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Brit: Trump shouldn't punish Canada for our 1812 glory

This Englishman living in New York has become wearily accustomed to Americans claiming credit for British inventions ...

Posted: Jun 7, 2018 6:14 AM
Updated: Jun 7, 2018 6:14 AM

This Englishman living in New York has become wearily accustomed to Americans claiming credit for British inventions and achievements.

All the mythmaking at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown can't change the fact that the sport is based on rounders, a game for children in the UK. Thomas Edison may have produced the first commercial lightbulb, but it was an Englishman -- Humphry Davy -- who came up with the arc lamp, and another Brit -- Warren De la Rue -- who turned it into a bulb.

Disastrous colonial adventures overseas? Rest assured, we've been doing it for a lot longer than you have.

Which is why I find Donald Trump's latest blunder all the more egregious.

During an apparently difficult call to discuss import tariffs with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, Trump reached into his historical locker as he searched for just the right metaphor to express his national security concerns about those notoriously restive neighbors to the north.

He reportedly asked: "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"

Doh. You don't need me to tell you that those "guys" were in fact British troops setting about the time-honored tradition of trashing anything we could not hold.

He may not have been claiming the action for America. But it still hurts. How could he get it so wrong?

If I were a forgiving man, one who assumed the American President knew his colonial history and the course of the War of 1812, I would give him the benefit of the doubt. Back then all Canadians were Brits, of course. Maybe that's what he was getting at.

But sadly I'm not generally given to this kind of charity and thus tend to the view that your commander-in-chief knows chuff all about the War of 1812. Not even the fact that it ran for almost three years. (I kid you not. Look it up on Wikipedia.)

As such, the blunder cuts the expat Brit to the quick. Can we not even be afforded our little bit of fun as we slip from relevance in the world? Do we not get our chance to remember that we were once capable of burning the seat of power of the mighty United States, if only quickly, fruitlessly and (if I remember "The Star-Spangled Banner" correctly) mostly at night?

For the burning down of the White House remains a favorite punchline among British diplomats, journalists and politicians in Washington.

It is only a few years since the British embassy was forced to issue an apology for posting a photograph of the White House in cake form surrounded by sparklers.

"Commemorating the 200th anniversary of burning the White House," read the cheeky caption. "Only sparklers this time!"

Too soon?

You see, our plucky island nation doesn't have much left. Our empire is gone and I keep reading in American newspapers that Britain is sliding into austere irrelevance.

So leave us this little bit of history. Please let us imagine that a good British ransacking is decidedly not the same as being ransacked by our polite cousins in the north.

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