The War of 1812 was an important event in American history because from the end of the war forward the United States was respected internationally as a nation.
The causes of the War of 1812 are historically agreed to be the result of maritime issues with the British but the causes run much deeper below the surface and include even more historical events that are not generally referred to as the “be all, end all” cause of the War of 1812; however, there are three important factors when analyzing and evaluating the causes of the War of 1812 and they are the economic warfare declared by France, under the rule of Napoleon, against Britain, the War Hawks who were tired of diplomacy and who had ulterior motives, and the military unpreparedness of the United States.
Just as the causes of the war are varied, so are the effects of this war on the United States. In essence, the United States would gain nothing from the War of 1812 after the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, but what the United States would end the Native American threat on its westernmost borders, but also a new sense of nationalism would emerge.
While the causes and effects are diverse in nature, the War of 1812 made a lasting impact on American history as being the event that taught the fledgling nation what it meant to be independent.
While it is the British who are normally blamed for the War of 1812, it was in fact one of the more ingenious plans of Napoleon that is truly to blame for the declaration of war. Napoleon, and France in general, was in an unending power struggle with Great Britain and used trade as a weapon against them. With Napoleon making sure that none of the countries under French rule would trade with Great Britain, the British fought back with a naval blockade that would eventually affect American trade.
Here is where the historical significance of Great Britain’s naval blockade emerges and history generally fingers the British as the cause of the War of 1812 when in fact it is more so the actions of Napoleon’s France that was the true cause. Great Britain was simply protecting its own interests and, in turn, the United States had to protect their own after the Order in Council was issued in 1807.
In fact, in Madison’s message asking for war in 1812 he said, “In reviewing the conduct of Great Britain toward the United States our attention is necessarily drawn to the warfare just renewed by the savages on one of our extensive frontiers” (Mintz). The British are being compared to the “savages” of the American frontier and as the war would progress it became more and more obvious that there were other reasons behind the war that did not include the shipping blockade.
While it was the actions of the French that are the genesis of the War of 1812, on the United States’ own shores it was the influence of the so-called War Hawks that pushed Madison to ask Congress to grant a declaration of war. The War Hawks, a group of Republicans serving in Congress in 1811, right after the failure of the Erskine agreement and right before the start of the War of 1812. These men were convinced that Great Britain was challenging the new nation through their policies.
A new nation, the United States and the men governing it felt that they had something to prove to the already established political powers of Europe. These men were not distant from the Revolutionary War and because of this and many other reasons there were not good feelings between the two nations. These men also saw the declaration of war as a chance to pursue their countries own interests of fighting for parts of the frontier, mostly in Canada. Many of these battles would include Native Americans taking sides against and with the British (Nelson).
The third possible cause for the War of 1812 is military unpreparedness. The United States was a new country and their military was not as prepared for a war. The primary soldiers were state militias who were untrained and not ready to see battle but as a new nation that hadn’t had the time to create a strong military system, the United States had to use them if they were going to be able to fight the war. If the United States had had a better plan for the international situations that arose surrounding a nation the war may never have had to be fought.
Communication was a problem as well as there were instances where it became sorely obvious how unprepared they were for this sort of situation. For example, by the time the United States entered into a declaration of war, the British had already rescinded the Order in Council. Also, when the war was ended two years later the bloodiest battle of the war would take place two weeks later because communication of the war’s end did not reach the far south of the United States.
The nation was unprepared to fight a war and unprepared to communicate during a war (The War of 1812). The War of 1812 had many effects on the United States. The war, which had begun as an issue involving maritime trade lines, became something even more close to home as the war turned against the Native Americans in the northern areas of the United States. The War Hawks, in fact, would get more than they could have hoped for with their victory on their own shores.
This war also brought about a new sense of nationalism in the United States, a country fighting to prove its place in a world of established nations. People became proud to be Americans and other countries developed a respect for what had been nothing more than British colonies. For the first time in their history as a nation, albeit a short history, the American public was able to view themselves as a real country and this sense of independence would help to fuel a revolution of nationalism around the nation.
The War of 1812 changed the face of American history for decades to come. Without this war there would have never been the type of American pride that is still felt by the average American today. The war also taught the United States a few things about their foreign policy and how to deal with international issues, and showed them how important it was to be militarily prepared for anything. The Native Americans of the northern part of the country were conquered and, while there was still bad feelings between the US and Great Britain it was nothing like it had been before.This war changed the landscape of the United States as well as its politics, making an impact that was felt for centuries.
Mintz, S. , comp. War of 1812. 2003. Digital History. 17 Mar. 2007 <http://www. digitalhistory. uh. edu/historyonline/us10. cfm>. Nelson, Rebecca, ed. The Handy History Answer Book. Detroit: Visible Ink, 1999. 99-101. The War of 1812. 2007. Wisconsin Historical Society. 17 Mar. 2007 <>.