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What Is the Treaty of Ghent?

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  • Written By: Maggie Worth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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The Treaty of Ghent, sometimes called the "Treaty of 1812," is a treaty between the US and Great Britain. Signed on December 24, 1814, this treaty ended the War of 1812. In the treaty, Great Britain made several concessions that are generally agreed to have contributed to the US's improved international standing.

The War of 1812 was declared after a request was made by US president James Madison on June 1, 1812, to the US Congress. The declaration was in response to a number of British actions. War had broken out in Europe, and Great Britain, in an attempt to stop supplies to its enemies, had imposed a blockade on major neutral countries, including the US. This meant that US trade ships were unable to trade with most of Europe for several years, negatively impacting both the US ability to gain revenue and also its ability to purchase certain goods.

In addition, Britain eventually began taking over US ships and capturing their sailors. The sailors were then compelled to serve in the British army. This practice, known as "impressment," became a more and more common way for Great Britain to replace its fallen soldiers. Eventually, a segment of the US population, called "War Hawks," began demanding an end to both the blockades and impressment. President Madison responded by asking Congress for a declaration of war and, shortly thereafter, the declaration was signed.

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The two-year war was long and bloody, and included the burning of a number of significant American buildings, including the US Capitol. In 1814, negotiations began between the two countries and, subsequently, the Treaty of Ghent was drawn up and signed, officially ending the war. Negotiators met in Ghent, Belgium, where the treaty was signed.

Even though the Treaty of Ghent ended the war, it took a long time for news to reach the troops and for the fighting to actually end. Andrew Jackson, who would later become president of the US, won the war's final battle in New Orleans, more than two weeks after peace was declared. Congress did not ratify the treaty until February 17, 1815.

The Treaty of Ghent accomplished far more than an end to trade restrictions and impressment. It also ended British claim to the Northwest Territory, which eventually became the US states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. It further forged a common goal between the US and Great Britain to put an end to the slave trade.

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