After being suspected of treason during the War of 1812, an entire political party was eliminated; this November will be the first opportunity for voters to express their feelings about January 6 | Columns & Letters | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest
As we watched a mad crowd breaking into the Capitol a year ago, commentators quickly turned to the War of 1812 to try to contextualize the scenes of violence unfolding on our screens. In 1814, British forces occupied Washington, DC, burning down public buildings including the White House. The comparison, however, did not hold up to scrutiny. The War of 1812 was a conflict between two sovereign nations; it was not an act of treason in which American citizens attacked their own government. The British attack in 1814 adhered to accepted rules of warfare; the invasion of the Capitol was an assault on the rule of law.
A year later, the analogy is no better, especially when comparing the political fortunes of the GOP in 2021 and the Federalist Party after 1815. President Trump drove his supporters into a frenzy that led to their occupation of Congress on January 6. 2021. Although the Federalist Party was not complicit in the British invasion of 1814, some of its members discussed secession from the United States at the Hartford Convention to allow them to negotiate their own peace with the British Empire.
These two acts of betrayal, however, led to very different political results. The Hartford Convention killed the Federalist Party, while Trump’s party appears to have emerged newly emboldened from the Capitol invasion.
Jthe war of 1812 was a Democratic-Republican project. Thomas Jefferson’s party (and antecedent of today’s Democratic Party) controlled the White House and Congress in 1812. Jefferson’s protege, President James Madison, asked Congress to declare war in 1812 for an assortment of reasons, ranging from the British Royal Navy’s impression of American sailors of the British Empire’s alleged ‘incitement’ to native resistance to American settlement in the West.
Party politics was also part of Madison’s calculation. After Jefferson’s victory in the 1800 election, the Federalist Party of John Adams and Alexander Hamilton found itself in the political wilderness for more than a decade. But cracks were beginning to appear within the Democratic Republic Party. Jefferson’s trade embargo, intended to force Britain to recognize the neutral trading rights of the United States during the Napoleonic Wars, proved deeply unpopular among ordinary Americans. The Federalist Party finally began to make gains in the 1810 midterm elections, and Madison’s supporters in Congress grew nervous about what would happen in 1812. It was not the last time that an American president was going to war to unite his party.
Federalist opposition to the war had reached a fever pitch in the fall of 1814. The conflict had devastated New England’s shipping economy, which was the party’s political base. And the humiliating occupation of Washington, DC, underscored the Madison administration’s incompetence in waging the war. We had to do something.
New England Federalists met in Hartford, Connecticut, in December 1814 to discuss their common defense and constitutional amendments that would increase their power within the Union. But the Hartford Convention became known as a hotbed of betrayal, with some delegates raising the prospect of New England secession.
The timing of the Hartford convention couldn’t have been worse. British and American diplomats signed a peace treaty on Christmas Eve 1814, while Andrew Jackson won his famous victory at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Rumors of Federalist duplicity then spread throughout the country just as Americans were celebrating Jackson’s peace and victory. It was not pretty, and the Hartford Convention dealt a mortal blow to the Federalist Party, which did not field a presidential candidate after 1816.
The Hartford Convention became known as a hotbed of treason, with some delegates raising the prospect of New England secession.
The implications of the January 6, 2021 uprising for the GOP are still unclear. Immediately after the invasion, some Republican leaders in Congress briefly distanced themselves from the insurgents and their champion, but the power Trump wields over the party seems largely unchallenged a year later. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has done all he can to thwart the House investigation into Jan. 6, while key figures like Steve Bannon and the former chief of staff of the White House, Mark Meadows, blocked Congress.
We won’t know if the Republican Party will pay a political price for the January 6 uprising until this November. But so-called “moderate” Republicans like Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, who have acknowledged Trump’s complicity in the insurrection, have been punished by their own party, while far-right attention seekers like Marjorie Taylor Greene have only grown in power. . Everything indicates that the GOP will not go in the direction of the Federalist Party. ♦
Lawrence BA Hatter is an award-winning author and associate professor of ancient American history at Washington State University. These opinions are his own and do not reflect those of WSU.