Why was the war of 1812 favored by the south and west and opposed by New England?
The War of 1812 is one of the most complex wars of the United States. The war lasted for over two years, and while it ended as it had started, in stalemate, it was in fact a war that once and for all confirmed American Independence. The United States declared War on Great Britain on June 12, 1812. The war was declared as a result of long simmering disputes with Great Britian. The central dispute was based on the impressing of American soldiers by the British. The British had previously attacked the USS Chesapeake and nearly caused a war two year earlier (Horsman, 1-4). In addition, disputes continued with Great Britain over the Northwest Territories and the border with Canada. Finally, the attempt of Great Britain to impose a blockade on France during the Napoleonic Wars was a constant source of conflict with the United States (Boorstin-Kelly, 198-200).
The war was favored by the south and west for many reasons. When nationalism, or “the sentiment that binds people to their country and makes them feel that from it all their blessings flow” (Boorstin-Kelly, 198), swept through the south and west, new representatives came about. These representatives wanted “firm defense of our national rights” (Boorstin-Kelly, 200) and became known as the “War Hawks”. These leaders didn’t have much experience in public affairs, but they were able to elect Henry Clay of Kentucky as Speaker of the House. These “War Hawks” cared most about the Western frontier than anything else and wanted as much land as they could get. Indians, who were being incited by the British in Canada, were blocking these lands (12th Congress, 94).
This led to many Indian troubles in the Northwest and problems with Great Britain. The “War Hawks”, especially Clay, wanted to go to war against Great Britain, so that they could conquer Canada and destroy the British incitement. Clay believed that 1,000 Kentucky rifleman could overtake Canada (11th Congress, 94). All in all, the war of 1812 was meant for people concerned with land and the acquisition of Canada, because Canada could supply much agricultural land. Basically, the west wanted more land, including Canada and therefore, wanted to go to war (Hacker, 98).
Not all people were in favor of the war like the south and west. Opposing the war was New England. Some New Englanders were so horrified by the war that they sold beef to the British army in Canada (Boorstin-Kelly, 208). New England leaders, who were mostly Federalists, met secretly in Hartford, Connecticut during the war. This meeting was known as the Hartford Convention, in which the delegates discussed ways to protest the war. They objected to the war mainly because they didn’t want New England’s shipping trade to be ruined by the war. They also didn’t want to fight Britain, which would mean they were helping France (Horsman, 1-4). In October 1814, the Massachusetts legislature issued a call to the other New England states for a conference. Representatives were sent by the state legislatures of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. Other delegates from New Hampshire and Vermont were popularly chosen by the Federalists (Horsman, 1-4).
The meetings were held in secret. The moderates prevailed in the convention. The proposal to secede from the Union was discussed and rejected, the grievances of New England were reviewed, and such matters as the use of the militia were beat out. The final report arraigned Madison’s administration and the war and proposed several constitutional amendments that would redress what the New Englanders considered the unfair advantage given to the South under the Constitution (Adams, 98). The news of the Treaty of Ghent ending the war and of Andrew Jackson’s victory at New Orleans made any recommendation of the convention a “dead letter” (Horsman, 1-4). Its importance, however, was that it continued the view of states’ rights as the refuge of sectional groups, and it sealed the destruction of the Federalist party, which never regained its lost prestige.
The United States had faced near disaster, but the victory at New Orleans increased national patriotism and it helped unite the U.S into one nation. The war never ended up settling any of the problems that the U.S had fought about. Most of the issues faded out over time. For example, after 1815 there had been a long period of peace in which the British had no reason to make use of the impressments or blockades (Horsman, 1-4). The war also caused the decline of the Federalist party’s power, mainly due to the south and west’s support and New England’s resistance to the war. Eventhough there was a division between New England and the south and west, the war resulted in intense feelings of nationalism and patriotism all over the United States. The people came out more unified than ever and with a greater pride for their country.
1.Boorstin, Daniel J. and Brooks Mather Kelly. A History of the United States.
Needham: Prentice Hall, 1996.
2.Horsman, Reginald. “War of 1812,” WorldBookOnline,
http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol.com/ar?/na/ar/co/ar591480.htm, November 15, 2002.
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