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THE WAR OF 1812: THE AMERICANS WERE JUSTIFIED
Over the years The United States of America has forged itself a reputation of declaring wars. Ironically, declaration of war was most justified in one of its least acknowledged conflicts, the War of 1812. The United States was justified in its attack on British North America, which was a colony of Great Britain at the time. The reasons for this justification were Great Britain's breach of Maritime rights, their support for the Natives, who were waging war against the United States, and the impressments of American naval men.
One of the most profound reasons that the United States declared war on Great Britain in June of 1812 was because of Britain's blatant disregard of the Maritime Rights guaranteed to the United States. In the year 1806, the Napoleonic war raged in Europe. Napoleon, the leader of France, was in complete economic, military, and social control of Continental Europe. Napoleon created the Continental System, which prevented continental Europe from participating in any trade with Britain, in the hope that this would cripple one of his last opponent's economy. However, Napoleon lacked the naval power to enforce a decree such as this. On the other hand, Britain's naval power was strong enough to enforce maritime law. Britain declared that no ships could proceed to continental Europe without first obtaining a license. This decree also entitled Britain to search ships at its discretion, and confiscate any cargo that they deemed 'contraband'.
America took no part in the European conflict, and therefore practiced their right to freely trade with any country that offered economic benefits. Europe presented many lucrative trading partners, of which the United States sought to take advantage. However, as a result of the British decree, American trade was greatly hampered, and a negative economic effect was widely felt. Many American ship captains halted potential trading with Europe for fear that their ships would be boarded, and their cargo taken by British captains. The American public saw this as a breach of United States neutrality, seeing as their choice was to take no part in the Napoleonic War. This abuse of Naval power by Great Britain was a powerful justification for the declaration of War by the United States so as to protect and establish fair maritime trading.
Eventually British naval pressure on the United States completely stopped American trade with Continental Europe. "If possible, England wished to avoid war with America, but not to the extent of allowing her to hinder the British war effort against France."�
The British trade embargo on the United States caused outrage among American citizens, particularly those who lived on the Atlantic coast. Their livelihoods were established through trade with Europe. The British decree was a clear violation of the neutral stance the Americans had taken in the European war. The impact felt by Americans played a very important role in the formation of the group known as "The War Hawks."
The War Hawks were a group of people, who strongly believed it was the American government's duty to declare war on Britain. They felt that through Britain's violation of United States neutrality, they had already begun waging war. Tremendous pressure from the war Hawks was put on President Madison, and Congress. The War Hawks are credited for garnering the public support needed for the declaration of war. Britain's blatant disregard for America's Maritime Rights truly justified the War hawks argument that the United States needed to end their neutrality and declare war on Britain.
The popular anecdote, "an enemy of my enemy is a friend" often applies to wars, in which it is beneficial to form alliances. Yet, the euphemism "a friend of my enemy" might be more appropriate in the case of the War of 1812. This saying demonstrates how the British-Native relationship affected the United States...
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