Saturday, February 10, 2007

Reviewed: Langguth on the War of 1812

UNION 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A. J. Langguth (Simon & Schuster) is reviewed in Sunday's New York Times Book Review section. Richard Brookhiser writes, in part,
The War of 1812 was a spin-off of a world war Britain and France had been fighting for most of two decades. The United States’ first four presidents spent much of their time trying to keep their small country out of it, but by the end of James Madison’s first term, in 1812, a younger generation of politicians was in a mood for national self-assertion. Representative Henry Clay of Kentucky spoke of a “new United States” that would include Canada, and the House of Representatives voted for war “trusting that the Lord of Hosts will go with us to battle in a righteous cause.”...
What was the War of 1812? An immoral war of choice, as angry New Englanders said? A defense of American rights, as its supporters claimed? The foundation of America’s own empire, as later historians have argued? One benefit of Henry Adams’s vast scale and modulated voice is that he manages to suggest all three. Langguth, more simply, presents the war as an American success story. Yet he ends on a dark note....Success can set the table for tragedy, if the victors aren’t careful.

For the rest, click here.