Vanity Fair - Preface

Vanity Fair (Illustration) American History Film Geography Nineteenth Century Life Ethics Social Studies Fiction

This colorized image of British officers impressing Americans is based on an illustration from Dewey and Other Naval Commanders by Edward S. Ellis, A.M.  (See Chapter XI—"Causes of the War of 1812.")  Online, courtesy Project Gutenberg.


Is it advisable to raise so ruthlessly
the veil which hides the rottenness
pervading modern society?

Anonymous Reviewer
Vanity Fair

During the War of 1812, British troops in America burned the nation’s capital. This mostly forgotten “Second War of Independence” started—in large part—because His Majesty’s Navy needed more men to fight against France in the Napoleonic Wars. (“His Majesty”—George III—had, by this time, gone mad. His son, the future George IV, became Prince Regent in 1811.)

Stopping American ships on the high seas, ostensibly looking for deserters, His Majesty’s officers also impressed thousands of Yankee men into British service. And, from time to time, Britain would appropriate American ships bound for French ports.

Willing to wage war to end the impressing of its sailors and the taking of its ships, the U.S. Congress shocked the world in the summer of 1812 by declaring war on Britain.

Fighting on another front was the last thing England needed. Since 1792, the country and its allies were doing their best to keep Napoleon from realizing his dream of a far-flung French Empire. By 1812, Napoleon’s troops had already reached Moscow!

How did all the battles on different continents affect British life? Did people not born into affluent, aristocratic families have a chance to better themselves? What would an innately intelligent person have to do to improve her (or his) position in society?

The answers to those questions may surprise you.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Sep 01, 2004

Updated Last Revision: Jun 29, 2019

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