24 December

War of 1812 Ends

If this encroachment of Great Britain not provided against, the United States have appealed in vain. If your efforts to accomplish it should fail, all further negotiations will cease, and you will return home without delay.

-SEC. OF STATE TAMES MONROE, 1813, (to the American Peace Commissioners before negotiations at Ghent, Belgium.)

Christmas Eve deserves a happy story, and there is one. A treaty to end the useless War of 1812 was signed at Ghent in Belgium, just as church bells were ringing the joyful advent of Christmas Day, 1814.

Negotiations to end the war had begun in June. The Americans, who had ended an armistice arranged by the British in August, 1812, were glad to seek peace now. Napoleon had been defeated in Europe and the Duke of Wellington was making crack troops available for the war against the States. Washington had been attacked and burned. The Americans decided that they had lost the war, but they could still try to win the peace. They sent Senator James Bayard, Jonathan Russell, John Quincy Adams (a future president), Albert Gallatin, and Henry Clay to Ghent to negotiate with the British. All were top-flight men.

The British delegation was weak. It was headed by Lord Gambier who had no experience in diplomacy. He had even been court-martialed for neglect of duty while serving with the navy. The second member of the delegation was Henry Goulburn, thirty-year old Under-Secretary for War and the Colonies. William Adams was the third, a lawyer who took little part in the discussions. The Americans knew they could regain at the peace table what they had lost in battle.

The Treaty of Ghent ignored the issues that had led to the war, and no concessions were made by either side. Frontiers were almost unchanged, although Canada, where most of the fighting had taken place and the real objective of the Americans, might have obtained the west coast territory as far south as the Columbia River (see October 6).

At Ghent on Christmas Day, the British delegation entertained the Americans at dinner, at which roast beef and plum pudding were served. The orchestra played "God Save- the King" and "Yankee Doodle." The Americans were the hosts a few days later and John Quincy Adams proposed the toast: "Ghent, the city of peace. May the gates of the temple of Janus, here closed, not be opened again for a century!" His wish has come true—and for more than a century.


24 December

-1771    Samuel Hearne discovered Great Slave Lake.

-1943    General Eisenhower was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Forces to invade France.

-1960    Professor Frank Forward of the University of British Columbia was honoured in the United States for his research in nickel.