The War of 1812 was a result of the conflicts overseas between France and Britain. Both France and Britain were trying to blockade each other from supplies and thus seized many American ships. Although Americans were outraged with the idea of the powers in Europe seizing ships they were furthered angered with England for impressing American sailors and forcing them to serve in the English navy. Also when Britain attacked an American ship in 1807 it resulted in the U.S. government set up the Embargo Act of 1807. The act forbids any ships from leaving American ports until France and Britain repealed their restrictions on American trade.
Unfortunately for Jefferson and his staff they could not foresee the impact, it would have on the country’s economy. Madison, who elected after Jefferson, realized that the Embargo Act was destroying the economy and replaced it with the Non-intercourse Act that made it so the U.S. could trade with all countries but France and England. There was still opposition to the Act and Madison finally allowed for all regular trade to resume with the exception that the U.S. would cut off all trade with any country that interfered with American commerce.
England did not change her ways and France still seized ships but not sailors. England was also suspected of insinuating an Indian revolt and with these acquisitions and the impressments of the American sailors, it was not hard for Madison to get Congress to declare war.
The causes of the War of 1812 are debatable because like most American wars there are underlying issues that the common people do not realize. While most Americans supported the war’s cause, which was to put Britain into her place so to speak, they had no idea of the grave danger the war put the young country into. The United States at this time had a very weak army. They also lacked supplies and arsenals to support any attacks on Britain in Canada. Banks refused to loan money to the government, which made it hard to buy supplies and weapons.
Also, the country was divided as to who supported the war. Northeastern Federalists regarded war with Britain as a grave mistake. The United States, they feared, could not hope to successfully challenge British domination on the seas and the government could not finance a war without bankrupting the country.
Southerners and westerners (Republicans), in contrast, were eager to avenge British insults against American honour. Many westerners and southerners had their eye on expansion, viewing war as an opportunity to add Canada and Spanish-held Florida to the United States.
Although often treated as a small part of the bloody European war between France and Britain, the War of 1812 was crucial for the United States due to its weak state. The war effectively destroyed the Indians’ ability to resist American expansion east of the Mississippi River. Because their British allies abandoned them, the Indians reluctantly gave up most of their lands north of the Ohio River and in southern and western Alabama to the U.S. government.
Also, the war allowed the United States to rewrite its boundaries with Spain and solidify control over the lower Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Although the United States did not defeat the British Empire, it had fought the world’s strongest power to a draw. Spain recognized the significance of this fact, and in 1819 Spanish leaders abandoned Florida and agreed to an American boundary running clear to the Pacific Ocean.
Finally, the Federalist Party never recovered from its opposition to the war. Many Federalists believed that the War of 1812 was fought to help Napoleon in his struggle against Britain, and they opposed the war by refusing to pay taxes, boycotting war loans, and refusing to furnish troops.
In December 1814, delegates from New England gathered in Hartford, Connecticut, where they recommended a series of constitutional amendments to restrict the power of Congress to wage war, regulate commerce, and admit new states.
The delegates also supported a one-term president and abolition of the three-fifths clause in the Constitution and talked of seceding if they did not get their way. The proposals of the Hartford Convention became public knowledge at the same time as the terms of the Treaty of Ghent and the American victory in the Battle of New Orleans. Excitement over the war’s end led many people to brand the Federalists as traitors. The party never recovered from this shame and disappeared from national politics.
The War of 1812 foreshadows some of the conflicts we will see later in American history. The south at this time is looking to expand west mainly because cotton drains land of its nutrients very rapidly and new lands are constantly needed. The North sees this as a way for the south to gain more power in the government due to the three-fifths clause. Although slavery itself is never affronted it only adds fuel to the fire.
I believe that the war itself was unnecessary. I feel that Madison being a weak president saw the war as a way for him to gain support from the country. I think that because the country was in such a weak state militarily and politically that it might have not been in the government’s best interest to enter the war. The United States was lucky to come to a draw with England but I feel that because England was worn out by the war with France she did not feel like dealing with our petty complaints.
Had the United States been up against a stronger England I do not feel the war would have turned out so well. I think Madison used the war to his benefit because although there was really no winner after the war ended; Madison had not shown hesitation in calling it an American victory.
I think the war of 1812 also began the split between north and south that many see during the Civil War. We can see the differences between north and south emerging. The problems, of course, go farther back and are deep but truly the War of 1812 is the spark the lit the match that eventually starts the fire.
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