The War of 1812

Feb 2019
867
Serbia
The War of 1812 was always an interesting topic for me, especially when put into context of the Napoleonic Wars. I opened this thread to discuss a few points on it as there is often disagreement on some of them with the camps being split into the pro-British and the pro-American side.

Just what were the causes of the war? How important was the impressment of sailors as an actual war goal and what of the American desire to expand into Canada?
How important was the war for each of the parties involved?
And perhaps most controversially: Who won?

What are your thoughts on this.
 
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David Vagamundo

Ad Honorem
Jan 2010
4,439
Atlanta, Georgia USA
In my view, the War of 1812 was one facet of the Napoleonic Wars and was caused by it. Had UK not been engaged in a death struggle with Napoleonic France, it would not have had to impress seamen, the US would not have attempted to get around the British blockade, etc.

It was much more important for the US, as it was very young and weak. It was important for the UK but more for the US.

The UK won the War, IMO, but the US won the peace by achieving recognition and survival.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
3,525
Las Vegas, NV USA
It's interesting that in the postwar period the US was more politically united than at any time before or since. It was called the Era of Good Feeling (1816-1824) and coincided with the administration of James Monroe. He won reelection with only one electoral vote against him. The reason given for that vote was that the elector thought only George Washington should have the honor of a unanimous election.

It ended sharply in 1824 when the election went to the House of Representatives. Andrew Jackson had the most electoral votes but lacked a majority. John Quincy Adams was elected by the House after many votes. Highly partisan elections became the norm, even in WWII when a dying FDR defeated the New York governor Thomas Dewey in 1944.
 
Mar 2019
1,837
Kansas
The UK won the War, IMO, but the US won the peace by achieving recognition and survival.
Eventually common sense prevailed and both sides realized there was far more money in getting their heads together than banging them together in conflict
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,032
Navan, Ireland
..................................

Just what were the causes of the war? .
They were complicatedand of course varied-- don't fall into the simplistic attitude that there was an 'American' side or viewpoint because opinion varied greatly in the USA.

How important was the impressment of sailors as an actual war goal and .
So important that it was not mentioned in the peace treaty
, it was however used as a rally cry cause for the war.

what of the American desire to expand into Canada?.
Depends who you mean, for some the war provided an ideal opportunity to meet the USA 'manifest destiny' and 'liberate' or grab the rest of North America.

For others it was the only place they could fight the British apart from the Ocean and any acquired land would be a valuable bargaining chip (although many privately admitted and hard won land would be politically difficult to hand back-- especially as many Americans seemed to genuinely believe they would be welcomed as liberators by the poor 'Canadians' suffering ubder the British 'yoke'.)

Other Americans thought 'why are we defending sailors rights by invading another country?' 'or are we sure the Canadians want to be liberated?'

other thought 'WTF are we going to war for?!'

How important was the war for each of the parties involved?.
To the UK it was an annoyance, they had much bigger worries.

And perhaps most controversially: Who won?........................


Not what the Americans claim for the end of the war that they'd won a second war of independence.

Now this is not the first discussion on the war in my time on the forum and some smart Americans can make a pretty good argument for it being a draw-- I disagree but they can make a sound argument.

For me I can not see it as anything other than a defeat -- you achieve none of your war aims, your invasions of a neighbour are repeatedly defeated, your Navy --after initial success's is blockaded in port with the enemies raiding your coast at will, servile insurrection threatens, the economy destroyed (except for those still trading with the British!) and in some states 'whispers' of a break away from the Union and your Capital burnt -- that's not a victory, looks much more like a defeat.
 

Kevinmeath

Ad Honoris
May 2011
14,032
Navan, Ireland
The Western Frontier is often ignored when talking about the War of 1812, for American settlers it was all about British support for the native tribes in the Old North West.

The Native tribes were the real losers of the War of 1812.
Very true but weren't they really doomed?
 
Feb 2019
867
Serbia
They were complicatedand of course varied-- don't fall into the simplistic attitude that there was an 'American' side or viewpoint because opinion varied greatly in the USA.
Doesn't this hold true for the majority of wars? Of course there wasn't only one cause and the opinions of both USA and Britain were not monoliths.

So important that it was not mentioned in the peace treaty
, it was however used as a rally cry cause for the war.
By the time the treaty was signed Britain was demobilising and impressment was pretty much over, I am very skeptical of the claim that it was a real war goal and agree that it was used as a rallying call and for propaganda.

Depends who you mean, for some the war provided an ideal opportunity to meet the USA 'manifest destiny' and 'liberate' or grab the rest of North America.

For others it was the only place they could fight the British apart from the Ocean and any acquired land would be a valuable bargaining chip (although many privately admitted and hard won land would be politically difficult to hand back-- especially as many Americans seemed to genuinely believe they would be welcomed as liberators by the poor 'Canadians' suffering ubder the British 'yoke'.)

Other Americans thought 'why are we defending sailors rights by invading another country?' 'or are we sure the Canadians want to be liberated?'

other thought 'WTF are we going to war for?!'
Interesting. I'm wondering about the ''official'' reason. I've heard that the Americans wanted to genuinely annex Canada, that they wanted to just occupy some territory as a bargaining chip and a show of strength or that Canada wasn't a goal at all and it was just a theatre of war. I highly doubt the last one though there are likely some who had such an opinion.

To the UK it was an annoyance, they had much bigger worries.
Right, but the US? I've heard the argument for the American victory being that the USA had a new sense of patriotism and that it saw itself as a power on the world stage, I don't buy the notion that this constitutes a victory but there is certainly truth to it.

Not what the Americans claim for the end of the war that they'd won a second war of independence.
Granted, my reading on this war has been fairly limited when compared to the other points of the Napoleonic Wars but I have yet to see a scholar push this notion. I have seen some comments here and there that talk about this but they were often of dubious objectivity and questionable expertise.
 
Aug 2018
528
Southern Indiana
Very true but weren't they really doomed?
Sadly, they were. After the war ended some of the Ohio tribes got reserves of thousands of acres that even included their main village sites only to have them taken away a couple of decades later. Even the Wyandots who fought with the Americans against Tecumseh's rebellion had their Grand Reserve taken from them despite the fact they had made great strides towards farming and living as whites.