Alternative Strategies and
British and Americans 1812-1815
The War of 1812 is often called America's "second war of independence" and many of the issues and the ideology of the conflict echoed those of the Revolution. An amateur army of Americans for a second time faced the might of the most powerful empire of its time, and many citizens of the republic were convinced that perfidious officials in Westminster and Whitehall were determined to destroy the new nation. However, this alleged threat to the very existence of the United States was far more imagined than real, given the reality of power politics in the early 19th century. The British attitude toward the former colonies was arrogant and often exasperating, but His Majesty's government was almost totally pre-occupied with defeating Napoleon and viewed the conflict with America as a sideshow until the French emperor was defeated. Even some Americans began to realize that the citizens of the United States had inflated their importance in world affairs. Daniel Sheffey, a Virginia Federalist, warned his fellow members of Congress on the eve of the war that "we have considered ourselves of too much importance in the scale of nations. It has led us into great errors. Instead of yielding to circumstance, which human power cannot control, we have imagined that our destiny, and that of other nations, was in our hands, to be regulated as we thought proper."
The thirty-two-month conflict, that developed at least in part because of this inflated perspective of American influence and power, produced an awesome range of emotions for citizens as they reacted to ignominious defeats and thrilling victories. The War of 1812 was a classic example of a drawn conflict in which neither adversary was particularly happy about the final outcome, but both nations were forced to realize that they could easily have been subjected to far worse disasters. The Morning Chronicle of London