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Causes of the War of 1812

As with any conflict, there is rarely any one action that causes the final blow in declaring war. This can be said about the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States. The truth is that the first factor that led to the war was the American Revolutionary War.

Britain might have signed the Treaty of Paris to end the revolt with the American colonies, but the empire never did believe the colonies had truly left them. This alone opened the door for future conflict. This deep denial of the event led to further problems where many Britain continued to cross into American territory in the west. Even Jay’s Treaty did not completely eliminate that. America was in the midst of organizing a new and experimental government. Having its original Mother Country always invading its domain put great strain on its resources and its temperament.

The British being in the west did not help America’s relations with the natives which was on edge. With the British encouraging problems, the expansion into the west was hindered as well as the economy that was picking up from the resources discovered in new territory. This did not help the relations with Britain either as America could see their influence with the native tribes.

It got worse as the British Navy enacted on the belief that Americans were still part of the British Empire. When a British ship waylaid an American one, they ‘impressed’ many of the American sailors. In other words, they kidnapped them and forced them to work for the British Navy. This was not acceptable to the American government and was just another factor in the war that was to be the final separation from Britain. An official American report revealed that over six thousand sailors had been kidnapped by the Royal Navy within seven years that began in 1803. If the American government did not say something soon, Britain would assume the new country was in fact still part of the Empire as would the rest of the world.

This was all exemplified when the war between France and Britain erupted. In essence, America had helped France finance the war with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory. Then they stopped exporting to France and Britain hoping that would have an impact on their own treatment from each country. Resentment with Britain was growing by leaps and bounds.

The factors that led to the War of 1812 were many. Britain refused to fully acknowledge the new country as having achieved independence. Britain consciously crossed territorial lines to interfere with the American growth and the economy. Britain routinely kidnapped American citizens and forced them into military service. Britain tried to use the new country as a pawn against France. Not one of these stood alone in causing the war, but each one played a part and drove the countries to another encounter. The War of 1812 was almost needed to firmly establish America as an independent nation not only for themselves and Britain but also the rest of the world. It was a declaration of standing firm and strong. It was a notice to Britain that they were all grown up and interference would not be tolerated.


“American President: A Reference Resource.” Miller Center University of Virginia. Accessed February 22, 2012. http://millercenter.org/president/jefferson/essays/biography/5.
Axelrod, Alan. America's Wars. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (US), 2002. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 26, 2012).
Benn, Carl. War of 1812. Taylor & Francis Routledge, 2003. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed February 26, 2012).

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