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War of 1812 - The Second American Revolution?

Causes of the War of 1812

War of 1812 - The Second American Revolution?

The War of 1812 was fought between the Americans and the British as a direct reaction to the unfair treatment that Americans were receiving. After the American Revolution , it was assumed that they would be free from any British influence in their home. However, that wasn’t the case. The British remained in the states, supporting the Indians, and residing near the Great Lakes. The Napoleonic wars were also a catalyst in the War of 1812.  The fighting between France and England left the United States with the short end of the stick when it came to neutral shipping rights. (1)

The American Revolution was not by any means in the favor of the colonies.  But, by some unknown assist they were able to achieve the victory and gain freedom from their mother country Britain.  The fight was difficult; militia men should by rights not have been able to defeat a trained group of British soldiers. But, they did. The victory of the American Revolution now belonged to the Americans; what would become the United States of America. Being granted their freedom as a new nation, it was expected that British influence would be limited to what was left over from their previous rank.   However, their influence was not diminished. In fact, the British were determined to leave their mark.c_war1812.jpg


The Native Americans had been fighting for their land since the 1700’s. In 1810, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh met with Governor William Henry Harrison to resolve the problem of Americans “buying” land from them without their consent.  However, instead of resolving the issue, the meeting turned into a battle that ended in a stalemate. Go to fullsize imageFrom then, the violence and Indian persistence grew leaving many Americans believing that the British were supplying them with weaponry and encouragement. Western farmers were especially unsettled by this, and made many calls for Congress to declare war on Britain.    (Cayton, 96)



The Napoleonic Wars were also a means of wartime thoughts.  They began in 1803 between France and England. During the war, the British navy had gained a reputation as being the “Mistress of the Seas.” Their naval power was said to be stronger than any other, and therefore they controlled the seas. Napoleon Bonaparte took it upon himself to cripple Britain’s reputation. He ordered European nations such as Russia and Prussia to stop trading with the British. When the British found out about this, they were upset, with reason. So they reacted by attempting a blockade of Europe. (2) This British blockade angered many Southerners because a considerable amount of trade was lost.

The Orders in Council” created what may have been the biggest spark that leads to the War of 1812. It was a proclamation without Parliaments permission that stated American ships were to be stopped and searched to make sure that there was no British working on them. It was common for British to escape to American vessels to work seeing as though the pay was higher, and the conditions were better. These impressments of sailors soon became a major reason for hostility. In 1807, a U.S frigate under the direction of James Barren left for the Mediterranean. It was a passenger ship, named the Chesapeake. Before the ship had even traveled far from US waters, a British ship called the Leopard stopped the Chesapeake and demanded the right to search it for British sailors. Barren refused to let them aboard, so the Leopard fired on them. (3) 18 Americans were killed, and the outrage in the States went crazy. Citizens were infuriated. The British had harmed an innocent passenger ship, and killed innocent passengers likewise.


If it were up to a majority opinion, the country would have engaged in a war with Britain at that moment. However, Thomas Jefferson decided to take a different approach. He enacted the Embargo Act of 1807. It stated that there would be no supplies leaving or coming into any American ports. He had hoped that this act would weaken the British economy. Instead, it scraped them and really hurt New England shipping. Not only did his plan backfire, it was remarkably ineffective. Many people disobeyed the act, and would wait until out of view to trade in the middle of the ocean. (4) In 1809, this act was repealed by Congress.

James Madison became president in 1809. With a new president came new congressmen who were determined to take a more derisive stand toward Britain. These same men believed strongly that the area of Canada should also be under the United States, that when the Unites States won independence that Canada was also part of the deal. Men such as Calhoun and Clay made up this group, and they were fondly known as the War Hawks. Upon American expansion, many fights were fought with the Native Americans. The idea that the British were supplying these men with weaponry enraged the War Hawks and convinced them to go to war.




Somewhere between innocent Americans getting killed, British backing of Indians on American land, or their failure to leave American territory once independence had been won, the British and Americans engaged themselves in yet another war. The war lasted only two wars, and is not all that prevalent in American history. However, it was a dramatic and important war in Canadian history. As the war progressed, the opposition in the states grew so much that some merchants even continued their trade with the British. The War Hawks were alone in their own support, not receiving much from their country, only to end the war in a stalemate.