1.30.2015

Letter to Thomas jefferson re: Jefferson's objection to British vandalism

30 January 1815
Open letter to Thomas Jefferson re: Jefferson's objection to British "vandalism" in burning Washington:
Reverend John Strachan to Thomas Jefferson:
“Sir…you are angry with the British for the destruction of the public buildings at Washington, and attempt, with your accustomed candour to compare that transaction to the devastations committed by the Barbarians in the middle ages. As….you must have known that it was a small retaliation after …those actions of the army of the United States in the Canada…A stranger to the history of the last three years, on reading this part of your letter, would naturally suppose that Great Britain, in the pride of power, had taken advantage of the weak and defenseless situation of the United States to wreak her vengeance upon them. But what would be his astonishment when told that the nation (the United States)…had provoked and first declared the war, and carried it on offensively for two years with a ferocity unexampled, before the British had the means of making effectual resistance. War was declared against Great Britain by the United States of America in June, 1812 – and Washington was taken in August 1814 ….In July, 1812 General Hull invaded the British province of Upper Canada, and took possession of the town of Sandwich. He threatened (by a Proclamation) to exterminate the inhabitants if they made any resistance; he plundered those with whom he had been in habits of intimacy for years before the war – their plate and linen were found in his possession after his surrender to General Brock; he marked out the loyal subjects of the King as objects of peculiar resentment and consigned their property to pillage and conflagration. In autumn, 1812, some houses and barns were burnt by the American forces near Fort Erie….In Aril, 1813, the public buildings at York, the capital of Upper Canada, were burnt by the troops of the United States, contrary to the articles of capitulation. …….The library and all the papers and records …were consumed…The church was robbed and the town library totally pillaged. Commodore Chauncey, who has generally behaved honorably, was so ashamed of this last transaction, that he endeavored to collect the books….and actually sent back two boxes….Much private property was plundered and several houses left in a state of ruin. ..why (are) the public buildings and library at Washington …more sacred…the army of your friend General Wilkinson committed great depredations…systematic pillage…proves, beyond dispute that you had reduced fire and pillage to a regular system…property taken and destroyed (enumerates towns) …On our part, Sir, the war has been carried on in the most forbearing manner. During the two first campaigns, we abstained from any acts of retaliation….not till the horrible destruction of Newark (Canada), attended with so many acts of atrocity, that we burnt the villages….Our captured troops…treated with harshness, often with cruelty… American government brands us as worse than savages, for fighting by the side of Indians, and at first threatened our extermination is we did so, although they employed all the Indians they could….the first scalp taken this war was by the Americans…Kentuckians….burned Indians as a pastime…All this is nothing compared to the recent massacre of the Creeks……….”

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