A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812

A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812

A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812

A Nation on Trial: America and the War of 1812

Excerpt

More than one hundred and fifty years have passed since the outbreak of the War of, 1812. Since that time the reason for its declaration, the conduct of its operations, and the peace which concluded it have been discussed and debated. There are, of course, some wars which are subject to a ready explanation. But the War of 1812 is not one of them. It was not fought to repel naked aggression nor was it entered on to seize territory. The issues which led to its outbreak were much more varied and complicated than that. At the root of it was America's determination to protect her honor, national interests, and sovereignty, which had been placed in jeopardy because of the long and terrible war being fought in Europe between Britain and France. In their contest for survival both powers often pursued policies that damaged American interests, but because Britain controlled the high seas her actions proved to be more immediately felt and harmful to the United States. It is no easy task for a neutral nation to protect her interests when she is caught between two great warring powers. It was doubly difficult for the United States because she had only recently won her independence, the stability of her institutions had not been tested by time or events, and her power was not great. This is why successive administrations in Washington attempted to secure relief from their distress by peaceful means. Only when every effort had failed did America turn reluctantly and hesitatingly to war.

After two years of inconclusive fighting the war was brought to an end. The Treaty of Ghent made no mention of the major issues that had played so significant a role in bringing on the conflict. Rather it simply called for a mutual restoration of oc-

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