What important lessons about negotiation and negotiation strategies can we learn from the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve in 1814 (one of the famous negotiations in history)?
War had been declared by the United States against Britain in 1812 for several reasons. These included restrictions on trade to France that had been imposed by the British and the impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy. The United States was also interested in taking some territory from the British that is modern-day Canada. They were also frustrated by British support for Native American tribes that was hindering their expansion to the west coast.
Initially in April 1814, after the end of the Napoleonic wars the British became more aggressive in their battle against the United States. They blocked trade to America and brought the American economy nearly to a complete holt. However, it soon became clear that there was growing opposition in Britain to continued wartime taxation. Also, merchants from Liverpool and Bristol wanted to reopen trade with America. Moreover, Napoleon had abdicated the throne in April 1814 and this meant two of Britain’s main objectives for fighting the United States, allotment of American soldiers into the wars being fought by Britain and preventing America from trading with France, were no longer required.
It was against this backdrop that negotiations for peace began at Ghent in the Netherlands in August 1814. The treaty ended the war between the two nations, released all prisoners and restored all captured lands and ships. Originally the Americans wanted to negotiate for the ending of assignment of American soldiers to the British led forces and also for Britain to turn over Canada to them. However, they decided not to raise these demands, perhaps in the interests of coming to a swift agreement with Britain so it would stop stifling their economy. The United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent on 24 December 1814.
It seems the Treaty was signed due to changes in circumstances of the British and also changes in circumstances of the Americans due to pressure imposed by Britain. This famous negotiation in history teaches us the importance of knowing and monitoring the background of our counterparty’s position throughout the negotiation process and learning how to leverage this to reach the best agreement.
ContractRoom seeks to assist counterparties in reaching happy agreements and enabling them to Negotiate Less and Agree More. Perhaps the two great nations of the United States and Britain would have reached ageement more quickly had they had access to modern negotiation software such as ContractRoom.
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