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Destroying the Caroline

The Frontier Raid That Reshaped the Right to War




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AUD $45.00 gst included

SKU: 9781552214787 Categories: , ,

Winner, 2019 Certificate of Merit for a preeminent contribution to creative scholarship, The American Society of International Law

In the middle of night on 29 December 1837, Canadian militia commanded by a Royal Navy officer crossed the Niagara River to the United States and sank the Caroline, a steamboat being used by insurgents tied to the 1837 rebellion in Upper Canada. That incident, and the diplomatic understanding that settled it, have become shorthand in international law for the “inherent right to self-defence” exercised by states in far-off places and in different sorts of war. The Caroline is remembered today when drones kill terrorists and state leaders contemplate responses to threatening adversaries through military action.

But it is remembered by chance and not design, and often imperfectly.

This book tells the story of the Caroline affair and the colourful characters who populated it. Along the way, it highlights how the Caroline and claims of self-defence have been used — and misused — in response to modern challenges in international relations. It is the history of how a forgotten conflict on an unruly frontier has redefined the right to war.


1. Introduction

Part I: The Destruction of the Caroline
2. The Insurgency
3. The Invasion
4. The Canadian Militia
5. The Caroline
6. The Raid
7. Aftermath

Part II: Debating the Caroline
8. Grievance
9. Claim
10. Impasse
11. Revival
12. Renewal
13. Debate
14. Resolution

Part III: The Merits of the Caroline
15. The Law of the Day
16. The Idea of War
17. Imperfect Wars
18. Self-Preservation at Copenhagen
19. Neutrality and Its Limits
20. Self-Defence and the First Seminole War, 1817–1818
21. The Merits of the Case

Part IV: The Idea of the Caroline
22. Freedom to War
23. Banning War
24. Collapse
25. Banning Force
26. Remembering the Caroline

Part V: A Very Modern Steamboat
27. Trigger
28. Imminence
29. Necessity and Proportionality
30. Unwilling or Unable
31. The Caroline’s Legacy

Epilogue The Protagonists’ Fate
Appendix: Chain of Citations and Misunderstandings about the Caroline’s Core Facts
List of Illustrations