By curious irony, the victory had no bearing upon the formal results of the war. A treaty of peace had been signed at Ghent two weeks before, and the news of the pacification and of the exploit at New Orleans reached the distracted President at almost the same time. But who shall say that the battle was not one of the most momentous in American history? It compensated for a score of humiliations suffered by the country in the preceding years. It revived the people’s drooping pride and put new energy into the nation’s dealings with its rivals, contributing more than any other single event to make this war indeed a “second war of independence.” “Now,” declared Henry Clay when the news reached him in Paris, “I can go to England without mortification.” Finally, the battle brought Andrew Jackson into his own as the idol and incarnation of the West, and set the western democracy decisively forward as a force to be reckoned with in national affairs.
THE “CONQUEST” OF FLORIDA
The victory at New Orleans made Jackson not only the most popular man in the United States but a figure of international interest. “Napoleon, returning from Elba to eke out the Hundred Days and add the name Waterloo to history, paused now and then a moment to study Jackson at New Orleans. The Duke of Wellington, chosen by assembled Europe to meet the crisis, could find time even at Brussels to call for ’all available information on the abortive expedition against Louisiana.’"
While his countrymen were sounding his praises, the General, however, fell into a controversy with the authorities and people of New Orleans which lent a drab aspect to the closing scene of an otherwise brilliant drama. One of his first acts upon arriving in the defenseless city had been to declare martial law; and under the decree the daily life of the inhabitants had been rigorously circumscribed, citizens had been pressed into military service, men under suspicion had been locked up, and large quantities of cotton and other supplies had been seized for the soldiers’ use. When Pakenham’s army was defeated, people expected an immediate return to normal conditions. Jackson, however, proposed to take no chances. Neither the sailing of the British fleet nor the receipt of the news of peace from Admiral Cochrane influenced him to relax his vigilance, and only after official instructions came from Washington in the middle of March was the ban lifted.
Meanwhile a violent quarrel had broken out between the commander and the civil authorities, who naturally wished to resume their accustomed functions. Finding that the Creoles were systematically evading service by registering as French citizens, Jackson abruptly ordered all such people from the city; and he was responsible for numerous other arbitrary acts. Protests were lodged, and some people threatened judicial proceedings. But they might have saved their breath. Jackson was not the man to argue matters of the kind. A leading Creole who published an especially pointed protest was clapped into prison, and when the Federal district judge, Hall, issued a writ of habeas corpus in his behalf, Jackson had him also shut up.