By Ivan Simic
For decades relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom was described as perfect, special and unbreakable. This unique relationship is best known trough the remarkably close political, military, diplomatic and cultural relations. However, when it comes to this unique relationship, many things are left out and ignored.
The US declaration of independence
The US declaration of independence from the Great Britain resulted for the British to lose land, and marked the beginning of the future independences which resulted for Britain to lose more territories overseas. British military efforts to defeat the Americans, French and Spanish during American Revolution failed. British America was one of the most precious British territories, by losing them the Great Britain was undermined and humiliated on the international scene. British King George III promised never to recognize the independence of Americans and to punish them in every possible way. However independence was recognized in 1783.
American Revolutionary War was just the beginning of the upcoming British-US conflicts. British went to new wars because of the US, and were very angry at the new American Nation. Though, two countries signed the “Jay’s Treaty” or “Treaty of London” (Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Navigation) in 1795. This Treaty brought prosperity to both side, but was limited for ten years. Decade after the Treaty was signed, in 1806 the US rejected to renew the “Jay’s Treaty” trough the new Treaty - the “Monroe-Pinkney Treaty”. The US rejection escalated tensions between two, which ended as the “War of 1812”.
Disputes and Wars
The “Monroe-Pinkney Treaty” was not the only cause leading to the “War of 1812”, these two had many more conflicts before the war, such as: the “Berlin Decree of 1806” issued by Napoleon I of France, which forbade France, her allies and neutral ships to trade with Britain. This “Decree” also initiated Napoleon’s famous “Continental System”. Then, there were the “Orders in Council of 1806 and 1807”, British Secret Council authorized the Royal Navy to blockade the seaports of France and her allies. Then the “Chesapeake-Leopard Affair” in 1807, British fourth-rate warship Leopard Template:WP Ships HMS instances attacked and boarded the American frigate Chesapeake. Then the “Milan Decree” issued by Napoleon I to enforce “Berlin Decree”, an economic warfare against Britain, all European countries was prohibited to trade with Britain.
In response to the above decrees and affaires, the US government issued the “Embargo Act of 1807” to punish Britain for its violations of American rights on the high sea. This “Act” brought more damage to the US than to British. Later, this “Act” was replaced with the “Non-Intercourse Act of 1809”, which aim was to damage the economies of Britain and France. The “Act of 1809” was also ineffective, and only damaged the US economy more. Then “Macon's Bill Number 2” came to place, followed by lost “Macon's Bill Number 1”. Main aim of this law was to force British and French to stop seizing American ships, and to recognize American vessels as neutral in the Napoleonic Wars.
In 1809 came the “Treaty of Fort Wayne”, which led to the “Tecumseh's War” in 1810, a war between the United States and an American Indian confederacy led by the Shawnee leader Tecumseh. Indians were supported by the British in this conflict. Then the “Little Belt Affair” in 1811, a naval battle involving the American frigate “USS President” and the British sixth-rate HMS Little Belt. Same year, John Henry wrote the “Henry Letters”; letters which deceived both the President of the United States and the US Congress, and increased already shaken British-US relations.
War between Britain and America was imminent. Henry Clay, the US statesman, leader of the “War Hawk”, advocated declaration of war against the Great Britain. British, on the other side continued pursuing the “Rule of 1756” (a policy saying that Britain would not trade with neutral nations who were also trading with the enemy. It also ruled that Britain would not open trade with any nation during wartime). As a result, in June, 1812, the US President James Madison declared war on the Great Britain; the first declaration of war by the US against another country. The war was initiated with a reason: to protect American trading rights and freedom of the seas for neutral countries, and to stop British support to Native Americans. During the war, British forces occupied Washington DC and set fire to many public buildings, including the White House.
In December 1814, two nations signed the “Treaty of Ghent” ending the war. However, news of the peace treaty came to the US few weeks later, during which American forces with General Andrew Jackson in command, defeated an invading British Army in the “Battle of the New Orleans”. The “Treaty of Ghent” largely restored relations between the two countries to “status quo ante bellum” (as things were before the war).
Period of many disputes and treaties between these two was taking place, for example: “Monroe Doctrine of 1823”, the “Republic of Indian Stream”, “Panic of 1837”, the “Rebellions of 1837”, “Caroline Affair”, “Manifest Destiny of 1840”, “Aroostook War”, the “Republic of Madawaska”, the “Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842”, among others.
Then, American Civil War (1861-1865) in which British was officially neutral. Confederate strategy for securing independence was largely based on British and French intervention, which never happened. Britain, France and Spain showed enormous interest in this war, especially in Confederacy, but never intervene. In November 1861, Britain and the US almost enter in the third war because of the diplomatic incident - the “Trent Affaire”; when “USS San Jacinto” intercepted the British mail ship and apprehended two Confederate diplomats. However, the incident between two states was resolved in a diplomatic fashion.
Again in 1871, British and Americans were signing the treaty, this time it was the “Treaty of Washington”. The treaty was designed to settle various differences between the two governments, and ones regarding the “Alabama Claims”. The “Alabama Claims” were a series of claims for damages by the US government against the government of the Great Britain for the alleged secret assistance given to the Confederate cause during the American Civil War. The “CSS Alabama” made significant damage to the Union Navy and merchant marine during the American Civil War. At Geneva, in 1872, the US was awarded $15,500,000 according to the terms of the treaty, and the British apologized for the destruction caused by the British-built Confederate ships, while admitting no guilt.
In 1895, United States intervened in border dispute between Britain and Venezuela over British Guiana (now Guyana). The US President Grover Cleveland pressured Britain into agreeing to arbitration, not war. In 1898, tribunal in Paris decides the matter, and issued its award in 1899, awarding the bulk of the disputed territory to British Guiana. Later, British stud by Americans in Alaska-Canada border dispute, as the British judge sided with the Americans against the Canadians.
To be continued…
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