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John Strachan to Thomas Jefferson, 30 January 1815

From John Strachan

York, 30th Jan’y. 1815.


In your letter to a member of Congress recently published respecting the sale of your library,* I perceive by the extract thereof underneath that 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 are not ignorant of the mode of carrying on the war, adopted by your friends, you must have known that this was a small retaliation after redress had been refused for burnings and depredations not only of public but private property committed by them in Canada; but we are too well acquainted with your hatred to Great Britain to look for truth or candour in any statement of yours, where she is concerned. It is not for your information, therefore, that I relate in this letter, those acts of the army of the United States in the Canadas, which provoked the conflagration of the public buildings at Washington, because you are well acquainted with them already; but to shew the world that to the United States and not to Great Britain must be charged all the miseries attending a mode of warfare, originating with them, and unprecedented in modern times.

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 defenceless situation of the United States to wreak her vengeance upon them. But what would be his astonishment when told that the nation said to be unarmed and unprepared, 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. Washington was taken in August 1814. Let us see in what spirit your countrymen carried on the war during this interval.

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 thousand barns were burnt1 by the American forces near Fort Erie in Upper Canada.

In April 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. They consisted of two elegant Halls with convenient offices, for the accommodation of the Legislature, & of the Courts of Justice. The library and all the papers and records belonging to these institutions were consumed at the same time the Church was robbed, and the Town Library totally pillaged. Commodore Chauncey, who has generally behaved honourably, was so ashamed of this last transaction, that he endeavoured to collect the books belonging to the Public Library, and actually sent back two boxes filled with them, but hardly any were complete. Much private property was plundered, and several houses left in a state of ruin; can you tell me, sir, the reason why the public buildings and library at Washington, should be held more sacred than those at York? A false and ridiculous story is told of a scalp having been found above the Speakers Chair intended as an ornament.

In June 1813, Newark came into the possession of your army (after the capture of Fort George) and its inhabitants were repeatedly promised protection to themselves and property, both by General Dearborn and General Boyd[.] In the midst of these professions, the most respectable of them altho’ non combattants, were made prisoners, and sent into the United States. The two churches were burnt to the ground; detachments were sent under the direction of British traitors to pillage the Loyal Inhabitants in the neighborhood, and to carry them away captive. Many farm houses were burnt during the summer, and at length to fill up the measure of iniquity, the whole of the beautiful village of Newark, with so short a previous intimation as to amount to none was consigned to the Flames. The wretched inhabitants had scarcely time to save themselves, much less any of their property. More than four hundred Women and Children were exposed without shelter on the night of the tenth of December, to the intense cold of a Canadian winter, and great numbers must have perished, had not the flight of your troops after perpetrating this ferocious act, enabled the inhabitants of the country to come in to their relief.

Your friend Mr. Madison has attempted to justify this cruel deed, on the plea that it was necessary for the defence of Fort George. Nothing can be more false. The village was some distance from the Fort; and instead of thinking to defend it, General M’Clure was actually retreating to his own shore, when he caused Newark to be burnt. This officer says that he acted in conformity with the orders of his government; the government finding their justification useless disavow his conduct; M’Clure appears to be the fit agent of such a government. He not only complies with his instructions but refines upon them by choosing a day of intense frost, giving the inhabitants almost no warning till the fire began, and commencing the conflagration in the night as above mentioned.

In Nov. 1813, the army of your friend General Wilkinson committed great depredations in its progress through the eastern district of Upper Canada, and was proceeding to systematic pillage, when the commander got frightened, and fled to his own shore, on finding the population in that district inveterately hostile.

The history of the two first campaigns prove beyond dispute, that you had reduced fire and pillage to a regular system. It was hoped, that the severe retaliation taken for the burning of Newark, would have put a stop to a practice so repugnant to the manners and habits of a civilized age; but so far was this from being the case, that the third campaign exhibits equal enormities. Gen. Brown laid waste the country between Chippawa and Fort Erie,2 burning mills and private houses and rendering those not consumed by fire uninhabitable. The pleasant village of St. David, was burnt by his army when about to retreat.

On the 15th May, a detachment of the American army, under Colonel Campbell, landed at Long Point, district of London, Upper Canada and on that and the following day, pillaged and laid waste as much of the adjacent country as they could reach. They burnt the village of Dover, with the mills, and all the mills, stores, distilleries, and dwelling houses in the vicinity, carrying away such property as was portable, and killing the cattle. The property taken and destroyed on this occasion, was estimated at fifty thousand dollars.

On the 16th of August, some American troops and Indians from Detroit, surprised the settlement of Port Talbot, where they committed the most atrocious3 acts of violence, leaving upwards of 234 men, women, and children, in a state of nakedness and want.

On the 20th of September, a second excursion was made by the garrison of Detroit, spreading fire and pillage through the settlements in the Western district of Upper Canada. Twenty seven families were reduced on this occasion to the greatest distress..… Early in Nov. Gen. McArthur, with a large body of mounted Kentuckians and Indians, made a rapid march through the Western, & part of the London districts, burning all the mills, and destroying provisions, and living upon the inhabitants. If there was less private plunder than usual, it was, because the invaders had no means of carrying it away.

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, notwithstanding the great enormities which we have mentioned. It was not till the horrible destruction of Newark, attended with so many acts of atrocity, that we burnt the villages of Lewiston, Buffaloe, and Black Rock. At this our Commander paused. He pledged himself to proceed no farther, on the condition of your returning to the rules of legitimate warfare. Finding you pursuing the same system this last campaign, instead of destroying the towns and villages within his reach, to which he had conditionally extended his protection, he applied to Admiral Cochrane to make retaliation upon the coast. The Admiral informed Mr Monroe of the nature of this application, and his determination to comply, unless compensation was made for the private property wantonly destroyed in Upper Canada. No answer was returned for several weeks, during which time Washington was taken. At length, a letter purporting to be an answer, arrived, in which the Secretary dwells, with much lamentation, on the destruction of the public buildings at Washington; which notwithstanding the destruction of the same kind of buildings at the capital of Upper Canada, he affects to consider without a parallel in modern times. So little regard has he for truth, that at the very moment of his speaking of the honor and generosity practised by his government in conducting the war, General McArthur was directed by the President to proceed upon his burning excursion.

Perhaps you will bring forward the report of the Committee appointed by Congress to inquire into British cruelties, and to class them under the heads furnished by Mr Madison, as an offset for the facts that have been mentioned. The committee must have found the subject extremely barren, as only one report has seen the light: but since the articles of accusation are before the public, and have been quoted by the enemies of England, as capable of ample proof, let us give them a brief examination.

1st. Ill treatment of American prisoners.

2d. Detention of American prisoners as British subjects, under the pretext of their being born on British territory, or of naturalization.

3d. Detention of sailors as prisoners, because they were in England when war was declared.

4th. Forced service of American sailors, pressed on board English men of war.

5th. Violence of flags of truce.

6th. Ransom of American prisoners taken by the savages in the service of England.

7th. Pillage and destruction of private property in the bay of Chesapeake, and the neighbouring country.

8th. Massacre of American prisoners surrendered to the officers of Great Britain, by the savages engaged in its service. Abandoning to the savages the corpses of American prisoners killed by the English, into whose hands they had been surrendered; pillage and murder of American citizens, who had repaired to the English under the assurance of their protection; the burning of their houses.

9th. Cruelties exercised at Hampton in Virginia.

1st. Ill treatment of American prisoners.

General Brock sent all the militia taken at Detroit home on their parole, accompanied by a guard to protect them from the Indians, detaining only the regulars, whom he sent to Quebec, where they met with the most liberal treatment, as the honest among them have frequently confessed. General Sheaffe acted in the same manner after the battle of Queenston, keeping the regulars & dismissing the militia on their parole. Nor was the liberal course departed from, till the gross misconduct of the American government, in liberating, without exchange, those so sent home, and in carrying away non-combatants, and seizing the whole inhabitants of the districts, which they invaded, rendered it absolutely necessary.

When they were not able to take all the unarmed inhabitants away they made those they left sign a parole, a conduct never known in the annals of war, the conditions of which not only precluded them from afterwards bearing arms, but from giving in any manner their services to government. The farmers were dragged out of their houses and carried into the States. Clergymen were forced to give their parole, in fine it appeared to make no difference, whether a man was in arms or not, he was sure to experience the same treatment.

Many people, when prisoners, have been treated in the most infamous manner. Officers, tho’ sick and wounded have been forced to march on foot through the country, while American officers taken by us were conveyed in boats or carriages to the place of destination.

Our captured troops have been marched as spectacles through the towns, altho’ you affect to complain of Hull’s and other prisoners being marched publicly into Montreal. The officers of the 41st regt. were confined in the Penetentiary at Kentucky among Felons of the most infamous description. They were treated with harshness; often with cruelty, and persons, who wished to be kind to them, were insulted by the populace.

Even the stipulations, respecting Prisoners, agreed to by the American Government, have been most shamefully broken. Sir George Prevost and Mr. Madison agreed that all prisoners taken before the 15th day of April 1814 should be exchanged on or before the 15th day of May last to be conveyed into their respective countries by the nearest routes. On that day the Governor in Chief faithful to his engagements, sent home every American prisoner; but the Government of the United States seemed for a long time to have totally forgotten the stipulation. A few Prisoners were sent back in June, but many of the officers and all the soldiers of the 41st Regiment were detained till towards the end of October. To the soldiers of this Regiment (as indeed to all others) every temptation had been presented to induce them to desert and enlist in their service by money, land &c. After it was found impossible to persuade any number of them to do so, the American government encamped them for nearly two months in a pestilential marsh near Sandusky without any covering. There having neither shelter nor the necessary quantity of provisions, they all got sick, many died, and in October, the remainder were sent to Long Point, sick, naked and miserable. From this place they could not be conveyed, till clothes had been sent to cover their nakedness; great numbers sunk under their calamities and the utmost care and attention were required to save any of them alive. Such an accumulation of cruelty was never exhibited before.

The government of the United States assumed the prerogative of relieving officers from parole without exchanging them, and even Commodore Rodgers took twelve seamen out of a cartel, as it was proceeding to Boston Bay and was justified for this outrage by his government.

2d. Detention of American Prisoners as British Subjects.

It is notorious that a great many of the American army have been British subjects since the commencement of the war, and had we determined to punish these traitors with death, if found invading our territories, and after giving them warning, acted up to such a determination, it would have been strictly right and in such case very few would have entered Canada. While these persons act merely as Militia defending their adopted country against invasion, some lenity might be shewn them; but when they march into the British Provinces for the sake of conquest, they ought to be considered Traitors to their King and Country and treated accordingly.

3d.—Detention of Sailors as Prisoners, because they were in England when war was declared.

This accusation is ridiculous, as sailors are always considered in the first class of combatants, but it comes with an ill grace from those who have detained peaceable British subjects engaged in civil life, and banished fifteen miles from the coast, those of them who happened to be in America at the declaration of war, and treated them almost in every respect like Prisoners of war, according to Bonaparte’s example.

4. Forced service of American Sailors pressed on board of English Men of war.

This accusation has been often made, but never coupled with the offer of Mr. Foster to discharge every American so detained on being furnished with the list. The list was never furnished.

5. Violence of Flags of Truce.

This accusation of Mr. Madison contains about as much truth as those that have been already examined. We shall give two exampl[es] of the treatment experienced by the Bearers of Flags of Truce from the British Army.

Major Fulton, Aid-de-Camp to General Sir George Prevost, was stopped by Major Forsyth of the United States army at the outposts, who insulted him most grossly, endeavored to seize his despatches and threatened to put him to death. So much ashamed were Forsyths superiors at this outrage, that he was sent for a short time, to the rear.

General Proctor sent Lieut. Le Breton to General Harrison after the battle of Moravian Town to ascertain our loss of officers and men; but instead of sending him back, General Harrison detained him many weeks, took him round the Lake; and after all did not furnish him with the required information, which had been otherwise procured in the mean time.

6. Ransom of American prisoners taken by the savages in the service of England.

Some nations of the Natives were at war with the Americans, long before hostilities commenced against England, many others not. When attempts were made to conquer the Canadas, the Indians beyond our territories, part by choice and part by solicitation came and joined us as Allies, while those within the Provinces, had as great an interest in defending them, as the other proprietors of the soil. To mitigate as much as possible the horrors of war, it was expressly and repeatedly told the Indians that scalping the dead & killing Prisoners or unresisting enemies, were practices extremely repugnant to our feelings, and no presents would be given them, but for Prisoners. This, therefore instead of becoming an article of accusation ought to have excited their gratitude, for the presence and authority of a British force uniformly tended to secure the lives of all who were defenceless, and4 all who surrendered—It almost without exception saved the lives of our enemies, yet the American government brand us as worse than savages, for fighting by the sides of Indians, and at first threatened our extermination if we did so, altho’ they employed all the Indians they could. Many individuals have acknowledged their obligation to us for having been saved by the benevolent & humane exertions of our officers & troops, but no officer of rank ever had the justice to make a public acknowledgment. The eighth accusation is much the same as this, and must have been seperated in order to multiply the number of articles. It is notorious that some British soldiers have been killed by the Indians, protecting their prisoners. This was the case at General Winchester’s defeat and at General Clay’s. The grossest exaggerations have been published. General Winchester was declared in all the American papers to have been scalped, and mangled in the most horrid manner, when he was i[n his] quarters at Quebec. In a General Order dated Kingston 26th July, 1813, among other things respecting Indians, it is said that the head money for the Prisoners of War, brought in by the Indian warriors is to be immediately paid by the Commissariat, upon the certificate of the General officer commanding the division with which they are acting at the time. Let us now see how the poor Indians are treated by the Americans, after promising that they have done their utmost to employ as many Indians as possible against us. It is a fact that the first scalp taken this war was by the Americans at the river Canard between Sandwich and Amherstburgh. At this place an Indian was killed by the advance of General Hull’s army, and immediately scalped.*

At the skirmish of Brownston several Indians fell and were scalped by the American troops.

The Kentuckians are commonly armed with a Tomahawk and long scalping knife, and burnt Indians as a pastime.

At the river Au Raisin, Capt. Caldwell of the Indian department, saved an American officer from the Indians, and as he was leading him off, the ungrateful monster stabbed him in the neck, on which he was killed by Captain Caldwell’s friends.

The American troops under General Winchester killed an Indian in a skirmish near the river Au Raisin, on the 18th January 1813, and tore him litera[l]ly into pieces, which so exasperated the Indians that they refused burial to the Americans killed on the 22d.—The Indian Hero Tecumseth after being killed was literally flayed in part by the Americans and his skin carried off as a trophy.

Twenty Indian women and children of the Kickapoo nation were inhumanly put to death by the Americans a short time ago near Prairie on the Illinois river, after dri[v]ing their husbands into a morass where they perished with cold and hunger. Indian towns were burnt as an amusement or common place practice. All this however is nothing compared to the recent massacre of the Creeks. General Coffee in his letter to General Jackson dated 4th November 1813, informs him that he surrounded the Indian Towns at Tullushatches in the night with nine hundred men. That about an hour after sunrise, he was discovered by the enemy, who endeavored tho’ taken by surprise to make some resistance[.] In a few minutes the last warrior5 of them was killed. He mentions the number of warriors seen dead to be 186 and supposes as many among the weeds as would make them up two hundred. He confesses that some of the women and children were killed, owing to the warriors mixing with their families. He men[ti]ons taking only 84 Prisoners of Women and Chil[dr]en. Now it is evident that in a village containing [two] hundred warriors, there must have been nearly [as m]any women and men perhaps more; and un[quest]ionably the number of children exceeded the men and women together; what then became of all [t]hese[.] Neither does General Coffee mention the old men. Such things speak for themselves. The poor Indians fought it appears, with bows and arrows, and were able only to kill five Americans. Their situation was too remote for them to receive assistance from the British. Their lands were wanted and they must be exterminated. Since this period, the greater part of the nation has been massacred by General Jackson, who destroyed them wantonly in cold blood. There was no resistance, if we except individual ebullition of despair, when it was found that there was no mercy. Jackson mentions exultingly that the morning after he had destroyed a whole village, sixteen Indians were discovered, hid under the bank of the river, who were dragged out and murdered; upon these inhuman exploits President Madison only remarks to Congress that the Creeks had received a salutary chastisement which would make a lasting impression upon their fears. The cruelties exercised against these wretched nations are without a parallel except the coldness and apathy with which they are glossed over by the President. Such is the conduct of the humane government of the United States, which is incessantly employed as they pretend in civilizing the Indians; but it is time to finish this horrid detail we shall therefore conclude with a short extract of a letter from the Spanish Governor of East Florida, Benigno Garzia, to Mr. Mitchell Governor of the State of Georgia to show that the policy of the Government of the United States in regard to the Indians is now generally known.

“The Province of East Florida may be invaded in time of profound peace, the planters ruined, and the population of the capital starved, and according to your doctrine all is fair; they are a set of outlaws if they resist. The Indians are to be insulted threatened & driven from their lands; if they resist, nothing less than extermination is to be their fate.”

7th & 9th.—Pillage and destruction of private property in the Bay of Chesapeake and the neighboring country, and cruelties exercised in Hampton in Virginia.

It required astonishing effrontery to make these articles of accusation, after the depredations and cruelties committed by the army of the United States in the Canadas.

In the attack upon Craney Island, some boats in the service of Great Britain ran aground. In this situation they made signals of surrender, but the Americans continued to fire upon them from the shore. Many jumped into the water and swam towards land, but they were shot, as they approached, without mercy. A few days after, Hampton was taken and some depredations were committing by the Foreign troops, who had seen some of their comrades so cruelly massacred, but before any material damage was done, they were remanded on board. Several letters from Hampton mention the behaviour of the British, while there, as highly meritorious, and contradict the vile calumnies of the Democratic prints, which Mr. Madison copies in his Message to Congress.

This brief account of the conduct of your Govt. and army since the commencement of hostilities (which might have been greatly extended) will fill the world with astonishment at the forbearance of Great Britain in suffering so many enormities and such a determined departure from the laws of civilized warfare, to pass so long without signal punishment.

Before finishing this letter, permit me, Sir, to remark that the destruction of the public buildings at Washington, entitled the British to your gratitude and praise by affording you a noble opportunity of proving your devotion to your country. In former times, when you spoke of the magnitude of your services and the fervor of your patriotism, your political enemies were apt to mention your elevated situation, and the greatness of your salary. But by presenting your library a freewill offering to the nation at this moment of uncommon pressure, when the Treasury is empty, and every help to the acquisition of knowledge is so very necessary to keep the government from sinking, you would have astonished the world, with one solitary action in your political life, worthy of commendation.

Nor are your obligations to the British army unimportant, tho’ you have not aspired to generous praise. An opportunity has been given you of disposing of a library at your own price, which if sold volume by volume, would have fetched nothing, You have no doubt seen that old libraries do not sell well, after the death of the proprietor, and with a lively attention to your own interest, you take advantage of the times. I am, Sir, with due consideration, &c.

Treasurer of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper-Canada.

POSTSCRIPT.—–From General M’Arthur’s official account of his predatory excursion, I make the following extract to prove his extraordinary veracity

“We were thus enabled to arrive at the town of Oxford, one hundred and fifty miles distant from Detroit, before the inhabitants knew that a force was approaching. They were promised protection to their persons and property, upon the condition that they remained peaceably at their respective homes; otherwise, they were assurred, that their property would be destroyed.

However, notwithstanding this injunction, and the sacred obligation of a previous parole, two of the inhabitants escaped to Burford with the intelligence of our arrival. Their property consisting of two dwelling houses, two barns, and one shop, were instantly consumed.”

George Nichol and Jacob Wood, are the persons here alluded to, both of whom applied to the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada for relief. The former had returned home before General M’Arthur’s report to the Secretary at War appeared in the Newspapers: but the latter was at York after that publication. “At a meeting of the Directors of the Loyal and Patriotic Society holden at York on the 21st of January 1815, appeared Jacob Wood, from the County of Oxford, and produced a certificate from Major Bowen, stating that he accompanied George Nichol from Oxford to Burford to give information of the advance of the American army, and in consequence of which his House, Furniture, Barn, Hay, Grain, Joiner’s shop and Tools were destroyed by the enemy.

Jacob Wood was interrogated by the Society, whether he or George Nichol were paroled by General M’Arthur, previous to their giving the British warning of the approach of the American army. In answer, he stated, that he and George Nichol had left their homes on hearing of the approach of the enemy, and were so far from giving their parole that they never were in the power of General M’Arthur, or his Army.

The Directors put this question to Jacob Wood, because General M’Arthur, in his official report, states it as his reason for burning the houses, and destroying every thing belonging to these two men, that they had broken their parole.”

General M’Arthur had some reputation to lose, and ought to have known that such a gross departure from truth was not the way to preserve it. The courage and zeal of Nichol and Wood, instead of punishment, deserved and would have obtained the respect of a gallant and generous enemy. But on all occasions, the loyal inhabitants of this Province have been selected by your Generals as the objects of their peculiar hatred.

To pass rapidly, with a large body of cavalry, through a country thinly inhabited, and without the means of resistance, to feed upon the defenceless inhabitants; to burn the mills, none of which belonged to Government, and to destroy the provisions and the whole property of respectable men of principle; and then to run away, at the first symptom of serious opposition; is no great exploit. General M’Arthur has been the Author of much distress to the defenceless inhabitants; many of whom have now One Hundred and Twenty Miles to go to mill, but in a military point of view he has done nothing. It is for the people of the United States to reflect seriously upon this mode of carrying on the war; and it is your interest, Sir, to advise a return to humanity, lest Monticello should share the fate of hundreds of Farms in Upper Canada. I am, &c.

J. S.

Printed in the Montreal Herald, 15 Apr. 1815; copy at OONL damaged, with losses supplied from the version printed in The Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada (Montreal, 1817), 398–413; ellipsis in original; at head of text: “To Thomas Jefferson Esquire of Monticello, Ex-President of the United States of America”; dateline above postscript; beneath postscript: “Thos. Jefferson, Esqr.” Not recorded in SJL and probably never seen by TJ.

The editor of the Montreal Herald, Mungo Kay, prefaced Stachan’s letter thus: “The following letter was received by the Editor of the Herald before the Treaty of Peace with the United States was known here, but prevented from publication, by the pressure of other matter at the time. The change of circumstances since, would have been an inducement to with hold it from the public, had it not been perceived, that the opposition in the Imperial Parliament, have made a handle of the destruction of the public buildings at Washington, as if a wanton and unprecedented act of desolation. Such a statement being calculated to impose upon the world, it becomes material that some document in proof of the causes which led to that destruction should be in possession of the public, that the real authors of those calamities may be known; and as the British or Provincial Government has not seen fit (excepting in the case of Newark) to publish an official detail of the numerous acts of departure from the practice of civilized warfare by the troops of the United States in the late contest; it becomes necessary to take the next most authentic source of information thereon.—Such is the following, being from a man of high private character and intelligence, who scrupples not to put his name thereto. The Editor therefore disavowing all hostile motives, still sees strong reasons for publishing the same upon public grounds, as a justification of those meritorious British Officers, who resorted to a necessary, but tardy retaliation upon the enemy, for the miseries inflicted by them upon British subjects.

John Strachan (1778–1867), educator and Anglican clergyman, was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and graduated from the university there in 1797. After teaching at a parish school, he immigrated to Canada in 1799. Although Strachan continued to teach until 1823 and espoused the expansion and reform of education throughout his long life, within a few years of his arrival in North America he had redirected his primary focus to religion. Having been ordained a deacon in the Church of England in 1803 and a priest the following year, he served as rector of Cornwall, Upper Canada, 1803–12, rector of York (later Toronto), 1812–47, archdeacon of York, 1827–47, and bishop of Toronto, 1839–67. A political and social conservative, Strachan was also active in Canadian politics. He was a founder, president, and treasurer of the Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Strachan sat on the province’s executive council, 1815–36, and served in its legislative council, 1820–41. He died in Toronto (ODNB description begins H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, eds., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2004, 60 vols. description ends ; George W. Brown and others, eds., Dictionary of Canadian Biography [1966– ], 9:751–66; David Flint, John Strachan: Pastor and Politician [1971]; Toronto Globe, 2, 6 Nov. 1867).

Strachan was responding to TJ’s second letter of 21 Sept. 1814 to Samuel H. Smith, who was not a member of congress. General William Hull’s 13 July 1812 proclamation to the inhabitants of Canada states that “If contrary to your own interest, and the just expectations of my country, you should take a part in the approaching contest, you will be considered as enemies, and the horrours and calamities of war will stalk before you. If the barbarous and savage policy of Great Britain be pursued, and the savages be let loose to murder our citizens and butcher our women and children, this war will be a war of extermination” (Hull, Memoirs of the Campaign of the North Western Army of the United States, A.D. 1812 [Boston, 1824], 45–6; Madison, Papers, Pres. Ser., 5:198n). General Henry Dearborn’s story that a “scalp was found in the executive and legislative chamber, suspended near the speaker’s chair, in company with the mace and other emblems of royalty” was picked up by the American press and frequently repeated during the spring of 1813 (Dearborn to John Armstrong, 3 May 1813 [ASP, Military Affairs, 1:444]; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 18 May 1813, and elsewhere). The Upper Canada town of Niagara (now Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario), was formerly known as newark.

our commander: Sir George Prevost, governor general of British North America. For Admiral Alexander Cochrane’s letter to Secretary of State James Monroe of 18 Aug. 1814 and Monroe’s lamentation of 6 Sept., see ASP, Foreign Relations, 3:693–4. The committee of the United States House of Representatives charged with investigating british cruelties issued its report on 31 July 1813 (ASP, Military Affairs, 1:339–82). For the 1814 convention regulating the exchange of all prisoners taken before the 15th day of april 1814, which was negotiated by the representatives of Governor Prevost and Secretary of State Monroe, not President James Madison, see ASP, Foreign Relations, 3:728.

Commodore John Rodgers removed a dozen British sailors from a cartel in September 1812. Monroe later justified the action on the grounds of retaliation (ASP, Foreign Relations, 3:598, 633). The British diplomat Augustus John Foster requested that he be furnished with the list of impressed American seamen in his letter to Monroe of 15 Apr. 1812 (ASP, Foreign Relations, 3:454). The Battle of the Thames (battle of moravian town) was fought in Canada a few miles from Lake Erie (the lake). General Green clay’s defeat occurred early in May 1813 during the siege of Fort Meigs, Ohio (Malcomson, Historical Dictionary description begins Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812, 2006 description ends , 329–30).

In February 1813 General James Winchester was incorrectly reported in all the american papers to have been “killed, scalped, and shockingly mangled” (Georgetown Federal Republican, and Commercial Gazette, 10 Feb. 1813, and elsewhere; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ). The skirmish of brownston (Brownstown, Michigan) took place on 5 Aug. 1812 (Malcomson, Historical Dictionary description begins Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812, 2006 description ends , 65). For John Coffee’s letter to Andrew Jackson dated 4th november 1813, see Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 7 vols. description ends , 2:592; Richmond Enquirer, 23 Nov. 1813, and elsewhere. Jackson mentions the killing of the sixteen indians in his 28 Mar. 1814 report on the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (Jackson, Papers description begins Sam B. Smith, Harold D. Moser, Daniel Feller, and others, eds., The Papers of Andrew Jackson, 1980– , 7 vols. description ends , 3:52–4; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 18 Apr. 1814, and elsewhere).

Madison’s remarks to congress of 7 Dec. 1813 expressed the hope that the United States “might not only chastise the savages into present peace, but make a lasting impression on their fears” (JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States description ends , 5:388–92, quotation on p. 389). The 12 Dec. 1812 letter from the spanish governor of east florida was printed in the Philadelphia Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, 12 Jan. 1813, and elsewhere. The unsuccessful British attack upon craney island near Portsmouth, Virginia, took place on 22 June 1813 (Malcomson, Historical Dictionary description begins Robert Malcomson, Historical Dictionary of the War of 1812, 2006 description ends , 124–6). General Duncan McArthur submitted his official account in an 18 Nov. 1814 letter to Secretary of War Monroe (DNA: RG 107, LRSW; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 22 Dec. 1814, and elsewhere).

1Preceding five words corrected to “a number of houses and barns burnt” in the Montreal Herald, 22 Apr. 1815. Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society: “some houses and barns were burnt.”

2Montreal Herald: “Erio.” Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society: “Erie.”

3Montreal Herald: “atrocieus.” Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society: “atrocious.”

4Montreal Herald: “and and.” Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society: “and.”

5Montreal Herald: “warior.” Report of the Loyal and Patriotic Society: “warrior.”

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

* (* Note.) Monticello, 21st Sept. 1814.
 Dear Sir, “—I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited. Of this transaction, as that of Copenhagen, the world will entertain but one sentiment. They will see a nation suddenly withdrawn from a great war, full armed and full handed, taking advantage of another, whom they had recently forced into it; unarmed, and unprepared to indulge themselves in acts of barbarism which do not belong to a civilized age.”

* [(No]te)* An Indian never scalps his enemy un[til after] he is dead, and does so to preserve a proof [or token] of his victory.

Index Entries

  • Army, U.S.; atrocities of in Canada search
  • axes search
  • Black Rock, N.Y.; burnt by British forces search
  • Bowen, William Daniel; Canadian militia officer search
  • Boyd, John Parker; and War of1812 search
  • Brock, Isaac search
  • Brown, Jacob Jennings; as major general search
  • Buffalo, N.Y.; burnt by British forces search
  • Caldwell, Billy (Sauganash); British Indian Department official search
  • Campbell, John B.; U.S. colonel search
  • Canada; Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada search
  • Canada; U.S. atrocities in search
  • Canada; U.S. policy toward search
  • Capitol, U.S.; and War of1812 search
  • carriages; mentioned search
  • cattle; death of search
  • Chauncey, Isaac; as U.S. Navy commodore search
  • Chesapeake Bay; British pillage coast of search
  • Clay, Green; War of1812service of search
  • Cochrane, Sir Alexander; British admiral search
  • Coffee, John; militia service of search
  • Congress, U.S.; committee on alleged British cruelties search
  • Congress, U.S.; J. Madison’s messages to search
  • Congress, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Copenhagen; British attack on search
  • Craney Island; British attack on search
  • Creek Indians; and War of1812 search
  • Dearborn, Henry; and War of1812 search
  • Detroit, Mich. Territory; W. Hull’s surrender at search
  • East Florida; and War of1812 search
  • Forsyth, Benjamin; U.S. officer search
  • Fort Erie (Upper Canada) search
  • Fort George (Upper Canada) search
  • Fort Meigs (Ohio) search
  • Foster, Augustus John; British minister to U.S. search
  • Fulton, James Forrest; British officer search
  • Garzia, Benigno; Spanish governor of E. Fla. search
  • Ghent, Treaty of (1814); mentioned search
  • Great Britain; attacks Copenhagen search
  • Great Britain; J. Madison on war with search
  • Great Britain; parliament of search
  • Great Britain; treatment of prisoners of war by search
  • Hampton, Va.; British attack on search
  • Harrison, William Henry; War of1812service of search
  • household articles; knives search
  • Hull, William; American general search
  • Hull, William; and surrender of Northwest Army search
  • impressment; of American seamen search
  • Indians, American; and War of1812 search
  • Indians, American; Creek search
  • Indians, American; Kickapoo search
  • Jackson, Andrew; War of1812service of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British destruction in Washington search
  • Kay, Mungo; Canadian newspaper editor search
  • Kentucky; British prisoners of war incarcerated in search
  • Kickapoo Indians search
  • knives; for scalping search
  • Le Breton, John; British army officer search
  • Lewiston, N.Y.; burnt by British forces search
  • Library of Congress; destroyed by British troops search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • Loyal and Patriotic Society of Upper Canada search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and war with Great Britain search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); messages to Congress search
  • McArthur, Duncan; War of1812service of search
  • McClure, George; Niagara campaign of search
  • militia; and War of1812 search
  • Mitchell, David Brydie; Ga. governor search
  • Monroe, James; and War of1812 search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); mentioned search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; mentioned search
  • Newark, Upper Canada; burned by U.S. forces search
  • Nichol, George; possessions of destroyed by U.S. forces search
  • Port Dover, Upper Canada; burned by U.S. forces search
  • Port Talbot, Upper Canada; U.S. attack on search
  • Prevost, George; governor-in-chief of British North America search
  • Procter, Henry; British military commander search
  • Queenston Heights, Battle of (1812) search
  • Rodgers, John; as American naval commander search
  • Saint Davids, Upper Canada; burned by U.S. forces search
  • Sheaffe, Sir Roger Hale; British general search
  • Strachan, John; and British outrages in U.S. search
  • Strachan, John; and prisoners of war search
  • Strachan, John; and sale of TJ’s library search
  • Strachan, John; and U.S. atrocities against southern Indians search
  • Strachan, John; and U.S. atrocities in Canada search
  • Strachan, John; identified search
  • Strachan, John; letter from search
  • Tecumseh (Shawnee chief); death of search
  • Thames, Battle of the (Canada) (1813) search
  • United States; treatment of prisoners of war by search
  • War of1812; and Indians search
  • War of1812; Battle of Queenston Heights search
  • War of1812; Battle of the Thames search
  • War of1812; British attack on Hampton, Va. search
  • War of1812; British destruction in Washington search
  • War of1812; J. Strachan on search
  • War of1812; militia activity search
  • War of1812; prisoners of war search
  • War of1812; U.S. atrocities in Canada search
  • War of1812; U.S. declaration of search
  • Washington, D.C.; British destruction in search
  • weather; cold search
  • Wilkinson, James; War of1812service of search
  • Winchester, James; and Battle of River Raisin search
  • Winchester, James; rumored death and mutilation of search
  • Wood, Jacob; possessions of destroyed by U.S. forces search
  • York (now Toronto), Upper Canada; public buildings looted and burned search