Causes of the War

Causes of the War of 1812

  • Tired of interference with trade

    America’s Second War for Independence
  • Tired of impressment

  • Tired of support of Indian attacks


Wars in Europe- The Effect on the US
  • Hampered US trade with Europe

o   Due to re-export…British banned direct American voyages between French West Indies and France

o   To get around this ban, Americans took cargoes from French colonies to American ports and reshipped them to France as American products

o   Boom for US economy

  • GB hated re-exports

o   Helped French economy by sustaining Napoleon’s army

o   Created competition between the US and GB in commercial trade

  • GB issued Orders in Council in 1806-1807 stating that ships headed to European continental ports required a British license and were subject to inspection.
  • Napoleon in France issued his own decrees in his Continental System that barred British ships from ports under French control.

o   He further stipulated that neutral ships that complied with the British regulations were subject to seizure when they reached continental ports.

  • British seized ships due to re-export
  • British impressment of sailors

o   Taking American sailors and forcing them to serve in the British navy

o   Based on principle that British subjects were British subjects for life

o   Claimed the American sailors were British citizens

o   6000 impressments by 1807

  • US kept trading

o   Profits made up for losses

  • Chesapeake-Leopard Affair (summer 1807)

o   British captain demanded to search the Chesapeake (a US warship)

o   Leopard was a British frigate

o   Incident occurred off the coast Norfolk, Virginia

o   American captain refused

o   British fired on ship

o   Boarded the ship and took off 4 sailors (3 of them American citizens)

  • 3 Americans killed and 18 wounded in Chesapeake Affair
  • Americans demanded Jefferson take action


To avoid war…Jefferson had Congress pass the Embargo Act of 1807
  • Prohibited all exports to all foreign countries
  • Prohibited American ships from sailing into foreign ports

o   Jefferson (strict constructionist…. Based this authority on the power to regulate commerce- in this case, prohibit commerce??????)

  • Jefferson had expected the embargo to starve British and close their factories creating riots in the streets

o   Instead GB found markets in South America

  • Didn’t hurt France and Britain much
  • Almost completely destroyed commerce in New England

o   By 1808- US exports plummeted by 80%

  • South and West lost foreign markets for farm produce
  • Boomerang effect
  • 1809 repealed the Embargo Act just before leaving office
O-grab-me…embargo backwards!
Embargo Act replaced with the Non-Intercourse Act
  • stated US would resume trade with either GB or France

o   whichever lifted restrictions on American shipping

  • trade restored with both GB and France and Congress promised that if either country actively recognized US neutrality, the US would resume trade sanctions with the other (Macon’s Bill No. 2)
  • France withdrew decrees against US shipping
  • US under Madison ordered sanctions against GB
  • France seized US ships anyway and British impressments increased