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Question: For 22 years, the foreign policy of two Federalist presidents (Washington and Adams) and two Democratic-Republican presidents (Jefferson and Madison) had continue to focus on a single aim: avoiding war with a European power while at the same time defending U.S. neutral rights at sea. Explain why the War of 1812 ended much as it started-- in stalemate. Include the immediate effects of the war in your answer.


        For 22 years, the foreign policy of two Federalist presidents (Washington and Adams) and two Democratic-Republican presidents (Jefferson and Madison) had continued to focus on a single aim: avoiding war with a European power while at the same time defending U.S. neutral rights at sea. The majority of the Americans felt that the war was caused by violations against them at sea, and in addition, troubled relations with the British on the western part of the United States. Among the other causes of the war were the cries of the War Hawks, nationalism, and pride that the United States had the capability to win the war. A vigorous war was fought and toward 1814, each side was becoming exhausted with the war. An agreement was made, however, with lasting and long-term effects.
        An impending issue between the British and the United States was the impressment of American sailors. Furthermore, violations of U.S. neutrality rights by the French and the British occurred. Other restrictions were placed on the Americans by the government adding to their limitations from the already imposed British impressments, "…No ship or vessel, owned in whole or in part by a citizen of the United States, shall be permitted to clear out or depart from any port-- or place within the limits of the United States or territories thereof to any foreign port or place…" (G) In addition, the United States passed an act to encourage the destruction of the armed vessels of an enemy. "…It shall be lawful for any person or persons to burn, sink, destroy, any British armed vessel of war…" (H) Moreover, Americans tended to align with the French on matters involving Britain. This was because of the grudge held against the British by the Americans due to the negative effects experienced by the Americans after the American and French Revolutions.
Next, pressures from many different regions arose and increased and calls for war were becoming evident. The major issue of time was expansion and exploration of open land in the United States. Standing in their way as an obstacle were the British and the Indians who were already settled. Moving and forcing Indians out of their houses and homes was a predicament that scurrilous westerners had dealt with previously with success. After many battles to acquire what they felt they could achieve, the Americans again blamed the British for sparking the rebellions and insurrections.
        On the issue of preparation for war, the majority of the Republicans expressed what they felt were the true motives for the instigation of the war. John Randolph, a Republican, stated that "…If you go to war, it will not be for the protection of…your maritime rights. Agrarian cupidity…urges the war." (B) War was felt to be inevitable and we were unprepared to fight a war. It was felt that the United States should maintain the status quo, that is, being at peace. Correspondingly, Obadiah German stated… "We have lost much of the spirit of war and chivalry possessed by our Revolutionary fathers…" (D) In addition, nearly 1500 American vessels between 1803 and 1812 were seized posing the problem of whether the United States was prepared to fight. At first, Americans preferred to respond with economic force rather than war. When the Embargo Act was passed in 1807, the economy of the United States was seriously harmed posing yet another dilemma.
According to many, nonetheless, our nationalism was running high and there were cries for war throughout the United States. A group of new and young Republicans, known as War Hawks, emerged. John C. Calhoun, leader of this group, said fighting a war was the only means of maintaining American honor, obtaining Canada, and putting an end to Indian rebellion. Futhermore, another War Hawk stated: "…the practice of impressing our seamen, from merchant vessel; this unjust and lawless invasion of personal liberty, calls loudly for the interposition of this Government…" (A) The introduction of our national constitution and the struggle for rights gave Americans a sense of helping to determine their fate as a nation. Voices were likewise heard in songs, ballads, and poems. "…When justice and oppression dare avow the tyrant's plea…virtue bids us to be free…" (E) was sung. Americans had a common background and tradition and identified themselves with the historical union of the nation. Many became frustrated with Britain including President Madison. In his war message to Congress he stated "…Against this crying enormity, which Great Britain would be so prompt to avenge if committed against herself, the United States have in vain exhausted remonstrance's and expostulations. The communication passed without effect…" (C) The United States was getting nowhere with words and war was inevitable.   President Madison finally declared war against Great Britain. Numerous military defeats and naval victories on each side occurred. But by 1814, the British grew consumed with the war against Napolean on the European continent. Coincidentally, Madison realized that the United States could not win decisively. On December 24, 1814, an accord was reached. The Treaty of Ghent was signed after which the fighting halted, conquered territory was returned, and the boundary between the United States and Canada was acknowledged.
        The War of 1812 affected not only the United States, but Great Britain and Native Americans as well. The United States did win several of the battles that took place during the war. However, the British were still successful in maintaining their blockade of the American coast as well as neutralizing the American Navy.
In the United States, the war produced economic and political effects. Although there were many changes, American individualism never changed. Americans were unable to see the reason in changing their militia system. They were defeated several times in the war; however, they failed to realize they had manpower problem. Their militia system was inadequate. Ignoring the problem, the political leaders of the time period declared that the social and political conditions created setbacks on what could have been done to solve the manpower problem. Although nothing altered in the manpower policy, the administrative system was reorganized. There was an army general staff formed along with a Board of Navy Commissioners. The system also changed in its responsibility of the army and navy.   
        The economic effects were positive and much greater than those from the militia. There was the growth of manufacturers during and after the war. There were technological developments including the steam engine. Demand for products as well as prices increased due to dropping imports and the needs of the war effort. Capital inundated New England and went to profitable manufacturers.  The political effects were just as significant. The War of 1812 led to the final downfall of the Federalist party because of their opposition to this inevitable war. The Jeffersonians saw this as an advantage but it eventually led to the display of the internal weaknesses of their system. The Jeffersonian party split but even with this, the Republicans continued to pass laws to create high tariffs, establish a second National Bank, and building infrastructure. These political effects had a bigger impact on the United States than any of the others. As for the Native Americans they were pushed farther west and their great leader, Techumseh, died in battle. They had been abandoned by their British allies and were forced to surrender large areas of land. Significantly, the "West" quickly became the "East". The frontier used to be the western border of the thirteen colonies. Over time, the border became the frontier of the Appalachian Mountains and then in the early 19th century, the Mississippi and beyond.
        In conclusion, nothing was done about the problems that originally led to the War of 1812. There were no meetings to solve the dilemma's and tensions caused by impressment and blockades. England's proposal for a neutral Indian state to be used as a buffer state around the Great Lakes was not addressed. Therefore, the War of 1812, ended much like it began-- in stalemate. This is due to the fact that the war achieved none of its original aims. Neither side could honestly be called the victor of the war. Each side had its gains while at the same time each side also had its losses. However, the war did leave its mark on the American nation and was called by many the "Second War of American Independence".

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