War of 1812

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Several forces led Americans to declare war on Britain in 1812. France and Britain, Europe’s two most powerful nations, had battled almost continuously since the late 1700s. Hostilities began during the French Revolution, and then continued as Britain led the efforts to stop French expansion under Napoleon I. In 1803, the continuing tension in Europe escalated into a full-scale conflict, the Napoleonic Wars. As fighting between the British and French increased, each side took steps to prevent the United States from trading with the other. “The great causes of complaint against Great Britain, your committee need only say, that the United States, as a sovereign and independent Power, claim the right to use the ocean, which is the common and acknowledged highway of nations, for the purposes of transporting, in their own vessels, the products of their own soil and the acquisitions of their own industry....” (Document 1). European warfare directly affected American trade and the economy. American presidents from Jefferson to Madison tried to keep the United States impartial during these conflicts, but both France and Britain completely disregarded the rights of neutral countries. Another conflict occurred in North America itself, which was clashing with a native population committed to protecting its lands from intruders. In both the North and South, the threatened tribes united to resist white infringement. They began as well to build connections with British forces in Canada and Spanish forces in Florida. Therefore, the Indian conflict on land became intertwined with the European conflict on the seas, and ultimately helped cause the War of 1812. In 1805, at the Battle of Trafalgar, the British virtually destroyed the French navy. Since France was no longer a threat to the British at sea, Napoleon designed what he called the Continental System, which closed the European continent to British trading. Napoleon also issued decrees banning British ships and neutral ships...
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