By any criteria the years following the War of 1812, otherwise known as the “Era of Good Feelings,” must be considered a time of exceptional growth and development in the United States, but above all, it may be considered a time of evolution and ripening of American nationalism, unification, and economic prowess. The war of 1812 was a very problematic war. States did not fulfill their duties, while commanders and leaders were not informed or supplied enough to keep up the war. But what awakened during this time and afterwards is something much greater then victory. The war wasn’t just about Britain holding land and impressing American sailors into their navy; it was a second war of independence. It was the first war as a united country, and it was a small new nation against a large European empire. That we survived woke us up, and let us know that we did have a nation. For the first time, we were united, not for a fight of our homes and freedoms, but for ideals (The Awakening of American Nationalism, AAN).
The war of 1812 began long before war was declared. It began right after the war of Independence. The British were not too fond of us breaking away from their empire, and they soon figured out that many revolts were because we had fought and won. They taxed our merchants, and hassled our ships, but they crossed the line when they began to impress our sailors into their navy. They claimed that these people had “deserted” the royal navy and should be given back. Though they may have been right on a few occasions, it has been proven that many innocent people were forced to be in the royal navy.
On June 22, 1807, the English frigate Leopard attacked the United States frigate Chesapeake, and took from her certain of her sailors who, the Leopard’s captain claimed, were British citizens. (John K. Mahon, The War of 1812) This is what broke the straw on the proverbial camel’s back. Many citizens wanted war, but Jefferson, seeing the problems in war with Britain, calmed the public. Congress began to prepare for war, by authorizing the construction of 20 ships of war.
France and Britain, Europe’s two most powerful nations, had battled almost continuously since 1793, and their warfare directly affected American trade. Hostilities began during the French Revolution (1789-1799) when England joined other European nations in an unsuccessful attempt to restore the French monarchy, and then continued as Britain led the efforts to stop French expansion under Napoleon I. American presidents from Washington to Madison tried to keep the United States impartial during these conflicts, but both France and Britain flagrantly disregarded the rights of neutral countries (War of 1812).
For the Americans, the greatest irritant was Britain’s practice of impressment, or the seizure of American seamen for service in the British navy. The British...