Thus, the war of 1812 can rightly be renamed the Republican's War as the Republicans successfully waged the war even though the Federalists opposed it. In the preceding pages, I would investigate and analyze the course of the war of 1812 and prove this hypothesis.
Americans' confidence in the viability of their republican form of government had begun to erode in the early nineteenth century under the pressure of foreign affairs. Great Britain and France, bled white from butchering one another in the Napoleonic Wars and each desperate for advantage, were assaulting the merchant vessels of the Unite States. The English first started to impress sailors from American ships in 1803. Then in a series of Orders in Council over the next few years they blockaded the European continent, denied to American merchants the wartime carrying trade, and began to seize American ships with their commercial loads. Napoleon responded with the Berlin and Milan Decrees, edicts which blockaded the British Isles and prohibited all neutral trade with them. The French by 1806 also began to confiscate trade vessels of the United States. From 1803 to 1807 the Republican administration of Thomas Jefferson relied upon protest and negotiation in attempting to moderate the maritime policies of the European belligerents. This strategy failed.
In December of 1807 the Republicans t...
Designed to bring Great Britain and France to reason by economic pressure, the measure instead prompted economic hardship, political discontent among mercantile interests, and a widespread smuggling trade within the United States. The embargo's unpopularity brought its repeal in fourteen months, and the subsequent enactment of weaker forms of commercial restrictions.1 All of these policies were ineffective. But they did succeed in creating, especially among Republicans, a profound crisis of confidence over the vigor of American republican government. If the foreign affairs conundrum had helped raise tensions in American political economy by turning it inward toward production an the home market, it also raised larger and even more unsettling questions: could the United States wage a war and survive And if it could not, did its republican structure deserve to survive
In this high state of uncertainty over the vitality, and hence future, of republicanism, many Americans confronted the traditional republican strategy for international survive. A policy of neutrality and peace - and the avoidance of war at almost any cost - always had been central to the republican experiment. According to precepts rooted in the republicanism of English "Country" ideology, war served as a primary instrument for the "Court" faction in its attempts to consolidate power. By raising taxes, running up the national debt, and enlarging the standing army in wartime, the central government would increase its power of patronage, impoverish the citizenry, and engage in liberticide.2
By 1810, however, this traditional republican strategy had fallen under a shadow.