Study Guide

Treaty of Ghent Main Idea

By John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, J.A. Bayard, Jonathan Russell, Albert Gallatin, Henry Goulburn, William Adams, James Gambier

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  • Main Idea

    The 1814 Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. After years of fruitless fighting, both sides decided to call it a draw, rewind to 1812, and call it a day.

    The Treaty, with its emphasis on equality and fairness, allowed the Americans to feel like they'd won, getting all up in Britain's face and earning some R-E-S-P-E-C-T in the process. They felt they'd showed that the American Revolution was no fluke, and it gave them the confidence to imagine further westward territorial expansion while still keeping the peace with their neighbors to the north and the ones across the pond.

    The treaty also promised peace with the Native American tribes, but you know how that usually ended up.

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. Basing your answer on the content of the Treaty of Ghent, how would you describe the relationship between the United States and Britain in 1814?
    2. For both countries, what changed as a result of the Treaty of Ghent? What remained the same?
    3. Did the Treaty of Ghent accomplish its goals?
    4. How did the War of 1812 and the Treaty of Ghent affect Native Americans and future relations between the United States and Native tribes?

    Chew on This

    If not getting your butt kicked in war counts as a win, then both sides won.

    The real losers after the Treaty of Ghent were the Native American tribes.

  • Brief Summary


    The Set-Up

    After years of poking and prodding each other over trading rights, the United States and Britain fought the War of 1812. The war went on for two years before both sides, unable to secure a decisive victory, came to their senses and sat down at the negotiating table in the neutral city of Ghent, Belgium in August of 1814.

    The Treaty of Ghent declares an end to the War of 1812 on neutral terms—basically, both sides were both ready to throw in the towel. The terms of peace are set down in eleven short, though occasionally head-scratchingly dense Articles, written by eight representatives: five from the U.S., and three from Britain.

    The Text

    Sometimes you just want to go back to the way things were. That's the thrust of the Treaty of Ghent. The very first Article not only declares an end to the fighting; it also requires that all territory and property taken by either side in the war be returned to the original owner. Whatever the U.S. won went back to the Brits, and vice versa.

    There are a few caveats. Both countries disputed the ownership of certain islands and territories around parts of the U.S.-Canadian border. To settle the arguments and decide who got what, the Treaty calls for commissioners, or representatives, from each nation to work together on the problem. Three groups of two commissioners were tasked with surveying land, writing up reports, and submitting them to their home governments. If they couldn't agree on a solution, then the decision got outsourced to a "friendly Sovereign of State" (IV.8).

    The Treaty also features a few add-ins affecting people who didn't get to participate in negotiations. In a tragically unenforced measure, the U.S. was required to return land taken from Native Americans during the War. The two countries also agreed to try to end the international slave trade. The U.S. had already passed a law in 1807 banning the slave trade; however, slavery continued in the United States until the Civil War.

    Last, Article Eleven requires that the treaty be ratified without any changes, removing any wiggle room for the two parties to monkey with the terms and prolong the war.


    The War of 1812 is over and everything goes back to the way it was before the war, give or take a few islands.

  • Questions

    1. Why did the writers of the Treaty of Ghent choose to restore pre-war conditions to the United States and Britain instead of making significant changes?
    2. Based on the Treaty of Ghent, who does it appear won the war of 1812?
    3. What method for settling territorial issues did the Treaty of Ghent establish?
    4. What were the main territorial disagreements that the Treaty of Ghent addressed?
    5. How did the War of 1812 change the relationship between America and Britain?
    6. How did the settlements of the Treaty of Ghent influence future American expansion west?
    7. Why is Canada just so darn cute?

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