The Treaty of Ghent was a peace treaty between the United States of America and Great Britain. It put an end to the War of 1812 that was launched by the USA because of a number of reasons such as trade restrictions fixed by the British government concerning the import of the American goods in Europe, the recruiting of American sailors into the British Royal Navy, British opposition to American expansion of Indian tribes, and American wish to conquer Canada. However, in a few years the war became a burden for both countries. As a result, the peace treaty was signed on the Christmas Eve in 1814 in town Ghent (the present territory of Belgium).
At the beginning of the 19th century, the communication between the continents was badly developed. Thus, the news about the peace treaty reached America only in a few weeks after it was signed. As a result, the American and British troops fought in the Battle of New Orleans in January, 1815 after the signing of a peace document. However, the treaty took effect only in February, 1815 when it was ratified by the governments of both sides.
The Reasons for the Peace Treaty
In all fairness, it should be said that both sides had their own reasons to make peace. Although the American troops succeeded in a few military battles, the war crushed the economy of the United States. Many companies throughout America, especially those located in New England, bankrupted. The American trade and commerce, the vital part of the economy, was on the decline. Thus, if the government had voted against the treaty it would have meant that they voted against the restoring of the regular trade and commerce relations.
In addition, the year 1814 brought a number of disastrous events such as the breakdown of the US credit, the occupation of Pensacola by the British forces, and the arson of Washington.
Thus, the signing of the peace treaty preserved the honor of the young nation. That was the reason for the wide praise of the treaty in the USA and abroad.
Talking about Great Britain, it should be stated that the British government had a bigger desire to negotiate and conclude an agreement than was expected. At that time, Britain experienced other essential problems than the war with the US. While Britain was participating in negotiation about the distribution of political power in the European countries at the Congress of Vienna, all of a sudden, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from the island Elba to France. Faced with fear that Napoleon would resort to war in Europe again, Britain aimed to return its military forces from America to Europe to protect the European territories against the Napoleon’s army.
Thus, both nations had their own significant reasons for the negotiations and signing of the peace treaty.
The Terms and Conditions of the Treaty of Ghent
The Treaty of Ghent was signed between John Adams who led the American negotiating delegation and the British diplomat James Gambier in December 1814.The Senate of the USA approved the Treaty of Ghent on February, 1815. The next day James Madison, the President of the USA, served the approved documents to a British negotiator in the US capital, Washington. As a result, the peace treaty was officially declared on February 18, 1815.
The document of the peace treaty consisted of eleven articles. Under the terms of the treaty, both sides restored the pre-war state: “All territory, places, and possessions whatsoever taken by either party from the other during the war… shall be restored without delay and without causing any destruction… to the proper authorities and persons to whom they respectively belong.” The articles of the treaty released the prisoners of both sides who were captured during the war. However, the British side did not return the black slaves who escaped from America to Britain. Later, the country paid a huge sum of money to the American government for them.
According to the treaty, the United States returned its territory in Maine, near Lakes Michigan and Superior, and on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. In addition, the territory of Upper Canada (the present territory of Ontario) that was in American possession was returned to Great Britain.
Under the terms of the treaty, America also had to “engage to put an end immediately after the Ratification of the present Treaty to hostilities with all the Tribes or Nations of Indians with whom they may be at war.” It should be noted that the treaty did not deal with such problems as free trade and rights of American sailors, though those questions were the reasons for the war.
Even though the Treaty of Ghent did not satisfy all initial goals of the United States, it was widely accepted as a significant victory of the young American country. It was an honorable peace that helped to preserve the sovereignty and independence of American nation. Moreover, the Treaty of Ghent promoted the rise of American national spirit and defined the United States as a major powerful country in the world.
After a few years of fights and battles, the United States of America and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent that put an end to the War of 1812.
There were a number of reasons for signing the peace treaty: American economy was greatly weakened during the war period, and Britain had to protect the peace in Europe after Napoleon escaped from his exile and seized power in France. These factors anticipated the negotiations between the two sides and signing of honorable peace. Though the Treaty of Ghent did not satisfy all US claims it preserved the honor of the young American nation.