November 10

Blog #6 – Was the War of 1812 the 2nd American Revolution?

The War of 1812 is called America’s 2nd War for Independence by our textbook, “but a footnote to the mighty European conflagration…with huge consequences for the United States” (Kennedy 222).  The reasons are numerous:

1. America, as a young nation, gained a newfound respect from the European belligerents through the “hot breath of their [ships’] broadsides” and the defeat of the British army at the Battle of New Orleans (Andrew Jackson video).  This was a diplomatic and military victory for our country (222).   After the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815, Europe receded into a “peace of exhaustion…[with a] return to conservatism, illliberalism, and reaction” (222). 

2.  “Sectionalism…was dealt a black eye” and exhibited the “folly of sectional disunity” in which the biggest casualty was the Federalist Party b/c of its association with New England’s support for the British.   In a way, the war helped unify the country by getting rid of one party and ushering in the Era of Good Feelings. 

3. American manufacturing exploded b/c of the embargo, and in a sense, this war gave America a stronger sense of economic and diplomatic independence and less dependent upon European manufactured goods. 

4. Kennedy, et. al. felt that  the development of American nationalism was the “most impressive by-product” of the war.  This nationalism showed itself in a national literature like Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.  A tide of national pride also helped with the renewal of the Central Bank of the U.S. in 1816 and more capital was invested in the burgeoning economy. 

These are all good and valid reasons why they call the War of 1812 another American war for independence.  But, these reasons are all short term gains for the United States and neglect much more severe long term effects that have more dramatic consequences for the country. 

1.  By the time of the Civil War, the American military was still a small force but was much better educated because of the West Point Academy where most of the CW officers were trained.   That a ragtag band of Americans won at New Orleans in 1815 is testament to not only the great leadership of Andrew Jackson but of poor leadership of the British generals as well.   These West Point grads were seasoned on the battlefields of Mexico and out West fighting the Indians as America grasped to the Pacific Ocean for land. 

2. Sectionalism never died, it predominantly moved South.  I think that this is the most ridiculous of their arguments – that sectionalism faded away. Yes, the Federalist Party died, but the Whig Party emerged within 15-20 years after disagreements over federal spending projects.  

 – Sectionalism soon flared up in 1819 and 1820 when it was time to figure out what to do w/ Missouri and the rest of the Louisiana territories when determining their slave status.  It would rear its ugly head almost every time slavery came up – the tariff issue in 1832-33, the Mexican War, the Wilmot Proviso, Compromise of 1850, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott decision, Lecompton constitution, Lincoln-Douglas debates, Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry, and then the 1860 Election w/ 4 candidates. 

3. Though American manufacturing grew stronger during the war, the British dumped their excess cheap goods on the American market in a crude version of economic warfare.    The economic battle eventually led to the tariff fight of 1828-1833 and America’s first brush w/ nullification and secession. 

4. Nationalism is an important aspect of a country’s development like a nation’s literature or its economy.  However, the Central Bank was dismantled by Andrew Jackson in the 1830s soon to be followed by the Panic of 1837.  The loss of this bank may have hindered the development of American capitalism before and after the Civil War and could have prevented or forestalled the Depressions of 1877 and 1897. 

5. Overall, America’s main goal of this war at the very beginning was to capitalize on Britain’s attention being directed at France and therefore we had hoped to seize Canada as part of our next great American land grab.   Since that goal was thwarted by 1815, American attention turned southward towards Mexico, Cuba and other territories.  Remember, the Mexican War didn’t start because innocent American soldiers were fired upon while they were walking along the Rio Grande River.  They were acting on direct orders of the president to invade the disputed border area of Texas when they were fired upon.   The War of 1812 set a dangerous precedent in American foreign policy with our country acting as the imperialist.  We have invaded smaller, weaker nations to exploit their economic, geographic or physical resources since the Mexican War, and it could have started in 1812 if the Canadians hadn’t stopped us. 

6. Lastly, the War of 1812 left the Native Americans to fend for themselves with the American government and the ever-expanding U.S. ppopulation.  Our need for land rubbed against Indian sovereignty, and as historian Robert Remini explained in his book, Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars, the removal of the Native Americans from the East Coast was also a homeland security issue.  3 times in the past 75 years had various native tribes risen up amongst us and sided with American foes when those European forces invaded our shores (F & I War, Revolution, and 1812).  To prevent this internal security threat from happening again, reason said that they needed to be moved far away from the coast where they wouldn’t be much of a threat (and as an added bonus, more valuable land was freed up for settlement in the process). 

What do you think? 

Was this War of 1812 a 2nd war of American independence?  Or was the war the beginning of American expansionism / opportunism that flew in the face of Washington’s advise to stay out of foreign entanglements?  Or is there another interpretation for the war of 1812 that could combine both? Explain. 

200 words minimum.  Due Friday 11/12/10.

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Posted November 10, 2010 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

55 thoughts on “Blog #6 – Was the War of 1812 the 2nd American Revolution?

  1. Jasmine Berger

    Was the war of 1812 a second war of independence?
    I think the war of 1812 was both a second war for independence and the fire that ignited American expansion and helped America to grow and develop into a mature nation. The war of 1812 was a war for independence of the seas for American because America wanted to broaden its expand its national market and be able to trade with multiple countries, but no countries really had respect for America because it wasn’t a world power, but after the Americans defeated the British Navy they were seen as much more powerful. This war was more so a factor that helped this nation emerge as a world power. During this was America began to manufacture more due to the embargo with France and Britain they had to manufacture many things for themselves which really helped them grow economically. Also before this war America was considered as weak and didn’t have a very good militia or navy, But the Militia defeated the British in some battles and the navy was even more successful. Because of the War of 1812 America became an emerging naval power. Even though was is typically a bad thing this was helped to unite the nation in some aspects, even though many in North were against the war many sailors banned together in support of the war because they were angered by impressments of American sailors, also many diverse groups came together for battles under Andrew Jackson which also helped American’s sense of nationalism grow. Over all I think this was more so a major effect that helped the nation grow , and not so much a second war of independence, because American was already independent.

  2. Philippe Vos

    1. The War of 1812 was not really a war for American independence however in some ways it was. The war proved that the American Revolution was not a lucky victory or a miracle but that if attacked America could protect itself from its enemies. The war gave Americans the freedom to go farther west and expand past the Indians who futilely attempted to stop their expansionist efforts. However the war was not nearly as much of a war for American independence than the first one because America provoked the war and tried to take British territory in Canada, unlike before when the British came in and tried to re-conquer/pacify the revolutionaries America. The war was more of a war of American existence, proving that the Democracy experiment will keep on going and that America will be a world power. Another result of the war was the end of the Indian threat, because although there were some wars with Indians after 1812, they never really stood a chance against the powerful American army when they were fighting alone. That was the last time that they were able to team up with a European power to try to stop American expansion, and when it failed, unrestrained American expansion soon followed.

  3. geoffwickersham (Post author)

    The War of 1812 was definitely the second war for independence for America. The British werent respecting the United States as a new born country and tried to smother it with its disrespect for the US navy. Great Britain also used the native Indians to fight against the United states. I don’t agree with some of the reasons why the war was one of independence because they don’t actually address what happened between Great Britain and the US. Those reasons are merely results after the war. The United States went to war because the British weren’t respecting their independent nation. Yes they also wanted to capture Canada, but I believe that is a result of going to war with Britain. The British and the United states were clashing in the years leading up to the war because of the British. The relationship between them was already broken, but British officials felt the need to kick us while we were already down from the Revolutionary War and had not yet rebounded economically. The British wouldn’t have been as upset and felt the need to retaliate with dumping their cheap goods onto our economy if it wasn’t considered the second war for independence. They probably would have reacted in a less extreme matter if we had just beat them in a war for expansion.

    Anisha G.

  4. Emma Salter

    The War of 1812 was a combination of two different things for the newborn United States of America: a second war of independence, as well as the beginning of American expansionism and opportunism. The War of 1812 could be viewed as a second war of independence because of the fact that America would “defend its beliefs”, and overall prove that they were, indeed, a new country apart from their former home, Great Britain. A positive consequence of the War of 1812 was a new and strong feeling of nationalism; a “devotion and loyalty to one’s own nation; patriotism”. Other good things that happened as a result of the war were an expansion of the army and the navy, and Hamilton’s dream of a national bank (Bank of the United States) was revived in 1816. These could also be described as the beginning of American expansionism and opportunism. After the war, America was physically larger significantly, and president Andrew Jackson was from west of the Appalachians! The country was maturing, and as a result, many exciting things were beginning to happen: new inventions, for example, led to more jobs. People then moved into the cities in huge numbers. And as a result of the new jobs, more immigrants filled the country. The War of 1812 overall was a jumpstart for the United States of America.

  5. William Hudson

    I believe that to an extent, the war of 1812 was a 2nd war of American independence, and with its independence America then gained some more expansionist values, I believe that with the war of 1812 America proved to those who doubted it, that it was indeed a nation and could defend itself; that being said the war also spurred America’s want (need) to spread out, and take opportunities presented to it. The power that America proved to others, it also proved to itself, and for this reason, the war also led America to be much more opportunistic and expansionist. We went from being viewed as a not crucial group of colonies that had their independence, to a world power that was a force to be reckoned with. It wasn’t a war for independence in the traditional concept, but in terms of how everyone else viewed us, and even how we viewed ourselves, the war of 1812, the way I see it, qualifies as a war of independence and is most definitely a defining part of our country’s history. Were it not for the war of 1812, we might have still been independent for all intents and purposes, but other nations wouldn’t have seen it that way.

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