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The War of 1812:
Your assignment:
Considering the international events that took place during the first 4 Presidential administrations, what
actions should the United States take concerning President Madison's request to consider war with
Great Britain in 1812? You will make a claim/argument either in support of or against the proposal for
On the back of this sheet you will see four "Options in Brief" that will help you make your claim. Read
through each Option before making your decision. Once you have selected your Option, let Mrs. Peyton
or Mr. Hart know so that we can provide you with extra resources to help you develop your argument.
You are going to use the same scoring rubric we've used for our other argument writings. Your goal is to
aim for proficient in each of the 4 areas indicated on the rubric.
Guiding questions:
What is the main cause of the present crisis and who is to blame?
2. What issues are most at stake for the United States?
3. How should the United States respond to the present crisis?
4. What will happen if your recommendations are not heeded?
5. What will happen if Congress takes your recommendations? What will be the outcome if your
option is selected?
Before you turn in this essay, please re-visit the rubric to answer the following SELF-REFLECTION
questions :
As evidenced by this essay, I would say the STRENGTHS of my argument are:_____________________
As evidenced by this essay, I would say my areas for GROWTH are:_____________________________
When you are writing this paper, you may speak in personal pronouns, "I" and "we." You are making an
argument back in 1812, not current day.
Use the following information about the timeline of events, along with the guiding questions above, to
help formulate your argument. If you were absent on Tuesday, we have other resources to help you
develop your argument that you will receive on Monday.
- Neutrality Proclamation
Washington's administration was divided: Hamilton favored Great Britain and Jefferson
favored France. The 1778 Treaty had established an alliance with France, but that French
government no longer existed. Washington chose the middle ground and said the U.S. would
pursue relations with both, "friendly and impartial."
The precedent it set was that Congress would ultimately be in charge of issues of war and
neutrality. The President can assert, but Congress must back it.
Washington also followed his own advice of staying away from entangling alliances.
-The Jay Treaty
This was a controversial treaty with Britain. The United States got the British to leave the
forts they still occupied in the Northwest (remember that much-fought-after land from the
French and Indian War) and some access to British ports in the West Indies. However, the
treaty FAILED to do anything about neutral trading rights and the impressment of sailors (the
two biggest complaints Americans had!)
Plus, France gets made at this because they claim we violate our Alliance Agreement with
- XYZ Affair and the Quasi-War with France
To clear disagreements up with the French Adams sent three negotiators to meet with the
French government. France responded by sending three low-level government officials
America named X, Y, and Z. They demanded a $250,000 bribe before our officials were even
allowed to speak with them. The Americans returned, offended, and there were calls for war
with France. Though actual war did not occur, both American and French merchant ships
engaged in skirmishes.
A precedent that was set here was that Congress confirmed that the President could wage war
(or at least war-like action) without an official declaration from Congress.
This event also suspended the Treaty of 1778 which allied America with France.
- Alien and Sedition Acts
Concerned over the path of the French Revolution and our conflict with the French
Government, the Adams' Administration (and Congress which was controlled by Federalists)
passed these Acts to limit opposition to the Quasi-War and the President
Alien Act - gave the president the power to deport any alien he though endangered the
nation's security
Sedition Act - prohibited publication or utterance of "false, scandalous, and malicious
writings" against the government.
In response, both Madison and Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans) wrote resolutions
challenging these. Known as the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, they will become
extremely important in understanding the concept and argument for state's rights.
- Louisiana Purchase
Napoleon needed money to fight his European wars, so he sold this land to Jefferson for $15
million. Federalists were upset with the purchase because they knew they would be pushed
into a subordinate political role when farmers settled that land. Also, they viewed Jefferson
as a hypocrite. Jefferson believed in state's rights and a small central government, and this
purchase by the federal government was the exact opposite of that.
In addition, nowhere in the Constitution did it authorize the president to purchase land.
Federalists lost this one because everyone, including them, knew it was good for America.
-Great Britain's Orders in Council
When conditions between Great Britain and France worsened, both countries sought to
control the high seas and the material the other acquired. France issued the Berlin Decree
which ordered European nations to stop trading with Britain, and then Britain issued the
Orders in Council.
These Orders required all ships bound for Europe to first stop in Britain so they could be
searched for war materials. This impacted all American shipping bound for Europe - it was a
violation of our neutrality, and on top of that impressment still continued.
The U.S. and Britain attempted a treaty to resolve this, but it was useless.
- Embargo Act
Jefferson's failed response to the European crisis
He believed in "peaceable coercion" in which the U.S. could get European countries to behave
by America refusing to trade with them unless they did behave. He had a very lofty view of
America's economic status in the early 1800s.
It backfired: Europe did not need American goods- they got them elsewhere; Americans
actually needed the cheap manufactured goods imported from Europe - which they no longer
received; and many Americans lost their jobs.
-the Leopard fired on the Chesapeake
Britain seemed to go too far when a British naval ship (Leopard) fired on an American Naval ship
(Chesapeake). This had not happened before.
Jefferson demanded an apology and ordered all British ships out of American waters. All the
British did was inform America that the British Admiral had been dismissed. Impressment did
not end!
-Non-Intercourse Act
This act barred any trade with Britain, France, or any of their colonies. However, it did allow
for trade to resume with either country once that country lifted trade barriers on the U.S.
It created much smuggling in the U.S., but American's wanted British and French goods.
It was an example of another trade restriction issued by the U.S. that did not work.
Option 1: Defend our rights and honor through unlimited war
In 1776, the American colonies resorted to force when accommodations with Great Britain no longer
seemed possible. This point has been reached again. After nearly 2 decades of continuous interference
with US trade on the high seas, it is time that the US stops fooling itself. We must use the only language
Great Britain understands: force. Already our sailors and our families on the frontier have been
subjected to British force either through its navy or its Indian agents. If we wish to preserve national
honor and avoid falling back into a state of colonial subjugation, we must act now. The time for talk is
over. The time for action is upon us.
Option 2: Defend our rights and honor through limited maritime war
British provocations necessitate action. Their attacks on US shipping and continued impressment of US
sailors requires a response. Negotiations have failed and embargoes have not caused Britain to stop
interfering with our rights on the high seas. Our response should be limited to the oceans. Why risk the
devastation of US soil with a land war when the battle revolves around freedom of the seas? A limited
war aimed at undermining Britain's ability to trade freely will accomplish our goals without risking our
cities and farms. As we learned during the period of the Quasi-War with France, much can be gained at
sea with little cost at home. Furthermore, a naval war does not involve creating a large army which
could be a threat to our republic. Respond, yes! But it should be a limited response aimed at the
sources of these injustices.
Option 3: Delay armed conflict until prepared
British injustices are severe. Our sailors are impressed at an alarming rate. Our neutral trade is
suffering. Our western frontier is under attack by the Indians acting as agents of the British. Now,
however, is not the time for action. Neither our navy nor our army is prepared to resist on eof the
world's greatest powers. After years of neglect under the Jefferson and Madison administrations, how
can our armed forces resist the victors of Trafalgar and the battle-tested soldiers of the Duke of
Wellington? At this time, discretion is the better part of valor. Without appropriate preparations, all we
have gained over the past 29 years could be lost. Economic sanctions allow us to respond to British
interference while we prepare for the war that is coming.
Option 4: Rights and honor are not worth bloodshed
Why war? What do we stand to gain from the resort to force? Granted, Great Britain has interfered
with US trade and subjected US sailors to impressment. But should an entire nation be put at risk to
protect the profits and livelihoods of a few? War with one of the world's great powers risks devastation
and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Have we already forgotten the misery that accompanied
the American Revolution? Today Britain is only stronger and better prepared after nearly 20 years of
war with France. In addition, like it or not, a declaration of war against Britain makes us the allies of one
of the world's most bloodthirst and autocratic rulers--Napoleon. Is this what we fought for in 1776?
The right to support tyranny against liberty? Finally, what about the threat to the republican system at
home? War with Britain will mean creating an army that will require new taxes. Is it worth risking our
republic and our property in the name of rights and honor?