Spies played an important role during the War of 1812 by providing vital information to military and civilian authorities. One spy’s revelations helped to divide the Americans before and during the war.
John Henry was born and educated in
Dublin before moving to in the mid-1790s. Henry was described as a tall, handsome, charming gentleman who cultivated Federalist patrons by selling them wine and editing one of their newspapers. Henry was rewarded for his service with a captain’s commission in the army, but he abruptly resigned in 1800 and moved to Philadelphia , professing his renewed loyalty to the British crown. Montreal
|President James Madison|
Chesapeake crisis passed, Henry sought payment in but only received vague promises. Henry decided to go to the president and secretary of state to sell his papers, predicting that the damning letters would discredit the Federalists “and produce a popular war.” Madison and Monroe decided to spend the nation’s entire secret service budget for the year, $50,000, to buy Henry’s papers. London
Initially the Federalists were worried, but closer examination of Henry’s papers proved that he relied on gossip and his reports lacked hard evidence. Congress attempted to questions Henry, but
reported that he had left the country with the administrations blessing. The Republicans used the papers as proof that the British and the Federalists were up to no good. One Republican remarked, “Such is the conduct we have ever expected from Monroe England, while she retains possession of – such the cause that necessarily forces us into a state of war.” Canada
In the end, John Henry’s reports helped to polarize
politics and bitterly divided the nation, a fact that continued throughout the War of 1812. U.S.
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