A Question of Loyalties
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A Question of Loyalties
Isaac Brock
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Introduction
By 1811, Britain's obsession with making war on France was making a dangerous enemy of the United States.
Sir Isaac Brock led the British forces that successfully defended Upper Canada in the first year of the war.. (As portrayed by Stephen McHattie in Canada: A People's History)
Sir Isaac Brock led the British forces that successfully defended Upper Canada in the first year of the war.. (As portrayed by Stephen McHattie in Canada: A People's History)
British frigates blockaded New York, seizing American ships bound for Europe and mercilessly forcing American seamen into service in the British Navy. In the Congress, men like House Speaker Henry Clay goaded the country into war.

"We are invited to drink the potion of British poison... to submit to debasement, dishonour and disgrace – to bow the neck to royal insolence. What are we to gain by war has been asked. In reply I would ask, what are we not to lose by peace?"

Clay was leader of the War Hawks, a set of Congressmen who roomed together in a Washington boarding house. They knew they couldn't attack Britain directly but they could threaten her colonies. Clay proclaimed it's time "to take the entire continent."

Lower Canada had the bulk of the British army and it would not fall easily.
British North America became the target of American aggression in 1812.
British North America became the target of American aggression in 1812.
As the Americans had already discovered during the Revolution, Quebec City was the most formidable fortress on the continent. But Upper Canada was vulnerable, especially at Niagara and along the Detroit frontier.

Isaac Brock was Brigadier-General of the British forces in Upper Canada. He was a tall, unmarried career soldier with little actual battle experience, but he was anxious for action. He complained of being "buried in this inactive, remote corner" at a time when Napoleon was threatening. To Brock the warning signs were ominous.

"Every American newspaper teems with violent and hostile resolutions against England," he noted, "and associations are forming in every town for the ostensible purpose of attacking these provinces.
I consider the time arrived when every loyal subject should... come forward and show his zeal for His Majesty's service."

The mood in the United States Congress grew ever more hostile and acquisitive. "I shall never die contented," announced Kentucky Congressman Richard Johnson, "until I see [Britain's] territories incorporated with the United States... The waters of the St. Lawrence and the Mississippi interlock in a number of places, and the great disposer of human events intended those two rivers should belong to the same people."


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Isaac Brock
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