The Language of Love in the War of 1812

Are all words fair in love and war propaganda? In the latest volume of Common-place, Nicole Eustace, author of 1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism, considers how and why the language of love and romance become the language of war. She argues that the "language of courtly seduction" gave deeper meaning to Captain Oliver Perry's naval actions by tying them to popular themes in the American public imagination.

Recounting Perry's move from the Lawrence to the Niagara, Tait gushed, "even after victory had perched on the standard of the enemy, awarding her favor to superior force, Captain Perry, by the gallantry of his continued perseverance, enticed her back into his arms." Victory, in the form of the winged goddess Nike, had perched for a time on the British flag mast. But the "gallant" Perry had successfully wooed the lovely lady and won "her" feminine favor. Politicians portrayed Perry's action as the successful suit of a godly lover, one who lured victory away from his rival and into his own embrace.

Eustace's essay, "War Stories and Love Stories," is available at www.common-place.org.

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