The Longest Undefended Border

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Standing on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, just west of Cornwall, Ontario, one is awestruck by the vistas of lush pastures and farms. Remarkably, one can traverse nearly 1,000 miles eastward and 3,000 miles westward from there and find similar peaceful scenes, on an international border with no sign of soldiers—the longest undefended border on the planet.


It was not always this way. At various points along the border, old fortresses and monuments to battles are seen—mute witness to a less peaceful era, when thousands died in order to defend their homes from invaders.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of a largely forgotten, but very bitter war between the United States and the British territory that would become Canada. Many historians describe it as a useless war, one fought over reasons not even mentioned in the treaty that ended it. Though its story has interested many, few realize that the outcome was guided by an unseen hand working to fulfill an ancient prophecy.

By 1812, Canada was populated by citizens of French descent, various native tribes, and more than 100,000 English-speaking “Loyalists” who had fled north from the 13 American colonies, after choosing not to support a rebellion against the British government.

Britain in 1812 was embroiled in a series of global conflicts known as the Napoleonic Wars (1799–1815). Britain, along with allies Prussia and Portugal, was hard-pressed. Its major line of defence was a 978-ship Royal Navy, with which it enforced a near-total economic blockade of France. The British Cabinet in 1806 issued an Order in Council establishing a full blockade of European ports. As former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill described it, “The British blockade wrapped the French Empire and Napoleon’s Europe in a clammy shroud. No trade, no coffee, no sugar, no contact with the East, or with the Americans!” (A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Vol. 3, p. 314).

Napoleon retaliated with the “Berlin Decrees”—shutting out all British products from Europe, causing losses for many British and American merchants. Americans challenged the British decision as a violation of freedom of the seas, and continued to conduct commerce with French-controlled Europe. In response, the British seized American ships on the high seas, identified men who had left the Royal Navy to serve on U.S. ships (where conditions were considered better), and pressed them back into service in the Royal Navy. It was this action that provided some in the U.S. Congress with the motivation for war.

Britain wanted to avoid an additional war. Under pressure from its merchants, Britain’s Cabinet repealed the offending Orders of Council two days before the U.S. Congress declared war on June 18, 1812. Yet, even after U.S. lawmakers learned of the repeal, no order to stop the war was given.

The Invasion of Canada

Canadian historian Pierre Berton shares a common perspective that the U.S. Congress’s real motivation was to acquire Canada and First Nation (“American Indian”) lands to the west (The Invasion of Canada, p. 27). Doing so would enable a westward expansion of settlement. Indian tribes were uniting under the dynamic leadership of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh. The native population of the region was fighting to retain its ancestral land. Tecumseh allied his confederacy with the British once the war began, and became a decisive factor in the war’s outcome, only to be betrayed in the treaty negotiations.

Although invading U.S. forces greatly outnumbered the Canadian opponents, in some cases by 10 to 1 (e.g. the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm in 1813), it was usually the Canadians who were victorious. American forces found British regulars, English and French-Canadian militias and Indian allies standing solidly together. Every American intrusion into Canada ended in failure, despite the numbers. Yet when experienced British troops—men who had taken part in the destruction of Napoleon’s “Grande Armée”—crossed into the U.S. for battle, their efforts, too, ended in failure, even against inexperienced American forces.

On the lakes and sea, Britain’s Royal Navy—widely seen as invincible at the time—struggled to overcome opposition by a smaller American naval fleet. In 1813 alone, American ships inflicted more damage on the Royal Navy than the French and Spanish had managed in two decades (Churchill, p. 361). Each side seemed able to mount a successful defence, but unable to invade the other—regardless of the odds.

As war raged on, negotiators from Britain and the U.S. had been meeting for months in the Belgian town of Ghent. Finally, in December 1814, they signed a treaty. Ironically, the Treaty of Ghent fails to address any of the supposed initial reasons for the war. It gave the U.S. none of its original stated objectives. However it returned to the U.S. all territory to the west that had been captured by Britain. It established a British-American commission to decide border issues, leading to a peaceful determination of an undefended U.S.-Canada border in 1818. In addition, a reciprocal commercial treaty allowed the U.S. to hold “most favoured nation” status in worldwide trade with the British Empire, implying protection of the Royal Navy.

The Treaty of Ghent also set the stage for further developments, such as the Monroe Doctrine, which historians agree took for granted the support of the Royal Navy in enforcing American claims to Western Hemisphere land.

Churchill ends his comments on the War of 1812 as follows: “The results of the peace were solid and enduring. The war was a turning point in the history of Canada. Canadians took pride in the part they had played in defending their country, and their growing national sentiment was strengthened…henceforward the world was to see a three-thousand-mile international frontier between Canada and the United States undefended by men or guns. On the oceans the British Navy ruled supreme for a century to come, and behind this shield the United States were free to fulfill their continental destiny”(ibid., p. 367).

Guided by God

From Scripture, we find that two nations, millennia ago, were destined to rise to prominence on the world stage, fulfilling promises made to biblical patriarchs. “And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.… Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you, and kings shall come from your body’” (Genesis 35:10–11). The modern descendants of Jacob’s grandsons Ephraim and Manasseh—the British-descended nations and the United States—were to reap blessings prophesied in Scripture. God reveals in Genesis 49:22–26 a series of prophetic statements about the wealth, power and territory that were to be delivered into the hands of the descendants of Joseph, their boundaries set by God and no power on earth able to undo what God determined (Deuteronomy 32:8–9).

To learn more about these prophecies and their importance to the English-speaking peoples of our day, please request our free booklet The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. Understanding these ancient prophecies will help you understand the fulfillment of prophecy in these end-times.

June 2012 marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812—the last war between Canada and the United States. Historian Berton astutely observes: “Thus the war that was supposed to attach the British North American colonies to the United States accomplished exactly the opposite. It ensured Canada would never become a part of the Union to the south…The Canadian ‘way’… has its roots in the invasion of 1812–1814, the last American invasion of Canada”(ibid., p. 27).

Truly, the Almighty had determined the outcome of the War of 1812.

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