THE WAR OF 1812: AN ANALYSIS OF ISSUES
IN 1812 the United States made war on Canada, having declared it on Britain, for Canada was the only part of the British Empire vulnerable to American attack. This statement may seem open to challenge for ignoring a recent tendency to regard the declaration against Britain as an excuse for the attack against Canada; but, as will be explained, further examination makes the traditional view appear sounder than the revision.
As Canada was caught between the United States and Britain, so was the United States caught between Britain and France. These two powers were the principals in the mightiest war the modern world had yet seen, and the United States was the greatest neutral. What happened seems almost, if not quite, inevitable. The remarkable thing is that it was delayed so long. Of the two periods into which the long war was divided by the short Peace of Amiens, the first passed and the second was nearly over before the United States was drawn in to fight Britain --nineteen years after Republican France had declared war on the island empire.
Why did not the American war come in the first period of the European conflict? As we have already seen, it very nearly did come at the beginning. The blow which Britain dealt at France also hit the United States so hard that it almost knocked the American Republic into the war on the side of the French Republic. The desperate mission of Jay averted the impending catastrophe by the narrowest margin. By reaction, however, it produced another tragedy which, though it drew the United States and Britain closer together for a while, throws an interesting light on the fundamental cause of the ultimate breach between them.
In veering off from war with Britain, the United States ran into war with France. Here was the other tragedy. When Washington sent John Jay to London, he also sent James Monroe to Paris,1 for American relations with France were likewise strained. France too had hit the United States in an effort to injure Britain by interfering with sea-borne trade. She had done it from the beginning, and in flagrant violation of her treaty of 1778 with the United States. Monroe was to press American claims for damages and to procure the recall of the offending decrees. Because peace with Britain then seemed so precarious, he was also to____________________