Our daily lives are governed by the measurement of time both in the long and short term. The simple act of looking at a clock in Vancouver BC at 2:24PM can evolve into a story telling experience that lasts for an entire day.
Museums and Archives tell stories in a variety of ways. One method is to bring together several items that help tell a grand overarching story. Authors and film-makers do the same, drawing on a variety of sources. Another method of storytelling is to take one item and let it be the central theme of the story. Other items may be brought in to explain its context. In a family setting, it could be a postcard, a picture, a medal, some furniture or jewelry. From there the stories begin. “Let me tell you about the time when…..”
Let me tell you about one such story.
It starts with an invitation…
His letter of regret reads as follows:
Reply to Port Angeles invitation,
For 4th July 1899.
Sir Henry P. Pellew Crease K.B. of Victoria
Acknowledges with grateful thanks the courtesy and cordial invitation of the Mayor, City Council & Celebration Committee of Port Angeles, to be present at the Celebration of the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence on July the Fourth at that City. and regrets much that unavoidable engagements prevent him from being present on that occasion.
The more so as being the son of the Late Captain Henry Crease, Royal Navy, of Her Majesty’s Ship Menelaus, who had the happy duty of being the Herald of white-winged Peace, in carrying up to Washington, not without danger to himself, The definitive Treaty of Peace, which set the Imperial Seal to the Independence of the whole of the United States, (now with 70 millions of people) whose extended Empire, and success in war has just astonished the world.
He may also perhaps be permitted to add his sense of the benefit conferred on the whole British Empire, notwithstanding the great loss of provinces sustained on the occasion – by the impetus which the independence of the States gave to the development of free institutions throughout British North America; and indeed generally throughout all Britain’s extended Colonies when they have become in a condition to carry out so valuable an inheritance.
He also accepts the Courtesy which he now so heartily acknowledges, as another instance of the good and kindly feeling, which, better than any formal alliances unites the two great English-speaking nations by a friendly tie which will enable them to exert a combined power and influence throughout the globe, which cannot be disregarded by any nation however great in any great question whether of War, or Peace.
Pentrelew, Victoria, B.C. 3 July 1899.
The first paragraph is something one would find in any letter of regret.
The third and fourth paragraph speaks of the “special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States” Winston Churchill will highlight nearly 47 years later.
The family history happens in the between time.
Before mentioning America’s success in a more recent war (which resulted in the perpetual lease of Guantánamo Bay), Sir Henry tells the story about his father carrying a peace treaty to Washington D.C. A treaty “which set the Imperial Seal to the Independence of the whole United States.”
Although the storyteller is no longer with us, we have the advantage of on-line sources to attempt to fill in the blanks to this amazing statement.
Two peace treaties were signed between England and the USA; the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolution, signed in 1784, and the treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, which was signed on Christmas Eve 1814.
The HMS Menelaus was built in 1810 and Henry Crease appointed himself captain of the ship on 01 Sep 1814 (BC Archives MS-0055 Box 18 File 9). This happened as a result of the death of Peter Parker, (no not that one) during the Battle of Caulk’s Field.
This story therefore must revolve around the treaty ending the War of 1812 (even though it was the other treaty that “set the Imperial Seal to the Independence of the whole United States”. One must allow the story teller the opportunity to embellish the story a bit).
Sir Henry claims that his father delivered the treaty to Washington DC where it was ratified on the 16 Feb 1815. Just five days earlier on 11 Feb 1815 the actual document arrived in New York via the HMS Favorite captained by J.U. Mowatt. From there news travelled quickly.
The actual treaty had to travel to the US seat of power by a more sedate pace and by more secure means. It is also quite possible that the treaty documents changed hands before they were delivered to Washington.
The HMS Menelaus was based in Chesapeake Bay close to both New York and Washington. As such Captain Crease would have been familiar with the coastline and would have been a good choice of “being the Herald of white-winged Peace, in carrying up to Washington, not without danger to himself, The definitive Treaty of Peace…”
And so, a rejection letter written 84 years after the fact answers an “in-between time” question.
Who brought the Treaty of Ghent to Washington from New York between the 11th and 16th of February 1815?
The answer according to Sir Henry Crease is, “My father did.”