2 February 2013
DBQ: The War of 1812
In June of 1812, President James Madison formally asked Congress for a declaration of war on Britain. Following years of difficult neutrality under the leadership of Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, the United States’ conflicts with Britain and France finally escalated into a war. President Madison had tried to create a diplomatic solution for three long years, but all attempts were unsuccessful. The War of 1812 was caused by the impressment of American sailors and the seizure of ships and their cargo, problems on the Western Frontier and land hunger, and a growing sense of party politics and nationalism.
The biggest problems with Britain came on the high seas. British naval vessels had been stopping American cargo ships for years prior to 1812 and impressing American sailors. British officers boarded the American ships in search of British deserters. They left with American citizens with no connection to the British navy. The number of American men who had been impressed by the start of the war was close to 10,000. Document 1 is a congressional report that describes Britain’s violations of our 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,” The report calls Britain’s impressment and seizure of ships a direct violation of our rights as a neutral nation. The report exaggerates the frequency of these occurrences, “[Great Britain] captures every American vessel, bound to, or returning from, a port where her commerce is not favored;” Most of the ships trading with Britain had no problems, but some were stopped. One of the most well known incidents was an engagement between the American U.S.S. Chesapeake and the British H.M.S. Leopard. The Chesapeake was approached by the Leopard and the British officers tried to board. The captain of the...