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What British actions led to the war of 1812?

Carl Benn, The War of 1812, p. 19. The classic study of expansionist motives is Julius W. Pratt’s Expansionists of 1812 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1925), which documents expansionist rhetoric but without discounting the importance of maritime grievances against Great Britain. His study has been criticized by other U.S. historians, notably Bradford Perkins and Donald Hickey, who assert that maritime issues impelled the U.S. to war, expansionist rhetoric notwithstanding. The argument is probably impossible to resolve as it involves determining a collective motivation, which is an abstraction. In reality, different parties had different interests and their views changed over time in response to new developments. The policies of the U.S. government reflected this mix of interests and views in proportion to the political clout each carried.

I. The United States Enters the War of 1812

J. I. Little, Loyalties in Conflict: A Canadian Borderland in War and Rebellion, 1812-1840 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), pp. 37, 44.

The War of 1812: Conflict for a Continent

C. What conflict arose with the Indians prior to the War of 1812?

Bradford Perkins, Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805-1812 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961), pp. 90-92; Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, and Indian Allies (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), p. 104; and Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance, pp. 32-33.

Jon Latimer, 1812: War with America (London & Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), p. 16; Donald Hickey, Don’t Give Up the Ship! Myths of the War of 1812 (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2006, p. 19; and Troy Bickham, The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), p. 62. Bickham is an American-born historian who studied and taught in Great Britain before returning to the U.S.; he specialty is the Atlantic world, with emphasis on the British empire.

D. What happened during the War of 1812?

Multiple causes of the War of 1812

Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, p. 56, 444; and George Sheppard, Plunder, Profit, and Paroles: A Social History of the War of 1812 in Upper Canada (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1994), p. 37.

Taylor, 1812: The Civil War, pp. 346-47, 390; and Dianne Graves, In the Midst of Alarms: The Untold Story of Women and the War of 1812 (Montreal: Robin Brass Studio Inc, 2007), pp. 365-66.

The main target for the British is the American ships (War of 1812, 2).
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An Ohio militia camp during the War of 1812 (Library of Congress)

In the War of 1812 the United States once again fought against the British and their Indian allies. Some historians see the conflict as a Second War for American Independence.

Congress declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812.

Furthermore, the three-year war marks a traditional boundary between the early republic and early national periods. The former period had strong ties to the more hierarchical colonial world of the 18th century, while post-war developments would move in dynamic new directions that contributed to a more autonomous American society and culture. Although the War of 1812 serves as an important turning point in the development of an independent United States, the war itself was mostly a political and military disaster for the country.

James Madison, “War Message to Congress, June 1, 1812,” .

The U.S. Congress was far from unanimous in its declaration of war. America's initial invasion of Canada (then ruled by England) in the summer of 1812 was repulsed by Tecumseh and the British. Although Tecumseh would be killed in battle the following fall, the U.S. was unable to mount a major invasion of Canada because of significant domestic discord over war policy. Most importantly, the governors of most New England states refused to allow their state militias to join a campaign beyond state boundaries. Similarly, a promising young Congressman from New Hampshire, , actually discouraged in the U.S. army.

Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, p. 42.

Constitution, called "Old Ironsides" because shots seemed to bounce off its thick wooden hull, was a warhorse, capturing more than 24 enemy ships in the War of 1812 alone.

Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict, pp. 16-17.

Although its events inspired one of the nation’s most famous patriotic songs, the War of 1812 is a relatively little-known war in American history. Despite its complicated causes and inconclusive outcome, the conflict helped establish the credibility of the young United States among other nations. It fostered a strong sense of national pride among the American people, and those patriotic feelings are reflected and preserved in the song we know today as the U.S. national anthem.

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