David Brandenburg's letter, published in The Sun on July 4 ("The truth about the War of 1812"), shows the danger of amateur historians who take small facts and from them draw a revisionist fallacious interpretation of the American historical narrative. Mr. Brandenburg claims the War of 1812 "was not successful" and that the United States was the aggressor in this conflict.
In the first claim, mainstream professional historians are in clear agreement that the War of 1812 solidified the independence of the American nation, announced the entry of the United States onto the international stage, and introduced "The Era of Good Feelings," an enormous swell of patriotism within the domestic arena.
As to the second claim, basic chronological analysis of events leading up to the conflict clearly demonstrates that British harassment of American merchant ships, including the frequent impressment of American sailors and the 1807 attack on the U.S.S. Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia, and the encouragement and arming of Tecumseh's Native American confederacy in the Ohio River Valley constituted a significant amount of pressure on the American government to respond. To ignore these events and begin an analysis, as Mr. Brandenburg chooses to do, at the Canadian battles at the beginning of the war, presents a completely inaccurate evaluation of causal factors leading up to the war. To make this concern clear, imagine starting the chronology of World War II at D-Day, and claiming that this event "proves" the United States was the primary aggressor and was responsible for beginning World War II.
Lastly, the claim that Francis Scott Key opposed the War of 1812 that Mr. Brandenburg uses to support his interpretation of American aggression, demonstrates poor understanding of the context of the period. In truth, Francis Scott Key well appreciated the high levels of British aggression against the new American nation. However, as a member of the Federalist political party, he perceived it necessary to retain good relations with Britain (as much as possible) in order to use Britain as a bulwark against a chaotic France so recently engulfed in the violence of the French Revolution. His comments derived out of a desire to seek diplomatic rather than military solutions to the issues between the two nations.
Interpreting the American historical narrative is a critical skill that requires a well-developed appreciation of cause and effect, chronology, contextual understanding and clear factual analysis. As a social studies educator, I hope very much that our great state of Maryland begins to fully appreciate the critical need to continue educating our student-citizens in the skills necessary to fully understand the complexity of our great American nation. Schools desperately need robust funding of Social Studies and history education in our schools so that Marylanders will recognize when someone is presenting poorly-researched claims under the guise of "history."
Debbie L. Rosenberg
The writer is a middle school social studies teacher.