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The last time the US Capitol was stormed: historian Professor Tim Lockley comments

Scenes of protestors storming the US Capitol building yesterday have dominated news reports around the world. It is not the first time that the building has been stormed according to Professor Tim Lockley from the Department of History, who has commented on the last occasion in 1814.

Professor Tim Lockley said: “In 1814 a disciplined British army methodically removed the contents of the Capitol and burned them and then burned the inside as well, leaving only the exterior walls. The local militia sort of melted away, clearly wary of Wellington’s veterans of the Peninsular War. DC was a small town, and the public buildings were only recently completed.  

“It’s been repeatedly claimed today that when the British burned Washington in 1814 they were attempting to overthrow the United States. That is simply not true. The attack was in response to the US burning of York (now Toronto) the year before, and only targeted public buildings (the Capital, the White House and the US Treasury). Once the message had been delivered the British left, indeed the residents of Washington were impressed with how restrained and disciplined the British troops were.”

7 January 2020

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Peter Thorley
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Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk

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