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Causes of War

Two major issues:

2. US trade/shipping conflicts w/
the British and French
3. Conflicts w/ Native Americans
in the frontier, in which
Europeans appeared to
Americans to be involved.
American Neutrality & a World at
• Renewal of French-British war (Napoleonic
War- 1803) creates problems for the US
– US has become world’s largest neutral carrier
and main food supplier to Europe
• French naval defeat (Battle of Trafalgar)
causes them to wage economic war w/
– Napoleon creates the “Continental System.
• British and neutral ships that had called on British
ports forbidden from Europe.
– British answer w/ “orders in council” which
forbids neutral ships to go to European ports
unless they stop at British ports first.
– US caught in the middle.
Impressment Issue
• A British ship to sailors was known as a
“floating hell.”
– Floggings for discipline
– Terrible pay
– Terrible food and other conditions
• Absent volunteers, sailors force- impressed- to
• British impressed Americans when they were
short sailors.
– Difficult for Americans to prove they were not
– Even with “protection papers”, Americans were
often impressed. British simply didn’t care or
respect American rights.
• Impressment a major insult and
embarrassment to Americans.
Embargo Act (1807)
• US not prepared for war; so Jefferson
avoids war by an embargo on US exports
– All exports from US to any foreign port were
– Jefferson calls this ‘peaceable coercion.’
• Well intentioned, but unpopular because
hurts US economy more than belligerent
– Law war largely avoided, but still hurt the US
economy- led to an economic depression.
– Hardest hit were merchants of Northeast-
most of whom were Federalists.
Embargo Act (cont.)
• 1808 election is intense; Democratic-Republicans
(Madison) win
– But--Federalists gain seats in Congress by opposing
• Jefferson recognizes failure of Embargo, accepts
• Non-Intercourse Act (1809) reopens US trade
except w/ belligerents
• Macon’s Bill No. 2 replaces this act in 1810.
– Opens trade to Britain and France, but allows President
to cut off trade again if either again violates neutral
• France immediately seizes opportunity and allows
US shipping.
• Madison announces that embargo against England
will go into effect again if they don’t renounce their
– They do, but too late to prevent war.
Problems in the West
• Westward movement sparked conflicts
w/ Native Americans.
• Tecumseh and his brother
(Tenskwatawa, The Prophet) led largest
– Attempted to unite diverse tribes.
– Tecumseh’s ‘confederacy’ defeated at
Tippecanoe (he lived on and died during
the War of 1812).
• Most fighting was result of Native
initiative, but British did play some role
in encouraging and supplying natives.
– Americans picked up on this
encouragement and exploited it politically.
Vote for War
• War-Hawks elected to Congress (1810),
frustrated by failure of economic pressure
and by attacks of Natives in the west.
• Democratic-Republicans demand war to
assert US independence and neutral rights
• Also want expansion west and maybe
north into Canada; War-Hawks strong in
south and west; coast areas and Federalists
oppose war
• October, 1812- war declared
– British had withdrawn orders in council, but
news had not reached the US.
Presidential Election of 1812
British Gen. Brock Meets
“War Hawks”

John C. Calhoun [SC]

Henry Clay [KY]

Why War?
A Summary
• Madison and other Republicans felt the need
to assert themselves to protect their party
and its ideals.
– Europeans often asserted (as did some
Americans) that republican government was
weak, could not act aggressive, quickly and
decisively, and would fail.
– The War of 1812 seemed necessary to many
Republicans to prove this thinking false, and get
respect for the US.
• "Peaceful coercion" had failed to deal w/ the
British, and anything short of war seemed
• British seemed an obstacle to western
Political Cartoon of the Period
“Mr. Madison’s War?”
Vote for War
• War-Hawks elected to Congress (1810),
frustrated by failure of economic
• Democratic-Republicans demand war
to assert US independence and neutral
• Also want expansion west and maybe
north into Canada; War-Hawks strong
in south and west; coast areas and
Federalists oppose war
War of 1812
• War a series of scuffles and skirmishes
• Neither Army nor Navy are prepared for
war: lack equipment, officers, and
• Lack of state support, especially from
New England, hampers land operations
• Invasion of Canada (1812–13) is a
• By 1814, England blockades most of
War of 1812 (cont.)
• USA scores win in Great Lakes (1813),
and Harrison secures Old Northwest
• Tecumseh had allied w/ England
because of promise of Great Lakes, but
w/ his death at Thames (1813), Indian
unity collapses
• British launch offensive (1814); burn
US capital in retaliation for destruction
of York (1813) by US, but land
offensive soon stalls
War of 1812 (cont.)

• Final campaigns in South

• Jackson defeats Creeks at
Horseshoe Bend (1814), then
English at New Orleans (1815)
• Jackson initiates Indian removal in
Treaty of Fort Jackson w/ Creeks
• New Orleans makes Jackson a
national hero, even though peace
treaty is already signed
of the
3 U. S. Invasions of 1812
Campaigns of 1813
The Burning of Washington
• The British tried to attack Baltimore as they had
Washington, DC. They met resistance from US
troops before they could reach the city. British
ships could not get close enough to the city to
damage Ft. McHenry with cannon fire.
– Americans had sunk ships in harbor to prevent
British ships from getting close to the fort.
• Francis Scott Key- captive on a British ship in
the harbor. Observing the battle, he wrote the
Star Spangled Banner.
– The flag he saw while writing the poem (later
turned into a song to a popular British tune) still
hangs in the Museum of American History in
Washington, DC.
Battle of Fort McHenry,

Star Spangled Banner

Francis Scott Key
Attack on Ft. Oswego, 1814
Hartford Convention
December, 1814 – January, 1815
• New Englanders were generally
unhappy with "Mr. Madison's
– dependent upon trade with
England; disliked Republican
policies (Embargo and War).
• Saw New England shrinking in
political influence as the South
and West grew.
• The Hartford Convention: A regional
convention, largely Federalists, and
opposed to the war. They discussed
something like secession, and some
constitutional amendments that would
have weakened the influence of the
South and West- Republican
• The meeting destroyed feelings for the
Federalist party.
– It also provided somewhat of a justification
in later years for Southern secession.
Republican cartoonist criticizing the Hartford
Convention. It portrays timid men representing
Mass., Conn., and R.I. preparing to leap (or not?)
into the arms of King George III
Jackson’s Florida Campaigns
• Andrew Jackson was leading forces
in the South. He was partly
responsible for the defense of New
• New Orleans was crucial for control
of the Mississippi River. For this
reason, the British hoped to take
control of the city.
• The British attacked fortified
American positions with a frontal
assault. Attack failed.
• The Battle of New Orleans was
important for a couple of reasons:
(1) It firmly established Jackson as a
national figure
(2) it restored American confidence after
many lost battles during the war.
• Ironically, this battle was wasted. It
took place in January, 1815, but
peace had been agreed to in Dec.,
1814. The news did not reach those
who fought in New Orleans in time
to prevent the battle.
The Battle of New Orleans
January 8, 1815
• Treaty signed in Ghent, Belgium.
Treaty signed in Ghent, Belgium.
Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams
negotiated for America.
• The final treaty did very little but stop
the fighting.
– No territory changed hands.
– The issues of impressment and free trade
for neutral ships were not settled.
• Americans were happy that the war
was over, proud of the victory at New
Orleans, and that the nations showed
its ability and willingness to defend its
rights in war.
Peace & Consequences

• Victory strengthens US
independence and desire to avoid
European politics
• Victory a disaster for Native
Americans: lose potential ally
(British), an effective leader
(Tecumseh), and much land
Peace & Consequences (cont.)

• After war, US Government improves

roads and army for defense and
expansion west
• War stimulates economic growth
• War destroys Federalists; they opposed
war, and some talk of secession and
government change at Hartford
Convention (1814–15)
• Rising nationalism (inspired by New
Orleans win) paints Federalists as
Treaty of Ghent
December 24, 1814