Approximately 200 years ago, the US and Britain engaged in one of the bloodiest wars in history. The war lasted 32 months. On one hand, US was fighting for national honor in the face of what was considered to be British insults while, on the other hand, Britain was fighting to maintain its stranglehold in world affairs. The war formally began on June 18, 1812, after the US congress voted in favor of the war. The American War of 1812 had three major impacts on the US: 1) it created an opportunity to foster a strong national government, 2) it created an avenue for the US to participate in world affairs, and (3) it created a strong sense of nationalism.
As the saying goes “every cloud has a silver lining.” The 1812 war gave the US a chance to a foster a sense of nationalism in a bizarre way. This is because one of the reasons why the US felt that the 1812 war was necessary was because there was need to instill a sense of national honor for what was considered to be British insults. To some Americans, the 1812 conflict was the second war for independence. It had to be won. Some people and army generals (like Andrew Jackson), who still bore scars of the first war for independence, held the conviction that the conflict was about violation of American rights, and vindication of the American identity. Therefore, the war presented the best opportunity to foster a strong sense of nationalism.
Although the British blockade of the American cost had resulted into major financial loses to the US government, it gave the government an opportunity to strengthen its military- particularly the Navy. The result was a build-up of naval power. Again, the US Congress approved plans to strengthen the army and supported plans to create a strong Army with the necessary financial support. The war also provided the US with an opportunity to counter threats to its western and southern borders. In the end, the war brought a psychological sense of complete independence from Britain, and people celebrated the second war for independence. Nationalism was in the air.
The war came at a time when American merchants had doubled their capacity within a short period of time (1802-1810). Since Britain was the largest trading partner to US, there was a feeling of resentment when US began to increase commercial competition. To fend off potential competition, British government introduced a raft of measures in 1807 aimed at severing trade ties between Britain and France. US felt that Britain was now overstepping its mandate and undermining the international laws of the time. However, with the growing mercantile, Britain felt that its maritime supremacy was now under threat from US.
In order to send a message to the world, President Madison’s military planners crafted a strategy to give them a quick victory. The plan was to attack the British-owned Canada through land invasion. However, by the end of the war (in 1915), US had still not achieved its mission; instead, the US was forced to use a defensive strategy to repulse attacks from the British. Nonetheless, when the war came to an end after signing of the Treaty of Ghent, the treaty restored US to its prewar conditions, without any losses or gains. Again, by the end of the war, Britain no longer considered the US an enemy to be defeated; instead, the British government now considered the US a potential ally. Therefore, the 1812 War also presented an opportunity to President Madison’s government to gain a foothold in world affairs. Of particular interest to the government was gaining recognition of maritime rights for the merchantmen against illegal searches and seizures. Additionally, the US government wanted to stop British support of hostile Native Americans against the US.
Daughan, G. C. (2011). 1812: The navy's war. (p.57). New York, NY: Basic Books.
Schultz, K. M. (2013). HIST (3rd ed.). (pp. 23, 165, 218). Stamford, CT: Cengage learning .
Skeen, C. E. (1999). Citizen soldiers in the War of 1812. (p.43). Lexington, KY: University
Press of Kentucky.