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The War of 1812: Causes and Consequences


19th century witnessed United States, a small, developing country being transformed into
an independent and a major world power. One of the principal events which were a catalyst to
this development and expansion of the United States was the Anglo-American War of 1812 in
addition to some other events like Louisiana Purchase and Mexican Cession. The war is
sometimes called Americas second war for independence by historians, for the reason that
Great Britain was still interfering with the American Affairs. There is no single, explicit and a
direct cause that served as an impetus to the war as there were many factors incorporated with
one another. They can be penned down to four main concerns which were maritime trade issues,
the Embargo Act, territorial expansion, and War Hawks.
One of the chief issues instigating the War of 1812 was the British disregard of American
shipping rights and its attempts to limit the American commerce with the Napoleonic Europe.
Britain was denying access to any ships from going to France because of a war between the two
countries, and as a consequence, ships had to first go through a British port in order to trade in
France. Britain deemed any ship that did not stop an enemy. On top of the trade dilemma was the
problem of British investigation and capture on the high seas. The British believed that they had
right to search any ship for deserters, anywhere in the ocean. Every so often the British generals
saw American citizen as deserters; a mistake which in most of the cases took years for
rectification (H. Brown, 1964).

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In order to pressurize the European economy, President Jefferson approved the Embargo
Act in 1807. It blocked almost every American vessel from sailing and closed trade with Europe;
however, instead of unsettling Britains economy, the act unfavorably affected every region of
the U.S., and its economy stalled. The Embargo lasted until 1810 as Congress passed Macons
Bill No. 2, which overturned everything the Embargo Act had imposed. This new embargo
persuaded England to repeal its blockade of Europe. Nonetheless, the repeal came too late to
prevent war. As stated by Congressman John Calhoun, "The question...is reduced to this single
point-which shall we do, abandon or defend our own commercial and maritime rights, and the
personal liberties of our citizens employed in exercising them? These rights are essentially
attacked, and more is the only means of redress....I know of one principle to make a nation
great...and that is to protect every citizen in the lawful pursuit of his business....Protection and
patriotism are reciprocal...if [the British] persist in such daring insult and injury to [the United
States], it will be bound in honor and interest to resist." (Brown, 1964). All this was not enough
for the Americans as yet, because the British had not opened free trade. The British Officers
comprehended the weakening relations between the United States and Britain as they began to
ally themselves with the Indians residing in Northwest region; a move which was not welcomed
by the Americans. It was easy for the British to make friendships because of the pressure being
put on Indians by Americans for the westward expansion of the United States. The British also
provided the Indians with European warfare equipment so that the Indians could defend their
cause against the Americans. There were several Indian raids on the settlers which caused the
resentment of the Americans. As the events shaped up, the Americans felt that, they are left with
no choice but to war against the Britain. Hence, the Congress declared war on Britain on June 1,
1812.

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The decision of war however, was not only caused by the British impressments. Another
primary cause of the war as (Brown, 1964) observed, was the War Hawks. This nickname was
given to Republicans who wanted to go to war with Britain. Many of them had just been elected
into office and wanted to revolutionize the direction of the country. Some historians articulate the
War Hawks must be held responsible for the war because they wanted to fight even though the
U.S.s military was inadequate at the time. These historians believe that the War Hawks wanted
war because they needed it to improve Americas self-respect that they and fellow Republicans
had destroyed.
The idea of being at war against the British is considered premature arguably. However,
at the same time it can also be sensed that the Americans were left with no alternative than war,
because Britain seemed to be obstinate in repealing the impressing acts, which directly affected
the Americans. The acts of the British did not only halted American economic progress but also
undervalued Americas independence.
American expansion into the Northwest Territory (the modern states of Ohio, Indiana,
Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin) was being blocked by native leaders like Tecumseh, who were
supplied and supported by the British. Americans on the western boundary demanded to stop the
intervention. Before 1940, some historians held that United States expansionism into Canada was
also a reason for the war; however, one subsequent historian wrote during the war, Americans
called for an invasion of Canada mainly because of the support the British were giving the
Indians of the Northwest. Even with the general support for war, most residents continued to
demonstrate more interest in claiming the land, local Indian problems, internal progress, and
issues over statehood than keenness for the War of 1812. Their strong nationalism, their
conventional loyalty to the Republican Party, and their positive belief in the future of the United

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States united to make these citizens followers of a nationalized policy which in no way
contradicted with their own local interests (Haynes).
The war of 1812 had a few minute consequences on the United States at the time, but
these happenings would direct to larger results in the long term. America achieved international
respect past the war for resisting Great Britain for the second time. The war also helped the US to
strengthen its military and how to better train its servicemen. This feature would help the U.S.
produce one of the greatest militaries in the world. The War of 1812 also consolidated Americas
economy. The British blockade of Americas coast enforced the U.S. to produce goods it in
general imported, so after the war reliance on foreign countries was significantly reduced.
In 1846, the term Manifest Destiny started to be used in the United States. It declared
that it was Americas future to span from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. It would have been
unattainable if the War of 1812 had not happened. The U.S.s forces may never had taken off as it
did after the war, and it would not have developed into such an organized institution. Americans
would not have acknowledged the immense feeling of nationalism as they did after the war, and
the people may never have had the ambition to span the distance between the oceans. The War of
1812 provided the U.S. military power, a strengthened economy with less foreign reliance, and
the self-confidence to expand its borders to ultimately span the continent by the year 1900.

Works Cited

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V. Haynes, Robert. "The Southwest and the War of 1812." Louisiana History: The Journal of the
Louisiana Historical Association 5.1 (1964): 41-51. Web. 16 Oct 2010.
Brown, Roger H. "The War Hawks of 1812: An Historical Myth." Indiana Magazine of History
60.2 (1964): 137-151. Web. 16 Oct 2010.