In 1783, America won the American Revolution; this war gave them freedom from England. Twenty-nine years later, America still had many problems with Great Britain even after winning the revolution. Presidents Washington, Adams, and Jefferson tried very hard to avoid a war with Great Britain. When James Madison became President, he felt that Great Britain was being aggressive. America was not declaring war, but defending itself from a war declared by Great Britain.
The main forces that led America to officially declare war on Britain on June 18, 1812, were Britain’s kidnapping or impressments of American sailors, Britain’s efforts to restrict the United States’ sea trade or maritime rights, and unofficially, the American wish to get more land in the west and from Canada. When James Madison and The House of Representatives decided to vote for a war, almost all of America felt that they did not have a choice to disagree. Madison said in his declaration of war, “We behold, in fine, on the side of Great Britain a state of war against the United States. [Doc 4]
Great Britain was kidnapping American sailors and forcing them to work for the British navy. The British navy had many deserters, so they stopped American ships to search for those deserters and captured everyone on these ships to work for the British navy. “Great Britain, in defiance of this incontestable [clear and certain] right, captures every American vessel bound to, or returning from, a port where her commerce is not favored; enslaves our seamen, and in spite of our [complaints and protests], perseveres in these aggressions. ” [Doc 1].
The British made all of the seamen that were on the American ships work for the British navy, not just their sailors. They would also kill some of the American sailors on board. Britain did this because they did not like the fact that America was trading with France. They thought that America should only trade with them, and not France or anyone of their enemies. America disagreed with this treatment. The War of 1812 was called the second American Revolution. America felt that Great Britain was being too controlling, similar to how they were before the American Revolution.
They were still restricting America from doing things even though America won their independence. In the early 1800s, Great Britain tried to restrict America from trading with other places, especially France. America tried to avoid this conflict and created the Embargo Act of 1807. America wanted to remain neutral to avoid siding with Britain or France. Unfortunately, the Embargo Act caused America to lose a lot of money. So, in 1809, America issued the Non-Intercourse Act. This act said that America would not trade with France or Britain, but America could trade with other foreign countries.
Still, Britain continued to limit and restrict America’s ability to trade by the sea. The United States did not see an option other than war. “Which shall we do, abandon or defend our own commercial and maritime rights, and the personal liberties of our citizens employed in exercising them? ” [Doc 2]. America felt that fighting was the only way to get back their rights to trade goods and products overseas. “These rights are essentially attacked, and war is the only means of redress. ” [Doc 2].
Since America had tried the Embargo Act and the Non-Intercourse Act, Madison believed that they had done everything to find a peaceful way to share the rights to sea trading. Great Britain continued to attack America’s shipping rights and steal their ships. America felt that Britain no right to do so, so this was another reason to declare war. Most of the American people believed that defending the country’s honor was a major reason for declaring war; however, a bigger reason was to move into Canada and western territories and obtain more land.
War Hawks were a big reason for the war. War Hawks were people who wanted to go to war to expand the U. S. areas into Canada borders. America wanted to grow but found it hard to approach the Native Americans who were being supported by Britain. So the desire to move into Canada and gain agricultural land in the United States gave America another reason to want to go to war. According to Congressman John Randolph, “If we go to war, it will not be for the protection of… maritime rights. ” [Doc 3].
“Agrarian cupidity [greed for farmland], not maritime right, urges the war. [Doc 3]. Therefore, he believed that it was because America wanted more land for farming. Another reason may have been for retaliation, revenge, or protecting America’s honor. “Protection and patriotism are reciprocal” [Doc 2]. It was known that the British supported the Native Americans and supplied them with weapons and encouraged them to attack American settlers. Americans wanted to grow to the north and west, but with Britain giving support to Native Americans, it would be hard for Americans to negotiate with the Indian tribes.
By declaring war, the United States could force Britain out of Canada and limit their help to the native tribes. So in addition to fighting back against being oppressed, America wanted to grow in size and get more farmland, most likely to increase goods to trade and to help grow the country. America declared war on Britain in 1812 for many different reasons. Trouble on the seas with enslaving and killing American seamen, impressments, restricting overseas trading, and the desire to expand across the continent were just a few of the reasons.
After winning independence in 1783, America did not want to feel as if it was still being controlled and oppressed by Britain. The War of 1812 was considered the only option. America stood against Britain and proved that it was a strong enough country to fight for what it thought was important. In the end, Britain became tired of fighting. Even though the War of 1812 was for different reasons, when it was over, it made America feel united.