How important was the War of 1812 for America?

Oct 2016
gave us some chest-pounding inspiration (Fort McHenry! Old Hickory at New Orleans!) and our National Anthem but ultimately the war was pretty meaningless.

wasn't a real invasion; the Brits were not going to come back; basically just a raid to punish us. having D.C. burn down was pretty humiliating but otherwise we acquitted ourselves well.
Brits finally got tired and signed a treaty so they could concentrate on the Frenchies.

IIRC we tried to invade Canada (again) and failed (again) so the Canadians came out well.

US Navy produced legendary performances by the USS Constitution, USS Constellation, and Oliver Hazard Perry and his flotilla in the Great Lakes. still a part of our tradition!
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Forum Staff
Aug 2016
There are actually two different questions. The question on the link makes no mention of foreign policy and could be interpretted to mean only American domestic affairs.

Domestically, the war had little long term impact. It did highlight some sectional differences in the country as the New England states were never enthusiastic about the war. But the country didn't do anything as a result of the war to address sectionalism. That issue was allowed to fester for another 45 years.

After the War of 1812 the US looked at the Ft. McHenry experience and built more coastal fortifications. Some of these forts factored prominently in the Civil War, but still not a major impact on US history at large.

During the Revolutionary War and the Barbary Pirate Wars the US Navy had established an ability to operate far from American shores. During the War of 1812 the navy improved upon this tradition, but I don't think the war established any capabilities that we didn't already have.

I don't see how the war caused other countries to see us differently than they had before.

One thing the war did do was validate the professional military officers being produced by that new institution called West Point. But given that the military was still a very small segment of American society, not a major impact on the country at large.
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Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
All wars fought on your homeland are important as survival is at stake. If Baltimore had fallen, with DC already down, some form of capitulation might have occurred.

It was not important, IMO, in the context of modern cliches like world scene and major player. I don't believe it is easy to find anyone looking for that. In Pres Taylor's inauguration speech of 1849, he pays homage to Washington's farewell re no foreign entanglements. There were draft riots in 1917. In 1940, FDR ran for President saying he would not send your sons into a foreign war. It is not until WW2, that the US politicians could get the so-called isolationist country into foreign entanglement and being the major player on a world stage, like some form of international manifest destiny.
Oct 2016
All wars fought on your homeland are important as survival is at stake. If Baltimore had fallen, with DC already down, some form of capitulation might have occurred.
the Brits did not invade. this was just a raid. even if Baltimore were abandoned the Brits did not have the resources to occupy.

as 'wars' go this wasn't much.

Code Blue

Ad Honorem
Feb 2015
IMO, the Brits were aided to some extent by the Federalist Party attitudes in the NE. At the Hartford Convention, secession was discussed. Several of NE governors refused to comply with orders for deploying the militia. Massacbusetts papers were clamoring for partition.

The Royal Navy, freed from fighting Napoleon, was bottling up commercial shipping in the NE, and bombardment of harbors like Boston were a question of when, not if.

There was chance if Baltimore fell, and perhaps Philadelphia, the US could have been split in two, 45 years before it split itself. Fortunately for the US, Rep Sam Smith, a major hero of the Revolution, left his Congressional seat to lead the defense of Baltimore. Earlier, he had been one calling for the upgrade of Ft McHenry from its original mud composition. Otherwise Atty Key would have seen no star spangled banner yet wave.

The war appears to be insignificant because Smith and Jackson won.

I am still reading up on this, because I believe the termination of the national bank in 1811 is a factor. I suspect London banks and other Rothschild banks and foreign monarchies were invested in the US Bank, and wanted the Brits to win so they could get back in business. I believe this why various US banks began refusing certain specie. This coupled with the blockade intensified economic depression.

The Brits may have been biting more than they could chew, but there was still significant risk to the US.
Jan 2018
Sturgeon Lake Mn.
The war broke the power of the Indians of the Old Northwest and Old Southwest and by doing so opened vast lands for settlement. The war was the last time Indians had foreign allies and were a threat to American territorial integrity. Pretty important things.
Feb 2011
I think it needs to be pointed out that it was the US that declared war, not Britain. This was an opportunistic action, inspired by Southern influence, to annex Canada whilst Britain was absorbed in the Napoleonic war. Britain tried to avoid the war, giving concessions but too late.

Britain was therefore fighting a primarily defensive war and it speaks a good deal that even so engaged, Britain gave at least as good as it got against a preplanned attack.There was never the remotest option of Britain attempting any reconquest, for military and political reasons. The economic damage of the blockade was sufficient to get NE states talking of secession.

The war was a sad and pointless loss of life but at least the two powers pretty much decided never to let it happen again. They got closer after that, the US gained enough propaganda brownie points to gird itself and launch itself internationally and from that point of view the outcome was beneficial to the US.

The gradual building of ties between Britain and the US was of course to have significant outcomes in the 20thCentury.
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Jul 2016
Somewhere far, far away...
Politically, it was very important, since it led to soaring nationalism and the Era of Good Feelings, along with the collapse of the Federalist Party. The first major political shift.

It was also highly important in regard to Native Americans, as Zip pointed out. It set the stage for the First Seminole War.

I don't know if the War of 1812 did much for America internationally. The Impressment issue was kind of resolved independently. The War did have a hand in shaping American military and economic policy, though.