Treaty of Ghent

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The Treaty of Ghent (8 Stat. 218), signed on December 24, 1814, in Ghent (modern day Belgium, then in limbo between the First French Empire and United Kingdom of the Netherlands), was the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812 between the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The treaty largely restored relations between the two nations to status quo ante bellum. Because of the era's slow communications, it took weeks for news of the peace treaty to reach the United States, and the Battle of New Orleans was fought after it was signed.

Contents

The agreement

On December 24 of 1814, the members of the British and American negotiating teams signed and affixed their individual seals to the document, which once ratified by their respective governments, ended the war of 1812.[1] The treaty released all prisoners and restored all war lands and boats, resulting in several changes. Returned to the United States were approximately 10,000,000 acres (40,000 km2) of territory, near Lakes Superior and Michigan, in Maine, and on the Pacific coast.[2] American-held areas of Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) were returned to British control. The treaty made no major changes to the pre-war situation, but did make several promises. Britain promised to return freed black slaves, but instead a few years later paid the United States $350,000 for them.[3] The British proposal to create an Indian buffer zone in Ohio and Michigan collapsed after the Indian coalition fell apart. The United States ignored the guarantees it made in article IX regarding American treatment of the Indians.[4]

The aftermath

News of the treaty finally reached the United States after the American victory in the Battle of New Orleans and the British victory in the Battle of Fort Bowyer, but before the British assault on Mobile, Alabama.[5] Skirmishes occurred between U.S. troops and British-allied Indians along the Mississippi River frontier for months after the treaty, including the Battle of the Sink Hole in May 1815.

The U.S. Senate unanimously approved the treaty on February 16, 1815, and President James Madison exchanged ratification papers with a British diplomat in Washington on February 17; the treaty was proclaimed on February 18. Eleven days later, on March 1, Napoleon escaped from Elba, starting the war in Europe again, and forcing the British to concentrate on the threat he posed.

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