THE WAR OF 1812
I. President James Madison drifts towards war
A. Madison inaugurated in March, 1809
1. "Virginia dynasty": Madison was 3rd in a line of 4 Virginia presidents between
1789 and 1829) (after Washington and Jefferson, before Monroe)
2. Strongly Jeffersonian in his views
B. Macon's Bill No. 2 adopted by Congress in 1810 to replace
Non-Intercourse Act of 1809.
1. Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 (passed at end of Jeffersonís presidency) would expire
within a year.
-- Proclaimed U.S. would trade will all other nations except Britain and France.
2. Purpose of Maconís Bill: entice Britain or France to repeal commercial restrictions
-- U.S. would restore nonimportation against the nonrepealing nation
3. Napoleon seized the opportunity with hopes of getting U.S. in a war with
-- Announced in August 1810 that French decrees had been repealed.
4. Madison believed he had no other choice but to accept Napoleon's gesture and gave the
British 3 months to follow suit or the U.S. would restore non-importation
a. Britain angered and demanded U.S. withdraw restrictions on Britain until France had
withdrawn all their restrictions on American shipping.
b. Napoleon had no real intention of honoring the agreement.
B. War Hawks
1. 12th Congress met late in 1811 Ė deeply divided (although Republicans still in control)
a. Differed from past Congresses: new young leaders from South & West
i. Strongly nationalistic
ii. Wanted war with Britain to achieve the glory their fathers had in Revolutionary War.
2. Henry Clay (from Kentucky) elected Speaker of the House
3. John C. Calhoun elected as a representative of South Carolina.
4. Battle of Tippecanoe:
a. Western war hawks eager to wipe out renewed Indian resistance against white
settlers in the western wilderness.
b. Two Shawnee twins brothers, Tecumseh and the Prophet organized a
confederacy of all the tribes east of the Mississippi.
i. Tecumseh a noted warrior and perhaps most gifted organizer of
Native Americans in U.S. history. Believed in fairness between
tribes vis-à-vis land selling/purchasing. Land belonged to all Indians.
ii. Americans thought British were aiding them.
c. General William H. Harrison advanced with 1,000 men and advanced upon Indian
i. Repelled a surprise Indian attack at Tippecanoe (in present Indiana) in Nov., 1811.
ii. Torched the settlement
d. Significance: Essentially ended the Indian threat -- formal agreement signed.
-- Further spurred westward expansion; Indians pushed further west.
5. War Hawks desired U.S. to attack Canada to remove further Indian threats.
-- Canada seen as vulnerable to attack as Britain preoccupied with Napoleon.
6. Southern expansionists desired Spanish Florida, Britain's ally.
7. War hawks also outraged at British impressment and Orders in Council
-- Prevented agricultural products from being delivered to Europe.
C. Daniel Webster, Federalist from New Hampshire, spoke against entry into the war.
1. Spoke eloquently on behalf of New England manufacturing interests.
2. Webster had ghost written many of John Marshallís opinions.
D. U.S. declares war on Britain in June, 1812
-- Representatives from pro-British New England as well as the middle Atlantic states
E. Why did U.S. fight Britain when France had committed nearly as many maritime offenses?
1. Traditional Republican (Jeffersonian) partiality toward France
2. Visibility of British impressments and arming of Indians.
3. Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
4. Lure of British Canada: timber, fishing, pelts.
F. Resentful New Englanders hurt U.S. war effort.
1. Believed British actions were old and exaggerated wrongs; still disliked France
2. New England merchants still making handsome profits before the war.
3. Opposed acquisition of Canada which would add more agrarian states (Jeffersonian).
4. New England investors probably lent more money to Britain than to U.S.
5. New England farmers sent huge quantities of supplies and foodstuffs to Canada,
helping Britain to invade New York.
6. New England governors refused to permit their militias to serve outside their states.
II. War of 1812
1. Small war -- 6,000 Americans killed or wounded
-- Mostly Canadians fought Americans, very few British.
2. One of America's most poorly-fought wars on land.
a. Nation militarily unprepared for war
b. Attack on Canada a complete failure.
c. Washington, D.C., burned by British
d. British nearly won large territories in the New York and New England.
3. National disunity: Federalists undermined war effort
4. American victories
a. U.S. Navy out performed the Royal Navy on the Great Lakes
b. Andrew Jackson emerged as a national hero for defending New Orleans.
c. William H. Harrison a hero and later and also elected President.
5. War ended in a stalemate
6. America gained respect diplomatically and militarily
-- Later dubbed "Second War for Independence"
7. Fall of the Federalists: Reduction of sectionalism
8. Large Native-American losses during war.
-- Relinquished vast areas of forested land north of the Ohio River.
9. American industry was stimulated by less dependence on Br. manufacturing.
B. Nation unprepared
1. Economy hurt by Embargo Act and non-intercourse
2. Charter for National Bank expired in 1811, at a time when it was needed..
3. Regular army inadequate; supplemented by even more poorly trained militia.
4. Britain possessed the best navy in the world.
a. British maintained a blockade on American Atlantic ports for most of the war which
U.S. shipping and caused significant opposition to the war.
b. Jeffersonís "mosquito fleet" was inadequate.
C. U.S. attack on Canada was a strategic failure
1. Americans falsely believed Canadians would easily crumble.
-- 80% of Canadians in Upper Canada (Ontario) were post-Revolution Loyalists.
2. If U.S. had concentrated on Montreal, Canada would have fallen
D. Fight for the Great Lakes
1. British unable to sail its fleet past Niagara Falls; naval arms race resulted in Great Lakes.
2. Oliver Hazard Perry built a fleet of ships on the shores of Lake Erie hastily during the
winter and summer of 1813 outbuilding Britain.
3. Captured a British fleet in a raging battle on Lake Erie on Sept. 10, 1813.
4. Retreating army defeated by General William Henry Harrison at Battle of Thames in
Oct. 1813, near Toronto.
-- British Brigadier General Tecumseh killed
E. By 1814, Napoleon subdued and British concentrated on North America.
1. British prepared for a large invasion into New York along Hudson River Valley.
2. 34-year-old Thomas Macdonough defeated a stronger British fleet near Plattsburg on
Sept. 11, 1814. (similar to Saratoga during Revolutionary War)
3. British forced to withdraw back to Quebec.
4. Upper New York saved from conquest and New England from further engagements.
5. Also profoundly affected the current negotiations in Europe to end the war.
F. Washington, D.C. burned
1. 2nd formidable British force landed in the Chesapeake Bay area in Aug. 1814
2. Set fire to most public buildings incl. Capitol and the White House.
-- Retaliation for American burning Canadian capital at York.
3. Madison and his aides forced to flee into the surrounding hills.
G. British fleet driven off at Fort McHenry near Baltimore
1. Attacking British army also forced to withdraw.
2. Baltimore was a center for U.S. privateers.
3. Francis Scott Key, watching bombardment of Baltimore as a prisoner aboard
a British ship, composed the Star Spangled Banner
I. Jackson victorious in the Southwest and at New Orleans
1. British strategy in addition to Canada and the Atlantic coast was to take the U.S.
Gulf Coast and New Orleans.
a. Mississippi Creek Indians (faction known as Red Sticks) launched a preliminary
campaign by attacking Fort Mims, near Mobile
-- 400 Americans killed
b. General Andrew Jackson retaliated by attacking a Creek village and killing 300 of its
warriors in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
-- Largest Indian massacre in U.S. history.
2. A British naval force of 47 ships defeated an American force of five ships in a naval
battle preceding the Battle of New Orleans.
-- Significance: Bought time for Jacksonís 7,000-man army to fortify New Orleans.
3. Battle of New Orleans: British blundered by launching a frontal assault in Jan. 1815
a. Jackson commanded 7,000-man force of sailors, regulars, pirates, Frenchmen, free
blacks & militiamen from LA, KY and TN.
b. Over 2,000 killed & wounded in 1/2 hour compared to about 70 Americans.
c. Ironically, battle was needless: Treaty of Ghent had been signed two weeks earlier but
the two armies didnít get word until after the battle.
-- A British victory in the battle most likely would have resulted in Britain changing the
terms of the treaty to the detriment of U.S.
4. Battle of New Orleans resulted in tremendous upsurge of American pride and nationalism.
a. Jackson became the hero of the West (elected president 13 years later)
b. Most Americans believed New Orleans campaign had won the war.
J. Naval Battles
1. Only fleet battles fought on the interior lakes
-- Americans didn't have nearly enough large warships to challenge Britain at sea.
2. American ships more skillfully manned.
3. In a few months, British lost more warships against U.S. than against combined French &
4. American privateers more effective than the U.S. navy (as in Revolutionary War)
5. British manufacturers, merchants, & shippers put strong pressure on Parliament
to end the war due to U.S. privateers' damage of Br. shipping.
6. British responded with a crushing blockade along America's coast and by landing
raiding parties almost at will.
a. U.S. economy was crippled.
b. U.S treasury was bankrupt.
K. Treaty of Ghent (1814)
1. Agreement essentially an armistice
a. Both sides agreed to stop fighting and to restore conquered territory.
b. No mention of pre-war U.S. grievances: impressment, Indian menace,
Orders in Council, search and seizure, confiscations.
c. Americans retained right to fish off Canadian coast.
2. Americans rejoiced -- many expected to lose territory.
III. Hartford Convention
A. New England Federalists and some Republicans adamantly opposed to the war.
1. Almost succeeded in defeating Madison in 1812 election.
2. As war dragged on, New England extremists became more vocal.
B. Hartford Convention (Dec. 15, 1814 -- Jan. 5, 1815)
1. Attended by MA, CT, RI, and partially by NH, & VT.
2. Purpose: Discuss their grievances and seek redress for their wrongs.
-- Immediate goal to secure financial assistance from Washington due to
British blockading menace on New England shores.
3. A minority of radical delegates urged secession
-- Outvoted by moderate Federalists
4. Convention recommended amendments to the Constitution
a. Sought to end 3/5 Compromise to reduce Southern influence in House.
b. Would require 2/3 vote for an embargo, admission of western states
to the union, and declaration of war.
c. Sought to limit the term of the President (to avoid Jeffersonian dynasty)
d. Sought to deny naturalized citizens (usually Republicans) right to hold office
C. Trio of envoys from Massachusetts traveled to Washington with the Hartford demands.
-- Battle of New Orleans and Treaty of Ghent made their pleas moot.
D. Hartford resolutions were the death knell of the Federalist party.
1. 1816, Virginian James Monroe crushed his Federalist opponent.
2. Exaggerated treasonous accounts hurt the Federalist cause.
3. Until 1815, more talk of nullification and secession in New England than in any
other section, including the South.
-- Flouting of the Jeffersonian embargo and the later crippling of the war
effort were the two most damaging acts of nullification in U.S. prior to
the events leading up to the Civil War.
IV. International legacies
A. Revived intense American hatred of the British and mutual suspicion would last for decades.
B. Canadian patriotism and nationalism was boosted: some say birth of the Canadian
-- Naval arms race between U.S. and Britain began in the Great Lakes.
C. Rush-Bagot Treaty (1817)
1. Severely limited naval armament on the lakes.
2. By 1870, U.S. & Canada shared longest unfortified border in the world (5,500 mi)
D. Americans no longer worried of European intervention in North America.
1. New sense of nationality.
2. Turned towards settlement of the West.
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