Niagara Gazette

February 9, 2012

EDITORIAL: U.S. has a lot of catching up to do in War of 1812 bicentennial

Staff Reports
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS — Almost 200 years after President Madison declared the War of 1812 there is a distinct lack of interest on this side of the border in commemorating that milestone.

At a glance, the federal government in Canada is committing nearly $29 million toward the anniversary for everything from colorful pageants and giant fireworks displays to monuments, themed license plates and new buildings like the addition to the Niagara Falls, Ont., Historical Society.

Meanwhile, on this side of the border where a number of major events unfolded, there is now mostly token recognition — in the words of some historians — of our “Second War of Independence.”

Two New York governors — David A. Paterson and Andrew M. Cuomo — have vetoed any legislation for creating a War of 1812 Commission.

Gov. Cuomo shot down the idea, claiming it would cost the taxpayers $1.4 million. Staunch supporters of the bicentennial plans called the governor’s estimate ridiculous. They point out that the commission could operate with far less funding and, at the same time, open doors to potential grants from the private sector.

For those of little faith in such a pursuit, there are generous sponsors out there, including corporations and foundations, as evidenced by the WNED-TV (Buffalo-Toronto) video, “The War of 1812,” produced for the PBS stations nationwide.

People often ask, “Why was the war fought?” and “Where was it fought?” and, of course, “Why is it important?”

There are numerous reasons that caused the war which our current series will explore.

We should never forget that those battles — no matter the winners — left us with the inspiring story of “Old Iron Sides,” the stirring command, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” our national anthem that a young lawyer wrote while watching the American flag flying over Fort McHenry during the legendary Battle of Baltimore.

Perhaps philosopher George Santayana’s advice is worth bearing in mind to this day: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”