The Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812

The 1802 Peace

Canadian Timber Now Vital to Britain

The first lumber raft down the Ottawa river, 1806

Caption: The first lumber raft down the Ottawa river, 1806

In the eighteenth century, Great Britain obtained nearly all the wood it required for its navy and its merchant marine from states on the Baltic Sea. This situation changed radically in 1806, when Napoleon decreed a continental blockade in response to the Royal Navy's blockade of French ports. France thus prevented other European countries from trading with England, by threatening to send in the imperial army - Napoleon having proclaimed himself Emperor on May 18, 1804 - to invade any recalcitrant states.

England therefore turned towards Canada for its wood supplies. During the Napoleonic wars exports of Canadian oak and pine to Great Britain became so great that it may be said they supported the Royal Navy throughout its lengthy conflict with the French Empire. In 1811, for example, England imported 3,300 masts from Russia and Prussia and 23,000 from British North America -19,000 from Lower Canada alone! These figures are indicative of Canada's importance to Great Britain at this critical period in its history. To keep the flow of traffic moving, however, the Royal Navy had to protect the sea routes to England, and new threats appeared on the horizon.