Among the many attractive features of the new iPhone 6 is its speed. Some have touted it as “insanely faster” than the iPhone 5.
Two hundred years ago today, on Oct. 7, 1814, John Quincy Adams could have used an iPhone or any phone for that matter, even one with a cord.
Adams was serving as one of five members of the U.S. team negotiating a peace treaty to end the War of 1812 between America and Britain. The negotiations with three British delegates had been taking place in Ghent, Belgium.
The bad news literally arrived in his bedchamber. A messenger–his brother-in-law George Boyd –burst into John Quincy’s Belgium hotel room early in the morning on October 7, 1814. Married to a younger sister of Louisa (John Quincy’s wife), Boyd was fresh off the boat, having traveled as a government agent across the Atlantic Ocean to deliver the urgent—but now six-weeks-old—news to the U.S. commissioners.
The British army and Marine Corps had burned the White House and U.S. Capitol on August 24, 1814.
“The newspapers contain a great variety of details respecting the fall of Washington and the destruction of buildings and of property, public and private, effected by the enemy,” Adams gravely wrote to Louisa.
The destruction of the White House and U.S. Capitol seemed to give the British negotiators the upper hand in the negotiations. What would happen next? Would the British sever the United States into two, with New England returning to British rule?
What Adams didn’t yet know on Oct. 7 is that a victory had already taken place that would return the advantage to the Americans in the negotiations. The people of Baltimore–more than 15,000–had already driven out the British military, who fled the East Coast after the Battle of Fort McHenry on Sept. 13-14.
Though communication was slow, once Adams and the others learned about the victory in Baltimore, they were able to propose a plan for the boundaries of the United States and Canada to return to where they were before the war began. News of that proposal would also take six weeks to reach America, but when it did, it would signal that peace was at hand and the war was over.
No doubt that John Quincy Adams would have loved and valued the speed of the iPhone and any other phone. A lover of science and a penchant for quips, he would have tweeted about the treaty, saying it was the “happiest day of his life.”