The British were engaged in a life-and-death war with Napoleon and could not allow the Americans to help the enemy, regardless of their lawful neutral rights to do so. As Horsman explains, "If possible, England wished to avoid war with America, but not to the extent of allowing her to hinder the British war effort against France. Moreover...a large section of influential British opinion, both in the government and in the country, thought that America presented a threat to British maritime supremacy."
The British had two goals: all parties were committed to the defeat of France, and this required sailors (hence the need for impressment), and it required all-out commercial war against France (hence the restrictions imposed on American merchant ships). On the question of trade with America the British parties split. As Horsman argues, "Some restrictions on neutral commerce were essential for England in this period. That this restriction took such an extreme form after 1807 stemmed not only from the effort to defeat Napoleon, but also from the undoubted jealousy of America's commercial prosperity that existed in England. America was unfortunate in that for most of the period from 1803 to 1812 political power in England was held by a group that was pledged not only to the defeat of France, but also to a rigid maintenance of Britain's commercial supremacy. That group was weakened by Whigs friendly to the U.S. in mid-1812 and the policies were reversed, but too late for the U.S. had already declared war. By 1815 Britain was no longer controlled by politicians dedicated to commercial supremacy, so that cause had vanished.
The British were hindered by weak diplomats in Washington who misrepresented British policy, and by communications that were so slow the Americans did not learn of the reversal of policy until they had declared war.
When Americans proposed a truce based on British ending impressment, Britain refused, because it needed those sailors. Horsman explains, "Impressment, which was the main point of contention between England and America from 1803 to 1807, was made necessary primarily because of England's great shortage of seamen for the war against Napoleon. In a similar manner the restrictions on American commerce imposed by England's Orders in Council, which were the supreme cause of complaint between 1807 and 1812, were one part of a vast commercial struggle being waged between England and France."
Madison and his advisors believed that conquest of Canada would be easy and that economic coercion would force the British to come to terms by cutting off the food supply for their West Indies colonies. Furthermore, possession of Canada would be a valuable bargaining chip. Frontiersmen demanded the seizure of Canada not because they wanted the land (they had plenty), but because the British were thought to be arming the Indians and thereby blocking settlement of the west. As Horsman concludes, "The idea of conquering Canada had been present since at least 1807 as a means of forcing England to change her policy at sea. The conquest of Canada was primarily a means of waging war, not a reason for starting it. Hickey flatly states, "The desire to annex Canada did not bring on the war." Brown (1964) concludes, "The purpose of the Canadian expedition was to serve negotiation not to annex Canada. Burt, a leading Canadian scholar, agrees completely, noting that Foster, the British minister to Washington, also rejected the argument that annexation of Canada was a war goal.
The majority of the inhabitants of Upper Canada (Ontario) were either American exiles (United Empire Loyalists) or post war immigrants. The Loyalists were hostile to union with the U.S., while the other settlers seem to have been disinterested. The Canadian colonies were thinly populated and only lightly defended by the British Army, and some Americans believed that the many in Upper Canada would rise up and greet an American invading army as liberators. The combination implied an easy conquest, as former president Thomas Jefferson suggested in 1812, "the acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us the experience for the attack on Halifax, the next and final expulsion of England from the American continent."
Starting in the mid 1790s the Royal Navy, short of manpower, began boarding American merchant ships in order to seize American and British sailors from American vessels. Although this policy of impressment was supposed to reclaim only British subjects, Britain did not recognize naturalized American citizenship, often taking seamen who had been born British subjects but later issued American citizenship certificates. The British believed many of the certificates were invalid. In any case they needed sailors so between 1806 and 1812 about 6,000 seamen were impressed and taken against their will into the Royal Navy. The proposed Monroe-Pinkney Treaty (1806) between the U.S. and Britain was rejected by Jefferson and never ratified because it did not end impressment.
Meanwhile, Napoleon's Continental System (beginning 1806) and the British Orders in Council (1807) established embargoes that made international trade precarious. From 1807 to 1812, about 900 American ships were seized as a result. The U.S. responded with the Embargo Act of 1807, which prohibited American ships from sailing to any foreign ports and closed American ports to British ships. Jefferson's embargo was especially unpopular in New England, where merchants preferred the indignities of impressment to the halting of overseas commerce. This discontent contributed to the calling of the Hartford Convention in 1814.
The Embargo Act had no effect on Great Britain and France and was replaced by the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, which lifted all embargoes on American shipping except for those bound for British or French ports. As this proved to be unenforceable, the Non-Intercourse Act was replaced in 1810 by Macon's Bill Number 2. This lifted all embargoes but offered that if either France or Great Britain were to cease their interference with American shipping, the United States would reinstate an embargo on the other nation. Napoleon, seeing an opportunity to make trouble for Great Britain, promised to leave American ships alone, and the United States reinstated the embargo with Great Britain and moved closer to declaring war.
In the United States House of Representatives, a group of young Democratic-Republicans known as the "War Hawks" came to the forefront in 1811, led by Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The War Hawks advocated going to war against Great Britain for all of the reasons listed above, though concentrating on the grievances more than the territorial expansion.
On June 1, 1812, President James Madison gave a speech to the U.S. Congress, recounting American grievances against Great Britain, though not specifically calling for a declaration of war. After Madison's speech, the House of Representatives quickly voted (79 to 49) to declare war, and the Senate by 19 to 13. The conflict formally began on June 18, 1812 when Madison signed the measure into law. This was the first time that the United States had declared war on another nation, and the Congressional vote would prove to be the closest vote to declare war in American history. None of the 39 Federalists in Congress voted in favor of the war; critics of war subsequently referred to it as "Mr. Madison's War."
UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR PEACEKEEPING OPERATIONS TELLS U.N. SEMINAR IN TOKYO THAT THOSE WHO WILL MAKE PEACE ARE THOSE WHO MADE WAR
Jun 06, 2008; The United Nations issued the following press release: Even if a United Nations peacekeeping operation was aligned with the best...