18 June

U.S. Declares War

The annexation of Canada this year as far as the neighbourhood of Quebec,

will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of

Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent.

                                                                            -THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1812

Yesterday's story told how the French flag was kept flying at Louisburg for several weeks after it fell so that French ships would sail in there and be captured. This could not happen today when an important event is known all over the world in a few minutes.

The same kind of thing happened when the United States declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812. The garrison at Halifax received a warning on June 22 from the British ambassador in Washington that there might be war. The warning was not confirmed until June 27 when the British frigate Belvidera, damaged by gunfire, with two men dead and twenty-three wounded, sailed into the harbour. The Belvidera, knowing nothing about the war, had encountered an American squadron of five ships and had been lucky to escape.

There were a number of provocations that led the States to declare war on Britain in 1812, but many Americans wanted the war simply because they thought it was an opportunity to capture Canada while Britain was involved with Napoleon. It looked as though it would be easy. The States had 6 million people and 2 million Negro slaves. There were only 500,000 people in what is now Canada, and more than half of them were French. The Americans thought the French would welcome them as "liberators." Dr. Eustis, Secretary for War, said that only officers need be sent, because Canada's "tyrant-ridden people" would fill the ranks! Former president Jefferson predicted that there would be no fighting. After a "joyous march" to Quebec, the Maritimes would fall easily.

It was amazing that they were not right! There were only 90,000 people in Upper Canada. How could they defend a border of 1,000 miles? When the war began, there were only 4,450 British and Canadian regular soldiers to defend the area from Nova Scotia to the head of Lake Huron.

As always in war, there were some imponderables that did not work out as expected. The French-speaking Canadians, the Indians, or any other Canadians did not welcome the American invasion. They fought it. In fact the first attempt at invasion was a complete disaster for the Americans (see July 12).


18 June

-1686    Iberville took Moose Factory, Hudson Bay.

-1822    A Boundary Commission established the border along the St. Lawrence and through the Great Lakes.

-1846    William Henry Draper formed a ministry with Louis Joseph Papineau. Papineau returned to Canada in 1845 after being condemned to death as a rebel in 1838.

              The first telegraph system was opened between Toronto-Hamilton-Niagara Falls.

-1855    The Sault Ste. Marie Canal was rebuilt. The original canal was built by the Northwest Company in 1797.

-1871    The British Columbia Legislature heard Canada's terms for entering Confederation.

-1956    Queen Elizabeth II reviewed 300 holders of the Victoria Cross: 30 Canadians were among them.

-1959    Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip arrived in Newfoundland to begin a forty-five day tour of Canada.

-1962    A general election resulted in the return of 116 Conservatives, 99 Liberals, 30 Social Credit, and 19 New Democrats (New Democratic Party).