After CNN reported Wednesday that in a May 25 phone call with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump made a head-scratching — and incorrect — reference to the War of 1812, Twitter users were happy to give him a history lesson, and to have some laughs at Trump’s expense.
So what did Trump say to Trudeau that set off the latest Twitter feeding frenzy, and caused “War of 1812” to immediately jump to the top of the Twitter trending charts? According to the CNN report, after Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum, Trudeau pressed Trump in the call over Trump’s claim that the tariffs were a “national security” issue.
“Didn’t you guys burn down the White House?” Trump responded, according to the report.
But Canada did not exist as an independent country until 1867. The White House was burned in the War of 1812 — the attack on Washington took place in August of 1814 — by the invading British Army, including a unit called the Colonial Marines which was made up of freed African-American slaves emancipated by the British in their march through the south, according to a PBS historical account.
In fact, as the History Channel website recounts, in the early stages of the war, the United States invaded the northern territory that would later become Canada, in an attempt to wrest it away from the British.
Twitter users, including some prominent names, were quick to post memes and sarcastic remarks about Trump’s historical gaffe.
Though Trump apparently is confused about who fought whom in the War of 1812, it may not be surprising that the war was on his mind. Trump has made a major issue of the national anthem, even holding a brief celebration of the anthem at the White House Tuesday after canceling a visit by the NFL Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, as Fox News reported.
Francis Scott Key wrote his poem, The Star Spangled Banner, after witnessing the Battle of Fort McHenry which took place shortly after the British sacked Washington, D.C., and set fire to the White House, as the Inquisitr wrote in an article about the national anthem last year. Key’s poem was adopted to serve as the lyrics to the U.S. national anthem.
But Twitter was eager to educate Trump as to what actually took place during the War of 1812.
The history lesson quickly gave way to more snark, however.
On the other hand, not all pundits, on Twitter or off, were convinced that Trump had actually made a historical error. According to reporter Jeet Heer, writing on the New Republic site, Canada — then known as British North America — was still part of the British Empire at the time of the war.
“Pedants immediately jumped in to accuse Trump of an error. After all, wasn’t the torching of the White House conducted by British troops, under the command of Admiral George Cockburn?” Heer wrote. “These nitpickers are being too persnickety. When the United States fought a war with Britain from 1812-1815, it was, by definition, also fighting with Canada.”
And even some on Twitter made the same point.
And one Canadian television news journalist reported that Trump’s “burn down the White House” remark was no big deal anyway.
One Twitter user asked perhaps the most relevant question of all: regardless of the historical facts, why did Trump bring up the War of 1812 at all, given that the year is now 2018?
Another Twitter user was quick to offer a correction. The time between the start of the War of 1812 and today is actually 206 years.