de général de la République d’Equateur. María Parado de Bellido est née le 5 juillet 1777 à Ayacucho au Pérou35 au sein d’une famille humble d’indigènes. Considérée comme une héroïne péruvienne, précurseur de l’Indépendance du Pérou, elle a consacré sa vie à la liberté de sa patrie en se mettant au service des guérillas, au sein desquelles étaient engagés son mari et un de ses fils. Elle servit d’informatrice des plans et déplacements des réalistes espagnols. Comme elle ne savait ni lire, ni écrire, elle dictait ses lettres qu’elle signait par la suite. Les Espagnols en trouvèrent une dans laquelle elle révélait des secrets militaires. Elle fut alors capturée, torturée, interrogée et fusillée le 11 mai 1822, devenu depuis le jour de l’action héroïque de María Parado de Bellido. Lors de son interrogatoire, elle affirma: «no estoy aquí para informar a ustedes, sino para sacrificarme por la causa de la libertad». Elle préféra marcher jusqu’au peloton d’exécution plutôt que de trahir son pays. Une peinture de Consuelo Cisneros de 1929, «Fusilamiento de María 35

Les historiens s’accordent à situer sa naissance à Huamanga, une des onze provinces du département d’Ayacucho. Le prêtre Carlos Cardenas affirme avoir trouvé un acte de baptême à Cangallo où elle serait née.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Parado de Bellido», immortalise sa mort. Le poète Mario Ruiz de Castilla lui dédie un poème, en soulignant parfaitement sa dévotion pour sa patrie et sa volonté de mourir en martyre36. Au Pérou, et plus particulièrement à Ayacucho, la légende de María Parado de Bellido et de son sacrifice continue de se transmettre de génération en génération grâce à la tradition orale37. 1975 célèbre l’année de la Femme péruvienne et un timbre est dédié à María Parado de Bellido. Le Pérou lui rend également hommage au sein du Panthéon de ses personnages illustres, el panteón de los próceres, en exposant un buste à son effigie. Nous pouvons lire au sujet des Femmes de l’Indépendance : El Protector del Perú. He acordado y decreto: «Las patriotas que más se hayan distinguido por su adhesión a la Independencia del Perú, usarán el distintivo de una banda de seda bicolor blanca y encarnada que baje del hombro izquierdo al costado derecho, donde se enlazaran con una pequeña borla de oro con las armas del Estado en el anverso y esta inscripción en el reverso: Al patriotismo de las más sensibles». —Dado en el Palacio Protectoral de Lima, el 11 de enero de 1822. San Martín.

Il perdure néanmoins un certain mystère sur son décès : El descuido por la heroína popular ha sido de tal grado, desde esa época, que no sabemos cuándo fue su ejecución… Que afrontó serena la muerte a la que la condenó Carratalá. La ejecución se cumplió en la Plazuela del Arco; como poseía escasos bienes, no dejó testamento. Luego surgieron varias versiones de tradición oral confusa. Lo único verificable es que Simón Bolívar estableció una pensión de gracia para las hijas 36

MARIA PARADO DE BELLIDO: Rasgando el pecho mi corazón parta / y haga pedazos la bala homicida,/ más no diré quién escribió esa carta/ ni por todas las glorias de la vida. (…) Que en este pecho que el dolor taladra/ y donde artera la traición no cuadra,/ no he venido aquí a delatar/ si no a morir, antes que traicionar. 37 Selon cette tradition, le général Carratalá, n’ayant plus d’argument pour faire parler María et la forcer à dénoncer ses collaborateurs, ordonna de brûler sa maison dans laquelle vivaient ses filles. Ces dernières furent sauvées grâce à la population qui les informait minute par minute des événements et leur dit qu’un peloton de soldats s’approchait de la maison. Elle relate également que María était dévote de la Vierge Marie. Ainsi, lorsque le cortège qui la conduisait jusqu’au lieu d’exécution passa devant l’Eglise de Santo Domingo, elle s’agenouilla et pria, implora la Vierge pour la salut de son âme et celles de ses enfants. La foule qui la suivait s’émut aux larmes. Enfin, une troisième légende précise qu’après la mort de María, son cadavre fut réclamé par le prieur pour l’enterrer de façon chrétienne, dans le couvent de La Merced. Carratalá accepta la demande.


Chapter Five sobrevivientes de la herooína, pero no saabemos siquieraa qué suerte corrrieron H los cinco hijos que participaban en las montoneras. See nota que la Historia 3 yor para enaltec er su memoria38 . Oficial sieempre la margiinó. Razón may

Malgré lla parcimoniee des donnéess biographiquues, sa renomm mée s’est étendue au-ddelà de sa terrre natale. Lu uisa Cáceres de Arismend di est née le 25 septembre 1799 à Caracas au Venezzuela. Sa fami mille fuit Caracas après l’échec de la deuxiième République et se réfugiee sur l’île Maargarita, où see trouvait déjà, pour des rraisons milittaires, le généraal Juan Battista Arismen ndi. Elle l’épou usa en 1814. P Parce qu’elle soutenait son mari, m elle fut arrêtée en novembre n 1815, torturée, empprisonnée illéégalement et exillée en Espagn gne en décem mbre 1816 avant de parvenir à s’enfuir et revenir au pays. En recevannt des nouveelles des victoires de son mari, ellee décida de rev venir sur l’île Margarita en 1818, où elle fut reçuue avec ferveuur et considéréée comme l’inncarnation de la Patrie. Elle mourutt dans sa ville natale en juin n 1866. Son eentêtement à suivre s les idéaux de soon mari, à rissquer sa vie ett sa fortune, llui ouvrit les portes p du Panthéon Naational du Vennezuela en 1876. Eduardo Blanco, l’autteur de Venezzuela Heroíca,, relate la vie de Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi en prison, lees tortures qqu’elle y a subies s et l’accouchem ment d’une enffant morte néee à cause des m mauvais traiteements : Gimiendoo prisionera en los calabozos de d la fortaleza dde Santa Rosa, en La Asunciónn, maltratada con salvaje furor, aquellaa criatura ang gelical, abandonaada a los ultrajees de sus verdug gos, sin más am mparo que la en nérgica austeridadd de la virtud, eleva e a Dios su u alma y resiste con suprema energía e como lass mártires cristtianas, las horaas espantosas dde su largo su uplicio, sintiendo palpitar en suu seno la inocen nte criatura com mo ella conden nada a expiar el heroísmo del caudillo insular. A las frecuenttes intimidacion nes del jefe españñol Urreiztieta, llenas de encon no y amenazas,, para que alcan nce del General Arismendi el sometimiento de la isla, coontesta siemprre con heroísmo: «Jamás lograrréis de mí que le aconseje faltaar a sus deberess39.» 38

Juan José V Vega, «Una heroína popular: María M Parado dee Bellido» (12/0 09/2010) Cité par Luuciana McNamaara, «Luisa Cácceres de Arismeendi: devoción pasional», Encontrarte, colección de peersonajes n° 128, 39

« Les femmes, ces c libératrices »


M L’historiienne Inés Quuintero précisee qu’à son retoour sur l’île Margarita, Luisa s’est cconsacrée à saa famille et à son foyer penndant toute laa fin de la guerre et alllait à la messse tous les jo ours. Les fem mmes disparurrent de la scène publiqque à la fin dee la guerre carr, comme nom mbre de femm mes de son entourage quui ont particippé activement au processus d’indépendan nce, Luisa ne souhaitaiit pas participer aux affairees politiques rréservées aux hommes. La Républiqque naissantee ne les réclamait pas noon plus et in ncitait les femmes à reeprendre la plaace qui leur éttait assignée. Surnom mmée « la Prootectora » parr Ricardo Palma dan ns ses Tradicciones peruan nas, Rosa Campuza ano est née le 13 avril 1796 à Guayaquill en Equateeur, fille d’u un riche producteur de cacao et dd’une mulâtree. Arrivée à Lima en n 1817, elle s’ inséra très vitte dans la société et ouvrit des «ttertulias», dess lieux de débat. Sess relations socciales lui perm mirent de diffuser lees idées et less lettres de Saan Martín pour inciteer les gens à ss’engager dan ns la lutte pour l’indépendance. Il exisste diverses vversions de la l vie de Rosa Cam mpuzano quui soulignentt sa vie amoureuse scandaleuse, puisqu’elle est e notammennt connue pou ur être la maîtresse duu Général Sann Martín. Pou ur en finir aveec cette légen nde noire, Silvia Puennte40, écrivainne et journaliste argentine , précise qu’elle joua également uun rôle préponndérant dans l’Indépendancee. En margge de ses activvités, Rosa con nnut Manuelaa Sáenz avec qui q elle se lia d’amitié. Le roman de Luis Zuñiiga Manuela relate d’ailleeurs cette amitié : Una maññana, Thorne me m pidió que habláramos, puees no le agradaaba en absoluto m mi amistad conn Rosita. —Manueela, Rosa Camppuzano no es una u buena amisstad para ti, pu ues he escuchadoo que es una mujer m de mala reeputación; en ottras palabras, allgunos la consideeran una libertinna. (…) –no debeería juzgarla basándose b en comentarios c dee gente que essconde alguna am margura, quizáss porque la pro opia Rosita no les toma en cu uenta y por ello se sienten rechazzados41.

http://encontrrarte.aporrea.orgg/128/personajee/ 40 Silvia Puennte, La mujer dee San Martín en n Lima, Editoriaal Sudamerican na, 2001. 41 Luis Zuñigga, Manuela, Esskeletra editoriaal, segunda edicción, 1997, 92-9 93.


Chapter Five

Marginaalisée, Rosa Campuzano C mourut m dans lees bras de so on fils en 1851. Manu uela Cañizarres est née lee 27 août 1769/177 7542 à Quitoo en Equateu ur et est considéréée comme l’ââme de l’indép pendance de 1809 ; amphitryonnne de la con nspiration du premiier cri de l’inddépendance dee Quito la nuit du 9 août 18009. Les parttisans de l’indépen ndance se rééunissaient chez c elle pour plan nifier la révoolution et se constituer c en assem mblée. Lors dee la réunion du d 9 août, elle incitta les réticentss à s’engager avec ces paroles : «Hombres ccobardes, naciidos para la servid dumbre ¿de qqué tenéis mieedo? ¡No hay tiemp po que perderr43!» Finalemeent, ils rédigèèrent la déclaaration d’indéépendance ; lee marquis de Selva A Alegre étant alors nomméé Président dde la Junte Suprême. L’historien C Celiano Mongge affirme qu’eelle était une fe femme de caractère : Una mujer de ameno traato, carácter fraanco y resuelto, solicitada por nobles c el co orazón a Quirooga. Su aspecto fue caballeross, pero solo concedió hermoso, su carácter, gracia, g y demás prendas le ddieron mucho influjo i ue mujer de ániimo templado444. sobre los políticos de su tiempo, pues fu

Inscrite ssur une « listee noire » pour s’être engagéée dans la révo olution de 1809, elle s’enfuit dans la l Vallée de Los L Chillos juusqu’en 1812, avant de revenir à Quuito en 1813 dans d le couveent de Santa C Clara. Elle y mourut m en 1814 quelquues mois aprèès avoir rédig gé son testam ment. Lors du u premier centenaire dde ce cri d’inndépendance du d 10 Août 11809, l’écrivaaine Zoila Ugarte de Landívar écriviit : ¿Quién ess aquella mujerr que se hombrrea con los Próóceres de Agosto? Su estatura ees también proocerosa, noble su continente, su rostro irrad dia los fulgores de la inmortallidad, ciñe la corona inmarccesible de los héroes


Les sourcess divergent au sujet s de l’annéee de naissance dde Manuela Cañ ñizares. Enrique Paaredes R., «Mannuela Cañizaress : legado histórrico,» In Diario o El tiempo (09/08/2013).. 44 María Danniela Hidalgo y María José Lasso, «Manueela Cañizares: Mujer de ardiente pasióón libertaria», 12 1 juin 2009, http://margariitasnocallan.bloogspot.fr/2009/0 06/manuela-cannizares.html 43

« Les femmes, ces c libératrices »


¿Quién ees? Manuela Cañizares, el alm ma de la insurrrección de 18 809, la mártir de sus conviccionnes republicanass. ¡Echad laurelles a sus pies45!

Arbre dee la victoire, le l laurier sym mboliserait l’im mmortalité accquise par la victoire ; ainsi, selonn cette écriv vaine, Manueela Cañizaress devient emblème dee la gloire ett son action lui offre unee place éternelle dans l’histoire de l’Equateur. Aujourd’hui, nul ne sait où se trouve sa tombbe, mais son nom est associé à l’ééducation dess filles et un collège c de fillles lui rend hommage. h Enfin, le 100 août 2012, le président Rafael R Correaa assista à l’h hommage rendu à Maanuela Cañizaares lors duqu uel une plaquue commémorrative fut fixée sur le m mur de la maiison où elle véécut. Malgré sa grandee popularitéé, nous connaissons peu de chhoses sur laa vie de Policarpa Salavarrietaa. Des inccertitudes perdurent sur s son nom m46 et sa date de 47 naissance . Surnommée ««La Pola», ellle est née le 26 janvieer 1796 à G Guaduas en Colombie. C L’héroïne laa plus populaaire et la plu us connue dans son pays, elle estt la représenttation de l’autre imag ge féminine, opposée à la vision traditionnelle : celle dee la femmee active, courageuse et combativee. Elle fut couturière c mais sa sensibilité s faace à l’inju ustice la transforma en espionne et messagèree pour défenddre Santa Fee. Elle se consacra éggalement au reecrutement dee nouveaux s oldats en fav veur de la cause révoluutionnaire. Ellle fut arrêtée et fusillée à B Bogota le 14 novembre n 1817 après aavoir prononccé ces mots : ¡Pueblo inndolente ! ¡cuáán distinta sería hoy vuestra suuerte si conocieerais el precio dee la libertad! Peero no es tarde.. Ved que, mujjer y joven, mee sobra plo48! valor paraa sufrir la muerrte y mil muertees más. ¡No olviidéis este ejemp


Diccionarioo biografico de Ecuador, 2014. http://www.diccionariobiogrraficoecuador.com/tomos/tomoo10/c3.htm 46 Son père l’appelait Poloniia dans son testaament, son frèree la nommait Policarpa et tous la connaiissait sous le noom de La Pola. 47 Certains siituent sa naissaance entre 1791 1 et 1796, d’auutres affirment qu’elle q est née en 1795 oou 1796. Les deerniers écrits bio ographiques sugggèrent plutôt 1796. 1 48 Mercedes S Solano Plazas, «Policarpa Sallavarrieta: la heeroína que con su muerte impulsó la inssurrección»,


Chapter Five

José Hilaario López, quui l’accompag gna durant sonn dernier jour,, souligne dans ses Meemorias qu’ellle était convaincu par ses iddéaux et son co ourage. Il la décrit com mme une fem mme courageu use et exaltéee par la libertté, qui se sacrifiait pour obtenir de quoi sustenteer les soldats, qui ne pensait qu’à se venger et obbtenir l’indéppendance. Selon lui, elle reefusa toute alternative proposée poour se sauveer, notammen nt la confess ion à un prêtre. Les historiens aaffirment quee ses dernièrres paroles ccréèrent un sentiment s d’appartenannce à une nation, une reevendication identitaire ; le l peuple s’éleva alorss contre le réggime de terreur de Juan Sám mano. D’autress femmes ont subi le mêmee sort qu’elle, mais elle fut la seule à mériter une mention danss le journal vén nézuélien Corrreo del Orino oco, édité entre 1818 et 1822 et créé par Simón S Bolívaar comme orrgane de propagande.. Dans l’éditiion du 1er jaanvier 1820, le colombien n Joaquín Monsalve, ccompagnon de d cellule de Policarpa, ppublie son an nagramme «Polycarpa Salavarrieta : Yace por saalvar la patriaa». Son imagee apparaît également suur les pièces de d monnaie dee 5 pesos de 1 987 et, depuiss 1967, le jour de sa m mort (14 novem mbre) est la journée de la Feemme en Colo ombie. Juan na Azurduy d de Padilla est née le 12 juillet 1780 1 à Chuqquisaca, Hau ut Pérou. Sensibiliisée aux valeeurs de la lib berté et à l’indépen ndance par son mari Manuel Padilla, elle prit la têête des guérilllas contre les Espaagnols du Hauut Pérou. Ellee reçut le rang de lieutenant-collonel suite à un u décret signé parr Pueyrredón et le sabre symbolique du général Belgranno pour sa défense héroïquee de l’haciendda de Villar en mars 1816 où ù elle tua le chef espagn nol. Cette même an nnée, Güemess lui octroie lee droit de porter l’unifforme militairre. Durant les combats, ellee perdit sa fam mille, son mari tué en voulant la seccourir et ses quatre q fils victtimes du palud disme. La tête de sonn mari fut cooupée et exhiibée durant ddes mois sur la place publique ; JJuana parvienndra à la récu upérer le 15 mai 1817 av vec l’aide d’une centaaine d’Indienns. Elle contiinua pendant trois ans lee combat jusqu’à la m mort de Güemees en 1821 quii la marqua prrofondément. En 1825, elle demande une aide éco onomique au ggouvernementt argentin pour rentrerr à Chuquisacaa ; ce dernier lui offrira la m modique som mme de 50 pesos et quaatre mules pouur faire le voyage. De retourr en Bolivie, le l général http://portel.bbogota.gov.co/pportel/libreria/ph hp/x_frame_dettalle.php?id=41 1364&patr on=01.300101

« Les femmes, ces c libératrices »


due en 1857 ppar le gouvern nement de Sucre lui occtroie une pennsion, suspend Linares. Ellle meurt danss l’indigence le 25 mai 18862. Ses restees ont été exhumés cennt ans plus tarrd pour être co onservés danss un mausolée construit à sa mémooire. Elle est devenue un mythe natioonal et un peersonnage littéraire. Ellle appartient au folklore musical m puisqqu’une chanso on lui est dédiée. Elle est reconnue tant en Boliv vie qu’en Arggentine. Merceedes Sosa y contribua fortement enn diffusant laa chanson «Juuana de Azurrduy» qui retrace son ccombat : «Me enamora la patria p en agrazz, desvelada, recorro r su faz; el españñol no pasará, con mujeress tendrá que ppelear. Tierra en armas que se hace mujer, amazoona de la liberrtad. Quiero fformar en tu escuadrón e y al clarín dee tu voz atacaar.» La chaanson met en avant laa féminisatioon des lutttes pour l’indépendannce. Le 15 juillet 2009,, la présidennte argentine Cristina Kirchner l’ééleva au rang de d général : El destinoo quiso que el Ecuador E estuvieera al lado de ssu héroe hasta la l hora final; en eefecto, la últim ma persona en preparar los alim mentos del Libeertador en San P Pedro Alejandrrino, fue una humilde h mujer ecuatoriana a quien Bolívar lllamaba afectuosamente la Neg gra Fernanda. E El 15 de diciem mbre de 1830, a pocas horas del desenlacee fatal, la Neegra Fernanda pidió autorizaciión al médico Próspero Reveeren para perm manecer un rato o en la alcoba m mortal del Libeertador y en ell murmullo dee sus rezos y en los sollozos rregados de lágrrimas de la neg gra estaba repreesentado el dollor del Ecuador aante la desapariición de su héro oe más amado499.

Nous connaissons peu de choses sur Fernanda Barriga, cettte fidèle domeestique de Quito au seervice du Libeertador Simón n Bolívar à partir de 1827. Elle fut ut la cuisinièree de « son Excellence », comme eelle avait cou utume de l’appeler av vec fierté, jussqu’à la mort de celuici à San Peedro Alejandrrino et la seulle femme autorisée à l’accompaggner dans son n dernier voyage. Ellle est probab ablement née en 1807 dans la Valle V del Chhota. Dans un u article intitulé «La Negra Fernnanda», Luis Fernando Torres préssente Fernandda Barriga com mme une héroïne oub bliée des histooriens. 49

Felipe Moontilla, «Bolívarr y el Ecuadorr : el mutuo affecto», Proceso os, Revista Ecuatoriana de Historia n°11 n (Quito: Universidad U A Andina Simón Bolívar / Corporación E Editora Nacionnal, 1997), 130.


Chapter Five En el elegante Salón de las Libertadoras de la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar se encuentra, en un vitral multicolor, el rostro de Fernanda Barriga, cuya presencia histórica la advirtió Gabriel García Márquez en la novela biográfica de Bolívar, el General en su laberinto. Hasta entonces había pasado inadvertida para historiadores y biógrafos. De la Negra Fernanda, como se le conoce a Fernanda Barriga, García Márquez dijo, para destacar la gran capacidad con la que administró la cocina del derrotado y agónico Libertador en Santa Marta, que “a Fernanda no le alcanzaban los ímpetus y el buen humor para atender a tantas solicitudes de comida a las horas menos pensadas”. La vieja, fea e inservible Negra Fernanda, como se había descrito ella misma cuando consoló al afligido y agónico Bolívar, no fue, en 1830, ni vieja, ni fea ni inservible. No tenía más de 23 años, su rostro, a decir de las historiadores, era especial y dulce, se trataba de una afroandina peculiar, oriunda del Valle del Chota. A veces, para molestarla, Bolívar la llamaba Fernanda Séptima, en memoria del monarca español. Comentó el Rector de la Universidad Andina, el historiador Enrique Ayala, al explicar la proyección del Salón a estudiantes y a profesores de las maestrías que se imparten en la Universidad, que la Negra Fernanda vivió alrededor de 100 años, de tal manera que, ya anciana, vivió de cerca los hechos de la Revolución Alfarista50.

Femme de confiance de Manuela Sáenz, Fernanda est citée dans plusieurs ouvrages littéraires et présentée comme indispensable dans la vie de Bolívar. Dans l’ouvrage Manuelita, la amante revolucionaria de Simón Bolívar de Manuel R. Mora, Manuela Sáenz la présente ainsi : «(...) seguramente sí, era bien joven cuando la saqué de Quito y se la puse de cocinera a Bolívar. Decía que su excelencia, así le llamaba siempre, se había hecho a sus condimentos y que nadie como ella conocía los gustos de Bolívar en la mesa51». Gabriel García Márquez affirme, par ailleurs, dans son ouvrage El general en su laberinto, que, submergée de douleur à la mort de Simón Bolívar, Fernanda a porté le deuil éternel jusqu’à sa mort à l’âge de 101 ans. L’hommage aux femmes recouvre ici une large période (1809-1830), représentant également les indépendances de l’Amérique Latine. Ce panorama des héroïnes n’est pourtant pas exhaustif, il omet les autres territoires comme le Mexique ainsi que d’autres femmes des différents pays cités. Il omet par exemple de mentionner la célèbre rébellion de femmes à Cochabamba en Bolivie en 1812 : las heroínas de la Coronilla. 50

Luis Fernando Torres, «La Negra Fernanda», El Mercurio de Chicago, vol. 8, n°390, 2 juillet 2010, 3. 51 Manuel R. Mora, Manuelita, la amante revolucionaria de Simón Bolívar, Editions Turner, Madrid, 2012, 144.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


En Bolivie, les femmes ont participé à toutes les étapes de l’histoire du pays, tant à l’époque précolombienne, coloniale, révolutionnaire que républicaine, mais il est vrai que leurs participations aux guerres d’indépendance représentent tout un symbole. Deux cents ans après cette révolte, la véritable portée de la participation féminine est encore confuse et mise en doute. Certains affirment que la lutte courageuse de ces femmes a été propice à la construction d’un mythe historique et de symboles qui réveillent des sentiments d’identification. D’autres relatent l’engagement héroïque des troupes cochabambines et minimisent le rôle des femmes. Dans son œuvre Ni con Lima, ni con Buenos Aires, par exemple, José Luis Roca ne parle pas d’une quelconque présence féminine dans les combats de Cochabamba. Cette ville y est décrite comme rebelle, coutumière des soulèvements (Calatayud en 1730, etc.). Roca parle de la révolte de Cochabamba en mai 1812 mais jamais de la rébellion de ce groupe de femmes. Il consacre pourtant un chapitre entier à la participation des indígenas dans les guerres d’indépendances : Durante el mes de mayo de 1812, Goyeneche preparó una vigorosa ofensiva para retomar Cochabamba. Su ejército disciplinado y bien dotado de armas, hacía rudo contraste con el de Arze. Pobres de recursos, y armados más de entusiasmo que de fusiles y munición, los cochabambinos sumaban unos cuatro mil hombres cuyo principal recurso bélico eran unos cañoncitos de bronce fundidos en Tarata. Los proyectiles eran de vidrio diseñados para fragmentarse en mil pedazos al hacer impactos sobre su blanco52.

Eduardo Galeano, quant à lui, affirme le contraire dans Memoria del fuego : las caras y las máscaras, 1812 Cochabamba Mujeres En Cochabamba, muchos hombres han huido. Mujeres, ninguna. En la colina, resuena el clamoreo. Las plebeyas cochabambinas, acorraladas, pelean desde el centro de un círculo de fuego. Cercadas por cinco mil españoles, resisten disparando rotosos cañones de estaño y unos pocos arcabuces; y combaten hasta el último alarido. La larga guerra de la independencia recogerá los ecos. Cuando la tropa afloje, el general Manuel Belgrano gritará las palabras infalibles para


José Luis Roca, Ni con Lima, ni con Buenos Aires, Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, Plural Editores, 2007, 228-229.


Chapter Five devolver templanzas y disparar corajes. El general preguntará a los soldados vacilantes: «¿Están aquí las mujeres de Cochabamba53?»

Ainsi, le 27 mai 1812, une centaine de femmes courageuses de Cochabamba luttèrent contre les troupes du général José Manuel Goyeneche dans le seul but de chasser les militaires espagnols de chez elles et de leur village. Elles sortirent en criant : «¡nuestro hogar es sagrado !» pour empêcher toute intrusion dans le seul lieu qu’elles dirigeaient : leur foyer. Elles signèrent de leur sang cette volonté de liberté, d’indépendance qui envahissait tout le continent. Elles résistèrent durant trois heures avant d’être massacrées par Goyeneche. José Macedonio Urquidi, dans son ouvrage Bolivianas ilustres, présente la ville de Cochabamba comme le théâtre des actions héroïques des femmes : LAS COCHABAMBINAS Teatro de las acciones más heroicas fue el fecundo y hermoso suelo de Cochabamba, en las épicas y legendarias luchas de la libertad, de los caros ideales de la democracia, por los que sin distinción de sexo ni edad, “nobleza y plebeyos”, sus hijos hicieron prodigios de abnegación y valerosos sacrificios. La fama de sus patrióticas hazañas fue celebrada en toda la América y en Europa misma, donde a propósito de la actitud ejemplar y decisiva asumida por el bello sexo cochabambino frente a la tiranía española, un ilustre escritor Luis Aimé Martín dijo proféticamente: «La América del Sur ha de triunfar, porque es preciso que triunfe una nación en que las mujeres combaten por la causa de la Independencia, y mueren al lado de sus hermanos y maridos54.»


Eduardo Galeano, Memoria del fuego: las caras y las máscaras, vol.2, siglo veintiuno editores ed. de 2004, 130. 54 José Macedonio Urquidi, Bolivianas ilustres, La Paz, Bolivia, 1919, 189. La référence à Louis Aimé Martin est un extrait de Éducation des mères de famille ou de la civilisation du genre humain, Paris, Charpentier, 1834 : « Oh ! Femmes de l’Amérique, soyez bénies entre toutes les femmes ! Et que les fruits de vos entrailles soient bénis, parce que vous avez compris la foi évangile, et que vous en avez connu la charité. Telle est l’Amérique des États-Unis, nouveau monde qui naît pour les nouvelles idées. Et telle sera l’Amérique du Sud après son triomphe ; car elle doit triompher la nation où les femmes combattent pour la cause de l’indépendance, et meurent à côté de leurs frères et de leur mari. Elle doit triompher la nation où chaque soir un officier demande, en présence de l’armée : « les femmes de Cochabamba sont-elles présentes ? » et où un autre officier répond : « Gloire à Dieu ! Elles sont toutes mortes pour la Patrie au champ d’honneur ».

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Urquidi met en exergue la femme du peuple et son sacrifice, son abnégation totale pour défendre des idéaux. Cet acte si généreux a été célébré par des poètes, publicitaires et journalistes, historiens, etc. Il utilise un vocabulaire symbolique en parlant de « sacrifice », d’« immolation » pour décrire cette action, mais emploie également un vocabulaire associé depuis toujours à la femme puisqu’il la décrit comme animée par un « enthousiasme passionné », un « délire patriotique », une « dévotion à la liberté ». Une vision masculine d’hystérie féminine, à l’image de la vision grecque de la stasis, du désordre que peut créer la femme lorsqu’elle est en groupe. Selon Urquidi, lors de cette révolte, la leader Manuela Eras y Gandarillas s’est distinguée par son côté masculin et son courage. Elle a pris part à toutes les actions héroïques qui ont immortalisé les cochabambines. Ainsi, lors du sacrifice collectif sur la colline de San Sebastián, elle dit cette célèbre phrase : «Si ya no hay hombres, aquí estamos nosotras para afrontarnos al enemigo, y morir por la patria55.» Alors comment vérifier ce fait historique par le biais de documents authentiques, incontestables, certifiés ? Certes la source la plus connue est l’œuvre de Nataniel Aguirre Juan de la Rosa : memorias del último soldado de la Independencia, basée sur des faits historiques vérifiables, mais romancée et motivée par l’émotion, donc s’orientant plus vers le mythe historique. Faut-il alors prendre pour argent comptant le récit du général Belgrano et le rapport du général Turpin ou encore croire le témoignage de Sebastián Mendez, avocat et fervent défenseur de la monarchie des Bourbons ? Pour Berta Wexler, dans son ouvrage Las Heroínas altoperuanas como expresión de un colectivo, les femmes ont lutté lorsque les circonstances sociales l’ont exigé. Face à la situation catastrophique de la ville, suite à la défaite des troupes du général Arze et à l’avancée des troupes de Goyeneche vers la ville, des milliers de personnes se seraient réunies pour prendre des décisions. La majorité était des femmes qui décidèrent courageusement d’affronter l’ennemi. Un témoignage de 1882 précise : La mayor parte de ellas pertenecían a las clases populares: hermanas Parrillas, Luisa Saavedra de Claure, Manuela Saavedra de Ferrufino, María Soto, Rosa Vega, con un enorme conjunto de mujeres de la ciudad de Cochabamba se reunieron en la plaza principal, de donde se encaminaron


Urquidi, Bolivianas ilustres, 195.


Chapter Five aleccionados por algunos dirigentes, a la colina de San Sebastián, con la intención de oponerse desde allí al ejército realista56.

Laura Gotkowitz, historienne états-unienne, précise que les multiples célébrations autour de ces héroïnes cochabambines à différents moments historiques du pays répondent aux différentes idéologies prédominantes. De nos jours, les commémorations serviraient à reconstruire, à réinventer l’histoire locale autour de l’imaginaire du métissage. Une décoration porte le nom de ces héroïnes : «la Orden de las heroínas de la Coronilla». En hommage à ces femmes, les différents gouvernements de ces dernières décennies érigèrent sur la colline de San Sebastián un monument avec l’inscription : «Dios y Patria. He aquí el alma de la mujer cochabambina, el secreto de su heroísmo y sus virtudes. Mayo 27 de 1812». Selon Berta Wexler, d’après une vision typiquement masculine, l’image de Dieu («Dios») souligne le sacrifice au nom de la foi ; la patrie met en exergue la maternité biologique pour mieux occulter l’action politique puisqu’il semble naturel que les femmes prennent les armes pour défendre leurs foyers et leurs enfants, luttent avec leur sensibilité, «virtudes sensibles57» sans aucun professionnalisme ni aucune connaissance militaire. La symbolique fut celle d’héroïnes-mères ; raison pour laquelle le 27 mai, jour de leur combat héroïque, est aujourd’hui le jour de la fête des mères. Lors du bicentenaire de ce combat, des commémorations et hommages furent rendus. Le 26 mai 2013, les présidents du Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, et de la Bolivie, Evo Morales, rendirent hommage à Cochabamba aux héroïnes de la Coronilla en déposant une gerbe de fleurs au pied du monument. Selon l’agence EFE, «Cientos de mujeres murieron masacradas hace mañana 201 años en este lugar desde el que se divisa toda la ciudad de Cochabamba, uno de los bastiones electorales del presidente Evo Morales». Mais combien de femmes sont réellement mortes ce jour-là ? Une centaine selon la presse, trois cents selon certains historiens, Ana Belén García López ou José Macedonio Urquidi entre autres, trente selon d’autres comme Berta Wexler : Los comentaristas aseguran que habrían muerto 30 mujeres, algunas de ellas fusiladas en el acto. Fueron mujeres del pueblo, humildes, de extracción popular. No se registra que hayan participado mujeres de la alta


Berta Wexler, Las Heroínas altoperuanas como expresión de un colectivo Bolivia: Centro de Documentación e Información y Centro de Estudios y Trabajo de la Mujer, 2001, 59. 57 Wexler, Las Heroínas altoperuanas, 63.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


sociedad aristocrática colonial cochabambina, como ha construido la leyenda educativa transmitida en las aulas durante largos años58.

Le seul document irréfutable semble être le rapport du soldat Turpin, témoin visuel du combat, dans lequel il fait aussi référence aux femmes de Cochabamba et confirme leur rôle dans la lutte. Elles prirent ainsi les armes et défendirent la cause libertaire : A poco rato se vio formado el ejército enemigo e inmediatamente rompieron el fuego las mujeres con los rebozos atados a la cintura, haciendo fuego por espacio de tres horas; el enemigo acometió por cuatro puntos y mataron treinta mujeres, seis hombres de garrote y tres fusileros59….

Ces propos confirment également ceux de José Macedonio Urquidi : Las mujeres de Cochabamba en el desarrollo de aquellos acontecimientos, enaltecieron más veces el nombre de sus compatriotas, obteniendo inmarcesibles laureles. Su concurso a la obra libertadora, tuvo el influjo de lo trascendental, en todo orden60.

Récupération sélective du passé pour mieux servir les intérêts du présent, pour mieux affirmer une identité commune et un sentiment de solidarité. Les interprétations du passé historique sont d’autant plus intéressantes lorsque les gouvernements en place rendent hommage à ces batailles héroïques et fondatrices, notamment dans l’actuel contexte de commémoration du bicentenaire. Nous nous retrouvons donc face à des sortes de mythologies nationalistes. Les nombreux écrits sur les héroïnes de Cochabamba ont favorisé les interprétations multiples ; Ana María Paz Soldán, dans le prologue de l’ouvrage de Nataniel Aguirre, Juan de la Rosa, memoria del último soldado de la Independencia, parle en effet de la création d’un mythe : Este mito que funda en el imaginario la ciudad republicana de Cochabamba proviene de la novela Juan de la Rosa de Nataniel Aguirre y en ella encontramos los nombres, las características y la historia de estos personajes de ficción: se trata de “la abuela Chepa” y su nieta Clarita, la una dirigió el levantamiento de las mujeres de Cochabamba contra los 58

«A 200 años de las Heroínas de la Coronilla», revista Datos Bolivia, Mayo de 2012, http://www.datos-bo.com/Bolivia/Actualidad/A-200-anos-de-las-Heroinasde-la-Coronilla 59 Wexler, Las Heroínas altoperuanas, 94. 60 Urquidi, Bolivianas ilustres, 198.


Chapter Five españoles en 1812 y la otra representa el desvalimiento en que se encontraba la población ante el enemigo, en ese mismo lugar. La colina de San Sebastián, entonces, a partir de esta imagen está inscrita por el mito, la historia y la literatura. […] La novela asume la representación de una imagen utópica de la ciudad de Cochabamba, patria chica que concentra afectos, lenguajes e imágenes de la memoria del narrador, Coronel Juan de la Rosa, y que se proyecta en la historia oral de esa ciudad61.

Il n’existe donc pas de faits historiques précis qui viennent confirmer les dires de Nataniel Aguirre et convertir son roman en source historique. Les héroïnes de la Coronilla font partie de la mémoire orale de la ville et sont devenues au fil du temps un facteur d’identité régionale. L’imaginaire de la ville de Cochabamba est lié à l’image féminine, et plus particulièrement à ces femmes, ces « héroïnes de la Coronilla ». Bien souvent, Cochabamba est définie comme le cœur de la Bolivie, non seulement par sa situation géographique mais également par son histoire ; cette ville reflète la légitimité de l’Etat et de la nation bolivienne, une très forte appartenance à la communauté politique nationale62. Favorisées par les circonstances exceptionnelles de la guerre, les femmes sont devenues des sujets actifs, faisant irruption dans l’espace public et acquérant un rôle prépondérant, transgressant ainsi par leurs attitudes et leurs actes les barrières que la société imposait à leur genre. Lors des commémorations des bicentenaires des Indépendances, les gouvernements ont multiplié les hommages et instauré une place aux femmes dans les guerres. Néanmoins, Si se hubiera dicho a principios de este siglo (XIX°) a uno de aquellos avanzados políticos í filósofos que ya meditaban en la revolución: –Es necesario que deis a vuestras hijas una educación esmerada, ellas pueden llegar a ser tan útiles a la familia ˴ a la sociedad como vuestros hijos varones


Nataniel Aguirre, Juan de la Rosa, memoria del último soldado de la independencia, Prólogo de Alba María Paz Soldán, colección clásica n°222 Venezuela: Biblioteca Ayacucho 2005, xxvii-xxix. 62 Daniel E. Moreno Morales, « Al centro y al margen: siete supuestos sobre la cultura política de Cochabamba », in Política e identidad en Cochabamba, Fernando Mayorga, Daniel E. Moreno Morales, Yuri F. Torrez, eds. Cochabamba: Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, 2011, 57.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Es seguro que aquel hombre tan ilustrado os hubiera oido sin comprenderos si os hubiera mirado fijamente, compadecido de vuestra demencia63.

Les origines de ces femmes qui ont œuvré pour l’indépendance sont hétérogènes, multiples, tant d’un point de vue social, culturel qu’économique : en Bolivie, les femmes pauvres se soulevèrent à Cochabamba, les métisses et indígenas à Chuquisaca, les créoles à La Paz, etc. Dotées dans un premier temps d’attributs masculins, l’historiographie souligna ensuite leurs rôles d’anti-héroïnes ; les Cochabambines par exemple sont devenues les Mères de la Patrie ; la date du combat, le jour de la fête des Mères. Reprenons alors le sentiment du général San Martín qui estimait que, sans les femmes, l’obtention de l’indépendance aurait pris plus de temps. Les « Pères de la patrie » reconnurent donc leur sacrifice et leur contribution dans la lutte pour l’indépendance en leur attribuant le rôle d’héroïnes pour mieux leur ouvrir les portes de l’Histoire.

Bibliographie Aguirre, Nataniel. (2005). Juan de la Rosa, memoria del último soldado de la independencia. Venezuela: Biblioteca Ayacucho, colección clásica, n°222. Prólogo de Alba María Paz Soldán, xxvii-xxix. Burke, Peter. (2005). Visto y no visto: El uso de la imagen como documento histórico. Traducción de Teofilo de Lozoya. España: Crítica. Cherpak, Evelyn. (1978). “La participación de las mujeres en el movimiento de Independencia de la Gran Colombia,” cité par Concepción Bados Ciria, “El imaginario femenino en las independencias hispanoamericanas”, Omnibus 26 (mayo de 2009). La rebelión de Túpac Amaru. (1971). Colección documental de la Independencia del Perú. Vol II. Lima : Comisión Nacional del Sesquicentenario de la Independencia del Perú. Delamarre, C. et Sallard B. (1992). La femme au temps des conquistadores. Paris : Stock/Pernoud. “El papel de Micaela Bastidas”. (2009). Portal educativo Educabolivia.bo. Categoría: Actualidad y estudios. Eslin, Jean-Claude et Cornu Catherine (dir.). (1993). La Bible : 2000 ans de lectures. Paris : Desclée de Brouwer.

63 Vicente Grez, Las mujeres de la independencia (Santiago: Imprenta Gutemberg, 1878), 5.


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Guardia, Sara Beatriz. “Las mujeres y la recuperación de la historia”. CEMHAL, Primer Simposio Internacional La Mujer en la Historia de América Latina. Lima, 27, 28, 29 de agosto 1997. Galeano Eduardo. (2004). Memoria del fuego: las caras y las máscaras. vol.2. España: siglo veintiuno editores. Grez Vicente. (1878). Las mujeres de la independencia. Santiago: Imprenta Gutemberg. Hidalgo María Daniela y Lasso María José. (2009). “Manuela Cañizares: Mujer de ardiente pasión libertaria”. http://margaritasnocallan.blogspot.fr/2009/06/manuela-canizares.html Lema Tucker Linda. “Heroína de nuestra América”. Diario La Primera, Perú, 25 de diciembre 2012. McNamara Luciana. (2014). “Luisa Cáceres de Arismendi: devoción pasional”. Encontrarte 128, colección de personajes. Mora Manuel R. (2012). Manuelita, la amante revolucionaria de Simón Bolívar, Madrid: Turner. Moreno Morales Daniel E. (2011). “Al centro y al margen: siete supuestos sobre la cultura política de Cochabamba”. In Mayorga Fernando, Moreno Morales Daniel E., y Torrez Yuri F. Política e identidad en Cochabamba. Cochabamba: Fundación Boliviana para la Democracia Multipartidaria, Universidad Mayor de San Simón. Mörner Magnus. (1967). Le métissage dans l’histoire de l’Amérique Latine. Paris : Fayard. Panorama de las señoritas, periódico pintoresco, científico y literario. (1842). México: Imprenta de Vicente García Torres. Perrot Michelle. (2006). Mon histoire des femmes. Paris : Seuil. Potthast Barbara. (2003). Von Müttern und machos. Ed. Peter Hammer Verlag GmbH. Potthast Barbara y Scarzanella Eugenia. (2001). Mujeres y naciones en América Latina: problemas de inclusión y exclusión. Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert-Iberoamericana. Puente Silvia. (2001). La mujer de San Martín en Lima. Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana. Redaccion Datos. “A 200 años de las Heroínas de la Coronilla”. (2012). Datos Bolivia. http://www.datos-bo.com/Bolivia/Actualidad/A-200anos-de-las-Heroinas-de-la-Coronilla Romero-Castillo, Evan. (2010). “Las mujeres no fueron testigos pasivos de la gesta independentista”, DW. http://www.dw.de/las-mujeres-nofueron-testigos-pasivos-de-la-gesta-independentista/a-6254451. Roca José Luis. (2007). Ni con Lima, ni con Buenos Aires, Lima: Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos, Plural Editores.

« Les femmes, ces libératrices »


Rousseau Jean-Jacques (1762). Émile ou de l’éducation : livre V. http://classiques.uqac.ca/classiques/Rousseau_jj/emile/emile_de_educa tion_5.pdf Solano Plazas Mercedes. (2010). “Policarpa Salavarrieta: la heroína que con su muerte impulsó la insurrección.” Bogota Bicentenario de la Independencia de Colombia. www.bogota.gov.co. Torres Luis Fernando. “La Negra Fernanda”. In El Mercurio de Chicago vol. 8, n° 390, 2 juillet 2010. Urquidi José Macedonio. (1918). Bolivianas ilustres: heroínas, escritoras, artistas. Estudio biográfico y artístico. Tomo 1. La Paz: Escuela tipográfica salesiana. Wexler Berta. (2001). Las Heroínas altoperuanas como expresión de un colectivo. Cochabamba: Centro de Documentación e InformaciónBolivia y Centro de Estudios y Trabajo de la Mujer. Zuñiga Luis. (1997). Manuela. Quito: Eskeletra editorial.


The aim of this essay is to show how the American press influenced the war of 1812, first contributing to take the United States into the war with the arms of patriotism and honor, and, after the tragic events of the first years, starting a reflection on the war that suggests a new way of resolving the conflict. It is obvious that the war of 1812 must not be limited to military or diplomatic studies, and especially for the people in the United States who read and wrote about the war in those years, it was clear that the war should be considered as a cultural event as much as a military one. At least controversial among members of the Federalist Party, the war received a sort of popular referendum in the presidential elections of 1812, easily won by James Madison, and of 1816, when Madison’s successor and former Secretary of War, James Monroe, became president without much opposition.1 Why did this happen? Few people witnessed the war in person, but many more followed the literary representation of the war reported in the newspapers. The study of the American press in those years, and in particular the articles referring to the war, will be helpful for a broader analysis of the war of 1812 that for the first time tested the patriotism of the people in the United States. In the early 1800s most American newspapers relied principally on advertising and subscriptions. Others used a more partisan tone that led to the development of the so-called “party press.” National politics, but also local politics, often became a bilious disputation over politicians’ personal 1

For the complexity of the position of the Federalist Party on the war of 1812, see Lawrence Delbert Cress, “Cool and Serious Reflection: Federalist Attitudes toward War in 1812,” Journal of the Early Republic 7 (1987), 123-145. For his analysis Cress used some Federalist newspapers, but mostly sermons.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


reputation in a kind of “grammar of political combat” that started with gossip, continued in print, and sometimes ended with pistols on the field of honor.2 Editors, too, transformed themselves from commercial printers to political professionals, becoming the party spokesmen, and their newspaper offices often served as local party headquarters. Beginning with Thomas Jefferson, who enlisted a Philadelphia editor to carry out his battle with Alexander Hamilton for the principles of the American republic, the centrality of newspapers in political life started with Jefferson's victory in 1800. His success was widely credited to a superior network of papers.3 It was clear that the agitation up to and during the war of 1812, like the election of 1800, led to a new surge of political journalism.4 In an article published by the Hartford American Mercury, entitled “War in Prospect” on January 1st, 1812, the author–who defines himself Patriot–sent his cry for war with the following words: “The question is not whether we shall have war or peace, the only alternative is war or submission.” For this Connecticut citizen, “A war with England cannot interrupt the general peace and prosperity of this country anymore that a war with the moon.” In the same day, the Boston Columbian Sentinel quoted a sentence from the Founding Father George Washington, “If we sincerely desire peace, it must be known that we are at all times READY FOR WAR,” and the paper reported the news that “a bill has passed both Houses for filling up the present regular army...” A resolution, passed in the House, allowed American merchantmen to arm in their defense.5 One month later, as reported still by the Boston Columbian Sentinel on February 1st, the talk of the Treasury Secretary, Albert Gallatin, “electrified Congress; broken the war fever; and must have a good effect on the American public.”6 The “War fever,” as the newspapers, both Federalist and Republican, reported in many articles, erupted in the American press early in 1812, and revealed the strong belief that the journalists and the readers were Americans, not subjects of a foreign 2

Joanne B. Freeman, Affairs of Honor: National Politics in the New Republic (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 131-32. 3 Jeffrey L. Pasley, The Tyranny of Printers: Newspaper Politics in the Early American Republic (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002), 176-196. 4 Paul Starr, The Creation of the Media: Political Origins of Modern Communication (New York: Basic Books, 2004), 85. 5 The American Mercury was a newspaper published weekly in Hartford, Connecticut, from July 12, 1784 and in these years run by a Republican editor, Major Elisha Babcock. The Columbian Sentinel and Massachusetts Federalist was a Federalist newspaper printed from June 16, 1790, in Boston. From September 5, 1804, it continued as the Columbian Sentinel up to May 23, 1840. 6 Boston Columbian Sentinel, February 1, 1812.


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power, in charge of building an “Empire of liberty” in the North-West, to the Pacific Coast, in the South-West, to Santa Fe and the Rio Grande, and also in the Canadian North.

Jefferson and the Embargo Back in the first years of the new century, Jefferson’s administration had been downsized. Its primary goals were to reduce taxes and the national debt. This happened in the first years of Jefferson’s presidency with the selling of the Western lands arranged by Gallatin, the Treasury Secretary. Jefferson had generated a clash between the idea of republic and the idea of empire, even with his “Empire of liberty.” Lacking of a real army, Jefferson proclaimed that the United States had the “strongest Government on earth” because of the popular support of the minutemen, the common people who would rise at a moment’s warning to defend the country. Jefferson’s Secretary of State, James Madison, had faced successfully what are now called the Jefferson’s Wars in the Mediterranean against the Barbary Pirates. They had ended with the bombing of Tripoli in the summer of 1804, the conquest of Derne by William Eaton in 1805, and the final treaty arranged by the American Consul in Tunis, Tobias Lear, that same year.7 In his role, Madison also questioned the English right to stop and search ships in wartime. For Madison the American flag should protect not only the ship, but every individual sailing under it. But after the waste of money for keeping the American squadron in the Mediterranean, the US Navy was reduced to only two frigates and 68 small vessels, efficient against the Barbary feluccas, but of little or no use against the English fleet. Even if the risk of war with Great Britain was growing, President Jefferson was clearly adverse to a war that would have brought forth the creation of a large and expensive army and navy. Things changed when on June 22, 1807, the American frigate Chesapeake, sailing from Norfolk to the Mediterranean for a new confrontation with the Barbary Pirates, was stopped not far from Chesapeake Bay by the 50 gun English frigate Leopard in search of British deserters. When the Chesapeake refused to stop, the Leopard fired, killing three American seamen, wounding eighteen others, and forcing it to lower its colours. The British boarded the 7

Frank Lambert, The Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 150-154; for a broader reflection on the idea of Jefferson’s war see Joseph Whelan, Jefferson’s War: America’s First War on Terror, 1801-1805 (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2003).

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


American frigate and impressed four seamen as deserters, only one of whom was actually a British subject. Like Jefferson, most citizens were outraged by this attack on an American warship. “This country,” Jefferson observed, “has never been in such a state of excitement since the battle of Lexington.”8 Notwithstanding this attack, Jefferson’s policy toward the English culminated with a worthless embargo on all maritime commerce carried by American ships, but he made some preparations for war, just in case. He ordered to strengthen the country’s harbour defences, recommended to build more gunboats, secretly made plans for the invasion of Canada, requested State Governors to mobilize 100,000 militiamen, and convened a special session of Congress for October 1807. He declared the British ships to be “enemies” which should be treated as such. By contrast the French ships were “friends” and should be extended every courtesy.9 But Jefferson had overestimated British dependence on American ships. Boosting the Canadian economy and weakening the American one, the embargo was not successful and was terminated on March 4, 1809, the last day of Jefferson’s presidency. When James Madison was elected and took office in Washington, American politics changed, especially concerning the Indians. Jefferson’s benevolent attitude toward the Indians came to an end and without soldiers in the field, the British, who were busy fighting Napoleon’s army in Europe, chose to ally with the Indians against the Americans. They treated the Indians as autonomous peoples dwelling in the British Empire and the new American empire in the West. For the Indians, the Americans were more dangerous than the British. This was very clear when William Harrison invaded Shawnee country in 1811. The American army was surprised by the charismatic war chief Tecumseh at Tippecanoe on November 6, but Harrison was able to repulse the attack despite heavy casualties. For the American newspapers this was a great victory over the savage Indians armed by the British Empire.10

8 Thomas Jefferson to James Bowdoin, July 10, 1807, Paul Leicester Ford, ed. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 10 vols., vol. 9 (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1892-99), 105. 9 Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, August 26, 1807. The James Madison Papers, Library of Congress, online at: http://memory.loc.govImage1576. 10 Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 127.


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Madison and the War The day before the battle of Tippecanoe, James Madison, supported by the Republicans who had the majority in the House and the Senate, had urged Congress to prepare the nation for war against the English. For Madison, only war could defend the existence of the United States both on the frontier and on the seas. The speaker of the House, Henry Clay, shared Madison’s call to prepare for war. From Lexington, Kentucky, at that time a frontier town, Clay asked to “extinguish the torch that lights up savage warfare.” He chaired a special House Foreign Relations Committee dominated by bellicose Republicans known as “War Hawks” among whom were John Calhoun of South Carolina, Felix Grundy of Tennessee and Peter Porter of New York.11 From New York State, we can read the cry for war in an interesting article entitled “My voice for War” and published by the Cooperstown Federalist on January 25, 1812: “I consider War in the abstract a tremendous evil… [But] I do not hesitate to say, if our government, in its wisdom, is resolved in one… give us war.”12 It was clear that some in the Federalist press came in favor of war or, at least, espoused the resolutions of the House Foreign Relations Committee that called for the reinforcement of the existing army, additional regulars and short term volunteers, the use of the militia, preparations in the navy, and the arming of merchant vessels for defense. On January 1st, 1812, the Boston Columbian Sentinel informed the public that every Federalist voted for the resolution and “only 21 or 22 Democrats against it.”13 Among them were some northern politicians, such as De Witt Clinton of New York, who feared new taxes, and more especially southern politicians who feared that the annexation of Canada would strengthen the North in the Union. “I must congratulate on the return of many in Congress to good old federal principles,” affirmed the author of the same article. In a letter published in the Richmond Enquirer on January 23, 1812, one Federalist wrote: “There appears to be a greater degree of unanimity in the national legislature, than I have observed on any important question, since the conclusion of the revolutionary war.”14 Together with the Federalists, the majority of Republicans requested not only preparation for war, but also the annexation of Canada and expansion in the South down to the Gulf of Mexico. For historian Alan 11

Ibid., 128. Cooperstown Federalist, January 25, 1812. 13 Boston Columbian Sentinel, January 1, 1812. 14 Richmond Enquirer, January 23, 1812. 12

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


Taylor, in his wonderfully well-written book The Civil War of 1812, “they anticipated the rhetoric of manifest destiny,”15 and we can add, with a messianic tone. This was clear in an article that appeared in the Greenfield, Massachusetts, Franklin Herald, on January 14, 1812, that reported: “Let us have War, and let every true American say Amen.”16 This last reflection shows clearly the dualism of New England’s religious sentiment: on one hand the regular clergy, close to the Church of England, completely opposed the conflict with numerous sermons preached against the war in churches and public meetings, on the other hand the common folks were full of religious sentiments and clearly distant from the irreligious attitude of Revolutionary France, but strongly convinced of the rightfulness of the war with England. “If England is suffered to interdict our trade to her enemies, under the penalties of capture and confiscation, we are obviously no longer a free or an independent nation, but her slaves and bondmen.” This reflection, published under the title “War with England” in different newspapers, among which the weekly New Jersey Journal on February 11, 1812, associated the degradation of slavery with American citizens.17 This rhetoric was used broadly also by the House Foreign Relations Committee referring to the American citizens captured on the sea and held on British warships: the report of November 29, 1811, charged that Britain “enslaves our seamen.” For John Calhoun, “Our citizens are… deprived of their liberty and doomed to an ignominious and slavish bondage… While this practice is continued, it is impossible for the United States to consider themselves an independent Nation.”18 “An American” in the Philadelphia Aurora on June 16, 1812, added to the slave discourse the violation and humiliation of white bodies conducted by scalping Indians under the guidance of British soldiers.19 Defining race and slavery in this way, the writers wished to protect the American republic from the British Empire and her Indian allies along the Canadian border. Reading these articles and listening to the voice of the American people, as well as the resolutions of the House Foreign Relations Committee, President James Madison understood the need the country felt to prove to itself and the rest of the world that the American experiment, a republican government in a world of monarchies, was permanently part of the family of nations. This happened also because, in early 1812, the 15

Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 137. Greenfield, Mass., Franklin Herald, January 14, 1812. 17 “War with England”, Elizabethtown New Jersey Journal, February 11, 1812. 18 Calhoun Papers, quoted in Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 135. 19 “An American,” Philadelphia Aurora, June 16, 1812. 16


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conquest of Canada seemed not only possible, but convenient for the expansion of the United States in the North, as well as in the West and the South. “The St. Lawrence is the natural outlet of the great increase of wealth of our north and northwestern people, as much as the waters of the great Mississippi is to the citizens of Kentucky and Tennessee,” wrote in a letter to The Columbian the “Spirit of Montgomery.”20 “We want the British expelled from every inch of the North American Continent,” wrote a Massachusetts “Republican” in an article in the New Bedford Gazette: “we flatter ourselves with seeing in 1815 members from Montreal and members from Florida, meeting in congress with the members of Indiana, and members of Michigan.” In the view of this writer, Canada appeared as “the school for the re-appearance of the military genius of this country.”21 In South Carolina, the accent was also put on national honor: “The honor of surrendering our independence to a base and dastardly oppressor,” as Great Britain was described by a writer in Charleston, who asked to bring the “nation [to] war until an honorable peace can be obtained.”22

Opposition and Riots There were few newspapers opposing the war in early 1812. One of the exceptions to this general “war fever” was the Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette which was really close to British interests. They accused speculators and government agents to push for war. One of them was Peter Porter who was portrayed in a cartoon on the first page of the edition of January 4, 1812. The “RAPID DESCENT UPON BRITISH POSSESSIONS” was really clear in showing the New York politician and member of the Foreign Relations Committee with a plumed broad brimmed cap and a drawn sword, riding a turtle to Canada with a ridiculous army. As the cartoons published in the newspapers in those days were few, in particular because of their cost, we can imagine that the Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette received wholehearted support from his readers, most of them merchants and ship owners close to British interests. Opposition to war was really clear in an article published on March 4, 1812, depicting the War Hawks:


“From the Dead to the Living,” The Columbian, January 13, 1812. “The Conquest of Canada,” New Bedford Gazette, May 8, 1812. 22 Charleston Investigator, April 4, 1812. 21

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


WAR. Strange and incredible as it may appear to intelligent and reflecting men… some democratic speculators, stock jobbers, and government agents have contrived to spread the very impression that war with England was inevitable… We consider war, under the existing circumstance, an impossible thing.23

Fig. 1. Peter Porter, one of the War Hawks, was depicted as a monkey assaulting Canada with a steamed terrapin by the Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette on March 4, 1812. (American Antiquarian Society, Worcester)

On June, 2, 1812, when drums of war beat louder, the message was directly addressed to James Madison in quite offensive words: With Jay and Hamilton you wrote “The Federalist” on which you seemed to have exhausted all your stock of talent… Mr Jefferson not very long returned from France and you sided with the party which ridiculously assumed to themselves the style of “Democrats.” You became an admirer of the sanguinary of French happiness… You now pretend that we are now on the eve of war.24 23 24

Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, March 4, 1812. Ibid., June 2, 1812.


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Three days later, the pledge became almost an insult in an article entitled “POOR MADISON:” The prejudice and incitement of our tyrants might have plunged us into the horrors of a hopeless war, with nothing but slavery at his termination or at least perpetuated the misrule which has temporarily robbed us from our prosperity and honour, and threatened us with a civil conflict.25

After these articles, rumors began to circulate that this newspaper, edited by Alexander C. Hanson, a well-educated planter and attorney who condemned the folly of democracy as well as the ignorance of immigrants and defended the British point of view, would suffer the violence of the mob in a city like Baltimore, considered the “head-quarters of mobocracy” as the many French, Irish and Germans in the population hated Great Britain. But the fear of a civil war was also shared by other newspapers close to the commercial interests linked to the British, such as the Boston Commercial Gazette which, on April 23, 1812, in an article entitled “Civil War,” denounced the army raised in the North as not “destined to protect the country from foreign foes,” but “to keep the people under military subordination.”26 While the decision for war was on its way in Washington, the risk of civil war was really clear especially in the states close to the Canadian border. North of New York, and especially in Maine, then a part of Massachusetts, the inhabitants bitterly opposed the war without distinction between Federalists and Republicans. Notwithstanding the point of view of the people close to the Canadian border who benefited from the commerce with the British, the Congress passed a bill raising the custom duties to the exorbitant average of thirty-four percent, with an extra ten percent on goods imported on foreign boats. This was only one of the one hundred forty-three laws Congress adopted in the eight months of the Quasi-War with England, and “the result was financial chaos.”27 Instead of putting water on fire, President Madison followed the conclusions of the War Hawks in the House Foreign Relations Committee. In a secret message to Congress, he denounced the British imprisonment of American sailors and the violation of American waters; illegal blockades; the employment of secret agents to subvert the Union; and malicious influence over the Indians in the Northwest. His message 25

Ibid., June 5, 1812. Boston Commercial Gazette, April 23, 1812. 27 Thomas Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2012), 47. 26

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


echoed the Declaration of Independence, summoning all the injuries the United States had suffered from Great Britain and asking for a second war of independence if necessary.28 James Monroe and Albert Gallatin suggested a maritime war only, to avoid the cost of a land war. This vision was approved by some Federalists but they failed to secure a majority vote and the original bill was restored and approved on the final passage in the House with a 79-49 vote and in the Senate with a 19-13 vote on June 17. The following day Madison signed it into law and the declaration of war was issued.29 One newspaper in Massachusetts remembered that “it was on 17th of June, 1775, that the memorable battle of Bunker Hill was fought, in which the American arms first encountered, in close conflict, the British steel.” On that day “the untried valor” of the minutemen “was put in competition with a superior force of the best disciplined troops in the world.” But “animated by the love of liberty and their country, the gallant heroes of that proud day proved themselves worthy of the glorious cause.” It was clear that in New England the British were still considered as an “inveterate and hereditary enemy.” The voice of American patriotism remembered the Revolutionary war and proudly celebrated this anniversary thirty seven years later, “to swell with pride the bosom of the American,” declaring a war that “must and will be prosecuted.”30 In the proclamation of war, issued on June 19, 1812, President James Madison and the Secretary of State, James Monroe, exhorted “all the good people of the United States… under the blessing of Divine Providence… in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted authorities, for obtaining a speedy, and just, and honorable peace.” Widely distributed as a handbill, it was also reproduced in all American newspapers. The majority of the press exulted at this news; other newspapers, especially in New England, were dubious, describing the war as “the awful calamity… A war which has been predicted by the wise, ridiculed by the weak, deprecated by the honest, and courted by the wicked, is officially declared.”31


Madison to Congress, June 1st, 1812, quoted in Hickey, The War of 1812, 40. The result of the final passage of the Act and the declaration of war were reported in every newspaper in different days. See for example the Springfield Hampshire Federalist, June 25, 1812. 30 Pittsfield Sun, June 27, 1812. 31 New Bedford Mercury, June 26, 1812. 29


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Fig. 2. Charleston, South Carolina, City Gazette and Daily Advertiser, June 27, 1812. The American eagle keeps in its beak a banner stating: “Bunker Hill” on one side and “Tripoli” on the other. One of the first battles of the War for Independence in 1775 was remembered together with the 1805 War of Tripoli in the print of this Declaration of War (American Historical Newspapers).

Only few newspapers openly opposed the war, among which the Alexandria Gazette, the Philadelphia United States’ Gazette, the New York Evening Post, the Charleston Courier, and, as stated earlier, the Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette. Publishing the declaration of war on June 20, that newspaper was really clear in denouncing the war: Without funds, without taxes, without an army, a navy, or adequate fortifications, one hundred and fifty millions of property in the hands of the delayed enemy, without any of his in our power, and with a vast commerce afloat, our rulers have promulgated a war, against the clear and decided sentiments of a vast majority of the nation … We detest and abhor the endeavours of faction to create a civil contest through the pretext of a foreign war. It has rashly and premeditatedly commenced and we shall be ready cheerfully to hazard everything most dear, to frustrate any usurpation leading to the prostration of civil rights, and the establishment of a system of terror and proscription, announced in the government paper at Washington… We are avowedly hostile to the presidency of James Madison, and we never will breathe under the dominion direct or derivatives of Bonaparte.32 32

Baltimore Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, June 20, 1812.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


Under the influence of the feeling excited by the above article, “committees were organized by men of daring character, to obtain subscribers to a plan, having for its undisguised object the demolition of the office of the Federal Republican.” On June 22, the mob’s leader, a French apothecary named Philip Lewis, gathered a crowd of several hundred men and assaulted the printing office of the newspaper named “Temple of Infamy.” An African Church, erected for the improvement and amelioration of the blacks, became to them an object of jealousy, and rumours of a combination for its destruction at length woke up the municipality of the city which gathered a patrol of horsemen to overawe the turbulent.33 The targets of the mob during the following days were the several ships suspected of trading with the British and the houses of free African Americans considered close to the British: many ships were attacked and houses were dismantled. At the same time, Alexander C. Hanson, the editor of the Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette, chose to continue the publication of his newspaper in another office, this time a brick building guarded by armed Federalists, among whom two Revolutionary war Generals: Henry Lee and James Lingan.34 “The lawless temper of the city of Baltimore,” and the savage temper of this “many headed monster” represented by the crowd of which Revolutionary France furnished the lawless precedent of exhibiting upon the lamp, “together with the indisposition of the civil or military offices to discharge the respective duties of their office,” led to a tragic episode on the evening of July 27 when hundreds gathered to assault the new brick office.35 People inside the building opened fire, killing one attacker and wounding several others. The crowd at this point returned with a cannon and the defenders surrendered to city officials who promised to protect them in the city jail. The next day, at the song “we’ll feather and tar every dammed British tory, and that is the way for the American glory,” the crowd assaulted the jail, opened the cells, and beat the prisoners while the women cried “Kill the Tories.” Many of them suffered injuries, including General Henry Lee who had his face cut and blackened, and general James Lingan who was stabbed to death. Alexander C. Hanson had his nose and 33

Report of the Committee of Grievances and Courts of Justice of the House of Delegates of Maryland, on the subject of the recent mobs and riots in the city of Baltimore, together with the depositions taken before the committee (Annapolis: printed by Jonas Green, 1813), 2-3. 34 Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 177. 35 Report of the Committee of Grievances, 6.


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fingers broken and never fully recovered his health. He decided to continue the publication of his newspaper in Georgetown, mailing copies to his Baltimore subscribers.36 Even if other newspapers such as the Philadelphia Aurora accused the Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette to be “evidently under British pay” and “to abuse the government with impunity,” it was clear that, at least in this case, the mob was successful in suppressing the voice of the party opposed to the war.37 The echoes of the Baltimore riots were felt beyond the border of Maryland and the violence was denounced and compared to the French Revolution by other newspapers defending the freedom of the press. Early in August, the Newport Mercury wrote that Baltimore was the “Paris of America” while the Boston New-England Palladium quoted the final report of a Boston town meeting which denounced “the establishment of a reign of terror.”38 Other newspapers were assaulted by the mob among which the American Patriot in Savannah, driven out of business while a ship that had traded with Spanish Florida was burned. In Pennsylvania the editor of the Norristown Herald was assaulted. In general, opponents to the war were threatened at best, or beaten, tarred and feathered at worst.39 Republican leaders found this violence at least embarrassing and accused the Federalist leaders of inflaming the political spirits and to use these atrocities as “an electioneering engine.”40 Republican printers gave more space to the war and the atrocities of the British such as the Walpole Democratic Republican, printed weekly in New Hampshire. In an article entitled “Spirit of the Times,” the editors recapitulated the reasons for the war: “A war for the protection of our commerce; a war for the liberties of our citizens; a war for our national sovereignty and independence; a war for our Republican form of government against the machinations of despotism.” On the same page appeared a letter from an officer of the Ohio volunteers that informed the publisher that the British “have raised the price of scalps to six dollars, no matter whether of man, woman or child.”41


Quoted in Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 178. Philadelphia Aurora, August 1, 1812. 38 Newport Mercury, August 8, 1812; Boston New-England Palladium, August 8, 1812. 39 Hickey, The War of 1812, 63. 40 Republican meeting in Maryland on August 29, 1812, quoted in Hickey, The War of 1812, 63. 41 Walpole Democratic Republican, August 3, 1812. 37

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


Samuel Woodworth and the War In the meantime, in New York City, a weekly newspaper entitled The War started publication on June 27, 1812. Established by Samuel Woodworth, it was published every Tuesday morning, with some suspensions between October and November 1814, until February 1815, for the exclusive purpose of reporting on the war. In the newspaper we can find the declaration of war, a copy of statements by the President and his plans for the war, accounts of naval and land battles, an exchange of correspondence among various generals, reports of naval movements, along with government proclamations and propaganda. The subtitle “Let the rallying word, through all the day, be liberty or death” was clear in depicting the strong feeling of the persons who financed the publication and the high grades of the “war fever” in New York City. Some biographical notes on Samuel Woodworth are necessary to define the character of the newspaper. Woodworth was born in Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1785, where he started to study Latin and Greek, showing an early interest in poetry. He chose the profession of printer and proceeded to Boston where he was apprenticed to Benjamin Russell, editor and proprietor of the Columbian Sentinel, with whom he continued until the term of his apprenticeship expired in 1806. During his time in Boston, Woodworth began writing and publishing poetry under the pseudonym “Selim.” The name appears in a few of Woodworth’s poems and plays and was taken from the popular English play Barbarossa, the Tyrant of Algiers. Written in 1775 by the English playwright John Brown, Barbarossa is a dramatic account of the infamous pirate and tyrant of Algiers, Khair al-Din Barbarossa. In Brown’s play, the noble Prince Selim kills Barbarossa and restores the true royal family to power. Throughout the play, Selim embodies the qualities of courage, patriotism, and chivalry which Woodworth frequently employed in his own work. Barbarossa was a “staple of the American stage until after the War of 1812,” and Woodworth’s choice of the name Selim represents a popular interest in Barbary pirates in those years.42 After this experience Woodworth moved to New Haven, where he briefly published the weekly Belles-Lettres Repository, and then to 42 Robert Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World, 1776-1815 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 79. Later in life Woodworth would name his second son Selim. Selim E. Woodworth went on to become a famous California pioneer, abolitionist, and naval commander for the Union during the Civil War.


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Baltimore before settling down in New York City in 1809, where he met and married Lydia Reeder on September 23, 1810. Like most editors and publishers of the time, Woodworth was a frequent contributor to his own publications, and it so happened for The War in which he put all his energies and abilities. “The columns of The War shall be devoted to no party,” wrote Woodworth in an editorial entitled “Public indignation” published on July 4, 1812, for the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Rethinking Jefferson’s words at the beginning of his presidency, he continued: “All federalists, all republicans, we acknowledge no name but that of Americans.” In the “time which tries men’s souls,” it was clear for Woodworth who chose to use the words of Thomas Paine’s The Crisis, that “when half measures are more than half crimes, when union becomes imperious, a strong pull, a long pull, and pull altogether should be the common rule of action, the common duty of citizens”.43 In the same issue, the article “For the War” signed by “FRANKLIN” confirmed that: The “crisis” has arrived… The Rubicon is passed; patriotism must be inspired, bravery excited, “liberty must be the object of undivided care,” as the salvation of the country, free and independent, will be the reward of united virtue.44

The purpose of The War, repeated Woodworth in the following issue, was to contrast “the display of a temper and the utterance of language” that “enfeebles the courage and enterprise which is necessary in all to contend against their force.” Still in this issue appeared the poem “PATRIOTISM AND LOVE,” signed by “Zephir” but clearly composed by Woodworth.45 We must “live free or die!” reported the appeal to the citizens of the state of Connecticut signed by “Seventy-Six,” who wrote: “The British cannon already speaks death, the tomahawk of the savage is unburied… the lords of the ocean have united with the aborigines of the wilderness… to strangle liberty in its cradle and drive the rights of man out of the world.”46 It was clear that these letters started the creation of “some kind of heroic song that for the New World remained a pressing cultural need” in those days.47 43

New York War, July 4, 1812. Ibid. 45 New York War, July 11, 1812. 46 Ibid. 47 John P. McWilliams, American Epic: Transforming a Genre, 1770-1860 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 1. 44

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


Fig. 3. July 4, 1812, edition of the New York weekly newspaper The War, with the Declaration of War signed by James Madison. (American Historical Newspapers).

On July 18, Woodworth brought attention to the selected toasts held for the Fourth of July. The first toast was dedicated to the Union, “the rock of our safety.” The second was to “The memory of the illustrious Washington, a noble example of virtue over force, of courage over numbers, and of liberty over service.” The third toast was addressed to the President of the United States with the following words: “when our country calls, let party die... In war, we are all Americans.” Another toast


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was dedicated to Congress, that “Patriotic and enlightened, like the Roman Senate, they have preferred war to insult, disgrace or submission.”48 It was clear that the editor was interested in creating a positive attitude toward the war by evoking patriotism and the revolutionary spirit among American citizens. Anticipating the broader success that this kind of publication would have in particular during the Civil War, this newspaper followed all the movements of the troops, the requisitions of the Secretary of War who invited the people of the States to supply the quota of men to be enlisted in the militia.49 In these articles there are also some interesting reflections concerning, for example, the second amendment to the American Constitution that “secure[s] the right to bear arms for your own defense, and this certainly implies the right of bearing arms for the defense of your country.”50 But Woodward’s activities to support the war were not only limited to the publication of the newspaper. The epic poem The Heroes of the Lake, published in New York in December 1813, offered a unique perspective on the war. It served as an example of an American author striving to articulate a national voice through literature. The poem depicted two of the most important battles in the War of 1812, the battle of Lake Erie and the battle of the Thames River, where the Indian chief Tecumseh was killed, giving a voice to a new generation of American leaders as the future of the young nation. Founded on historical facts, the poem offered a warning about the dangers of political factions, and it gave a voice to the importance of patriotism in the ideological construction of the nation’s founding.51 The poem was followed by The Champions of Freedom, a two-volume romantic novel published in 1816. Clearly the champions of freedom were the many young American volunteers who fought under the American flag from the War of Independence to the Mediterranean shores, from the Western frontier to the War of 1812. For Woodworth, these young Americans saw this new war as a national duty in an interesting mixture of


New York War, July 18, 1812. See for example the request “To the people of the State of Connecticut” to muster the 3,000 men corresponding to the quota of Connecticut to be enlisted in the militia. New York War, July 11, 1812. 50 Ibid. 51 For this particular vision of the role of Woodward see Nicole Eustace, 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). 49

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


love and patriotism, showing the “essential relationship between romantic love and martial action.”52 Finally, writing the pages of The War represented for Samuel Woodward53 an exercise for composing The Hunters of Kentucky, better known as The Battle of New Orleans and Half Horse or Half Alligator, a poem composed in 1821, which would become a song and the electoral hymn for General Andrew Jackson when he started his run for President of the United States in 1824, and which he used again to victory in 1828.54

A Civil War “Brilliant Naval Victory:”55 again from The War we can read about one of the US first naval victories in the confrontation between the Constitution–carrying fifty-six guns and commanded by Isaac Hull, which helped William Eaton to take Derne in the Mediterranean–and the British frigate Guerrière–carrying forty-nine guns and commanded by James Dacres, which operated along the American coast on August 19. About seven hundred fifty miles east of Boston, the first major engagement of the war of 1812 at sea took place when the Constitution defeated the smaller Guerrière, forced to surrender under Hull’s superior ability. “By heaven, the ship is ours!” was Hull’s exclamation.56 Unfortunately the English ship was almost destroyed and Hull had little choice but to burn his prize. For one of the American sailors, Henry Gilliam, who spent the night on board to arrange the transfer of prisoners and who observed the carnage in the Guerrière, it was “one of the most convincing and awful examples of the effects of mortality and the tyranny of kings.”57


Ibid., xiv. Samuel Woodworth, The Champions of Freedom, or, The Mysterious Chief, a Romance of the Nineteenth Century, Founded on the Events of the War, between the United States and Great Britain, which Terminated in March, 1815 (New York: printed and published by Charles N. Baldwin, 1816). 53 Woodworth rose to poetic glory with the famous poem “The Old Oaken Bucket,” written in 1819. 54 Concerning Samuel Woodworth’s poetical activities, see Frederick A. Woodworth, ed., The Poetical Works of Samuel Woodworth (New York: Charles Scribner, 1861). Online at: https://archive.org/details/IntroductionToThePoeticalWorksOfSamuelWoodworth 55 New York War, September 5, 1812. 56 Linda M. Maloney, The Captain from Connecticut: The Life and Times of Isaac Hull (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986), 188. 57 Ibid., 191.


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Quite one hundred years after Isaac Hull’s victory with the Constitution, one of the most famous American historians, Charles Francis Adams, in a paper read at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in Boston on December 31, 1912, described the United States as a “world power” starting from the moment in which Isaac Hull won the naval duel and defeated the English navy for the first time. For Adams, “No experience of history went to the heart of New England more directly that this victory,” concluding his essay with the emotive words pronounced by John Adams’s granddaughter, at that time only four years old, before she passed away in 1903, “Thank God for Hull’s victory.” Even if it was obviously a partisan paper, indicative of the intensity of family feelings, Adams’s work showed the growing pro-war feelings in New England after August 19, 1812, that brought the United States close to a civil war.58 It is clear that the patriotism of The War was shared by many other newspapers. In the issue of September 8, The Statesman wrote: “Never did patriotism, in the brightest days of Greece or Rome, burn in so intense a lustre.”59 In New England, the Boston Patriot stated: “Honor and patriotism, and love of the country (for we know no country on earth but America) will now steel every honest man.”60 On June 27, the Salem Essex Register exalted American soldiers by writing: “Trumpets are to them joyful sounds and the ensigns of war, the banner of God.” For this Massachusetts newspaper, the war of 1812 was the same as the War for Independence, “when our country was called to defend its liberties in the revolution… Then the pulpit and the press were sacred to God and Liberty.” Also the war of 1812 “was proclaimed as from God himself, and devotion gave new joys to patriotism.” And again: “We are obliged to war, it is our duty, and duty should be our choice and glory.”61 On the opposite, the Salem Gazette wrote on July 31: “It is in vain for the friends of the administration to denounce the Peace Party as enemies to their country.”62 In the same mood, the Portland Weekly Eastern Argus wrote on August 13: To arm in favour of a Civil War, to push the passions of men against their government and Country at a time like this is truly horrid… If war with a 58

Charles Francis Adams, “Wednesday, August 19, 1812, 6:30 p.m.: The Birth of a World Power,” American Historical Review 18 (1913), 513-521. 59 New York Statesman, September 8, 1812. 60 Boston Patriot, July 2, 1812. 61 Salem Essex Register, June 27, 1812. 62 Salem Gazette, July 31, 1812.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


foreign nation when all our energies may unite, is so terrible as some represented, what is a war among ourselves, between brethren… Who would wish to see the scenes of St. Domingo acted on the plains of New England?63

The image of New England as St. Domingo, which in those years was in the middle of a civil war between the two factions of the Haitian revolution won at the end by Christophe who proclaimed himself King, was really shocking, but close to reality. While the conquest of Canada was projected by Republicans to be easy and cheap, the Federalists discouraged enlistments and loans to the government, weakening the power of the national Army. If Jefferson wrote in private that “the acquisition of Canada… will be a mere matter of marching,” troubles arose on the ground. As Commander in Chief, James Madison was not as brilliant as Napoleon Bonaparte or George Washington. After the declaration of war issued by the Senate and the House of Representatives, which gave to the President the authorization “to use the whole land and naval force of the United States… against the vessels, goods, and effects of the government of the same United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland,” some military leaders such as Brigadier General William Hull, the uncle of the Captain of the Constitution Isaac Hull, took the initiative with a proclamation that promised emancipation from tyranny to the Canadians. Crossing the Detroit River, he led the first American army into Canada. Hull had been appointed by Madison chief of the invasion of Upper Canada on the Niagara front. This operation was authorized by Madison to induce the British to leave these lands without opposition. But without the navy’s control of the Great Lakes and the fierce opposition of Indian tribes in the region, this plan was doomed to a disastrous failure.64 Hull’s army was composed of sixteen hundred Ohio militia volunteers and four hundred soldiers, mostly untrained, undisciplined, prone to hard drinking and badly clothed. A proclamation to the inhabitants of Canada was issued on July 12 and received wide publicity in the newspapers: The army under my command has invaded your country–stated Hull–the standard of the Union now waves over the territory of Canada. To the peaceful unoffending inhabitant, it brings neither danger nor difficulty. I

63 64

Portland Weekly Eastern Argus, August 13, 1812. Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 161-6; Hickey, The War of 1812, 80-84.


Chapter Six come to find enemies not to make them. I come to protect, not to injure you.65

But the “stars and stripes” was not so loved in Canada and when he crossed the Detroit River, reaching the small Canadian city of Sandwich, the inhabitants fled as “an army of Cannibals invaded their country.”66 Moreover, Hull’s proclamation affirmed also that “no white man found fighting by the side of an Indian will be taken prisoner–instant death will be his lot,” reversing the idea of barbarity.67 For the Canadians, the savages were the Americans, not the Indians. Waiting to receive heavy cannons to attack the fortress of Amherstburg, Hull showed all his indecision and incompetence as a military leader, giving time to the British and their Indian allies to organize and counterattack the Americans at Detroit, bombing the American fort across the river. The story is well known. Fearing Indian retaliation, Hull surrendered on August 16 without consulting his officers to avoid a bloody massacre of the women and children in the fort. For most of the American soldiers and militiamen, William Hull was a “coward and a liar.”68 “By the disgraceful surrender of Hull’s army at Detroit,” reflected the editor of the Rhode-Island Republican, “the wellearned glory of our country has been deeply tarnished.”69 Hull’s defeat was soon followed on the Niagara border by the parade of American prisoners captured at Detroit by the British on August 23. On this front, conflict within the American leadership–on one side Colonel Stephen Van Rensselaer, a Federalist, and on the other, Colonel Peter Porter, a Republican–created even more confusion. Porter was ready for war. Van Rensselaer, who was in charge, preferred an armistice following the instructions of the senior commander of the army, Major-General Henry Dearborn, a sixty-one-year-old veteran of political battles in New England, but an insecure, fat and slow leader: another bad choice of President Madison.70 Dearborn was forced by the Government to repudiate the agreement asking the soldiers to return to the field. When the news came to the 65

“Official by William Hull, Brigadier General and Commander of the North Western army of a United States: A PROCLAMATION,” July 12, 1812. This proclamation was published on different days by almost all the American newspapers. 66 Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 158. 67 Ibid. 68 Ibid., 167. 69 Newport Rhode-Island Republican, January 7, 1813. 70 Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 180.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


Niagara border, the summer was ending and the defeat of American soldiers was behind the curtains. On October 13, the attack on Queenston failed and the British counterattack, led by Major-General Roger Sheaffe, overwhelmed the Americans at Queenston Heights where a bloody and furious Indian war group slaughtered the soldiers while their Federalist commanders were safely on the American side of the Niagara River. After this defeat, Van Rensselaer resigned, but the quarrel between Federalists and Republicans continued, especially in the newspapers. The Portland Gazette defended the Van Rensselaer “military family,” remembering that Stephen’s cousin, Solomon, “displayed such valor at the battle of Queenston” and “was shot thro’ and through, and still fought on till he was riddled like a honey-comb,” while the “War Hawks, and office hunters in this vicinity… have never once slept out of their beds of down, or paid a single cent from their pockets, in support of their darling war.”71

Against the war Now all the Federalist press, not only in New England, turned strongly against the war. Many newspapers reported the address of the delegates of the Friends of Peace and supported the election of representatives in Congress to stop the action of the War Hawks who were victims of the “infatuated spirit of war.” “Our object is peace,” reported the New Jersey Trenton Federalist on December 28, 1812, and few lines down it repeated, “unite with each other to obtain what all should desire–because it is necessary for all–PEACE, PEACE.” Again in a short article entitled “Patriotism of the War States,” the editor George Sherman referred to the patriotism of the Pennsylvania militia which “has no notion of patriotism unless it is well paid for!”72 Focusing on the difficulties of the Army in upstate New York, especially the deadly disease of the troops better known as Buffalo Fever, the press stressed on the conditions of the soldiers, barefooted and with no clothing to protect them from the wind of the North in the cold winter.73 This led the Republican editors to insist on the war, stressing that “the disasters in war were occasioned… by cowardly or treacherous officers,” as reported by the Baltimore Whig on February 17, 1813. They also required young men to enlist. “To Arms! To Arms! Columbia’s sons to arms!” was the appeal of the Walpole Democratic Republican on the same day issue, offering sixteen dollars, one half to be paid on enlistment, the 71

“The Differences,” Portland Gazette and Maine Advertiser, November 9, 1812. New Jersey Trenton Federalist, December 28, 1812. 73 New-York Evening Post, January 13, 1813. 72


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rest when joining the Regiment, and ninety-six dollars as a pay “to fight in a just cause, and for our country’s honor.”74 Denouncing the British for manipulating the bloody Indians, they proposed to “Hang four or five Indians for every American massacred” and asking for “their extermination.”75 Notwithstanding these angry words, the Republicans felt humiliated by the lost battles of 1812. With the risk of losing the cause of Republicanism, Madison, who easily won reelection in November 1812, accused the British government of attempting to disorganize American “political society.” He invoked a new appeal to arms that “could no longer be delayed without breaking down the spirit of the nation”76 and replaced his unpopular Secretary of War, William Eustis, with John Armstrong, a veteran of the American Revolution who warned Major-General Dearborn that American citizens could not stand another defeat. In the meantime, America had to face one of the great losses of that war: Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike. Together with Lewis and Clark, Pike symbolized American expansion in the Northwest as well as in the Southwest for his travels to the sources of the Mississippi in 1805 and his most famous trip to Spanish-controlled territory in 1806. During this last trip and with only a small group of soldiers, the young lieutenant was able to build an American fort on the Rio Grande where he hoisted the “stars and stripes.” A Spanish patrol of dragoons arrested them and took them into custody, moving their prisoners first to Santa Fe and then to Chihuahua, before finally releasing the Army explorers near the United States boundary of Louisiana.77 After surviving two dangerous expeditions into unchartered areas of the West, Zebulon Pike died while leading an attack on British troops on April 27, 1813. He was 34 years-old.78 74

Baltimore Whig, February 17, 1813; Walpole Democratic Republican, February 17, 1813. 75 Baltimore Whig, May 27, 1813. 76 Madison’s speech to the Congress on March 4, 1813, reported in The Rhode Island American and General Advertiser, March 16, 1813. For the New England newspaper, this speech “was a public boast after the declaration of war by certain war hawks, that they had driven the little man up to it.” 77 Marco Sioli, “When the Mississippi Was an Indian River. Zebulon Pike's Trip from St. Louis to its Sources, 1805-1806,” Revue française d’études américaines 98 (2003/4), 9-19; id., “Breaking into the Trans-Mississippian Frontiers: Thomas Jefferson’s Expeditions to the West,” in Frontiers and Boundaries in U.S. History, Cornelis A. van Minnen and Sylvia Hilton, eds. (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 2004). 78 For the entire life of Zebulon Pike, see Jared Orsi, Citizen Explorer: The Life of Zebulon Pike (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


We can follow his tragic military adventures in the newspapers: from his appointment as Brigadier-General announced by the New York Statesman on March 26 and replicated in many newspapers in April to his death during the campaign in Upper Canada that same month. Ironically, while the news of his glorious career at the top of the American Army spread across the country, Pike faced his terrible fate during an attack against the town of York (present-day Toronto) at the western end of Lake Ontario. The town was defended by Major-General Roger Sheaffe who had won the final battle at Queenston Heights with no more than seven hundred men, about half of whom were local militia. Fourteen American vessels carrying seventeen hundred regulars under Major-General Dearborn left Sackett’s Harbor on Lake Ontario and arrived at York on April 27. The landing began at 8 a.m. in the morning and soon four companies of U.S. infantry were ashore. With them came Zebulon Pike, second in command of the American military force, while Dearborn remained safely on the American flagship. Pike’s soldiers were landed and opened fire on British positions. The local militia began to fade away from the defensive works. Major-General Sheaffe decided to withdraw his regulars. Leaving the flag flying over the fort, he marched his men away towards Kingston, advising the militia commanders to make contact with the Americans and get the best terms for surrender they could get. Then, he sent word to set fire to a warship under construction in the harbor and blow up the powder magazine.79 By then, the Americans were at the gates of the fort. Because its flag was still flying they thought it was still garrisoned. Pike was questioning a captured British sergeant when the powder magazine blew up. One witness said that the building rose slowly, assuming the shape of a vast balloon; then out of the balloon-shaped cloud huge stones and wooden beams began to rain down on the nearby Americans. Pike’s back and chest were crushed, twenty-eight of his men were killed outright and over two hundred were wounded. Major-General Dearborn landed and took personal command ashore. The Americans occupied the town of York, at that time the Capital of Upper Canada, for five days. Before the troops left, both the buildings left in the fort and those in town were set ablaze.80 “We regret to join in the general sentiment of sorrow which the death of a gallant soldier, and the best of men, has generally called forth,” wrote the Baltimore Patriot, confirming “the rumor of the death of gallant Pike.” The obituary appeared in the newspapers in May. Brigadier-General Zebulon Pike was “Killed at the battle of York (Upper Canada)… His 79 80

Hickey, The War of 1812, 135. Ibid.


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travel through Louisiana will remain a monument of his intrepid character as well as a memorial of the loss which his country has sustained.”81

Uncle Sam’s Hard Bargains On 18 June, 1813, the Salem Gazette published an article entitled “One Year’s War.” “Having witnessed the completion of one year’s war,” wrote Publius, “is this war to be prosecuted?” Broader reflections brought Publius to affirm “that peace is preferable… (But) Does Mr. Madison wish for peace? Does he dolefully lament the miseries of war?” The answer was “no:” Every incident is improved to implant... eternal hatred against Britain. The barbarities perpetrated by the savage of the forest fill his gentle soul with horror: but he forgets that the western militia have been supplied with tomahawks from the war department, while Massachusetts cannot obtain the quota of fire-arms which are necessary for her defense, and to which he is entitled.82

Troops in the North lacked not only arms, ammunition, and appropriate clothes and shoes, but they were also poorly fed. To minimize the cost of feeding the army, the American government relied on private contractors, one of whom was Samuel Wilson, a prosperous meat-packer from Troy, New York, better known as “Uncle Sam.” Barrels of salted beef being the property of the government were branded the initial “U.S.,” but soldiers soon would joke with the initial referring to “Uncle Sam” who supplied the rations of beef. Reference to Uncle Sam appeared in the newspapers articles early in December 1812. In a communication to the Bennington News-Letter, “A Conscript” wrote to the editor, “if you can inform me, what single solitary good thing will, or can accrue to (Uncle Sam) the U.S for all the expense, marching and counter-marching, pain, sickness, death among us?”83 In a letter from Vermont, published in the Portland Gazette and Maine Advertiser on October 11, 1813, the U.S. as Uncle Sam was referred to in a critical way: the “Patriotic Militia of this State are daily deserting… They say U.S. or Uncle Sam as they call it, does not pay them punctually.”84


New York Weekly Museum, May 15, 1813. Salem Gazette, 18 June, 1813. 83 Bennington News-Letter, December 23, 1812. 84 Portland Gazette and Maine Advertiser, October 11, 1813. 82

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


In a broadside cartoon entitled Hieroglyphics of John Bull’s Overthrow, published in eastern New York in the spring of 1813, there are more references to Uncle Sam. Under the image of Napoleon Bonaparte appeared the following words: “Bonapart. You old tyrant, I will draw you on pieces before my master. My name is Bona the terror of nations, give Quebec up to James, or I will hew you to pieces… I will be able to cross the Atlantic, if Uncle Sam needs, I’d be glad to assist him.”

Fig. 4. The broadside cartoon "HIEROGLYPHICS of John Bull” showed a black Bonaparte guided by the Devil ready to destroy John Bull who represents Great Britain (American Antiquarian Society, Worcester).

The second reference to Uncle Sam was in the second part of the cartoon entitled A View of the Northern Expedition in Miniature, under a picture of American Commodore John Rodgers, one of the captains in the service of the U.S. Navy, who had set sail with the President in search of a British convoy en route from Jamaica to England. He never caught up with the rich convoy, but he met the British frigate Belvidera and exchanged fire with it. Both sides suffered casualties but the Belvidera was able to make its escape to Halifax. Under the image of Rodgers appeared the following words: “Let me at him Bona, and I’ll blow him to atoms. My fleet to John Bull no true homage will pay... lest I catch his fish in my old Yankee net. He builds on the Indians that’s now with him joined. But Uncle Sam lives, they will all be Burgoynd.” The final reference was to the English Major-General John


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Burgoyne who in 1777, during the War of Independence, lost the important battle of Saratoga where he was forced to surrender his entire army.

Fig. 5. “A View of the Northern Expedition in Miniature” is the second part of the broadside cartoon “HIEROGLYPHICS of John Bull.” It represents the different positions in the American public opinion supporting Napoleon Bonaparte’s campaigns in Europe. For the first time we can see the United States described as Uncle Sam. (American Antiquarian Society, Worcester)

The figure of Uncle Sam as a meat merchant brings us to the difficulties of furnishing the army. Meat, bread and whiskey were the usual components of a ration for a soldier, but on the Northern border these provisions were scarce. The American Army “lost more men by the badness of the provisions, than by the fire of the enemy,” wrote one of the generals to Madison.85 After the winter of 1813, the newspapers wrote about complaints against “Uncle Sam’s hard bargains” which brought back the soldiers “weak and wounded, sick and sore,” as reported for example by the New York Commercial Advertiser on February 3, 1814, and the Newburyport Herald on February 11, 1814. In Massachusetts, in an article entitled “Slaves Wanted,” the New-Bedford Mercury transformed Uncle Sam into 85

Quoted in Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 346.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


a “worthy gentlemen Slaveholder of Virginia” who “wants to purchase at 124 dollars a head 65,000 (more or less) able-bodied, full-bodied YANKEES… in taking possession of a plantation… in Canada.”86 In the same mood, in the issue of May 4, 1814, the Worcester Massachusetts Spy wrote about the rumors that “Uncle Sam has no money to pay his servants.”87 One year and a half after the beginning of the conflict, the “War fever” in the American newspapers decreased and at the same time the violence on the ground from both sides increased. In an article signed by “An American Farmer” published on June 29, 1813, the Philadelphia Aurora, which in October 1812 had published a map of Upper Canada, a “country where the scalps of infants … were taken” by “the ruffian hand of the ferocious savage, less cruel than the bloody-buying monsters, who pay the premium for such butcheries,” denounced the English manipulation of the bloodthirsty savages buying scalps at six dollars each.88 In the same mood, but on the opposite side, the Portland Gazette blamed the “War Hawks [for raising] the tone of the war fever and excit[ing] a spirit of revenge, [with] the publication of fabricated or exaggerated accounts of British cruelties and barbarities.”89 The British, instead, accused the Americans to use their own savages–the frontiersmen from Kentucky–who adopted the Indian way of carrying on war. The Kentuckians were famous for taking Indian scalps. The war continued with the usual violence in the fall and winter of 1813. Attacks, raids, and ambushes were carried out from one side to the other of the Niagara River. Especially on the American side, villages and farms were abandoned and burned. The destruction of the Niagara valley villages shocked American public opinion. “Such is the horrid character which this war has assumed, a war of plunder and of burning,” reported an article of the New-York Evening Post on January 6, 1814. If the Niagara front was a real disaster for the American forces, the expedition organized north of the Detroit valley was even worse. By raiding deep into Canada to destroy mills that supplied British troops, the American volunteers under the command of General Duncan McArthur from Ohio terrorized Canadian farmers, transforming “potential friends into bitter enemies.”90


New-Bedford Mercury, March 4, 1814. Worcester Massachusetts Spy, May 4, 1814. 88 Philadelphia Aurora, October 16, 1812, and June 29, 1813. 89 Portland Gazette, July 19, 1813. Italics are mine. 90 Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 267. 87


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American military disasters continued in Upper Canada where they lost credibility as victors and liberators, while the British, using the same generals who were used for the aggressive and victorious campaigns in Europe and the same troops left free with the collapse of Napoleon’s regime, could invade the United States in multiple directions: northern New York State, New Orleans, the Chesapeake shores, and Washington D.C. in primis. The Secretary of War’s appeal for new requisition for the militia to defend the capital, announced in the newspapers early in July, did not meet with any success among American citizens prostrated by useless massacres on the Canadian frontier. After the surrender of the citizens of Alexandria, formally obtained on August 27 and followed by depredations on its wealth–tobacco, flour, cotton and sugar–the British army moved towards Washington. The British entered “without much opposition. They marched in solid columns and appeared to take no notice of the fire of our militia.” “Disastrous News. Washington City taken by the enemy,” wrote the newspapers.91 In the night they blew up the Capitol and the President’s House and completely destroyed the Navy Yard. After their success at Washington, the British decided to continue their march, assaulting Baltimore to destroy the center of the Anglophobia that brought the riot against the Federal Republican and Commercial Gazette. The news from the Boston Gazette which reprinted a letter from Baltimore on August 25, 1814, well describes the feelings of the citizens in the city: “We are all here in a state of the utmost possible confusion, dismay and distress.” The British were marching toward the city and there was clearly a clash between the civil and military powers: “the former are for sending capitulating embassy, but the military man will not consent”.92 Seven miles from Baltimore the British troops, four thousand regulars and five hundred seamen, were faced by a American force of thirty-two thousand militia at North Point on September 12. The English won the battle, but their commander, Major-General Robert Ross, was mortally wounded and the army suffered heavy casualties. After this battle the British continued their march to Baltimore but they decided not to immediately attack the earthworks of the city defended by the Americans, waiting for naval support.93 When the British navy tried to reach Baltimore harbor to bomb the city and soften up American defenses, it first had to face the guns of Fort McHenry protecting the entrance to the harbor. Starting on September 13, the British fired at the fort for twenty-five hours and the Americans could 91

Newport Rhode-Island Republican, August 31, 1814. Boston Gazette, September 1, 1814. 93 Hickey, The War of 1812, 210-212. 92

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


not respond because of the lack of range of their guns. The bombing was seen from one of the ships by Francis Scott Key, a Georgetown Federalist who was visiting a British squadron for the release of a civilian prisoner. When he realized that Fort McHenry resisted the attack while a huge garrison flag had been run up above the fort, he wrote a poem entitled “Defence of Fort M’Henry,” soon distributed as a broadside and suggested to be sung to the tune of the British drinking song “To Anacreon of Heaven.” It appeared in all the American newspapers.

Fig. 6. Part of the broadside “Defence of Fort M’Henry” that became the United States anthem (American Antiquarian Society, Worcester).

The poetic and dramatic lyrics suggested by the vision of the huge flag at the entrance of Baltimore at the light of the explosions turned Fort Mc Henry into a colossal effigy of patriotism and freedom, anticipating as a symbol the Statue of Liberty at the entrance of New York’s harbor. More, the incremental repetition of the song and its two final lines, “the starspangled Banner in triumph shall wave/O’er the Land of the Free/and the Home of the Brave,” suggested a new title, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which ultimately became the American national anthem while the large flag was preserved and became the nation’s best-known icon.


Chapter Six

Madison’s War Notwithstanding the glorious resistance of Baltimore, it was clear that Madison’s presidency was in great crisis. The Secretary of War, John Armstrong, was used as a scapegoat for the British victory, leaving his duty to James Monroe who kept also the Department of State. If in late 1812 only the New England newspapers described Madison as “the author of this war… commenced without preparation,” and conducted “feebly,”94 now the war against the British was transformed by all the newspapers into “Madison’s War,” in particular to count the losses of American citizens: thirteen thousand four hundred and seventy-six in the Regular Army and nine hundred seventy-seven in the Militia in 1812; sixteen thousand four hundred and nine in the Regular Army and nine hundred and nineteen in the Militia in 1813; eighteen thousand and fifteen in the Regular Army and two hundred eighty-four in the Militia in 1814. “Here fellow citizens, you see that in a short space of three years of Madison’s War, FIFTY THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED AND THIRTY SEVEN young countrymen have fallen victims to his disastrous policy,” stated an article in the Newburyport Herald at the end of the war.95 President Madison fled to Virginia. The entering of the British into Washington and the burning of the city, the glorious resistance of Baltimore, the massacres on the frontier perpetrated by the Indians, the risk of secession in New England: all these episodes reported in the American newspapers enrolled new volunteers “to repel the invasion” both from the South and the North, completely changing the character of the War, while in Belgium the negotiations for peace were already opened in early August. Among the American peace commissioners were Swiss-born Albert Gallatin who served as Jefferson’s and Madison’s Secretary of the Treasury, John Quincy Adams, son of former president John Adams and a Federalist from Massachusetts, and Republican Henry Clay. Now the instructions given by James Monroe, who unrealistically started asking for the British to surrender Canada to the United States, were simply to make a treaty that simply ended the war and restored the prewar boundaries. It was not easy for the commissioners to sign the treaty on December 24, with the clause that the hostilities would not cease until ratifications had been exchanged, but the copy of the treaty, even if the news was in the air,

94 95

See, for example, the Salem Gazette, October 13, 1812. Newburyport Herald, January 6, 1815.

“War Fever”: The American Press and the War of 1812


reached New York only on February 11, six week after the signing at Ghent.96 While in Upper Canada the war was dragging on, in the South the new Secretary of War, James Monroe, gave the command to General Andrew Jackson who reported in the years before important victories against the Indians of the South. It was a good choice for him. “Splendid and decisive victory,” reported the New York newspapers early in February announcing that “our forces under the gallant Jackson obtained a most splendid and decisive victory over the enemy on the 8th of January.” The British were received with “unexampled bravery, and repulsed with almost incredible slaughter. The loss of the enemy is rated at from 1,500 to 2,000, in killed, wounded, and prisoners. Our loss, astonishing and wonderful fact! was only ten killed and thirty wounded.”97 Accustomed to the terrible numbers of casualties suffered on the Canadian frontier, this news sounded like a liberation from a terrible nightmare. General Jackson exalted the “patriotic zeal displayed by the citizens” of New Orleans, and wished to communicate to the Mayor of the city, “the exalted sense… of their patriotism, love of order, and attachment to the principles of our excellent constitution.” For Jackson, the city of New Orleans, “connected with the United States… must become the greatest emporium of commerce that the world has known.”98

Conclusion Clearly American newspapers revealed that the War of 1812 was a strategic point in the definition of a national culture for the United States. Together with the war of Tripoli, that conflict was really important to define the renewed feelings of patriotic zeal among American citizens who celebrated the peace as well as Jackson’s victory with parades, fireworks and toasts. The war was significant to affirm the triumph of the Republican Party while the Federalists were associated with treason. Soon they would disappear from American politics. It was crucial to start new economic policies that would reveal the centrality of the West and the South to the United States. It was essential to invent new symbols to join the “stars and stripes,” like the newly painted President’s Home that soon 96

The New York National Advocate announced on Monday, February 13, 1815, that the treaty of peace “arrived at this port, on Saturday evening” with the British sloop of war Favorite, after a passage of 42 days from Plymouth, England. 97 See, for example, the Newport Mercury, February 7, 1815. 98 Letter from General Jackson to the Mayor of New Orleans, January 27, 1815, published in Troy Farmer’s Register, March 21, 1815.


Chapter Six

became commonly known as the White House; the new song which ultimately became the national anthem; and the character of Uncle Sam, still without an iconographic representation but useful to symbolize the United States. Finally the war of 1812 was central in creating new leaders like John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts and Henry Clay of Kentucky, who concluded the peace in Ghent; John Calhoun of South Carolina, who became the unopposed leader of the South; James Monroe of Virginia, who, choosing Jackson as General, easily won the election of 1816, and finally “the gallant” Andrew Jackson himself, the hero of the battle of New Orleans, who became President after the election of 1828. All these leaders well depicted the future vision of the American republic that would be built on expansion in the South and in the West, but no longer in Canada. With the end of the war of 1812, American newspapers continued their traditional partisan tone until the emergence of the “penny press” in the 1840s. State as well as local politics also entered the newspapers originally dedicated to commercial news and advertisements. This was especially true in 1819, when Congress, dissatisfied with the quality of printing of its own reports and laws, abandoned the practice of paying the publishers for this service and political patronage developed at the state and local levels. When political parties assumed a more structured form in the 1820s this was very clear and patronage of the press became a political issue. Beginning in the election campaign of 1828 parties assumed a major role in creating and guiding newspapers, dictating the position they should take in political issues.99


Starr, The Creation of the Media, 92-93.


The war of 1812 (June 18, 1812 - February 18, 1815), viewed as almost an interlude in American history between the Revolution and the far greater Civil War, at best inaugurating the “Era of Good Feelings” and the consolidation of the United States as a nation, was in fact a period of extreme political strife.1 The disastrous Non-intercourse and Embargo policies of Jefferson’s administration which hardly hit Northern “commercial” interests followed by Madison’s–pro-French–declaration of war to Great-Britain brought political and sectional animosity between Republicans and Federalists to unprecedented heights. Given the central


See Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 17891815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), who declares it “the strangest war in American history” (659). The war is usually selectively remembered for some memorable military exploits on either parts such as Andrew Jackson’s at New Orleans and the British burning of Washington; for the more significant and bloody episodes not enshrined in collective American memory, see Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizen, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (New York, Alfred Knopf, 2010), who focuses on the borderland region around Lake Erie and Ontario where the greatest fighting and depredations took place. The American invasion of Upper Canada and the torching of its capital York (today Toronto) left an indelible mark on the Canadian population and contributed to the building of a Canadian memory of heroism as well as a Canadian identity. On the “unprecedented political partisanship” during the First Party System, see Andrew Siegel, “‘Steady Habits under Siege:’ The Defense of Federalism in Jeffersonian Connecticut,” in Federalists Reconsidered, Doron S. Ben-Atar and Barbara B. Obergs, eds. (University of Virginia Press, 1998), 199-224.


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role of religion in the life of the people and of the churches as social institutions, it is hardly surprising that clergymen took a stand.2 As William Gribbin states in his comprehensive and insightful volume on the churches during the war of 1812, sermons for or against the war were delivered throughout the nation.3 He also states that only Quakers, Catholics, and, with a few exceptions, Episcopalian heirs to the Anglican Church, kept a prudent attitude or neutral silence. The other major denominations took sides.4 Of these, Congregationalists and Presbyterians, heirs to the Puritans, the mainstream historical churches staffed with a learned clergy, rallied with the Federalists.5 However, while New Englandcentered Congregationalists almost unanimously opposed the war, Presbyterians could be divided. Pro-war Alexander McLeod, for instance, in 1815 a towering New York Reformed Presbyterian and a descendant of Scottish Covenanters, published five long sermons vindicating the war in a 235-page volume. Presbyterian military chaplains were overtly pro-war. In general, however, Presbyterians were anti-war. A prominent one was Samuel Taggart (1754-1825), a Federalist Congressman from Massachusetts and a life-long minister to a congregation in Colrain, as well as Nathan Strong from Hartford, Connecticut. In the State of New York we find the Presbyterian Federalists Arthur Stansbury and Samuel Blatchford of Lansingburgh and in New Jersey the moderate Daniel Clark. Gribbin also mentions anti-war Presbyterians in Kentucky, linked to the Kentucky Abolition Society and at odds with the political sentiment of their region, who, at war’s end, published a call denouncing slavery as “this crying sin of the nation,” insisting that “the present situation of blacks in these states is pregnant with danger. The land groans under a vast load of guilt on their account”.6 We shall return to the issue of slavery later on. The Baptists, a few Universalists, and the Methodists, the latter in particular representing the unlearned, revivalist “popular ” frontier denominations, reviled by the mainstream churches and favorable to the 2 The quote is from Isaiah 26:4: “Trust ye in the Lord Jehovah, forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength,” applied in his sermon to the Maryland Chasseurs, by Samuel Knox, A. M, Principal of Baltimore College, A Discourse, delivered in the 2d Presbyterian church in the city of Baltimore, on Thursday, the 20th of August, 1812, Baltimore: Printed by William Warner, 1812. 3 William Gribbin, The Churches Militant: The War of 1812 and American Religion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973), 104. 4 Ibid., 104. Lutherans are mentioned briefly as “informal army chaplains,” 76. 5 In 1801 in Philadelphia, Congregationalists and Presbyterians had joined in a Plan of Union that resulted in an effective network of religious reform initiatives in the following decades. 6 Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 141, 132.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


separation of Church and State, rallied with the Republicans and were unanimously in favor of the war. Even though some among them could express their abhorrence of war as such, lament its nefarious influence on morals, and view it as divine punishment for the people’s sins, they still remained loyal to James Madison’s administration. Baptists and Methodists were most numerous in the pro-war South and West, but present as well in the Middle Atlantic States and on the Northern frontier of New Hampshire and Vermont. Baptists in particular had been active in Massachusetts and Connecticut since colonial times.7 The “Standing Order” Congregationalists of New England fully embraced their role as watchmen of the community, reminding their flocks and the nation as a whole that in a Christian Commonwealth such as the United States, the Bible and the Gospel were the supreme law-giving texts which should inspire the people and the magistrates they elected. Since government was a God given ordinance, promotion of religion by the State as the basis of sound morals, and consequently of a sound society, ought to be the aim of both the people and their political leaders. Thus, echoing an argument developed by most anti-war ministers, at the beginning of the war the Massachusetts Congregationalist Samuel Austin declared in a footnote to his printed sermon: It is true that religion is the proper business of the Gospel minister. Yet it is not to be forgotten that a prosperous civil government is intimately connected with the progress of religion --- else, Why is civil government an ordinance of God? And do not political convulsions, and especially a state of war, create great obstacles to the progress of religion? The same benevolence then, which will induce a minister, to seek, with zeal the 7

For the inroads of Methodist and Baptist preachers in the New England and Middle States, see Abel Stevens, A Compendious History of American Methodism, Abridged from the Author's “History Of The Methodist Episcopal Church,” (New York: Published By Carlton & Porter, 1867), 215-219, and William G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 109; Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 40-42. On the political stand of the West, the South and the Northern frontier, see Wood, Causes, 661. In Congress, the New England States cast 12 out of 20 votes against the war, the remaining 8 in favor came from New Hampshire and Vermont; oddly, Pennsylvania’s delegates voted in favor along with the Upper and Lower South and the western States of Kentucky, Tennessee and Ohio. Historians have speculated on the multiple motives of the West and South such as expansion of western trade with foreign nations, land hunger, and terminating British encroachment and meddling with Indians against American settlers in the Northwest.


Chapter Seven spiritual good of his fellow men, will lead him to give some attention to political subjects, and to seek the preservation, and welfare of the government under which he lives. And there is no situation in life more exempt from those sinister influences which blind the understanding, and pervert the judgment.8

Whether New England ministers applied the doctrine of the Covenant to the whole nation remains an open question. They certainly held fast to the traditional values of their region where the established Congregationalist Church had successfully monitored the society for nearly two centuries.9 However, for both anti-war and pro-war clergymen, although with substantial differences in emphasis, as William Gribbin argues, political and religious issues were inextricably intertwined, even consubstantial, since every political decision, more especially a declaration of war, was supposed to rest on a moral basis and a clear moral rationale.10 Thus, in some cases, outspoken pro-war ministers led their congregations to build 8

Samuel Austin DD, The Apology of Patriots, Worcester, 1812, 9 footnote, and John Truair, The Alarm trumpet, a Discourse, Delivered at Berkshire, Sept. 9, 1813, entirely devoted to vindicating the duty of ministers to blow the whistle. 9 Jonathan Sassi, “The First Party Competition and Southern New England Public Christianity,” Journal of the Early Republic 1, 2, (Summer 2001), 261-299, see 261-262 for a historiographical review of revisionist recent literature on the postrevolutionary New England Clergy; and Jonathan Sassi, A Republic of Righteousness: The Public Christianity of the Post-Revolution New England Clergy (Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 2001), chapters 2 and 3; see also Amanda Porterfield, Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2012). For a more traditional assessment, see Harry Stout, “Rhetoric and Early Republic: the Case of the Federalist Clergy,” in Religion and American Politics: From Colonial Period to the Present, Mark A. Noll and Luke E. Harlow, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 65-78, where Stout contends that New England Federalists clergymen were caught in their own traditional “rhetoric” and “system of symbols” (why not deeply felt system of values?); and that in the face of a more egalitarian, individualistic and democratic popular evangelicalism, sympathetic to Democratic/Republican politics, the Federalist clergy remained trapped in “a rhetorical world that was corporate, coercive, providential, deductive and elitist” (76). 10 “In a culture self-consciously proud of its role in the historical progress of Christianity, any separation of religious and political values would have rendered them both inoperable. Religious issues were bound to be political controversies as well, and every political crisis was at the same time a moral one. Decisions of state were also moral decisions, and antagonists in partisan disputes were likely to be also participants in theological argument,” William Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 19.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


fortifications, encouraging the people to work against the British enemy, while in turn anti-war clergymen refused to suspend Sunday services to allow men to work on fortifications.11 Army chaplains from various denominations, their role still underdeveloped, obviously supported war. However, their principal function was to administer spiritually to the soldiers–even though, when officially addressing troops, they could be politically outspoken. Such was the case of the Presbyterian Joshua Lacy Wilson when, addressing an Ohio company directed to the North, he not only incited the soldiers to fight but at length inveighed against the “cowards” and “traitors” who opposed the war. Thus, expounding the meaning and relevance of the chosen biblical text–Jeremiah 48:10: “Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back the sword from blood–he proclaimed that the war was the work of the Lord and that God’s curse rested upon the head of all those who opposed it.” Wilson then proceeded to explain all the reasons that made the war necessary and legitimate: But England at present deserves our more particular notice. England related to us by blood, by language, by interest, by laws, by customs and religion, with all the infernal principles of devils incarnate has ruined (as far as in her power) our commerce, impressed our brave seamen into her service, insulted our government in her negotiations, and stirred up the heathen against us. American rights purchased by the blood of our fathers have been trampled underfoot. Some of the best blood of our nation has already been spilt–The companions of our youth have fallen–Our women and children have been massacred I do not pretend to doubt but some among ourselves have had a sinful hand in exciting the Shawnee Prophet to hostilities but much excitement and much aid have been from the British.12 11

Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 75. Joshua L. Wilson, War, the work of the Lord, and the coward cursed. A sermon delivered in the First Presbyterian meeting house in Cincinnatti (sic), Ohio, to the Cincinnatti light companies. May 14, 1812, published at the request of Captain's Mansfield and Sloan, shortly before they marched to Detroit (Cincinnati: Printed: Concord, N H., reprinted by I. And W. R. Hill, 1812), 4, 7; the sermon was delivered a month before the declaration of war; on page 12, Wilson recommends humanity on the part of the soldiers in accomplishing their task, and to avoid cruelty. In contrast, see the pious, moderate James Inglis, A discourse delivered in the First Presbyterian church in the city of Baltimore, Lord's day morning, October 2, 1814. Before the Lieutenant-Colonel, the Officers and Soldiers of the First Regiment of Artillery, 3d B. M. M, and published at their Request (Baltimore: 1814). And the entirely pious pro-war David Long, [12 pages] Discourse Delivered in Milford (Mass.) on Lord's Day, October 30, 1814; occasioned by the return of a company of artillery lamentations III. 22. It is of the Lord's Mercies 12


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Other chaplains were more moderate, such as the Baltimore Presbyterian Samuel Knox who, when addressing the Maryland Chasseurs volunteers, rather insisted on the soldiers’ religious and moral temper as the true foundation of military valor: Go then ye citizen soldiers, and the God of those armies that fight in a righteous cause–and a righteous cause only, go with you. But, allow me, to beseech you to remember–and may it be remembered by all your companions in arms, that the most pious are generally the most valiant– That the righteous alone, are as bold as a Lion–and that the most nervous arm–as well as the most courageous heart, can lose none of their strength– none of their energy, by their “Trusting in the Lord Jehovah forever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”13

It was a most fitting recommendation, given the secular cast of mind and notorious “dissolute” habits of soldiers and officers, especially those (the majority) of Jeffersonian-Republican sympathies. Although they were tropes of Federalist clergymen’s denunciations, irreligion, low morals and profanity among the troops were all too common. To that general opinion even Joshua Lacy Wilson implicitly conceded, so much so that while observing the skepticism of “some” as to morality and salvation, he reminded the high religious and moral standards of both Hebrew and American heroes: I cannot consent to close this subject, without calling you to a more important warfare–warfare against sin. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. I know that the doctrine of sin is treated by some with great levity and scorn; but I will take the liberty of saying, "Fools make a mock at sin.” The subjugation of lust and passion is of vast moment. “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city.” The army has been considered the school of vice, but it is not necessarily so. Abraham and David, and that we are not consumed, because His compassion fails not, (9), he makes a veiled allusion to republican, secular triumphalism: “And the want of such gratitude often fixes a stain on the most brilliant actions. Success, in the most important enterprises, we have reason to believe, is sometimes lost through a criminal neglect of acknowledging God.” and then, “But waving for the present a general application, it is proper that we notice, on this occasion, the gratifying event which we now have the pleasure to witness, of the safe return of our friends and fellow citizens, who had been called out for the defense of our rights and liberties.” 13 Samuel Knox, A discourse, delivered in the 2d. Presbyterian Church in the city of Baltimore, op. cit., 29.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


Cornelius, and Gardiner, and Washington, were all military men, and all men of eminent piety and virtue.14

An eloquent testimony of the army as “the school of vice” is offered by the Tennessee Methodist Learner Blackman accompanying Andrew Jackson’s troops. Learner sadly observed the harsh work and living conditions of the soldiers, “they are no better of [sic] than slaves in general,” which probably contributed to their great profanity unfortunately encouraged by the example of their officers, all profanely swearing at Fort Massac: I am awfully afraid our officers in the regular Service are very wicked. We have much to fear when this is the case. Profane swearing prevales [sic] among the soldiery and likewise among the officers notwithstanding the Laws & regulations of General Government forbid it. How can an officer fine or inflict punishment on a soldier that will swear himself. A Just cause can be made unjust by ungodly officers. The Lord helps me to bare [sic] a faithful Testimony against it. Because of swearing the land mourneth. Yes and our land has great cause to tremble because of wickedness.15

Blackman further observed that the officers to whom he administered, although listening politely to his calls to repentance and piety, were not at all religious.16 While appealing to the specific religious culture and sensibilities of their audiences and allowing for variations of intensity in alluding to the politics of the day, these sermons were all intensely political. They also offered the occasion for settling scores. Such was the case of the New England Congregationalists who damned Madison and the Republicans as deists and “infidels,” destroyers of the nation’s commercial interests and of New England’s religious order, and ultimately of Christianity itself.17 But, as we shall see, along with partisan strife, even violence against political dissent, they would also denounce slavery in the South, an increasing festering issue, as well as the South’s specific interests. Church affiliation, local tradition, and sectional cultural differences were indeed 14

Wilson, War, the work of the Lord, 12. Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 75-76. Dawson A. Phelps, ed., “The Diary of a Chaplain in Andrew Jackson’s Army. The Journal of Learner Blackman, Dec. 28, 1812-April 4, 1813,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly V12, No. 3, (September 1953), 264-281, 271. 16 Ibid., 268. 17 On Madison’s religious stance, see James Hutson, “Madison and the Social Utility of Religion: Risks vs. Rewards,” Symposium on “James Madison: Philosopher and Practitioner of Liberal Democracy,” Washington D.C., Library of Congress, May 3, 2001. 15


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crucial in determining political loyalties. That is why New England Baptists in particular gladly seized the opportunity to denounce and revile the union of Church and State as it still existed in the region and as was favored by the Federalists. It may be worth noting that all the New England States, except Vermont, disestablished their church order well after 1815.18

Hermeneutics Both pro-war and anti-war clergymen composed their sermons within the traditional structure of text, explanation, doctrine, and “uses,” or “applications”. In general, political arguments were developed according to biblical hermeneutics, i.e. through the interpretation of the Old and New Testaments. However, in these sermons the use of Scriptural quotes was generally analogical with present events, not typological, as traditional homiletics prescribed, that is reading Old Testament events as types of the New, carrying a symbolic spiritual message–therefore not directly applicable to the present. One pro-war clergyman, the New York moderate Baptist William Parkinson, while choosing a belligerent text from Chronicles, conceded that such analogical reading should be qualified because Old Testament events were indeed supposed to carry a typological, spiritual link with the New. Besides, the text relating Israel’s wars against its infidel neighbors

18 Connecticut disestablished the church in 1818, New Hampshire in 1819, Maine in 1820 and Massachusetts first incompletely in 1832 and definitely in 1833. Only Vermont disestablished it in 1807. The Baptists John Leland (1754-1841), who led the struggle for religious freedom in Virginia, according to traditional Baptist doctrine, denounced the idea that the United States (or any State) could be a Christian commonwealth, for only the spiritual church was such. That is why Baptists ardently advocated separation of church and state: "No national church can in its organization, be the Gospel Church. A National church takes in the whole Nation, and no more; whereas, the Gospel Church, takes in no Nation, but those who fear God, and work righteousness in every Nation. The notion of a Christian commonwealth should be exploded forever. . . . If all the souls in a government were saints of God, should they be formed into a society by law, that society could not be a Gospel Church, but a creature of state,” in The Writings of John Leland, ed. L. F. Greene (New York: Arno Press, 1969), 107. Celebrating the First Amendment to the Constitution, Leland gleefully announced that it would be possible for a “Pagan, Turk, Jew or Christian” to be eligible for any office, in the local or national government, Ibid., 191.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


could be welcomed by the audience as legitimating all kinds of depredations on the enemy:19 Chron. 5:18—22:18: The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the Tribe of Manasseh, of valiant men, men able to bear buckler and sword, and to shoot with bow, and skillful in war, were four and forty thousand seven hundred and three-score, that went out to the war. 19. And they made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur and Nephish, and Nodab. 20. And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand, and all that were with them; for they cried to God in the battle, and he was entreated of them, because they put their trust in him. 21. And they took away their cattle; of their camels fifty thousand, and of sheep two hundred and fifty thousand, and of asses two thousand, and of men an hundred thousand. 22. For there fell down many slain, because the war was of God. And they dwelt in their steads until the captivity (4-7).

However, Parkinson goes to some length to explain, justify–and perhaps defuse–the bellicose nature of the text, as well as to fend off any objection to the analogical application to the present war: I am aware that it may be said, that God, in his arrangements He made for war among the Ancient Hebrews, had a mystical design; that the warlike state of the Hebrews was to prefigure that of the Gospel Church; and that the wars they were commanded to wage, and the conquest they were enabled to gain, were typical of the wars which we are commanded to wage with our spiritual enemies, and the conquest which, through grace, we are encouraged to expect. All this is readily granted. But were the Hebrews influenced by these considerations? Or did they not rather act from the common motives which influence soldiers? Or, at most, from a sense of present duty: while the mystical design remained to be understood by the Gospel Church, under the superior light of the Gospel dispensation. So, no doubt, God has a design no less important and no less worthy of himself, in all the wars, both ancient and modern, since the commencement of this dispensation: nevertheless that design remains to be understood by the Church in the greater light of her millennial glory, or perhaps not fully until she arrives in heaven.20


William Parkinson (1774-1848), A sermon, delivered in the meeting house of the First Baptist church in the city of New York, August 20th, 1812. Being a day recommended, by the constituted authorities of the nation, as a day of special humiliation and prayer, on account of the present war. By William Parkinson A. M., Pastor of said Church (New-York: Printed for J. Tiebout, 1812), 4-7. 20 Ibid., 44-47 and 12.

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If Parkinson took such convoluted precautions in order to justify any direct application of a biblical text, on the whole, his fellow clergymen did not. Parkinson was also a moderate insofar as he pleaded for political unity on the admission as to sincere patriotism, however differently conceived, of both parties. A rare position indeed: I have always thought, and now think, that there are men of equal integrity, abilities and patriotism on both sides. And indeed the distinction itself is as unfounded as it is impolitick; for, under our government, no man can be a Federalist without being a Republican, nor a Republican without being a Federalist; the one having respect to the confederacy of the states, the other to the sovereignty of the people; and both being comprehended in our excellent constitution.21

As a true Baptist, on the other hand, he could not but come to the conclusion that the church should not meddle with civil concerns, and remained of “(…) a firm persuasion that all the modern wars that have occurred among the nations of the earth, are procured by that Antichristian abomination, a union of church and state.”22 The analogical interpretation of the Scriptures led to direct identification of the United States with ancient Israel. While such identification and the war as wrought by the Lord of hosts can be found in both pro-war and anti-war sermons, it pointed at opposite ends. In pro-war sermons the Old Testament wars of Israel and the help God brought to his people were exploited to prove God’s favor to the war; in anti-war sermons, divinely inflicted war or defeat were read essentially as punishment for the people’s numerous sins. Thus, pro-war clergymen would often rely on the Old Testament books of Judges, Chronicles and Numbers relating the many wars fought by Israel, to prove that Jehovah, as God of Armies, was on the side of Republicans against the enemies of true religion. Their approach was positive and optimistic, encouraging people to go to war for a just, even holy cause. The biblical text chosen by William Parkinson, which extolls the ruthless martial exploits of the Israelites, is just an example among many.

21 22

Ibid., 19. Ibid., 22.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


In contrast, anti-war clergymen usually relied on the Prophets (Isaiah, Ezra, Jeremiah, Amos), and sometimes on the New Testament (Revelation, Acts), for their penitential, punitive interpretation. When using Revelation, they explained the fulfillment of apocalyptic prophecies such as the French revolution, the Terror and destruction of Christianity, followed by Napoleon as the Beast of Babylon laying waste the whole of Europe, as omens calling for rejection of war in alliance with France, and to collective repentance.23 Furthermore, “Fast days” called by State or national governments occasioned sermons in the tradition of the Jeremiad pointing to war as a divine scourge for a list of specific sins of which Americans were guilty. They could be found on both sides, although antiwar jeremiads were, obviously, more numerous and could link more explicitly with political arguments.24 However, as we shall see, the use of the jeremiad by pro-war clergymen depended on their personal sensibilities and geographical origins. 23

Timothy Dwight, A discourse, in two parts: delivered July 23, 1812, On the Public Fast, In The Chapel of Yale College Delivered July 23, 1812, By Timothy Dwight, D.D.L.L.D. President Of That Seminary. Published At The Request of The Students, and Others, (New-Haven, 1812, New-York, 1812). Text from Isaiah 21:11-12. “The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watch man, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The Watchman said, the morning cometh; and also the night. If ye will inquire, inquire ye; return; come,” 47-48, 50. In the first Discourse (from 17 to 25), Dwight expounds the prophecy of the opening of the Seventh Vial. He describes the advance of Atheism in Europe where Voltaire and his “banditti” took over the minds of the people. Then, in the Second part of A Discourse, (25-26 and passim), he expounds the fulfillment of the prophecy and the opening of the last two Vials, issuing in the French Revolution, Terror, atheism, destruction all over Europe. But, he also advances causes for hope, for the Lord had wrought great improvements in religion, even among Catholics (44). In fact he finds reasons for fear and for hope (45-47). The three reasons for fear are: the fulfillment of the prophecy, the sinful nature of the country (no God in the Constitution, three million people with no church) and the nasty party spirit, greed, alcoholism (“To what a terrible extent has the brutal sin of drunkenness spread through our land!”), corrupt elections, and dueling as fashionable murder. He then exposes the military unpreparedness of the nation, which, along with the physical layout of the country, allows for easy attack and destruction. 24 William Gribbin does not address the persistence of the Jeremiad, which he had previously treated in an article, William Gribbin, “The Covenant Transformed: the Jeremiad Tradition and the War of 1812,” Church History V. 40, 3, (Sept. 1971), 297-305. See also Jonathan Sassi, “The First Party Competition and Southern New England Public Christianity,” Journal of the Early Republic 1, 2, (Summer 2001), 261-299.


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Pro-war sermons Let’s first examine a sample of pro-war sermons. According to William Gribbin, pro-war clergymen were the majority, in particular in the West and South where the Methodists and Baptists, along with a few evangelical Presbyterians, had been active in evangelizing the frontier. (62) However, numerically, pro-war sermons generally originating with the Baptists and Methodists were less present in print with respect to the New England anti-war ones. On the one hand, since pro-war sermons represented the majority of public opinion, it was probably less urgent to publish them; besides, Baptist and Methodist magazines circulated numerous articles against the Federalists’ denunciation of the war, calling the people to fulfill their patriotic duty. On the other, New England antiwar clergymen were in line with the long printing tradition of the region, one of the major legacies of the Puritan order. For one pro-war sermon published, dozens of anti-war ones would appear in the North-East; they thus enjoyed greater visibility than the popular denominations siding with Madison and the Republicans.25 The arguments advanced in pro-war sermons were basically the same. While some admitted that war of any kind should be viewed as a punishment for the many sins of the country, this one was unequivocally a war of the Lord and for the Lord. Quoting Old Testament examples, they asserted and proved that the God of Israel’s full favor shone down upon the United States. The war against a corrupt British monarchic regime supported by oppressive State-Church relations was legitimate and righteous. Pro-war clergymen emphatically denied that Britain was the Christian nation the Federalists claimed it to be. The secular, political argument intrinsically connected with the religious (moral) one was that the war was provoked by British arrogance and violation of American rights, namely the impressment of American seamen denounced and described at length with abundant pathetic details. Memories of the American Revolution were mobilized, again showing that the Lord of armies would lead once more the United States to victory as at the time of the Revolution.26 They further denounced the British as fomenting Indian attacks on the northern frontier, thus justifying the invasion of Canada. 25

Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 62. See Sarah J Purcell, Sealed with Blood: War, Sacrifice and Memory in Revolutionary America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002), chapter 4, “National Crisis and Destabilized Memory” treats of the 1812 war. William Parkinson, among others, refers to the precedent of the American Revolution clearly favored by the Lord, Parkinson, A sermon, 15. 26

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


The partisan attack was hurled at the Federalists, denounced as cowards, traitors and Tories, fomenting division, even civil war. Here too, the Old Testament provided useful examples. A notable one is to be found in the sermon by John Hataway Stevens, a (rare) pro-war Massachusetts Congregationalist, entitled The Duty of Union in a Just War.27 The sermon opens with a passage from Judges 5:23, Curse ye Meroz, referring to a war fought by Israel against a tyrannical neighbor King in which the tribes who refused to participate were cursed and destroyed by Jehovah. Obviously, the passage offered a most fitting analogy with the Federalists’ rejection of the war, so much so that it was quoted by other pro-war sermons. Another moderate Massachusetts pro-war Unitarian, Joseph Richardson, argued that the scourges of illness and hunger befallen on the State were a punishment for the sin of political division and of defeatism, “our strange love of what is called peace”.28 27 John Hataway Stevens, The duty of union in a just war. A Discourse delivered in Stoneham (Mass) April 8 1813, Being the Day of the State Fast, by John Hataway Stevens [[1766-1851], V.D.M. [1766-1851] published by the Desire of the Hearers, from the second Boston Edition (New-York: Printed by E. Conrad). Text from Judges 5:23, “‘Curse ye Meroz,’ said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” 28 Joseph Richardson, The Christian patriot encouraged. Discourse, Delivered Before the First Parish In Hingham, On Fast Day, April 8, 1813. By Joseph Richardson, A.M (Boston: Joshua Belcher), with due modesty, Richardson warns the Reader that his text is such as it was delivered from the pulpit. His text from Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord,” 6-7. “In the course of the last year our State has been visited with some tokens of a frowning providence. There has not been so great complaint on account of the scarcity of bread for many years. This judgment has fallen upon our State with great weight. This judgment must be for some other cause than for having taken an active part in the war in which the country is engaged. As a State, no one in the Union has more cautiously avoided all participation in the war, yet this State lies under a heavy judgment, more severe than has been, by an immediate providence, inflicted on any other. Some parts of this State have been visited by a very alarming and mortal sickness. Has this taken place on account of prosecuting the war, or for our strange love of what is called peace? (…) It is a cause of deep regret to every friend to his country that a spirit of disunion and of opposition to the general government has brought already so much ill success and disgrace. It emboldens the traitor when he sees a numerous class of his fellow-citizens ready to welcome him to their bosoms. The soldier's bravery sinks, when discountenanced and betrayed by his own countrymen.”


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Among the arguments developed by pro-war clergymen, the separation of church and State figures more or less prominently depending on church affiliation (the Baptists, of course), but also on regional location. If the moderate New York Parkinson could inveigh against the union of church and state, New England Baptists could be far more vocal. Still under some strictures by the Standing Order, and mindful of past persecution, they appealed to the sentiment of their congregations in warning against the danger (among others) of becoming subject to the Church of England in case of defeat.29 The most vehement, even vituperative example comes indeed from Daniel Merrill, a former Congregationalist turned Baptist, the pastor of a large congregation in Maine who at the war’s end, on April 13, 1815, delivered a Thanks-giving sermon (published at Concord) aptly entitled “Balaam disappointed”–Balaam being the figure of the false prophet.30 In thirty pages, Daniel Merrill, as it may be expected, rhapsodizes on the Unites States as Israel, and heaps scorn on the defeated enemy and its allies the New England Federalists. Relying on a passage in Numbers 23:23: “(…) according to this time it shall be Said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” Merrill adopts an exalted, even extravagant biblical style celebrating the annihilation by the Lord of the 29 See Ferdinand Ellis (1780-1858), A Discourse, Adapted to the Present Situation of our National Concern. Preached at Marblehead, Mass. July 23, 1812, Appointed by the Executive of this Commonwealth as a Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer (Published 1812 by Warwick Palfray, Jun. Printer in Salem, Mass.), 10. Text from Isaiah 57:5 (in this book the prophet denounces hypocritical Fasts, and calls to godliness and observance of the Sabbath). On Ellis as pastor of the First Baptist Church in Exeter, New Hampshire, see John Farmer and Jacob Bailey Moore, A Gazetteer of the State of New-Hampshire (Concord: Jacob E. Moore, 1823), 133. In the year 1819, Ferdinand Ellis was acting as vicepresident of the Baptist Missionary Society, see Christian Herald (John Edward Caldwell editor), 6, (New York: John Gray, 1819), 158. 30 Daniel Merril (1765-1833), Balaam disappointed. A thanksgiving sermon, delivered at Nottingham-West, Concord, April 13, 1815. A day recommended by the national government, in which to rehearse God's mighty acts, and praise his name (Concord: Printed By Isaac & W. R. Hill, June 1815). The text is from Numbers 23:23, “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be Said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!” Balaam is a figure of false prophet mentioned in Numbers as well as in the New Testament. On Merrill and the Baptists’ position on the war, see also Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 86-87. While Isaac Backus (1724-1806) had fought for the Baptists’ liberties in New England during the colonial period, after the Revolution, John Leland (1754-1841), who had struggled for the separation of Church and State in Virginia, moved to fight for church disestablishment in New England.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


British and their Indian allies, the destruction of whom will thus righteously enable Americans as “the people of the Lord” to expand on their lands: The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name. Britannia's ships, with their crews, hath He dashed in pieces: her chosen captains are fallen down slain. The depths of death have covered them. Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy. Now Indians shall melt away… making room to the people of the Lord (19) sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Britannia. The dukes of Babylon shall be amazed: the mighty men of savage tribes, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of the wilderness shall melt away. Fear and dread shall fall upon them: by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, which thou hast purchased. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.

All the divine favors bestowed on the American armies–What hath God wrought! emphatically repeated throughout the text, proved the Lord was on the side of those who fought for true liberty, that is the separation of Church and State. Merrill thus engages in a long invective against British despotism and religious “superstitions.” Which in turn leads him to revile the Puritan Fathers, since, as soon as they came ashore in the new world, hypocrites as they were, they reestablished the English despotic regime of State religion, persecuting true Christians (the Baptists). Merrill goes as far as claiming that Napoleon guarantees religious liberty (16, footnote), and inveighs against the Federalists, laity and clergy, who want to keep ruling the nation under the tutelage of clergymen.31 Merrill was exceptionally enthusiastic. As we have seen, pro-war clergymen could be more moderate. But the main arguments in favor of the war were the same: moral and legal legitimacy of a war in defense of American rights and of impressed seamen under God’s favor and defense of the homeland against British-Indian attacks. Accessorily, they called for separation of church and State and, while occasionally conceding the common cultural and religious ancestry with Britain, they emphatically denied that it was the most Christian nation on earth.

The Jeremiad Public fasts called by the national and local governments throughout the war encouraged some ministers of either political persuasion to 31

Merrill, Balaam disappointed, 26.

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compose their sermons according to the time-honored genre and structure of the jeremiad, although by no means all fast sermons were jeremiads. Local tradition, as in the case of New England Congregationalists and Northern Presbyterians, determined the choice of this type of homily. Thus, in spite of being pro-war, the New England Congregationalist John Hataway Stevens–in contrast to the New England Baptist Merrill–not only praised the Puritans as venerable forefathers who fled oppression and were favored by God’s great mercies (so did the pro-war New-England Unitarian Joseph Richardson), but, given the occasion, also applied the traditional Puritan jeremiad in introducing a long list of sins (fourteen!) plaguing New England, and the nation in general.32 This served the spiritual purpose of calling to repentance, humiliation and prayer along with the duty of serving the country in arms. The sins are worth examining for, with some variations and omissions (Hataway does not mention dueling, for instance), they constitute the common stock of the jeremiads of the day: -





pride, among others, for all the great advantages enjoyed in America, including a republican government; violation of the Sabbath by gambling and vain amusements, and going abroad and doing business instead of staying home to pray or going to church; greed and “love of property. It has been spoken of by other nations what lovers of money Americans were! Many have made a god of wealth and worshipped mammon” (9); intemperance, which destroyed people’s health and property–so much so that societies were being formed to offset such national sin–and led to further sins such as idleness, lewdness, etc.; profaneness, even children and maids swore in the name of God; political division and strife, “which threaten to ruin our nation; for the Lord has said, a Kingdom divided against itself cannot last,” and then lewdness, falsehood, theft, even murder, linked in a final thrust towards all manner of heresies: “Many great and awful errors… embraced by many in this nation, such as Arminianism, Antinomianism, Socinianism, Universalism, Deism, and Atheism...” All these sins perpetrated by a people ungrateful for all the good things the Lord had done for them–another common theme. Even granting the exaggerations of the genre, the list is an interesting window on the evolution, or dissolution, of New England‘s traditional values and habits, at least as viewed by the New England clergy of every political persuasion.

Stevens, The duty of union in a just war, 7-10.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


Similar jeremiads, introducing eloquent personal modulations on the common themes, were also delivered by the New York City anti-war Dutch Reformed Stephen Rowan and by the New York State Presbyterian and Federalist Arthur Stansbury, as well as by the moderate (probably anti-war) Presbyterian Daniel Clark of New Jersey (they were pronounced respectively in July 1812, September 1813 and on July 4th, 1814).33 Rowan’s two sermons, printed in response to criticism leveled at him for taking political or “party” sides on the issue of war dwells especially on the “national sin” of electing impious rulers and on the sins of profanity (even from the lips of children or of old men on their death-bed! 20-21) as well as intemperance and sensual extravagance in apparel. While, with impartial spirit he concedes that “If France is the tyrant of the land, England is the tyrant of the sea” (13), and protests his innocence as to political preaching, “I have never yet introduced party politics into the pulpit. Whenever I have spoken on the affairs of the nation, it has been 33

Daniel Clark, (1779-1840), Independence-sermon, delivered July 4, 1814, at Hanover, N. Jersey. By Daniel A. Clark, Newark (Printed Bt John Tuttle & Co. 1814), 16-22. His text is from Isaiah i:2, “Hear. O Heavens, And Give Ear, O Earth; For the Lord Hath Spoken: I Have Nourished And Brought Up Children, And They Have Rebelled Against Me;” Arthur Joseph Stansbury, (1781-1865), God pleading with America. A Sermon Delivered On The Late Fast Day, Recommended By The American Churches And By The President Of The U. States. By Arthur Joseph Stansbury, Minister of The Gospel (Goshen, NY: printed by T B. Crowell. 1813), 23 pages, the long text is from Amos IV. 10:13, “I HAVE sent among 1 you the pestilence after the manner of Egypt: your young men have I slain with the sword, and have taken/away your horses; and I have made the stink of your camps to come/up unto your nostrils: yet have ye not returned unto me, saith the Lord./“I have overthrown some of you as God overthrew Sodom and/Gomorrah, and ye were as a fire-brand plucked out of the burning;/yet have ye not returned unto me,” saith the Lord./“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I/will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”/“For lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind,/and declareth unto man what is his thought, and maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, the/Lord, the God of hosts is his name.” Stephen N. Rowan (17871835), The sin and danger of insensibility under the calls of God to repentance: two sermons, delivered in the Reformed Dutch church, at Greenwich (New-York: Whiting and Watson; J. Seymour, printer, 1812). Text from Isaiah xxii: 12, 13, 14, “And in that day did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping; and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth: and behold, joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine: let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die.... And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of hosts.”


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from broad Scriptural principles” (4), Rowan roundly claims his right to express himself in defense and in the name of religion, “I am not now speaking for a party, but for the Lord of hosts” (15). Americans, so sensual and indifferent to religion, must repent, and as the prophet Isaiah calls for, do right penance for their many sins. In a note only (37), Rowan alludes to the South’s solid vote in favor of the war and wonders how Southerners who exulted in the war could honestly observe the day of humiliation recommended by the authorities.34 Arthur Joseph Stansbury’s anti-war jeremiad, compared to Rowan’s and the pro-war Hataway Stevens’s, evinces an indignant, even vehement tone, and is openly political. He not only levels the usual Federalist charge against the administration’s “infidelity” and the “godless” constitution but also denounces the deliberate passing of Sabbath–breaking laws. Like Stevens, Stansbury denounces the spread of heresies (Arianism, Socinianism, etc.) and the great diffusion of atheistic pamphlets (probably Thomas Paine’s Age of Reason), as well as dishonesty in business–a marked declension of Yankee business ethics–and “worshipping Mammon.” Not last in the long list of sins, Stansbury, with a touch of sarcasm, denounces dueling: To which other of the commandments shall we look? Is it to the sixth? America is a land of duels. The soldier views his sword with a blush till he has flesh'd it in the bosom of a friend; his epaulette has no brilliancy till it is brightened with a widow's tear.35


Rowan, The sin and danger of insensibility, 37: “And there are multitudes in our country, who rejoice at the late war measure, as if it were the most glorious event that has happened since the revolution. Just like the Jews, who indulged "joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine.” “To the honor of the citizens of this state, be it recorded, that there are few such among us. With the reflecting, of both parties, the war is spoken of with regret. But the remark is fully applicable to the citizens of the Southern States. With what face will they observe the day of humiliation, recommended by the President of the United States?” 35 Stansbury, God pleading with America, 13-14. Dueling had long been denounced, see, among others, the sermon delivered by Timothy Dwight after the July 11, 1804, fatal duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Timothy Dwight, The Folly, Guilt and Mischief of Dueling: A Sermon preached in the College Chapel at New Haven, on the Sabbath preceding the Annual Commencement (Hartford: Hudson & Goodwin, 1804, reprinted in New York), A sermon on dueling preached in the Chapel of Yale College, New-Haven, September 9th, 1804, and in the Old Presbyterian Church, New-York, January 21st, 1805, by Timothy Dwight (New York: printed by Collins & Perkins, 1805). In

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


Dueling leads him to the sin of murder at large, indirectly referring to the mobbing of a Federalist press by Republican sympathizers in Baltimore on June 23, 1812, which resulted in the destruction of the edifice; but especially to the second mobbing on July 27, followed by the lynching and torture of the Federalists defending the press, one of whom died of his wounds: Murder? The land is full of murderers. I speak not of the assassin who lays wait by night. I speak of him who murders at noon day; who drags his miserable victim publicly to the slaughter house, and while it cries for mercy continues to repeat his blow till by stern and ruthless perseverance he destroys the last feeble remains of life. Such a murderer is the drunkard, and the victim, alas! is his own soul.36

Stansbury also briefly, but vehemently, denounces the presence of slavery in a free and Christian country, namely in the freedom-loving South, and the hypocrisy of its pretenses to civilizing the Africans: But is there no slavery in our land? Yes, there is slavery: grinding, merciless, wicked slavery; and, strange to tell, where the cry for liberty is loudest it is mingled with the clank of fetters and the sounding lash of the overseer. Cargoes of human flesh and bones still leave the wretched coasts of the old world, and find a ready market here. But the miserable victims come, however, to a Christian land, they come, of course, to be pitied and enlightened. Would it were so! But we know better. We know that the Christian teacher, nay, even the harmless schoolmaster, though received as an angel by the slaves, is frowned upon, is repulsed, is persecuted by the master.37

the opening lines, Dwight assures his audience that he will not refer at all to the recent “event,” but he will only establish basic principles. 36 Stansbury, God pleading with America, 13-14. At least two of the assaillants were killed by the Federalists “gentlemen” while defending the house, then the mob took hold of them in the jail where they had been secured, while the authorities remained passive, see An Exact and Authentic Narrative of the Events Which took place in Baltimore, on the 27th and 28th of July Last. Carefully Collected From Some of the Sufferers and Eyewitnesses. To which is added a Narrative of Mr John Thomson, One of the Unfortunate Sufferers; (1812; Printed For the Purchasers); see also Paul A. Gilje, “The Baltimore Riots of 1812 and the Breakdown of the Anglo-American Mob Tradition,” Journal of Social History 13, 4 (Summer 1980), 547-564. 37 Stansbury, God pleading with America, 15.


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Coming from a Northern Federalist stronghold, Stansbury’s denunciation of slavery is not surprising. As we shall see, the theme was evoked with varied intensity by numerous Federalist preachers. In fact, recent studies have proved the genuine anti-slavery stance of Northern Federalists, in which moral and partisan reasons were deeply intertwined.38 Finally, Stansbury moves on to the regular trope of both anti-war and pro-war sermons that is lamenting political division, even violence and murder–again alluding to the Baltimore riot. The result could only be a partisan, corrupt press. Stansbury’s anger at the moral degeneracy of American society ruled by an impious administration seems to imply that Americans had the government they deserved and they should only expect more divine punishment for it. In contrast, Daniel Clark pours out sorrowful, almost affectionate warnings and calls to repentance and reformation. He still enumerates six widespread sins on top of which stands the decline of piety, especially of family prayers, followed by lack of government and discipline in family and church, profanation of the Sabbath, swearing, and intemperance (even ladies drink heavily, 20). Politically speaking, the pious Clark, who at length dwells on the extraordinary divine paternal favors to America, keeps a neutral stand. While not expressing political views, Clark too laments political strife. Actually, he deplores the very existence of political parties as further proof of the nation’s moral decline. Regretfully he concludes that such division: [P]roves us degenerate and rebellious… the existence of two hostile political parties. The manner in which these parties treat each other, prove us a vicious race. Each accuses the other of designing the ruin of his country, of being vile, and false, and under foreign influence….39

With nostalgic longing for the return of the Golden Age of patriotic unity–accompanied by moral and spiritual reformation–Clark insists on reverting to political concord, “Once things were not so. Our fathers knew but one party: they were Americans.”40 38

See Rachel Hope Cleves, “‘Hurtful to the State:’ The Political Morality of Federalist Antislavery,” in Contesting Slavery: the Politics of Bondage and Freedom in the New American Nation, John Craig Hammond and Matthew Mason, eds. (Charlottesville: University Virginia Press, 2011), 207-226. 39 Clark, Independence-sermon, 18. 40 Ibid., 20- 21. Similarly, the Boston anti-war Congregationalist John Lathrop (1740-1816), a venerable patriot ever since the Revolution, explicitly evokes a Golden Age of harmony: “(…) God grant that we may live to see a return of something like that golden age of purity and simplicity, which our country once

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


The master jeremiad, and the most fully argued, was delivered by the Connecticut Presbyterian and anti-war Federalist Nathan Perkins (17491838) in his fast sermon The national sins and national punishment in the recently declared war. For the richness of its arguments it is worth a close reading. Based on the penitential text by Ezra 9:5-6, the sermon, which runs for thirty pages, does not present a long list of sins, as in Stevens or Stansbury, but the four (or five) which Perkins, a learned Doctor of Divinity, specifically lists, are each fully dwelt and commented upon–a methodological characteristic that his contemporaries fully acknowledged.41 In the initial ten long pages, Perkins does not depart from the usual arguments deployed by his fellow anti-war ministers, although he introduces some specific themes he will develop in the second part. He thus explains the suitability to the circumstances of Ezra’s text: God punishing the United States for having entered an offensive and therefore illegitimate war. Then, as customary, he draws an analogy with the people of Israel, like the Americans, blessed with so many favors by their God and yet ungratefully obstinate in their sins. In spite of the calamities God sent them as a warning, the Israelites persisted in their wickedness until God punished them with the Babylon captivity–hinting that perhaps captivity analogous to Babylon’s awaited the American people. As in enjoyed!” John Lathrop, A discourse, delivered in Boston, April 13, 1815 (Boston: published by J. W. Burditt, 1815), 22. Fierce political partisanship reaching paroxysm was indeed alarming for the clergymen of all persuasions, see Siegel, “Steady Habits.” 41 Perkins, The national sins; Ezra ix:5, 6, “And at the evening sacrifice I arose from my heaviness, and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God. And said, O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head and our trespass is grown unto the Heavens.” Perkins’ habit of “expanding” on every subject he addressed is mentioned by the Rev. Daniel Waldo in 1851, see Perkins’ biographical notice in William Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, (1858), vol. 1, 4. Sprague refers to Nathan Perkins (1748-1838) as a Congregationalist having been pastor for sixty-six years to the First Congregational Church in West Hartford, Ct, which is also at times referred to as the First Presbyterian Church, see William Sprague, Annals of the American Pulpit, 9 vols., vol. 2, (New York, 1857-69), 1-4. He is remembered for having been an active evangelical and the tutor of Noah Webster and of the colored future Episcopalian pastor Harry Croswell, see Randall K. Burkett, “The Reverend Harry Croswell and Black Episcopalians in New Haven, 1820-1860,” The North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History 7, 1, (Fall 2003), 1-19. Perkins is briefly mentioned but not analyzed in recent works such as Nicole Eustace, Rachel Hope Cleves, Jonathan Sassi, and others, but oddly, not in Gribbin’s The Churches Militant.


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Stansbury’s, Clark’s and a number of sermons, he enumerates the exceptionally bountiful material conditions enjoyed by the American people as well as the privilege of enjoying free institutions of government, all blessings for which they should be thankful to the Lord. But neglect of religion and indifference to salvation, with their attendant decline in morality, were so general that they could not but bring down divine punishment. Predictably, one major consequence of low morals consisted in electing irreligious leaders. Throughout the text, Perkins, who declares himself an ardent republican from his very youth, extolls the country’s free institutions of government only to point at their intrinsic fragilities, a political stance that generally historians refer to as “classical republican,” or “elitist,” and one to which John Adams, a “classical republican,” a Federalist (although of his own kind) and a New Englander, fully subscribed. Human nature cannot be left to its own rulings, men need moral guidance, or else their unrestrained passions will lead them to sabotage their very–ill-interpreted–civil freedom. Perkins denounces five major national sins the war is punishment for: profaneness, intemperance, dueling, slave-holding, and lastly, “infidelity.” Indeed, the sermon’s largest portions are devoted to the sin of slavery, to the sin of involving the nation in an offensive war, and finally to dangers for the future of republican institutions, ending with the various miseries and destructions war brings in its trail. While he dwells quite briefly on profaneness and dueling (characterized as just “plain murder” which, thanks to New England’s sound cultural heritage, was fortunately not practiced in the region), intemperance is thoroughly denounced as a danger to the nation: “North, South, East and West… the quantity consumed in our nation, is immense, and almost incredible;” the people should become aware of “the fatal effects of an excessive use of ardent Spirits,” and reform their habits.42 However, what sets this sermon apart from both the jeremiads and the anti-war sermons of the day is the vehemence and the radicalism with which it denounces slavery. Over three pages Perkins engages in a passionate denunciation of what in his eyes is perhaps the greatest national sin, “our Nation has to answer for the sin of Slave-holding, at the bar of Providence.” As an heir to the earlier Connecticut evangelical (and quite radical) anti-slavery movement, Perkins pleads for the common humanity of the slave and the slave-holder, as Jesus Christ teaches “all mankind as 42

On intemperance, Nathan Perkins, National sins, 15; on dueling in New England, “on account of the state of society, the public morals, and the general influence of the Gospel is yet free from it, but in all the rest of our nation it is practiced,” ibid.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


one family; as brethren… having immortal souls to save or lose,” and hails at the abolition of slavery, “Happy is it that, in any nation, there is an ABOLITION OF SLAVERY! Oh that it may be abolished in all lands! The slave trade and slaveholding are crimes of a deep dye.” (16) He expects terrible divine punishment for such almost incommensurable sin, not only on the slave-holding states, but on the whole nation: And the punishment will not be light. It will be proportionate to the crime. The crime is the deepest, however common, of any perpetrated in former ages, or the present. Its evils are indeed incalculable. Its enormity awful.43

Anticipating the call of the abolitionists, and at the same time echoing the Enlightenment philosophy of sentiment and its advocacy of “sympathy” (or empathy), Perkins calls the slave-holder to reflect on his own and his slave’s condition: “Could my voice reach the slave-holder, I would ask him to pause–to feel–yea, to apply to himself as if he were the slave and not the master.”44 The sin of slavery hovered as an ominous threat to the republic. Perkins speculates that “perhaps” it might indeed be for the sin of slavery that the nation was now so punished with all the miseries of war and violent civil conflict, “As a nation, on account of this sin, perhaps, we are to be ruined. Our beautiful Republic reared by so 43 Ibid., 16. The Connecticut Society For the Promotion of Freedom and the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Held in Bondage (1790-1800 ca.), presided by Yale president Ezra Stiles, was deeply inspired by the evangelical, antislavery thought of Samuel Hopkins, a Congregationalist pastor in Rhode Island and a disciple and biographer of Jonathan Edwards. The latter’s own son, Jonathan Edwards Jr, along with his fellow minister Levi Hart, was among the most active antislavery preachers of the day. These New Divinity pastors preached a radical brand of antislavery. As early as 1775, Levi Hart had preached against slavery: Liberty Described and Recommended: in a Sermon to the Corporation of Freemen in Farmington (Hartford, Ct). Perkins may well be an exception among the antislavery ministers of this period who, according to Matthew Mason, Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), 14, were all vaguely calling for abolition, possibly gradual. One example Mason cites is the New York Reformed Presbyterian Alexander McLeod who, in 1802, published an antislavery Discourse, Negro Slavery Unjustifiable, A Discourse, By Alexander M’leod, A.M., Pastor of the Reformed Presbyterian Congregation in the City of New-York, “Whosoever looketh unto the perfect law of liberty, and continueth/ therein; he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work;/ this man shall be blessed in his deed."/ James 1:25 (New York: Printed by T. & J. SWORDS, 1802). 44 Perkins, National sins, 17. A similar call was made by Levi Hart in his 1775 sermon Liberty Described and Recommended, 18.


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much blood and treasure.”45 Clearly, slavery weighs heavily on Perkins’ heart, for he keeps expounding on the concrete (insurrectional) dangers the vast population of Southern slaves represents. In keeping with his radical views, he however recognizes that the slave has a natural right to rebel: The slave has the same right to make his master his slave, as the master has to make him a slave. Man is born free. Nature will ere long see this. Nature will reason and feel. The day will come, when slavery will not be endured, when religion and liberty will pervade the globe.46

Relying on a trope traditionally employed, at least since Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia (1784), Perkins finally dwells on slavery’s corrupting power on the character of the slave-holder, even on his very soul, in order to point out how slavery makes masters adverse to religion, especially the truly evangelical one. Southern slave-holders were not, and could not be, true Christians, nor consequently, true republicans: The very act of slaveholding has a pernicious influence on the moral state of mind. The Slave-holder becomes cruel, proud, vicious. He becomes a tyrant. He grows up, from infancy in habits of idleness, cruelty, and haughtiness. He is not infrequently opposed to religion. The religion of the Gospel in its very genius is so contrary to Slave-holding, that if it should generally obtain in the slave-holding states, it would cure the evil.47 45

Perkins, National sins, 17. On early Connecticut evangelical antislavery, see Cleves, “Hurtful to the State,” 210-212; on antislavery denunciations by New England Federalists in that period, see ibid. and passim; and Mason, Slavery and Politics, 14-15 and 145-146; see also the classic Linda Kerber, Federalists in Dissent: Imagery and Ideology in Jeffersonian America (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1970), ch. 2, “Anti-Virginia and Antislavery.” On Northern Federalists’ genuinely antislavery stance, see Paul Finkelman. Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson (Armonk, N.Y., London: M.E. Sharpe Inc., 1996), 115-116, and ch. 7, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Federalism,” in Federalists Reconsidered, Doron S. Ben-Atar and Barbara B. Obergs, eds. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1998). In contrast, Sean Wilentz attributes Federalist antislavery to mere partisan intentions, Sean Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (New York, London: Norton Company, 2005), 163. 46 Perkins, National sins, 17; see also Levi Hart, Liberty Described and Recommended: “the author (himself)… is fully convinced that there is no more reason or justice in our enslaving the Africans than there would be their enslaving us…” (vi) 47 Perkins, National sins, 17-18. On the indifference to religion and generally “corrupt” habits of–urban–southerners, see the eloquent testimony of the young John Calhoun describing Charleston society in 1811 as “in everything… so

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


The problem was that slave-owning people were immersed in a culture wholly antithetical to that of New England. Without even mentioning the South’s unanimous pro-war stance, Perkins warns that Southerners will have to answer for their specific sin and pay for it. Taking on a theme recurrent in Federalist circles ever since Jefferson’s 1800 election, Perkins predicts the separation of the Northern and Southern States on account of the widening cultural, economic, and political gap between them: They have alas an awful account, we fear, to render at the bar of Providence. How soon it may be called for, or in what way, cannot be known. States, which do not hold slaves and those which do, do not seem, in the reason and nature of the case, capable of enjoying a permanently happy connection, because they will be very different, in their habits, education, views, principles, manners, and interests.48

As it eloquently appears, contrary to what some historians see as Perkins’ denunciation of slavery essentially for the evils it produced on whites (the evil moral influence) and for whites (the threat of insurrection), his concern rests essentially on the immoral nature of slavery as an outrageous injustice perpetrated on fellow human beings, a sin so enormous that sooner or later it would engulf the whole nation in terrible punishment by divine Providence.49 extremely corrupt, and particularly indifferent to any call of religion,” so much so that he viewed a recent epidemic “… as a curse for their intemperance and debaucheries;” while studying at Yale College, in 1803 he had observed of New Englanders that “they certainly are more penurious, more contracted in sentiments, and less social than Carolinians. But as to morality we must yield.” Robert L. Meriwether, et al., The Papers of Calhoun (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959), 1: 28, 60, 10, cited in Steven Watts, The Republic Reborn: War and the Making of Liberal America, 1790-1820 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1987), 260. For an Englishman’s testimony on South Carolina in the 1790s as infected by Thomas Paine’s books, and the barbarous behavior of slave owners, see Porterfield, Conceived in Doubt, 111-112. 48 Ibid., 18; see Kerber, Federalists in Dissent, 33-36. 49 See for instance Eustace, War and the Passions of Patriotism, 177-178, where the author selectively cites only the final portion of Perkins’ long denunciation. At the beginning of chapter 5 (“Liberty, Slavery, and the Burning of the Capitol,” 168) Eustace quotes from Philadelphia delegate to Congress Jesse Torrey who, in his book A Portraiture of Domestic Slavery in the United States (Philadelphia, 1817), sees the burning of Washington, however “execrable”, as a just retribution by Providence for the sin of slavery, especially in a republic–he depicts a gang of slaves in chains right in front of the ruins of the Capitol, the American “Temple of freedom.”


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The sermon’s remaining eleven pages are devoted to denouncing the great sin of infidelity and all its attendant evils. Here, the alliance with France looms large. Advancing an argument absent from other anti-war sermons, Perkins sees the spread of atheistic ideas and immoral principles since the first arrival of French troops at the time of the Revolution, “not a village spared of infidel publications.” Pointing with keen perceptiveness to the intrinsic weaknesses of democracy, as a true Federalist, he sees the republic endangered by its very democratic liberties, especially when confronted with a dramatic decline in moral standards: The spread of impiety and immoral tenets, in a free elective government, is more to be dreaded, as it has an inauspicious influence on the choice of men, who shall be elevated to places of honor and trust. It has always been remarked that in FREE STATES, the rulers will be like the citizens, in moral character…. A holy God will punish them, and he has innumerable ways to afflict a degenerate and wicked people. No greater curse can befall a REPUBLIC than to have vicious, unprincipled, infidel rulers, judges and law-givers. When the wicked are in authority the people mourn. A republican form of government, to which from my earliest youth, I have been most ardently attached, can only subsist, when virtue, patriotism, and information, are generally diffused among the people….50

At length Perkins expounds the traditional principle that for the republic to subsist, personal and public morality based on sound “religious principles” and resulting in republican self-sacrifice for the common good is indispensable. Or else, like in France, despotism will follow: And our republican institutions will be destroyed, if those who manage our concerns have no moral and religious principles, no fixed regard, as the controlling motive, to the public good, but are swayed only by a regard to the emoluments of office, and personal aggrandizement.… A people generally unprincipled and vicious are incapable of Civil freedom. And the loss of liberty will be succeeded by despotism.

This argument is to be found in several New England sermons, where the “character of the good ruler,” that is the unselfish, disinterested, upright republican, was at length expounded in similar terms.51 50

Perkins, The national sins, 19. Ibid. See the New England Presbyterian Samuel Taggart, God's Visitation of Sinful Nations, Two Sermons, delivered in Colrain, in the public Fast, July 23, 1812, and afterwards in Shelburne, August 20, 1812: by Samuel Taggart, A. M., pastor of the Presbyterian church in Colrain, Published by Request (Greenfield, 51

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


The doctor then engages in a learned demonstration of the sin of waging an offensive war (like the despot Napoleon) which comes down to being planned wholesale murder. For this he summons political philosophers such as Vattel (On the Law of Nature and Nations) and Hugo Grotius (On the Law of War and Peace), who both condemn offensive wars as illegitimate and criminal–towards the people of the attacking nation, as well as toward the people under attack.52 Perkins cites Vattel’s and Grotius’ articulate reasons for resisting the sovereign engaging his nation in an offensive war. Offensive war is a crime for which the sovereign is responsible to God (Vattel), and if it is evident to the people that “the cause be unjust, they ought altogether to forbear, for that God is to be obeyed rather than man (Grotius).” Perkins ends his sermon with a sorrowful description of all the hardships, miseries and losses of human lives brought by a war, besides the moral disorder usually attending wars. But he cannot spare the praise of Great-Britain as the nation having done most, through its missions, for the diffusion of Christianity in the world. War will further impede New Englanders from engaging in similar missionary endeavor–Perkins was among the trustees of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and had been active in printed by Denio and Phelps, l8l2), and in Jedidiah Morse, A Sermon, delivered at Charlestown, July 23, 1812: the day appointed by the governor and Council of Massachusetts to be observed in fasting and Prayer Throughout the Commonwealth; in consequence of a declaration of war with Great Britain (Chalerstown, [Mass].: Samuel Etheridge, 1812). On the war of 1812 marking the passage from traditional republicanism to capitalist liberalism, see Watts, The Republic Reborn, especially part 6, “The Republic reordered, 1812-1815,” which brilliantly explores the mindset of the young Democratic Republicans of the day (some like Henry Clay later to become National Republicans) who extolled the war as a great energizing experience that would propel the nation towards new economic and cultural horizons. 52 Perkins, The national sins, 21-22. Emerich de Vattel (1714- 1767), Droit des gens; ou principes de la loi naturelle appliqués à la conduite et aux affaires des nations et des souverains (London, 1758), translated in 1760 into The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law Applied to the Conduct and to the Affairs of Nations and of Sovereigns. Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), De Iure belli ac pacis, (Paris, 1625), Dutch jurist, theologian and diplomat, was the inspirer of all subsequent political philosophers and writers on international law such as Vattel; De iure was translated into English as On the Law of War and Peace: Three Books; book two, referred to by Perkins, treats “just causes” for war, such as selfdefense, reparation of injury and punishment. John Lathrop also briefly refers to Vattel in denouncing the “offensive” war, John Lathrop, Discourse on The Law Of Retaliation, Delivered in the New Brick Church, February 6, 1814. By John Lathrop, D. D. Pastor of Said Church. Published by Request of the Hearers, 18.


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evangelizing the frontier of Vermont. In contrast with the opening paragraphs relying on the Old Testament, the closing ones call for repentance and hope for forgiveness by a merciful Jesus Crucified who may forgive and save the country. Nathan Perkins was a distinguished figure among the New England clergy and a venerable figure in Hartford, Connecticut. It is worth remembering that it was there that between December 1814 and January 1815, the Hartford Convention, the culmination of New England Federalists’ protest against Madison’s Administration, took place. Federalist delegates from Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, convened in secret to discuss several amendments to the United States Constitution and federal help to the New England economy. Rumors circulated that they also considered the desirability of separation from the United States–a false report and one which at war’s end fatally damaged the Federalist Party. As we have seen, at some point Perkins alludes to the probability of a future separation between the Northern and Southern States, although between foreseeing a future separation and proposing secession it was a long way to go. It is not known how and if Perkins was indirectly involved in, or if he supported the Convention in any way. However, his sermon of 1812 stands out both for its radicality and for its articulate, well buttressed arguments. Indeed, Perkins’ colleague, the anti-war Presbyterian Nathan Strong (D. D.), from the Hartford Presbyterian North Church, while covering the usual terrain of anti-war sermons, did not denounce slavery, nor did he engage in a learned demonstration of the illegitimacy of an offensive war as Perkins did.53 Originating in the religious culture of the north-east, in their enumeration of the country’s numerous moral flaws, Stevens, Clark, Stansbury, and Perkins bear witness to the dramatic economic and cultural changes Northeastern American society was undergoing and at the same time to the persistence of the Puritan jeremiad model. As across the country the people took advantage of the innumerable opportunities offered by territorial and economic expansion, broken loose from clerical monitoring, or chose a more personal type of religiosity, anti-war and prowar pastors observed the changes with dismay. While pro-war, philorepublican ministers reminded their flocks of the bed-rock of Christian 53

Nathan Strong D. D. (1812). A fast sermon, delivered in the North Presbyterian Meeting House, in Hartford, July 23, 1812 (Hartford: Printed by Peter B. Gleason & Co). On the Harford Convention see Theodore Dwight, History of the Harford Convention: With a Review of the Policy of the United States Government Which Led to the War of 1812, New York; Boston: N. & J. White; Russell, ODiorne & Company, 1833; and Mason, Slavery and Politics, 58-62.

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


religion, called them to repentance, and hoped for the best, anti-war ministers offered the most articulate critique of changing American mores. As heirs to a century-old tradition of religious monitoring of society, they significantly linked moral reformation with the very survival of republican institutions. Civil liberty could subsist only if men were capable of restraining their passions, and for this they needed to stand on the firm ground of Christian religion under the benevolent supervision and tutelage of their pastors. Union of church and State was thus the very precondition for a healthy republican order. These concerns point indeed to the post-war evangelical initiatives of the Benevolent Empire, and in their most radical expressions, to the conflation of Republicanism with Protestantism that the future abolitionists would proclaim.54

New England Anti-War Sermons Since New England Federalist clergymen produced and printed the majority of anti-war sermons, it is no surprise that they laid strong emphasis on the plight of the region.55 In spite of internal dissentions due to the rise of Unitarianism at Harvard, they all forecast the war’s disastrous consequences for its economy already undermined by Jefferson’s Embargo and Non-Intercourse measures and unanimously denounced the war as unjustified and as bringing ultimate destruction to the homeland. It was in fact a declaration of war on New England herself. With varied emphasis, all the New England clergy advanced this argument. Some, more outspoken than Perkins, went as far as explicitly calling for civil disobedience and resistance. Such was the case of the pugnacious Elijah Parish56 (1762–1825) who stood as the most extreme voice of dissent and attracted the fury of the Republican press.57 However, 54 Daniel J. Mcinerney, The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition and Republican Thought (Lincoln: Nebraska UP, 1994). 55 William Ellery Channing, Timothy Dwight, Elijah Parish, Nathan Strong, Samuel Austin, James Abercrombie, John Lathrop, Jedidiah Morse, the Episcopalian John Gardiner, the Presbyterian Samuel Taggart, and several others, including the New York anti-war congregationalist Silas Churchill, A sermon, delivered at Lebanon, in Canaan, April 13, 1815, it being the day of public thanksgiving on account of the restoration of peace between the United States of America and Great Britain (Pittsfield: Printed by Phinehas Allen, 1815). 56 He emphatically compared Madison to Nero setting Rome on fire. 57 “The wickedness bearing the strongest resemblance to that of our government is that of Nero. Nero had heard of the burning of Troy, and his mind was fired with a desire to witness such a scene of horror himself. He, therefore, caused the famous city of Rome, the metropolis of the world, to be set on fire in different places; the


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New England ministers in general, while deploying all the arguments so far examined, chose a more moderate stand. William Gribbin attributes it to the fact that 1812 was a presidential election year, and the Federalists cautiously awaited favorable results, at least in New England.58 The Unitarian William Ellery Channing thus warned against disobedience to the rulers while urging to use the electoral process to bring them down.59 He invited strict control of partisan passions while at the same time denouncing at length and deploring the same rulers’ wreckage of New England’s economic and social order.60 While none of the anti-war sermons here examined denounces slavery as fully and vehemently as Nathan Perkins, they all evince strong sectional animosity. New England anti-war ministers too settled old scores. They denounced the Francophile and pro-war Southern republicans as “Virginia flames spread, and the conflagration was universal; the fire raged for nine days. Nothing was heard amid the roar of the flames; but the crash of falling temples and palaces, the cries of mothers calling for their children, and the shrieks of thousands expiring in the fire. Nero enjoyed all this, and from the top of a high tower feasted his eyes with this scene of misery, playing on his harp and singing the woes of falling Troy. Just so, it is announced in the papers, that the President of the U. States was cheerful and gay, after he had signed the wicked declaration of war, which has already covered the land with sadness, torn many bosoms with anguish; plunged numbers into the eternal world. He like Nero has kindled a fire, the future miseries and conflagrations of which, no fancy can realize; no pencil describe; a fire which may burn, not nine days alone, but nine years, or half a century; a fire which may not only consume one city; but fill the whole continent with misery and blood,” Elijah Parish, A Protest against the war, a discourse delivered at Byfield, fast Days, July 23, 1812 (Newburyport, [Mass.]: E. W. Allen printer, 1812). His text from Isaiah 21:11, /He calleth to me out of seir. Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” 58 Gribbin, The Churches Militant, 31. 59 William Ellery Channing, A sermon, preached in Boston, July 23, 1812: the day of the publick [sic] fast, appointed by the executive of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, in consequence of the declaration of war against Great Britain (Boston: Printed by Greenough and Stebbins, 1812), 17-18. 60 Ibid. “This war is a death-blow to our commerce,” 10; he laments the privateering war that is going to replace honest maritime commerce (12); he denounces the projected invasion of innocent Canada (“our neighbours,” 15), and he deplores political division and slavery: “Civil commotion should be viewed as the worst of national evils, with the single exception of slavery” (17-18); one month later, after the Baltimore riots against a Federalist press had ended up in deaths, Channing put particular stress on moderation in A sermon, preached in Boston, August 20, 1812: the day of humiliation and prayer, appointed by the President of the United States, in consequence of the declaration of war against Great Britain (Boston: Printed by C. Stebbins, 1812).

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


lords” (while still exalting Washington) mastering over thousands of slaves; or as the “slave-holding declaimers in favor of the rights of man” as the Boston Episcopalian John S. J. Gardiner sarcastically pointed out.61 For Gardiner, the “semi-barbarians of the southern states”–or Southern Republicans–and their love for the French revolution were responsible for arousing and keeping alive all animosity towards Britain.62 Elijah Parish, with his singular, inflated rhetoric, vehemently denounced the intent of the Southern Republican clique of making free, commercial New Englanders slaves to Napoleon, while in fact they had better watch their own slaves from rising up in “just vengeance”.63 The colored


“… the southern patriots, the slave-holding declaimers in favor of the rights of man.(…)”, John J. Sylvester Gardiner, A discourse, Delivered at Trinity Church, Boston, July 23, 1812, On The Day Of Publick Fast in Massachusetts, Upon the Declaration of War Against Great-Britain (Boston: Published by Munroe and Francis, 1812), 8. 62 “A second cause that led to the present war is the antipathy to England, which has prevailed more or less in the great body of our fellow citizens throughout the Union, since our revolution. In those, who lost friends or property during the contest, the prejudice was natural and pardonable. But so similar are the interests of the two countries, so mutually advantageous to their commercial intercourse that this antipathy would long since have expired, had it not been kept alive by the spirit of party, and cherished by artificial means. The French revolution gave it additional vigor, and has rendered it so virulent and implacable among the semibarbarians of the southern states, that it can never be cured but by the experience of French domination,” Ibid., 9. 63 “This nefarious declaration of war is nothing more, nor less, than a licence given by a Virginia vassal of the French Emperor to the English nation, authorizing them in legal form to destroy the prosperity of New-England. This is the grand design, and chief expectation of the government. My heart bleeds for my country, going like a lamb to the house of slaughter...” Parish, A Protest against the war, 23. If they accepted the war, New Englanders would then better “submit like Dutchmen, and be faithful slaves. Is this too bad for New-England spirits? Then, do what is infinitely easy; let there be no war in your territories, proclaim an honorable neutrality; let the southern Heroes fight their own battles, and guard their slumbering pillows against the just vengeance of their lacerated slaves, whose sighs and groans have long since gone up to the court of the Eternal, crying for the full viols of his incensed wrath. Rise in the majesty of your unconquerable strength, break those chains, under which you have sullenly murmured, during the long, long reign of democracy; batter down those iron walls, which have incarcerated your souls and bodies so long, and once more breathe that free, commercial air of New-England, which your fathers always enjoyed,” Ibid., 16; and, “If you have not so resolved; if you have some of your father's blood, yet in your veins, then protest against this war. Protest did I say, protest? Forbid this war


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Congregationalist and declared Federalist Lemuel Haynes accused Madison of hypocrisy (dissimulation) for his compassion for impressed seamen, while in his own state of Virginia hundreds of thousands of human beings were held in bondage: Our president, (says one) can talk feelingly on the subject of impressment of our seamen. I am glad to have him feel for them. Yet in his own state of Virginia, there were, in the year 1800, no less than three hundred and fortythree thousand, seven hundred and ninety-six human beings being holden in bondage for life. I ask, would it be the duty of these slaves to rise and massacre their masters or for us to advise them to such measures? Partial affection, or distress for some of our fellow-creatures while others, even under our notice, are wholly disregarded, betrays dissimulation.64

Slavery was equally evoked by Timothy Dwight, who, although enjoying a long experience in treating the subject, on this occasion seems more worried by the military implications of Britain’s use of black troops:65 The British are said to have 10,000 black troops, and the Spaniards, with whom also we are contending, 5,000 more in the West-Indian islands. to proceed in New-England. Let your puissant lords be satisfied by inflicting the bloody lash on more than ten hundred thousand African slaves.” (17) 64 Lemuel Haynes, Dissimulation illustrated, a sermon delivered at Brandon, Vermont, February 22, 1813 before the Washington Benevolent Society ... (Rutland [Vt.]: Printed by Fay & Davison, 1814). On Haynes, see John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: the Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-1833 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003); and Richard Newman, Black Preacher to White America, the Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes (Brooklyn: Carlson, 1990). 65 See Timothy Dwight, The Charitable Blessed, A Sermon Delivered in the First Church in New Haven, August 8, 1810 (New Haven, 1810). Timothy Dwight also wrote extensively against slavery and for humane and fair treatment of free blacks in his poems and other writings; on his genuine anti-slavery most up to date assessment, see Peter Hinks, “Timothy Dwight, Congregationalism, and Early Antislavery,” in The Problem of Evil: Slavery, Freedom, and the Ambiguities of American Reform, Steven Mintz and John Stauffer, eds. (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007), 148-161. See also John Saillant, Black, White, and the “Charitable Blessed”: Race and Philanthropy in the American Early Republic (Indianapolis: Indiana University Center of Philanthropy, 1993). His brother Theodore Dwight, lawyer and writer, leader of the Federalist Party and secretary of the Hartford Convention, had likewise been active in the antislavery cause in Connecticut, see Theodore Dwight, An Oration Spoken Before the Connecticut Society For the Promotion of Freedom and the Relief of Persons Unlawfully Held in Bondage (Hartford, Ct, 1794).

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


These men have long been formed into military regiments, and inured to a strict military discipline. Should they be landed in East-Florida; it would be impossible to predict the consequences. He who remembers the state, extent, and feelings, of our black population, and calls to mind, that GOD is just, will look at this object with a pained eye, and an aching heart.66

Along with elaborate political explanations why the war was unjustified and dangerous, the New England anti-war clergy went to great lengths to dismiss the issue of impressment of American seamen by the British, denying that there were thousands of them, objecting to the limited relevance of the question which should have been solved diplomatically, not by war.67 There were of course additional arguments such as friendship with the Canadian neighbors who had to put up a strenuous defense against American attempts at invasion; but one last major theme was expounded by all, and it related to the alliance with France. Timothy Dwight, the moderate and learned president of Yale College, when it came to alliance with France, waxed virulent. Madison and the “jacobinic” Republicans were throwing the nation into a polluting, deadly embrace with a despot (Napoleon) and a nation of atheists: On this subject my feelings are inexpressible. To ally America to France is to chain living health and beauty, to a corpse dissolving with the plague. The evils, which we have already suffered from this impure and monstrous connexion are terrible omens of the destruction which we are to expect from a connexion still more intimate. The horrors of war, compared with it, are mere amusement. The touch of France is pollution. Her embrace is death.68

The clergy, as watchmen of the community, had the sacred duty to warn the people of the impending disaster and remind them of their duty to resist destruction, economic as well as cultural. As William Ellery Channing pleaded with New Englanders, what was in danger was indeed the very survival of New England’s cultural identity, that is the survival of the civil and religious order bequeathed by the Puritan Founding Fathers:


Dwight, "A discourse, in two parts: delivered July 23, 1812, 50. See, for instance, Truair, The Alarm trumpet, (21-22), where he contests the number of impressed seamen in detail, citing Samuel Taggart’s Address to the people of Massachusetts, possibly the same as A Speech Opposing the War, of 24 June 1812, in Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 1st Sess. 68 Dwight, A discourse, in two parts, 52. 67


Chapter Seven

“Let us hold-fast the inheritance of our civil and religious liberties, which we have received from our fathers, sealed and hallowed by their blood.”69

Conclusion These war sermons are rich, varied and complex, and each deserves a close reading. In a period marked by corrosive political strife and virulent language, the war sermons contributed to the national political debate while deploring political division and asserting religious aims. In fact, even granting individual ministers’ personal sensibilities, the war sermons represent a powerful testimony to the ideas and sentiments circulating in American communities at the time. If anything, they do reflect the intensity of sectional antagonism, as political choices were closely linked with regional cultural identities. The pulpit represented the community pulse point, as William Gribbin observes; furthermore, the anti-war texts announce the post-war religious activism in the realm of national morals such as the struggle to observe the Sabbath, the great Temperance crusade, then radical abolitionism.70 In fact, if after the war the Federalists were politically defeated, the Federalist clergy were not, and, in the postwar years, they would become the new actors in the battle for the moral reformation of the country. Their denunciation of Democratic Republican expansionist and war policies together with the secularism of the Jeffersonians certainly foreshadow the subsequent struggle by moral reformers and their Whig allies during the Second Party System. In a renewal of scholarly interest on and reevaluation of the Federalists and the New England clergy during the Early Republic, a new generation of historians has developed a more cogent interpretation of their political and social outlook. Far from viewing the Federalist clergy as nostalgic conservatives clinging to an outdated authoritarian order, historians today assess these ministers’ moral and political concerns in their own right. Paul Finkelman even asserts that the Federalists did not ever disappear, but simply transmitted their moral and political values and social aims to the succeeding generations of New England reformers.71 Such was the case of 69

Channing, A Sermon, Preached in Boston, July 23, 1812, 19. See Gribbin, Churches Militant, 26, and Epilogue, 140-42. 71 Paul Finkelman, “The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Federalism,” op. cit., 137-138. See also Daniel W. Howe, “The Evangelical Movement and Political Culture: The North during the Second Party System,” Journal of American History, 77 (March 1991), 1216-39, as well as his recent and important study, ‘What Hath God Wrought?': The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford, New York: Oxford UP, 2007). Jonathan D. Sassi, “The First Party Competition 70

“Trust ye in the Lord Yehovah, forever”: The 1812 War Sermons


the Boston radical abolitionist Wendell Phillips, among others. Indeed, it can be argued that the radical antislavery sentiment of a venerable figure of authority such as Nathan Perkins was passed on as a precious legacy to the immediatist abolitionism of the 1830s. Arguably, apart from the influence of British Quakers and Philadelphia Black activists on William Lloyd Garrison, immediate abolitionism may legitimately be viewed as the implementation of the early New England Federalists’ anti-slavery stance.72 The traditional consubstantial link between religion and the political order, albeit with new tools and in a rejuvenated evangelical language, continued throughout the 19th century as a powerful counterpoint to Democratic secularism and individualism.

and Southern New England’s Public Christianity,” op.cit.; and Jonathan D. Sassi, A Republic of Righteousness: The Public Christianity of the Post-Revolution New England Clergy, op. cit., chapters 2 and 3; Richard R. John, “Taking Sabbatarianism Seriously: The Postal System, the Sabbath, and the Transformation of American Political Culture,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 10, No. 4, (Winter 1990), 517-67; Johann N. Neem, “The Elusive Common Good: Religion and Civil Society in Massachusetts, 1780-1833,” Journal of the Early Republic, Vol. 24, No. 3, (Autumn 2004), 381-417. Among the rich literature on the Antebellum links between religion and politics, see Daniel J. McInerney, The Fortunate Heirs of Freedom: Abolition and Republican Thought, op. cit. John R. McKivigan and Mitchell Snay, eds., Religion and the Antebellum Debate over Slavery (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998); John R. McKivigan, “Vote as You Pray and Pray as You Vote: Church Oriented Abolitionism and Antislavery Politics,” in Alan M. Kraut, ed., Crusaders and Compromisers, Essays on the Relationship of the Antislavery Struggle to the Antebellum Party System (Wesport, Conn.: Greenwood Pr., 1983), 179-203, and Richard Carwardine, Evangelicals and Politics in Antebellum America (New Haven: Yale UP, 1993). 72 Lucia Bergamasco, “American Abolitionist Immediatism: British Model, Indigenous Inspiration, Controversial Results,” in Distant Shores of the Abolitionist Wave: International Repercussions of the British Abolition of the Slave Trade, Myriam Cottias, Ed. (African World Press, the Harriet Tubman Series, 2014).


Lorsque Benoît-Joseph Flaget est nommé premier évêque de Bardstown en 1808 (mais il ne parvient sur place qu’en 1811), les limites de son diocèse ne sont pas clairement définies et sa sphère d’activité dépassera de toute façon toutes les frontières possibles. Elle s’étend dans les faits à une très vaste région sise entre Kentucky, Appalaches, Grands Lacs et vallée du Mississippi. Flaget demeure sur le siège épiscopal kentuckien – rapidement déplacé à Louisville – jusqu’à sa mort en 1841, mais je ne m’intéresserai ici qu’à ses premières années, jusqu’à ce que lui soient retirées les parties occidentale et septentrionale de son diocèse par l’installation de deux nouveaux évêques, Du Bourg à Saint-Louis en 1818 (ambigu) et Edward Fenwick à Cincinnati en 1821. Ce sont donc dix années de la vie d’un immense diocèse qui couvre tout l’Ouest transappalachien qui vont nous occuper ici. John Carroll, évêque de Baltimore, avait déjà tenté dans les années 1790 de structurer la présence ecclésiastique dans la région, en y envoyant des prêtres français, sulpiciens surtout, mais la faiblesse de ses moyens et l'éloignement extrême avaient rendu l'entreprise vaine, et la poignée de prêtres qui subsistait devait faire preuve d'une grande autonomie et accepter de ne pas pouvoir exercer pleinement le contrôle social qui est à la base du catholicisme1. 1

Annabelle M. Melville, “John Carroll and Louisiana, 1803-1815,” Catholic Historical Review 64:3 (July 1978), 398-440; Tangi Villerbu, “Pouvoir, religion et société en des temps indécis: Vincennes, 1763, 1795,” Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française vol. 62, n° 2 (automne 2008), 185-214; Tangi Villerbu,

La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique


La nomination d'un prélat dans l'Ouest avait vocation à changer la donne et est l'occasion ici d'observer les dynamiques à l'œuvre dans cet espace. Car c'est bien le premier Ouest dans la décennie de la Guerre de 1812 qui est l'objet central de cette étude, scrutée au travers de la fenêtre catholique. Il s'agit d'en repenser l'histoire en ne stigmatisant pas son isolement, son éloignement, son écart au monde, mais bien au contraire en le reconstruisant comme espace à la fois connecté et intégré à des dynamiques continentales et atlantiques qui le dépassent et l'informent. L'histoire des borderlands et l'histoire atlantique2 se rencontrent entre Bardstown, Detroit et St. Louis. Les deux concepts continuent de faire débat, ne serait-ce que parce que leur définition demeure encore peu établie, chaque historien des borderlands et chaque praticien de l'histoire atlantique adoptant la sienne propre en fonction de ses objectifs. L'Ouest transappalachien des années 1810 doit être traité comme borderland en ce sens qu'il peut être un espace test pour pratiquer un décentrement du regard, pour multiplier les trames narratives et déstabiliser les canons du fait des emboîtements et des croisements des histoires qui caractérisent la région, tout en ne négligeant pas d'y déceler un récit structurant, celui d'une tentative, négociée, heurtée, souvent en échec, d'y imposer un ordre religieux ou national. Dans le même temps, l'Ouest transappalachien, borderland continental, est pleinement atlantique à maints égards: connectés par les circuits commerciaux3, par la culture, par les mouvements “Vincennes (Indiana), 1795-1804 : convertir ou conserver ? Le travail du père Rivet,” dans Pierre Ragon, dir., Nouveaux chrétiens, nouvelles chrétientés dans les Amériques, XVIe- XIXe siècles (Presses Universitaires de Paris-Ouest, à paraître). 2 Il serait vain de vouloir donner ici une bibliographie complète des deux champs tant ils donnent lieu à pléthore de bilans épistémologiques et historiographiques. En dernier ressort, à propos des borderlands, voir deux articles qui font le point sur des années, voire des décennies de réflexion: Pekka Hamalainen et Elliott Truett, “On borderlands,” Journal of American History 98, 2 (September 2011), 338-361 ; James G. Cusick, “Some Thoughts on Spanish East and West Florida as Borderlands,” Florida Historical Quarterly 90, 2 (Fall 2011), 133-156; il en est de même en histoire atlantique: Nicholas Canny et Philipp Morgan, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World, 1450-1850 (Londres: Oxford University Press, 2011) et les commentaires de Cécile Vidal: “Pour une histoire globale du monde atlantique ou des histoires connectées dans et au-delà du monde atlantique,” Annales HESS, avril-juin 2012, n° 2, 391-413. 3 Voir à ce sujet les remarques très pertinentes de Catherine S. Cangany, “Frontier's Seaport: Detroit's Transformation Into an Atlantic Entrepot, 17011837,” PhD dissertation, University of Michigan, 2009, et “Fashioning Moccasins: Detroit, the Manufacturing Frontier and the Empire of Consumption, 1701-1835,” William and Mary Quarterly 69, no 2, April 2012, 265-304.


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migratoire, par l'Église catholique, au monde atlantique à la fois par les ports de la côté Est et par La Nouvelle Orléans, l'espace transappalachien et la vallée du Mississippi ne sont en rien des isolats reculés. Au contraire, ils sont des ponts, des espaces de transfert, et ils sont de ce fait porteurs de centralité. La manière dont la Guerre de 1812 fut vécue à Détroit ou à St. Louis exemplifie cette situation, dans la perturbation qu'elle entraine des circuits au longs cours dans le même temps qu'elle mêle enjeux guerriers atlantiques et conflits – latents, craints ou réels – avec les nations indiennes de l'intérieur du continent. Scruter l'organisation de cet espace par l'Église catholique permet de jeter une lumière neuve sur des enjeux à la portée très large.

Organiser un pôle ecclésiastique: Bardstown comme capitale de l'Ouest catholique La structuration du catholicisme américain est une composante oubliée d'un récit atlantique encore en construction. John Carroll, premier évêque des États-Unis, avait dans les années 1790 fait appel à des prêtres français, et avant tout des Sulpiciens du fait d'un accord avec leur supérieur, Emery, pour organiser un diocèse à la taille du nouveau pays. Était né alors un puissant réseau qui allait permettre, jusqu'au début du XXème siècle, la migration de séminaristes français par centaines vers les États-Unis (d'autres réseaux parallèles se mettront en place par la suite depuis les États allemands ou italiens, depuis la Flandre ou l'Irlande, mais aussi depuis les provinces slovènes d'Autriche4). Benoît-Joseph Flaget5 s'insère en tous points dans ces réseaux, et lorsqu'il s'installe en 1811 au cœur du Kentucky, à Bardstown, c'est avec eux qu'il arrive et avec eux qu'il compte gérer son diocèse, en l'insérant donc dans des dynamiques très larges. Flaget, sulpicien auvergnat, est arrivé aux États-Unis le 29 mars 1792. Il faisait alors partie du deuxième convoi de sa congrégation. Envoyé par Carroll à Vincennes, sur la Wabash, où il demeura jusqu'en 1795 avant de repartir sur la côte Est, il connaît le terrain dont Rome lui donne la charge en 1808. 4

Christopher J. Kauffman, Tradition and Transformation in Catholic Culture: The Priests of Saint Sulpice in the United States from 1791 to the Present (New York: Macmillan, 1988); Tangi Villerbu, “‘Ramener une colonie de bons missionnaires’: Le recrutement de prêtres européens pour les Etats-Unis au XIXème siècle,” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 56-3 (2009), 33-65. 5 Il existe une biographie – largement hagiographique – de Flaget, mais qui n'a bénéficié d'aucune publication: Charles Lemarié, c.s.c., Le Patriarche de l’Ouest (Mgr Flaget). Tapuscrit de 1982 consulté à l'archevêché de Rennes.

La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique


Une fois nommé, sa manière de procéder créera un modèle: l'évêque doit d'abord repartir en France pour recruter du personnel qu'il ne peut trouver aux États-Unis – il ne l'imagine de toutes façons pas – et une fois sur place il faut d'abord créer des structures de formation et d'encadrement: congrégations féminines plus que masculines, et séminaire pour à la fois achever la formation des jeunes Européens qui ont suivi l'évêque et pour permettre aux vocations locales de s'épanouir. En ce sens le séminaire est un lieu de rencontres et de confrontations, un microcosme étonnant et inconnu de ce qu'est l'Ouest transappalachien – je fais le choix ici de considérer le Kentucky comme partie de cet Ouest, ainsi que le pensent les acteurs de cette histoire, plutôt que comme Sud comme il aimera à se penser par la suite, ambigüité du border state oblige. Flaget a choisi comme supérieur de son séminaire Jean-Baptiste David, un très proche compagnon : sulspicien breton, il était arrivé aux États-Unis en même temps que Flaget. En novembre 1818 il fait ainsi le point sur son établissement : Depuis votre [Joseph Rosati, lazariste et futur évêque et St. Louis] départ, notre séminaire s'est augmenté de 6 nouveaux séminaristes, lesquels avec Mr Rogers qui va entrer à Noël, feront le nombre de 21 y compris les deux prêtres qui me restent et Mr Moretti. MM Derrigaud, Coomes, Millet Reynolds forment la classe de théologie; MM Mcguigan, Quin, Mulholland & De Angelis, celle de logique; MM D'Urbin, Spalding & Drury explique Virgile et Salluste. Mr Badin est à part et marche à pas de tortue dans son Cathéchisme Con. Frid. & Mr Byrns en est encore à la syntaxe et à l'Epitome historiae Sacra, Lumière s'avance dans la syntaxe, suivent 5 commençants, viz. Linus Cooms, cousin du prêtre; Sylvester Boarman, Thomas Payne, John Winsatt & Charles Cecil. Si tous ces jeunes gens persévèrent, ce sera un bon renfort pour notre clergé. Les Irlandais me donnent de tems en tems quelque inquiétude sur leur constance. La plupart de ces jeunes gens ne payent rien ou presque rien; grand fond de confiance et d'abandon aux soins de la Providence. Vous pouvez juger par ce nombre de sujets, combien peu de temps me reste, après les fonctions nécessaires de supérieur, de professeur, de confesseur et directeur & j'ai jusqu'ici fait 3 classes par jour, celle de logique après déjeuné, celle de théologie après la classe de chant que je fais aussi deux ou 3 fois la semaine, laissant les commençants à Mr Cooms et la 3e de cas de conscience pour pousser MM Derrigaud, Coomes et Millet à 5h du soir. Je viens de suspendre la classe de 10h 3/4. Je les laisse étudier seuls le traité assez facile des sacrements en général, et les examine une fois tous les 15 jours6.


Archives de l’archevêché de St. Louis, Bishop Rosati, RG 01 B 04 3a, series 04 3a, David à Rosati, 26 novembre 1818.


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Ce type de lettre est important car il ne reste aucune archive administrative des premières années du séminaire, et dresser la liste des élèves relève du défi. A l’origine, les seuls élèves étaient trois jeunes Français amenés par Flaget qui en janvier 1815 dit pouvoir compter sur sept ou huit jeunes hommes du pays qui se sont engagés dans la carrière ecclésiastique7. Trois années plus tard, David compte donc vingt-et-un élèves, et la seule distinction entre Français et autochtones ne tient pas : Derrigaud, Millet, sont français, certes, « Lumière » (en fait Simon Petit Lalumière) est un Canadien de Vincennes, et Coomes, Quin ou Spalding sont des enfants du Kentucky, mais Moretti ou De Angelis sont de jeunes Italiens, et David lui-même ne manque pas de stigmatiser ses élèves irlandais. Et encore sa lettre ne dit pas tout : entre l’extrême fin de 1817 et mi-1818, un groupe de séminaristes séjourna à St Thomas, renforçant encore son cosmopolitisme. En effet Joseph Rosati accompagnait les recrues de Mgr Du Bourg, destinées au diocèse de La Nouvelle-Orléans que l’évêque s’apprêtait à diriger depuis St. Louis. Faute d’institutions propres à les accueillir dans le Missouri (le séminaire de St. Mary’s of the Barrens sera créé fin 1818) ils poursuivirent leur formation dans le Kentucky, Rosati et son confrère lazariste De Andréis venant alors s’ajouter à un personnel enseignant étique puisque quasiment limité à David lui-même8. Rosati signale que neuf séminaristes et prêtres furent concernés, mais le registre de St Marys’s en compte treize passés temporairement par St. Thomas : six Flamands, quatre Français, un Allemand, un Espagnol et un Italien9. Le séminaire, lieu clos par excellence, est aussi un lieu où l’intimité est difficile – et St Thomas, de surcroît, ne bénéficie que de locaux très réduits, la promiscuité y est de mise10. S’y croisent alors ce qui fait 7

Archives de l’Université of Notre Dame, CTCL 15, Flaget à Garnier, 21 janvier 1815. 8 DePaul University, Archives, John T. Richardson Library, Special Collections, DeAndreis Rosati Memorial Archives, St Mary’s of the Barrens seminary, Box 110, relation de Joseph Rosati. 9 Ibidem, Box 37, folder 1, “Catalogus alumnorum seminarii S. Maria Diocesis Ludovicensis in America Septentrionali.” 10 Il n’existe pas, sauf exception insatisfaisante car trop institutionnelle, d’histoire des séminaires aux États-Unis (voir par exemple Sister Mary Christine Athans, B.V.M., ‘To Work for the Whole People’: John Ireland’s Seminary in St. Paul (Mahwah (NJ): Paulist Press, 2002), mais les grands séminaires français sont également peu connus, et peu étudiés comme lieu de sociabilité : voir, malgré ses partis-pris, Christian Dumoulin, Un séminaire français au 19ème siècle. Le recrutement, la formation, la vie des clercs à Bourges (Paris : Téqui, 1977). Des éléments de réflexion dans Philippe Boutry, « ‘Vertus d’état’ et clergé intellectuel:

La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique


l’Ouest : des fils de familles installées dans le Kentucky depuis les années 1790, 1780 au plus tôt, issues de migrations en chaîne depuis le Maryland ; et de jeunes migrants européens, qui ont certes une spécificité forte – célibataires non du fait de leur âge mais par métier, liés en théorie par une vocation missionnaire commune – mais partagent bien des traits de tous les migrants de leur époque : des hommes jeunes qui veulent construire leur vie outre-Atlantique et bénéficient de réseaux particulièrement puissants qui atténuent normalement la déstabilisation sociale et intime du geste migratoire. A St. Thomas se joue une rencontre entre une dynamique atlantique, celle de la mission catholique en pleine renaissance après des années que l’Église a vécues comme un traumatisme et qu’elle veut effacer dans le triomphalisme expansionniste, et une dynamique continentale, celle de la tentative de transformation de l’Ouest transappalachien d’un borderland en espace ordonné par l’Église ou la nation. C’est à cette tâche d’ordonnancement que sont destinés les jeunes prêtres formés à St. Thomas.

Le Kentucky central, foyer du catholicisme transappalachien ? Le diocèse de Bardstown est marqué par le gigantisme, mais il s’articule autour d’un centre et de pôles proches : l’ensemble du Kentucky n’est pas une terre catholique, mais le comté de Nelson fait, lui, figure de bastion. Si l’on y ajoute les villes qui l’environnent – Lexington, Louisville – et quelques zones de moindre importance, le cœur du diocèse, celui que ne cessent d’arpenter au quotidien Flaget et ses hommes, peut aussi symboliser un monde ouvert et connecté. Le Kentucky de Flaget est branché sur le vaste monde. Le noyau de fidèles le plus important est constitué des familles de ce que Thomas Spalding a appelé la diaspora du Maryland11. La colonie fondée pour demeurer catholique au XVIIème siècle était devenue officiellement anglicane, mais la plupart des familles catholiques avaient la crise du modèle ‘sulpicien’ dans la formation des prêtres français au XIXe siècle, » dans Problèmes d’histoire de l’éducation. Actes des séminaires de l’École française de Rome et l’Università di Roma “La Sapienza,” Rome, Publications de l’École française de Rome, 1988, 207-228 ; Paul Airiau, « La formation sacerdotale en France au XIXe siècle, » Archives des sciences sociales des religions 133 (janvier-mars 2006); et une synthèse : Marcel Launay, Les séminaires français aux XIXe et XXe siècles (Paris : Le Cerf, 2003). 11 Thomas W. Spalding, C.F.X., “The Maryland Catholic Diaspora,” U.S. Catholic Historian Vol. 8, No. 3, (Summer 1989), 162-172


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conservé leur foi intacte quoique sans doute transformée par la clandestinité12. Dans les dernières décennies du XVIIIème siècle, une partie d’entre elles entreprit une migration de grande ampleur – via l’Emigration League – vers le Kentucky, dans le comté de Nelson prioritairement, mais aussi de manière plus sporadique dans les comtés alentours. Lorsque Flaget s’installe à Barstown, il sait qu’il s’implante sur une terre en grande partie catholique. Ces familles (les Livers, Hayden, Coomes, Byrne, Burch, Abell, Spalding, Gwynn, Simms et autres), toutes liées entre elles par mariage, voisinage, et de toute façon par leur catholicisme, partagent pour ce qui nous concerne deux traits majeurs. D’abord, issues du Maryland, elles sont et demeurent attachées à l’esclavage. Et dans cet environnement esclavagiste, l’Église, qui n’a pas particulièrement alors, sauf exception marginalisée, vocation anti-esclavagiste, se coule dans le moule13. Flaget achète et vend des esclaves, comme le font les Sœurs de Lorette au même moment. Il inscrit son Église de ce fait dans le Sud et la place au cœur des débats qui animent les États-Unis jusqu’à la Guerre de Sécession. D’autre part, ces familles donnent des fils et des filles à l’Église et le diocèse de Bardstown peut, plus que la plupart des diocèses de l’Ouest au XIXème siècle, produire rapidement son propre clergé. Très vite, David peut compter sur les fils Coomes (Charles fait en 1813 « [l]es délices et [l]a consolation14 » de son supérieur) ou Abell, et ceux-ci iront ensuite officier partout entre Grands Lacs et Mississippi.


Maura Jane Farrelly, Papist Patriots: The Making of an American Catholic Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012). 13 C. Walker Gollar, “Catholic slaves and slaveholders in Kentucky,” The Catholic Historical Review Vol. 84, No. 1 (Jan. 1998), 42-62; “Father John Thayer: Catholic Antislavery Voice in The Kentucky Wilderness,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 101, 3 (Summer 2003), 275-296; “The role of Father Badin’s slaves in Frontier Kentucky,” American Catholic Studies 115, 1 (Spring 2004), 1-24. Sur ce Kentucky du “Sud”, Stephen Aron, How the West Was Lost : The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996); Elizabeth Perkins, Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Ellen Eslinger, Citizens of Zion: The Social Origins of Camp Meeting Revivalism (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1999); Craig Thompson Friend, Along the Maysville Road: The Early American Republic in the Trans-Appalachian West (Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 2005); Craig Thompson Friend, Kentucke’s Frontier (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010). 14 Archives de l’University of Notre Dame, David à Bruté, 12 juillet 1813.

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Mais ces Marylanders ne sont pas seuls. Flaget et David savent qu’ils peuvent également s’appuyer sur des familles françaises, certes beaucoup moins nombreuses, mais qui leur sont chères et qui assurent par leur position culturelle et commerciale une fonction de pont entre l’Europe et l’Ouest transappalachien. Au printemps 1811, lorsque les deux hommes et leurs recrues débarquent à Louisville, ils sont accueillis par la famille Tarascon, déjà liée à Etienne Badin, prêtre qui était sur place avant que ne survienne l’évêque15. Désormais, chaque visite à Louisville est l’occasion d’une visite aux Tarascon et à leur cercle français (les Berthoud, Offans, de Gallon, Colmesnil, Barbaroux…) dont Flaget apprécie la proximité et l’entregent16. Car l’évêque est comme naturellement pénétré de l’idée qu’il faut s’appuyer sur les élites sociales pour construire l’Église et la faire tenir. Même si la foi des Tarascon n’apparaît pas des plus flamboyantes et que Flaget l’imagine maintenue par les femmes plus que par les hommes17, il considère le bloc Tarascon comme indispensable. Les frères Tarascon permettent en tous cas de garder un lien avec la vallée du Mississippi d’un côté et la côte Est et l’Europe de l’autre. Marchands provençaux installés à Philadelphie dans les années 1790, puis à Pittsburgh, ils ont eu tôt l’intuition que leur avenir commercial passait par une installation dans l’Ouest : en 1799 ils envoient une mission exploratoire18, et en 1803 et 1804, les Gratiot et les Chouteau, grands marchands de St. Louis, commercent avec eux19. Une fois qu’ils se seront installés à Louisville, le lien sera encore renforcé. Les Tarascon sont indispensables dans la région, à Flaget comme aux Chouteau. Les raisons de leur migration vers les États-Unis sont difficiles à élucider, mais sont de première importance pour comprendre leur insertion – ou pas – dans les réseaux catholiques. En effet si les Tarascon avaient fui la France révolutionnaire, s’ils avaient été des Émigrés, leur attachement à l’Église aurait pu être plus intense peut-être. Or même si les historiens ont 15

Ibidem, II-3-n, David à Bruté, 12 juillet 1813. Par exemple entre le 10 et le 14 octobre 1816 : Archives de la Maison des Chartreux, journal de Flaget, cahier 4, entrées des 10, 11, 12, 13 et 14 octobre 1816. Sur ce cercle, Huntley Dupre “The French in Early Kentucky,” The Filson Club Quarterly 15, 2 (April 1941), 77-104; Robert A. Burnett, “Louisville’s French Past,” Filson Club Historical Quarterly 50 (Avril 1976), 5-27. 17 Archives de la Maison des Chartreux, journal de Flaget, cahier 8, entrée du 8 janvier 1820. 18 Filson Historical Society, Mss A T177. Tarascon, Louis, Journal, 1799. 19 Missouri History Museum, Charles Gratiot papers, Box 2, letterbook, Gratiot à Tarascon, 5 avril 1803 ; Chouteau Collection, Box 6, letterbook, Pierre Chouteau Jr à Tarascon, 22 octobre 1804. 16


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facilement tendance à considérer que tous les Français installés aux ÉtatsUnis dans les années 1790 et 1800 ont fui leur pays pour des raisons politiques, cela s’avère douteux dès lors que des sources permettent de scruter les cas en détail. Ainsi Waldemard et Charlotte Mentelle n’ont-ils pas fui la Révolution comme l’affirme Huntey Dupre20 : ils ont migré en 178921 et ont suivi en cela une « inclination naturelle22 », celle de « tenter la fortune par tous les moyens possibles23 ». Les choses sont encore plus claires avec Jean Savary et Louis Vimont. Le premier est un homme des Lumières qui a migré dans les années 1780 à l’occasion de spéculations sur les terres de l’Ouest et aura passé les décennies suivantes, jusqu’à son décès en août 1814, à courir après une hypothétique richesse. Installé dans ses dernières années à Millersburgh, dans le Kentucky, il est demeuré anticlérical : « à propos une aventure de voyage m’a fait faire un petit sizain ; vous le brulerez après l’avoir lu, ce sont des vers à la Rabelais. Je me livre à mon imagination libertine de peur de tomber dans la dévotion24 ». Vimont, son employé, a nommé deux de ses fils Jefferson et Franklin et rencontre Flaget en septembre 1812 lorsque l’évêque en voyage vers Baltimore en profitait pour faire une tournée pastorale : « A 10 milles de là nous avons trouvé un marchand Fran nommé Vimont. Sa femme est prot. et lui n’est rien il a 4 ou 5 enf. pas un n’est baptisé ; je lui en ai fait des plaintes amicales et il m’a promis de les faire bapt. à mon retour25 ». Dans l’ensemble, Flaget soit ne s’intéresse pas à ces familles – il n’en fait alors mention ni dans son journal ni dans sa correspondance – soit il les juge perdues pour la « vraie foi ». Et aucune famille de migrants français ne donnera de rejetons à l’Église. Tout se passe en fait comme si plusieurs réseaux atlantiques se croisaient dans le Kentucky sans nécessairement se rencontrer. Mentelle, Savary, Vimont sont d’une autre France que Flaget et David, et construisent d’autres réseaux, un autre Ouest avec d’autres connections. Les Tarascon permettent sans doute 20

Huntley, Dupre, “The French Early Kentucky,” 98-100. Transylvania University Library, Special Collections, Mentelle papers, Mentelle à Napoléon 1er, 17 avril 1805. 22 Kentucky Historical Society, Alexander family papers, MSS93, series 1, Box 5, folder 1, Charlotte Mentelle à Robert Alexander, 1er septembre 1808. 23 Transylvania University Library, Special Collections, Mentelle papers, Edme Mentelle à Waldemard Mentelle, 17 juin 1790. 24 Kentucky Historical Society, Alexander family papers, Jean Savary à Robert Alexander, 6 février 1812. 25 Archives de l’University of Notre Dame, CDBL 10/44, Journal de Flaget, année 1812, relation du voyage vers Baltimore. 21

La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique


qu’un point de contact existe, et ils le font exister jusque dans la vallée du Mississippi. C’est que le diocèse de Bardstown ne se limite pas aux Kentucky.

Des marges ou des centres décentrés ? Vu depuis Bardstown, le diocèse a de lointaines périphéries où vivent de fortes communautés catholiques en majeure partie francophones : Vincennes, sur la Wabash ; Détroit et sa région ; la moyennes vallée du Mississippi, sur ses deux rives. Mais dans les faits, ce sont autant de centres connectés entre eux et encore en situation de borderlands jusqu’à ce que la Guerre de 1812 change la donne puisque, malgré les nombreuses victoires britanniques, malgré l’angoisse de soulèvements indiens, le traité de Gand comme la défaite de Tecumseh et Tenkswatawa simplifient la géopolitique régionale en autorisant aux logiques d’ordre national comme catholique une marge de manœuvre plus importante. C’est la fin de ce que Richard White a qualifié de middle ground dans la région des Grands Lacs26 et que Kathleen DuVal a radicalisé en native ground sur la rive ouest du Mississippi27 pour encore davantage que White signifier le poids politique, économique, culturel des nations indiennes jusqu’en ces premières années du XIXème siècle qui voient justement un tournant majeur en ce domaine. Lorsque Flaget s’installe à Bardstown, la présence indienne, si elle n’est plus qu’un frais souvenir dans le Kentucky, est encore massive dans le diocèse. Et de surcroît elle se fait menaçante du fait même des tensions liées à la Guerre de 1812. L’arrivée de l’évêque coïncide en effet avec le conflit entre le Prophète shawnee Tenskwatawa et le gouverneur de l’Indiana, William Harrison, ce dernier amorçant face à la création de la ville nouvelle de Prophetstown une stratégie de tension qui devait mener à la bataille de Tippecanoe. Celle-ci ne fut une victoire américaine que dans le récit proposé par Harrison et vulgarisé par la suite, mais qui devait mener les Indiens fidèles au Prophète à chercher l’alliance britannique dès lors que ceux-ci étaient en guerre contre les Américains. Cette alliance


Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republic in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991). Traduction française Le middle ground : Indiens, empires et républiques dans la région des Grands Lacs, 1650-1815 (Toulouse: Anacharsis, 2009). 27 Kathleen DuVal, The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2006).


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avait été inexistante malgré les fantasmes américains de sa reconstitution28. La conséquence en est que le front qui s’ouvre en 1812 et ne se refermera qu’avec le traité de Gand dans le Nord-Ouest rejoue effectivement, en partie, les alliances de la Guerre d’Indépendance, des nations indiennes choisissant le camp britannique et transformant la Guerre de 1812 en guerre indienne pour le contrôle des borderlands. Plus à l’ouest, dans la vallée du Mississippi, la guerre, que l’on imaginerait plus lointaine, est bien présente également29. Elle est crainte dès 1812 et 1813 puisqu’elle met en danger une économie fondée sur le commerce au long cours, du blé comme des pelleteries, et qu’elle intensifie une peur des Indiens qui est un des fondements de la colonisation30 : de Sainte-Geneviève à Prairie du Chien, on recrute, on arrête des « espions », on s’attend à des attaques des « Barbares », et dans le même temps, on fortifie St Louis31. Elle devient concrète et non fantasmée en 1814 lorsque les Britanniques – en fait beaucoup de miliciens canadiens recrutés en territoire américain, à Green Bay par exemple – et leurs alliés indiens attaquent et prennent Prairie du Chien32. L’été de 1814 est fait d’angoisses, d’attente des nouvelles, de défaites et d’offensives puisqu’en réponse à la prise du poste du haut Mississippi, les Américains lancent une colonne à l’assaut de positions indiennes sur le Missouri : Ni nous ni nos voisins même à une assez grande distance n'avons encore éprouvé aucun mal mais nos craintes augmentent tous les jours, nous avons appris dernièrement que les sauvages du Missouri s'étoient rassemblés en grand nombre a une saline à environ 200 milles d'ici sur le Missoury et y avoient même construit un fort nous sommes donc entournés sur le Mississippi, le Missouri et la rivière des Illinois de trois rassemblements 28 R. David Edmunds, Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership (Boston: Little, Brown, 1984); Adam Jortner, The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 29 Mais elle est méconnue des historiens qui ont beaucoup étudié le front de Détroit et très peu les événements des vallées du Mississippi et du Missouri. 30 Peter Silver, Our savage Neighbors: How Indian Wars Transformed Early America, (New York: Norton, 2007). 31 Missouri History Museum, John B.C. Lucas papers, Box 5, Charles Lucas à Robert Lucas, 15 août 1812; Charles Lucas à John Lucas, 3 octobre 1812 ; Robert Lucas à Michel Brisbois, 12 août 1813 ; John Lucas à James Mountain Pitt, 18 mai 1813. 32 Reginald Horsman, “The War of 1812 in Wisconsin,” The Wisconsin Magazine of History Vol. 46, No. 1 (Autumn 1962), 3-15.

La réorganisation de l’Eglise catholique


conséquents de sauvages et d'Anglois dont nous ignorons encore les desseins; et les troupes régulières et milices que nous avons ne sont point assez nombreuses et surtout bien indisciplinées pour leur résister si leur but est de venir nous attaquer jusqu'ici, notre gouverneur vient d'ordonner la levée et le rassemblement de 500 hommes pr monter le Missoy et attaquer les sauvages dans leur fort ils doivent partir dans environ 8 jours – mais pour compléter ce détachement presque tous les hommes portant armes de notre district ont été commandés et s'il arrivoit que pendant leur absence quelque parti sauvage venoient a faire un incursion sur nos habitations comme depuis 2 ou 3 ans cela leur est souvent arrivé nous ne pourrons leur opposer qu'une bien faible résistance, tous nos vieux habitans sont actuellement occupés à construire de petits forts ou plusieurs familles se réunissent33.

La guerre est donc bien là, les Indiens aussi. Mais Flaget porte deux regards bien différents sur les nations en-deçà et au-delà du Mississippi. Ces dernières, il choisit en effet de les ignorer lors de ses visites dans la vallée. Non pas qu’il affirme ne pas s’en charger : elles sont simplement absentes de ses écrits, soit qu’il ait considéré qu’elles n’étaient pas de son ressort, soit qu’il les ait pensées comme inaccessibles car encore insoumises. La deuxième hypothèse est confirmée par le souci qu’il a des Indiens dès lors qu’ils sont à sa portée et a priori déjà sous contrôle politique. Les Miamis des environs de Vincennes reçoivent en effet des visites – en règle générale tout à fait vaines en termes de conversion, comme toutes les tentatives précédentes – de tous les prêtres de passage34, et il tenait à aller plus loin encore. En effet l’évêque avait tenté d’obtenir du gouvernement américain une restitution des propriétés jésuites qui lui aurait permis d’implanter une mission stable auprès des Miamis et de rejouer les scènes supposément triomphales de la Nouvelle-France35. Les Indiens ne sont dans tous les cas qu’un rêve, pour Flaget comme pour tous les évêques français qui se succèderont dans l’Ouest au XIXème siècle. L’essentiel reste bien, avant de penser à convertir les « sauvages », de conserver la foi des colons catholiques, de garantir leur encadrement, leur contrôle par l’Église. Mais l’identité de ces colons demeure à élucider et l’oscillation entre d’une part Carl Ekberg, qui voyait dans le pays des Illinois une sorte de zone permanente de « mentalités » paysannes 33

Missouri History Museum, Provenchère family papers, Pierre Provenchère Jr à Pierre Provenchère Sr, 5 août 1814. 34 Voir par exemple la lettre d’Antoine Blanc reproduite dans les Annales de la Propagation de la Foi, XII (novembre 1827), 345-350. 35 Archives de la Maison des Chartreux. Journal de Flaget, cahier 7, entrées des 3 et 11 septembre 1818.


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françaises venues du Moyen-âge et symbolisées par la forme d’occupation des terres en rangs36, et d’autre part les tenants du métissage complet, culturel et génétique37, n’est guère satisfaisante. Non pas que le rang soit à négliger, évidemment, comme caractéristique de base du peuplement, ou que le métissage soit à nier, mais les choses, sur le terrain, sont encore plus complexes et mixent des formes trop variées d’expérience pour supporter la généralisation. La région de Détroit est aussi le lieu de formation d’une communauté d’origine canadienne qui, si elle emprunte aux Indiens, ne pratique pas forcément l’intermariage, vit de vergers, d’artisanat ou de commerce38. Les élites de la communauté « française » de Vincennes viennent du Canada, du pays des Illinois, mais aussi de France, d’Italie, et comprend des Anglo-Américains. Certains d’entre eux possèdent des esclaves. La moyenne vallée du Mississippi, entre Ste Geneviève et St Louis, se caractérise elle aussi par l’esclavage et la complexité de ses structures sociales. La communauté catholique est encore dominante dans les années 1810 et largement francophone. Les marchands créoles tels les Chouteau sont en position de force39 mais font oublier qu’ils ne sont pas seuls, et que notamment les flux migratoires venant de France ne se sont jamais taris40. Des familles se sont installées dans le Missouri et les 36 Carl J. Ekberg, French Roots in the Illinois Country: The Mississippi Frontier in the Colonial Times (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998). 37 Le métissage a fait son entrée dans l’historiographie de l’Ouest au tournant des années 1980 ; pour son application à Détroit, voir Karen Marrero, “Founding Families: Power and Authority of Mixed French and Native Lineages in Eighteenth Century Detroit,” PhD dissertation, Yale, 2011. 38 Lina Gouger, “Le peuplement colonisateur de Détroit, 1701-1765,” Ph.D dissertation, Université Laval, 2002 ; Guillaume Teasdale, “The French of Orchard Country: Territory, Landscape, and Ethnicity in the Detroit River Region, 16801810s,” PhD dissertation, York University, 2010. 39 Jay Gitlin, Bourgeois Frontier: French Towns, French Traders and American Expansion (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009). 40 Ce que les historiens ont finalement peu remarqué, voir par exemple Walter A. Schroeder, Opening the Ozarks: A Historical Geography of Missouri’s Ste. Genevieve District, 1760-1830 (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), ou Bonnie Stepenoff, From French Community to Missouri Town: Ste. Genevieve in the Nineteenth Century (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2006). Plus généralement sur le Missouri, voir John Mack Faragher, “‘More Motley than Mackinaw’: From Ethnic Mixing to Ethnic Cleansing on the Frontier of the Lower Missouri, 1783-1833,” dans Contact Points: American Frontiers from the Mohawk Valley to the Mississippi, 1750-1830, Andrew R. L. Cayton et Fredrika J. Teute, eds. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 304-326, et Stephen Aron, American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).

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questions qui se posent à leur égard sont les mêmes que celles posées aux Français du Kentucky : sont-elles venues chercher la fortune ou l’exil ? Pour un Pierre Provenchère, tuteur du comte d’Artois, qui s’installe à St Louis en 1800 et en repart en 1814 (en laissant son fils sur place), ou un Jules de Mun, qui fuit la Terreur comme il avait fui Saint-Domingue, combien de Michel Amoureux ou de Ferdinand Rozier, tous deux marchands de la basse Loire ayant choisi la voie de l’émigration économique41 ? Or, dans le Missouri, ces élites variées – créoles, réfugiées, émigrées – fusionnent, et lorsque Flaget visite pour la première fois la région, il les trouve prêtes, dans la majeure partie des cas, à lui apporter son soutien. C’est en effet une des voies privilégiées par Flaget dans son œuvre de réorganisation de l’Église dans le Missouri, à Vincennes ou Détroit, comme il le pratiquait dans le Kentucky : s’appuyer sur les élites sociales, celles qui constituent les conseils de fabriques – les trustees. A Vincennes, ce sont ceux-là qu’il visite de manière privilégiée, les seuls dont il prend soin de noter les noms dans son journal : au printemps 1814 François Vigo et Toussaint Dubois42, en janvier 1818 les familles Lasselle, Vigo, Mallet, Dubois, Racicot et Barron43. En 1814 aussi, Flaget fait de même à St Louis avec les Chouteau ou les Pratte, familles créoles, mais aussi avec les Soulard et les Gratiot, arrivés d’Europe dans les années 179044. Et Ferdinand Rozier ne manque pas l’occasion de faire baptiser son premier enfant, né de son mariage, lui le Nantais fraîchement débarqué, en août 1813, avec Constance Roy, « une créole de Ste Geneviève45 ». Cette stratégie épiscopale est profondément genrée : Flaget fonctionne par oppositions simples – les campagnes plus ferventes que les villes comme St Louis, les Français plus pieux que les Américains… – et parmi celles-ci, les femmes, à la foi plus franche que les hommes. En cela il anticipe un XIXème siècle profondément marqué par la féminisation du catholicisme. S’appuyer sur les élites est une chose, mais encore faut-il savoir pour quoi faire. L’objectif premier de Flaget est de s’assurer de l’ordre institutionnel et rituel, seul garant du bon fonctionnement de la société chrétienne dont il rêve. Cela signifie d’abord assurer au maximum une 41

Ces quatre familles ont laissé des archives conséquentes qui éclairent leurs parcours au Missouri History Museum. 42 Archives de l’archevêché de Louisville, journal de Flaget, mai et juin 1814. 43 Archives de la maison des Chartreux, journal de Flaget, janvier1818. 44 Archives de l’archevêché de Louisville, journal de Flaget, 1814. 45 Missouri History Museum, Rozier family papers, Box 1, Ferdinand Rozier à son frère, 26 septembre 1814; et “Mémorandum pour la naissance de mes enfants,” daté du 14 juillet 1836.


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présence ecclésiastique fiable, donc densifier le personnel. Le séminaire est là pour atteindre cet objectif – même si en titre la rive ouest du Mississippi dépend d’un diocèse de la Nouvelle-Orléans en déshérence jusque 1818. Flaget peut compter sur des soldats fidèles, comme Donatien Ollivier, prêtre breton installé depuis les années 1790 au pays des Illinois et pilier inamovible de la région, comme l’est le sulpicien Gabriel Richard à Détroit. Personne ne joue ce rôle à Vincennes qui connait de longues périodes de carence en alternance avec des formes de bricolage administratif qui lui assurent des visites ponctuelles ou des passages de quelques mois de jeunes prêtres européens. Quelle que soit la vitesse de rotation du personnel en paroisse, l’essentiel est bien la permanence de la fonction, afin que les sacrements puissent être distribués et que l’Église ne perde aucune de ses ouailles, que l’identité catholique de chacun soit réaffirmée et qu’une communauté soit recréée. C’est bien là que Flaget achoppe parfois : comment imaginer des paroisses unies derrière leur prêtre et donc leur évêque, comment fonder une communauté catholique à partir de noyaux paroissiaux qui avaient pris l’habitude de formes d’autogestion ? C’est la paroisse Ste Anne de Détroit qui a connu sans doute la crise la plus sérieuse, une sorte de schisme local que le poids de Richard, les admonestations épiscopales de 1816 et 181746 et la présence même de l’évêque sur place – mais un évêque malade, irritable et souvent indisponible – entre octobre 1818 et juin 181947 ne parviennent pas complètement à atténuer. Mais il en est de même, à une échelle différente, dans la petite paroisse de St Charles, sur le Missouri. Voici Flaget le 11 juillet 1814 : Je me suis rendu à l’église ou toute la paroisse était déjà assemblée – je leur ai parlé de la paix afin de les disposer à étouffer tous sentiments d’animosité qui subsistent entre quelques particuliers et tout le reste de la paroisse unie à leur pasteur depuis presque deux ans. Après mon discours j’ai convoqué quatre membres de l’opposition et tout s’est passé en bonne intelligence – plusieurs difficultés à vaincre48.

Le lendemain, l’espoir s’amenuise :


Archives de l’University of Notre Dame, III-2-f, lettre de Flaget lue au prône par Richard en mars 1816 ; lettre de Flaget “à tous les vrais catholiques” de Détroit, 23 février 1817. 47 Archives de la maison des Chartreux, journal de Flaget, cahier 7. 48 Archives de l’archevêché de Louisville, journal de Flaget, entrée du 11 juillet 1814

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Visite de Mr Duket – homme dangereux – Entendu le parti du père prieur – sur les 10h rendu mon jugement – Dieu m’a assisté d’une manière particulière. Les deux partis se sont pardonnés mutuellement. La réconciliation est-elle bien sérieuse ? J’en doute – L’indiscrétion est à craindre dans les deux partis49.

Le 20 juillet, l’évêque doute encore : « le p. p. a parlé publiquement – il me reste de grand doutes sur le succès de la réconciliation. La charité me paroit grandement refroidie – le tout entre les mains de la divine providence50 ». Mais, le 1er août, la situation soudain évolue : Parti à 5h pour St Charles en calèche arrivé à 8. ¾ dit la messe à 10h. instruct qui paroit avoir terminé la querelle – après la messe baptême d’une petite fille protestante dont je suis le parrain. Après le baptême assemblé des paroissiens – le p. p. demande deux cens gourdes – somme selon moi trop considérable. Les braves gens y souscrivent à l’unanimité, et d’un grand cœur. Ils souscrivent pareillement à bâtir un presbytère de 25 p de long sur 20 de large, et à réparer la chapelle. Un pareil changement [ill] si extraordinaire me parurent miraculeux – que Dieu en soit à jamais loué et béni – je signai toute cette délibération avec un grand plaisir51.

En l’espèce, il est bien difficile de déterminer l’origine de la querelle, faute de sources autres que le journal de l’évêque, si ce n’est que la paroisse est tenue par un « prieur », en fait Joseph Dunand, seul trappiste demeuré dans le Missouri après qu'un groupe de ces moines l’a quitté l'année précédente suite à une tentative d'installation d'un monastère52. Or, ces trappistes n'ont pas toujours eu bonne presse. Pierre Provenchère évoque ainsi leur supérieur, le père Urbain : Vous n'avez pas beaucoup perdu en ne trouvant pas le père Urbain lorsque vous lui avez rendu visite je ne suis point étonné que lorsque vous vous êtes rencontrés avec lui vous avez été surpris de trouver un révérend père de la trappe aussi causant et aussi homme de société que lui, ici il etoit le plus marchand, fermier, spéculateur && Je suis bien persuadé que ces différentes occupations ne dominuoient en rien ses principes religieux et que même il étoit forcé de s'y livrer pour pourvoir à sa subsistance et à celle de autres pères et frères du même ordre qui l'avoient accompagné mais néanmoins cela a beaucoup diminué la considération dont ils ont joui 49

Ibidem, 12 juillet 1814. Ibid., 20 juillet 1814. 51 Ibid., 1er août 1814. 52 De nombreuses sources sont disponibles sur cet épisode trappiste, mises en ligne par l'abbaye. 50


Chapter Eight à leur arrivée dans notre territoire et ils ont été ensuite cause de beaucoup de disputes entre nous ce qui fait que généralement on a été très content de les voir partir53.

Il est donc fort probable que ce qui se soit joué à St Charles ait été un conflit portant sur la conception qu’avaient les habitants du rôle du curé, et partant, de la définition de la sphère religieuse. Il s’agissait de négocier la place du prêtre, la place de l’institution. Et cela, en mars 1814, à la confluence du Mississippi et du Missouri, alors que les bruits de guerre n’étaient jamais loin et allaient s’amplifier durant l’été. Cet été-là, une autre nouvelle parvenait dans l’Ouest. D’abord dans le Kentucky où Jean Savary voyait le 22 juin la France « tomber dans la léthargie de l’humiliation et du despotisme54 » : Napoléon était vaincu. Mais, dans le Missouri, début juillet, les Provenchère, eux, se réjouissent de la chute de l’usurpateur55, et Flaget, en tournée encore, fait de même et s’apprête à ordonner un Te Deum dans tout son diocèse tandis que des habitants de St Louis s’attristent comme Savary56. Ces quelques semaines sont symptomatiques de l’Ouest que tente d’appréhender et d’ordonner Flaget : un trappiste français exilé tente de s’imposer dans une paroisse neuve de la basse vallée du Missouri, des Britanniques et des Canadiens passent à l’offensive par le nord dans une guerre à la fois atlantique et continentale, des nations indiennes se manifestent et sont elles-mêmes attaquées tandis que les circuits commerciaux sont rendus incertains, la nouvelle de la chute de Napoléon suscite des sentiments mélangés et l’évêque veut célébrer à St Louis un Te deum : l’Ouest transappalachien vit à des rythmes multiples, différenciés, qui le connectent au monde.


Missouri History Museum, Provenchère papers, Pierre Provenchère Jr à Pierre Provenchère Sr, 12 mars 1814. 54 Kentucky Historical Society, Alexander family papers, Box 9, folder 2, Jean Savary à Robert Alexander, 22 juin 1814. 55 Missouri History Museum, Provenchère family papers, Pierre Provenchère Jr à Pierre Provenchère Sr, 28 juillet 1814. 56 Archives de l’archevêché de Louisville, journal de Flaget, entrée du 2 juillet 1814.


Nelly André is a Doctor in Latin American literature and she taught for several years at the University of Western Brittany, France. She is currently publishing her PhD dissertation on the Peruvian author Alfredo Bryce Echenique, entitled Alfredo Bryce Echenique, une écriture au service des enfants : Goig ou l’éternelle réécriture.She is a member of the CRIMIC research center at Université Sorbonne - Paris IV and a member of the Fédération de Recherche sur le Genre (RING) at Université Paris 8. Lucia Bergamasco is a professor of history and American civilization at the University of Orléans, France. She specializes in protestant culture in colonial and early American history as well as in republicanism in the early national period. She wrote Amour du monde, amour de Dieu : Esther Edwards Burr et Sarah Prince entre évangélisme et Lumières in 2008. John Dickinson retired in 2007. He previously taught at the University of Montreal as well as at the University of Caen, France. He specialized in the history of 17th and 18th centuries Canada as well as in the relations of Europeans with Native Americans in the pre-industrial era. He wrote Diverse Pasts: A History of Québec and Canada with Brian Young in 1995 and he edited Les Sulpiciens de Montréal, 1657-2007: une histoire de pouvoir et de discrétion with Dominique Deslandres and Olivier Hubert, in 2007. Adam Rothman is an associate professor of history at Georgetown University. He is an expert in the history of slavery in the United States in the context of Atlantic history. He published the award-winning Slave Country: American Expansion and the Origins of the Deep South in 2005 and he edited Major Problems in Atlantic History with Alison Games in 2008.



Sheri Shuck-Hall is an associate professor of history at Christopher Newport University, Va. She specializes in the history of indigenous people and the history of colonial North America. She wrote Journey to the West, The Alabama and Coushatta Indians in 2008 and edited Mapping the Mississippian Shatter Zone: The Colonial Indian Slave Trade and Regional Instability in the American South with Robbie Ethridge in 2009. Marco Sioli is a professor of American and political history at the University of Milano, Italy. He teaches globalization studies as well as North American history. He organized the conference on the war Hawks of 1812, “War Hawks: Gli Stati Uniti e la Guerra del 1812”, at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Milano on October 16, 2012. He wrote Le città della Rivoluzione. Alle origini delle metropoli americane (Cities of the Revolution: On the Origins of the American Metropolis), and he edited Metropoli e natura sulle frontiere americane. Dalle non-città indiane alla città di Thoreau, dalle metropoli industrilali alla città ecologica (the Metropolis and Nature on the American Frontiers), both in 2012. Tangi Villerbu is an associate professor of history at the University of La Rochelle, France. He specializes in the history of Catholicism, the American West as well as of French migrations to North America. In 2007, he wrote La Conquête de l’Ouest. Le récit français de la nation américaine au XIXème siècle, and in 2011, he edited the collection of essays « Missionnaires catholiques français aux États-Unis » for Histoire & Missions chrétiennes. Edward White is an associate professor in American literature at Tulane University, La. He specializes in 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries US writing. In 2005, he published The Backcountry and the City: Colonization and Conflict in Early America and he co-edited Beyond Douglass: New Perspectives on Early African-American Literature with Michael Drexler in 2008. He recently wrote about the place of Aaron Burr in early US culture and is currently working on US conservativism in the tradition of the early novel.