Originally published in Castine Patriot, August 14, 2014
Historian delivers Pulliam Lecture
Tuesday, August 5, saw the sixth annual Deborah Pulliam Memorial Lecture, delivered by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Dr. Alan Taylor and sponsored by the Castine Historical Society. Speaking before a near-capacity audience at the Delano Auditorium, Taylor discussed what he called “The Civil War of 1812,” based on his 2010 book of the same title. He maintained that, just as with the later and better-known American Civil War, families were divided in their loyalties, and brothers fought against brothers, according to a news release.
Taylor traced the origins of the War of 1812 to nationalist resentment against British high-handedness on the oceans, fueled by partisan rivalry here at home. The war divided Americans along geographic and partisan lines, with most of Federalist New England, including Downeast towns like Castine, bitterly opposed.
When the war was declared, Taylor said, Americans were woefully unequipped for an extended conflict. On land, their only option was an invasion of what was called in those days “Upper Canada” (now western Ontario), and although the invasion was pretty much a disaster, it created anti-American resentment throughout Canada, resulting in a new Canadian identity that had not been there before.
Both sides saw the war as a David-Goliath struggle, with each seeing themselves as David: Americans were warring against the most powerful empire the world had yet seen; Canadians saw themselves being invaded by a much larger country when most of them simply wanted to be left alone.
Taylor’s appearance was in connection with Castine Historical Society’s summer exhibit “Mr. Madison’s War: Castine and the War of 1812.” Located at the Abbott School on the Castine town common, the society’s exhibits are open seven days a week through Labor Day, with early fall hours to be announced. Copies of Taylor’s book are available at the society’s Gift Shop and at Compass Rose Bookstore on Main Street in Castine. For more information about Castine Historical Society programs and events, call 326-4118 or visit castinehistoricalsociety.org.