Events That Changed America in the Nineteenth Century

By John E. Findling; Frank W. Thackeray | Go to book overview

2
The War of 1812

INTRODUCTION

The War of 1812 was the last significant military conflict between Great Britain and the United States. A direct outgrowth of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the War of 1812 involved two and a half years of land and sea warfare; its end marked the beginning of a long period of profitable trade relations and generally cordial diplomatic relations between the two nations.

After a brief interlude from 1801 to 1803 (when the Louisiana Purchase was made), the Napoleonic Wars resumed in 1803, and by 1805, Napoleon's victories had given France control of most of the European continent, while British admiral Horatio Nelson's brilliant naval victory at the Battle of Trafalgar had ensured British control of the seas. For the United States, this meant increasing pressure from the British and the French, both quite unwilling to have Americans trading with the enemy.

British pressure began in 1805 with the Essex case. Prior to 1805, the British had allowed American ships to carry goods from the French West Indies to France, provided they stopped at an American port on the way. This "reexport" trade formed more than half of America's neutral trade. But in the Essex case, tried in a British court, it was ruled that goods could be sent on to France only if an American duty or tariff had been

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