The War of 1812 was the start of a new era in British-American politics. Since the end of the Revolutionary War, Great Britain hadn’t interacted much with the United States, and therefore hadn’t fully acknowledged them as a separate country. The United States conducted most of their trade with the French, since they had been allies during the Revolution, and mutually hated the English. Meanwhile, American expansion had begun to reach farther towards the Northwest Territory, further threatening the British presence in North America. In response, Prince Regent George IV attempted to step in by blocking American maritime trade with France. The Royal Navy also increased their impressment of men into the military or into paying extra taxes, including men who had identification of US citizenship. Tensions increased rapidly, and by 1812 the countries engaged in formal warfare, with a strong emphasis on naval conflict.
Hope was the seventh of ten captains to command the HMS Endymion, the British Royal Navy’s fastest and most successful sailing warship at the time. Hope’s job was to provide maritime support to the British in New England. Although the American forces were significantly smaller than their opponents, they fought with a frightening intensity that made it very hard for the British to get a solid victory. Finally, in January 1815, Hope and Endymion fought the USS President in Britain’s most successful battle of the war. Endymion chased President down in open waters before defeating her in battle. After almost three years of unexpected defeats, this victory was monumental to the British. Shortly after, the countries settled on peace treaties and left the war as a draw. Hope received a silver platter as an award, but he then chose to honor the officers that served him with silver crooks, probably made from his own platter. Raeburn’s painting of Captain Hope is therefore the only surviving commemoration of British success during the war. It represents the peak of the British Royal Navy’s sailing warships, and the birth of the relationship between the United States and Great Britain as they began to see each other as separate nations, and not colonies.
Portrait of Captain Hope Activity Guide