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War of 1812: When Britain ticked off America

America's Second war with Britain

British burning White House during War of 1812

British burning White House during War of 1812

The French Revolution had left that country in chaos. Twenty-six-year-old Napoleon fired cannons down the streets of Paris, mowing down French citizens in the 13 Vendémiaire revolt, 1795. The French Directory then made the young Napoleon General of the Army of Italy.

Napoleon won decisive victories against the Italians and Austrians in 1796. Napoleon conquered Ottoman Egypt in 1798. In 1799, when the French Directory collapsed, Napoleon staged a coup d’état, and seized power, being installed as First Consul.

Needing funds, Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States in 1803. After winning the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon had himself made Emperor in 1804. After the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon dissolved the thousand-year-old Holy Roman Empire.

In 1805, Napoleon suffered a set-back when his combined Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated at the Battle of Trafalgar. Conquering across Europe, Napoleon invaded Russia in June of 1812 with 500,000 men. Six month later he retreated with only 50,000. The Napoleonic Wars resulted in an estimated six million military and civilians deaths across Europe. Napoleon’s power waned till he was exiled to the Island of Elba. Britain was now the most powerful nation in the world.

Napoleon had made an interesting observation: “When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes. Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”

In 1811, James Madison refused to recharter the Bank of the United States. Powerful British financiers reportedly owned two-thirds of the bank’s stock.