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CAST YOUR VOTE – The War of 1812
Rights and
Honor and
Money and
Power and
The War
America’s response –
economic pressure
To think about …
What do Americans value the most?
Are any of these terms worth fighting for? If so, which?
As the 19th century began, Great Britain was locked in a long and bitter conflict with France and
Napoleon Bonaparte. Both sides of the conflict wanted to cut off supplies from reaching the enemy,
so each attempted to block the United States from trading with the other. In 1807, Britain passed
the Orders in Council, which required neutral countries to obtain a license from its authorities
before trading with France or French colonies. Americans were upset that their neutral rights of
trade were being infringed by the British.
The British Royal Navy also outraged Americans by its practice of impressment, or removing
sailors from U.S. merchant vessels and forcing them to serve on behalf of the
British. According to the British, Royal Navy was searching for deserters, who, the British
claimed, had taken employment on American ships. American anger exploded in June of
1807, when a British ship attacked the USS Chesapeake and impressed several members of
the crew. Americans were incensed that their sailors (and their flag) would be attacked –
off the coast of Virginia, in American waters!
Instead of waging war on the British, President Jefferson and Congress issued the Embargo Act, forbidding American trade
with all European countries. The intent of the law was to hurt economy of the British and French.
In 1809, the U.S. Congress repealed the unpopular Embargo Act, which by restricting trade had hurt Americans more than
either Britain or France. Its replacement, the Non-Intercourse Act, specifically prohibited trade with Britain and France.
While less limiting than the Embargo Act, the Non-Intercourse Act proved to be ineffective at stopping the problems with
the British.
The US altered its policy a year later, with recently elected President James Madison in office. The Non-Intercourse Act was
replaced by Macon’s Bill No.2, stating that if either power dropped trade restrictions against the United States, Congress
would in turn resume non-intercourse with the opposing power. After Napoleon hinted he would stop restrictions,
President Madison revived the Non-Intercourse Act and blocked all trade with Britain that November.
Tired of Jefferson and Madison's policy of economic intimidation, American voters made a major change in
Congress in 1810. Many young Republicans from the West and south were elected to replace Federalists,
especially in the House of Representatives. Having grown up on tales of heroism during the American
Revolution, these second-generation Republicans were eager to prove their manhood in a "second war of
independence”. Led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, these Congressmen (called “War Hawks” by the
Federalists) had begun to agitate for war, based on their anger over British violations of maritime rights as
well as Britain's encouragement of Native American hostility against American expansion in the West.
Indian trouble
in the West
The possibility of clearing western lands of Indians by removing the Indians' strongest ally--the British – was
another great incentive of the War Hawks. With the British influence out of the West, Americans have a much
easier time expanding into Indian controlled territory. In late 1811, General William Henry Harrison provoked a
fight with an Indian alliance at Tippecanoe Creek in Indiana. The alliance, led by the famous Shawnee chief
Tecumseh, intended to stop American settlement in the Northwest. Since British guns were found on the
battlefield, many Americans concluded that Britain was responsible for the incident By 1812 the westerners
were convinced that their problems could best be solved by forcing the British out of North America, including
for land
Many westerners and southerners also had their eye on expansion to the South, viewing war as an opportunity to add both
Canada and Spanish-held Florida to the United States. The fact that Spain and England were allies against Napoleon
presented the southern war hawks with an excuse for invading Florida. By this time, also, the balance of political power had
shifted south and westward; ambitious Republican party leaders had no choice but to align themselves with the War Hawks,
and 1812 was a Presidential election year.
War declared
gives in
By 1812, the "War Hawks" in Congress were putting more and more pressure on President
Madison – but little did they know that Madison's use of economic pressure on England was
working. The prohibiting of trade with England and its colonies, combined with a poor grain
harvest in England and with a growing need of American materials to supply the British troops
fighting the French in Spain, the British needed to act. On June 16, 1812, the British Foreign
Minister announced that the blockade (the Orders in Council) would be relaxed on American
Since communication was limited in 1812, the American government did not know of the British opening of
trade. President Madison had sent a message to Congress on June 1 listing all the complaints against England
and asking for a declaration of war. Dividing along sectional lines the House had voted for war on June 4, but
the Senate approved only on June 18 and then by only six votes. On June 18, 1812, the president signed a
declaration of war against Britain.
The declaration of war was the opening moment of the War of 1812, a major foreign challenge to the young
nation during the New Republic. Should the nation have gone to war with the British? What would you
have done if you were asked to support the war? Let’s find out ….
Using the great “Cast Your Vote” website from the National Park Service, you will listen to eight different
perspectives on going to war with the British in 1812. For each, you will find out if they are for or against
going to war and also describe the rationale of each individual. After you are done, you will cast your vote
and explain your own rationale. Record your vote and rationale in the area below as well!
My vote
My rationale (also typed online):
Francis Scott Key
Josette Dugas
George Roberts
Maryland Lawyer
Pro-War or Anti-War
New Orleans Resident
Pro-War or Anti-War
U.S. Navy Sailor
Pro-War or Anti-War
Margaret Elliot
Frontier Resident
Pro-War or Anti-War
Cast Your Vote
James Madison
U.S. President
Pro-War or Anti-War
Using the video clips, identify if
the character is pro-war or antiwar by circling the corresponding
term, and briefly describe the
reasons stated by the character.
Once you are finished, determine
if you would support going to war
with the British, and support your
decision with a well written
Henry Clay
John Bradford
John Randolph
Kentucky Congressman
Pro-War or Anti-War
Boston Merchant
Pro-War or Anti-War
Virginia Senator
Pro-War or Anti-War
The War of 1812
War at Sea
The Events
Invasion of Washington
Battle of Baltimore
The Hartford Convention
The Treaty of Ghent
The Battle of New Orleans
The War of 1812 - SO WHAT?