In the early 1800’s, England and France were challenging each other to become the reigning power of Europe. In 1805, Lord Nelson defeated the French and Spanish fleets in an epic battle of Trafalgar while later the same year, Napoleon would lead France to defeat Austrian and Russian forces. In 1806, England passed the Orders in Council, which specified that any country that wanted to ship goods to France must first send them to a British port and pay taxes on them. Here England was again taxing people without representation. The Americans saw this as an act of military and economic aggression against the United Stated. As if that wasn't enough, British commanders began to board American ships in search of deserters. There were no obvious differences in the way American sailors and British sailors looked, dressed or spoke so the British Commanders were able to impress the Americans into service on the pretext that they were British deserters.
President Jefferson decided to place an embargo on all exports to Europe in an effort to force the nations to respect the rights on Americans on the high seas. The Embargo Act of 1807 would stop shipments of goods to Europe. England relied on goods like grain and timber from the United States. Jefferson believed this was preferable to War with England. By 1810, a split in politics had emerged. Younger representatives from the West and conservative seniors from the eastern seaboard didn’t see things eye to eye. The western group, war hawks, believed that the United States should uphold U.S. honor by opposing British claims to military dominance. The war hawks also believed they should get rid of the Indians which were impeding settlement west of the Mississippi. In 1810, Congress would pass Macon’s Bill No. 2. In it, if either France or England agreed to resume trade with the United States, then the Americans would resume trade with that country and refuse trade with the other. Napoleon jumped at this offer to reestablish economic ties with the U.S. England was outraged and began to contemplate war with their European enemy France as well as the U.S. The United States had positioned themselves directly between England and France.
During this time, the British were supplying arms to the Indians through Canada. The war hawks knew that the U.S. would have to invade Canada to get the upper hand. They were calling for a war that would eliminate the British threat on the high seas and the Canada based British alliance. These Americans were hungry for true independence. They also sought to regain control of Florida from Spain. The western Republicans were committed to regaining territories like Florida from Spain and Canada from England. They would make their case that England was assisting the resistance by the western Indians and Florida was rightfully sovereign territory of the United States. Ultimately, their ideas of expansion would translate into defending national honor. This would prove more a motivator for war than issues concerning neutrality rights.
In June of 1812, congress would vote to declare war on England and the western Indians. On August 24, 1814 the United States would be humiliated by the British. Backed by the Royal Navy, the British would sail into the Chesapeake Bay and scatter the American troops at the Battle of Bladensburg Maryland. Then they advanced to Washington where they torched the Capitol building and the White House. The Americans would rally and pursue the British, and defeated them at the Battle of Baltimore. Inspired by the “bombs bursting in air” over Fort McHenry, Francis Scott…