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The War Of 1812: America's Forgotten War

1662 words - 7 pages

The War of 1812 has often been called America’s forgotten war. Wedged between the Revolutionary and Civil War, its causes, battles, and consequences are unknown to most Americans. The major causes of the War of 1812 were a series of economic revisions passed by the British and French against the United States as unintended consequences of the Napoleonic Wars and American unhappiness at the British practice of impressment, especially after the Chesapeake incident of 1807. In response to the 1806 British Orders in Council, which hurt American trade, the US (under Thomas Jefferson) first tried various retaliatory embargoes against the British. However these embargoes hurt the US far more than they did Britain, angering American citizens and helping the cause of War Hawks (people who favored going to war) in Congress like Henry Clay. In 1812, after defeating DeWitt Clinton in the presidential election, James Madison asked Congress to declare war against Britain which they did. There were numerous battles fought in Canada, and the Northern United States, as well as naval battles, but neither side could gain a definitive advantage. By mid 1814, the War of 1812 was becoming more costly and had lasted longer than either side had anticipated. Britain, which had other issues to deal with, chief among them the Napoleonic Wars, began to look for a way to get out of the war. In the Belgian city of Ghent American negotiators met with British diplomats. After considerable argument the treaty of Ghent was signed, officially ending the war.
In 1805, while Thomas Jefferson was the President, the world balance of power shook when the British navy defeated the French navy at the battle of Trafalgar, but the French military defeated the British military that same year. It became clear to the two countries that they each had their own domain to rule over, and they respected their boundaries. However they began to fight indirectly by passing economic sanctions against each other which eventually began to hurt the American economy. Also upsetting to Americans was the British practice of impressment. This was when British ships would, capture American sailors, and force them to serve in the British navy. In 1807, British ships fired on the American ship the Chesapeake, and killed several men, forcing the Chesapeake to give four of its sailors to the British. This incident outraged all Americans and they wanted to declare war on Britain, but Jefferson knew that the US Army and Navy were unprepared for the task of fighting the British. “Jefferson, however, chose to exert economic pressure against Britain and France by pushing Congress in December 1807 to pass the Embargo Act, which forbade all export shipping from US ports and most imports from Britain. The Embargo Act hurt Americans more than the British or French, however, causing many Americans to defy it”(War of 1812 3). Jefferson later admitted that the Embargo Act was a mistake, and he said he wished he had...

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