Establishing a Democratic Republic
Establishing a Democratic Republic
The Revolutionary War (1775-83), the conflict that sealed America's independence from Great Britain, officially ended in 1783, when both sides signed the Treaty of Paris. The first U.S. government system was based on the Articles of Confederation, which reflected the founders' fear that a strong central government—like the one from which they had just freed themselves—threatened individual liberty. Through the Articles of Confederation, the thirteen individual states (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) were joined together in a "firm league of friendship" that gave the national government only limited power. Under the Articles, Congress did not have power to tax, could not regulate commerce (business conducted between states or with other foreign governments), and did not have the power to maintain armed forces, a perilous defect for a young nation in a dangerous world.
In May 1787 fifty-five delegates from twelve states (only Rhode Island's delegates did not attend, due to a dispute about trade) gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at the Constitutional Convention, where the Constitution that is still in place today was created. The framers of the U.S. Constitution (those who conceived of and wrote it) felt that the best model of government for their nation was the democratic republic, a system in which the power of individual citizens is delegated or given to elected representatives. This model features a balance of power between federal and state governments and among the three government branches: legislative (lawmakers), executive (the president), and judicial (the legal system). Despite expanding the powers of the federal government, the concept of a limited government was continued. The Constitution was ratified in 1789, and three years later a set of ten amendments called the Bill of Rights was added. While protecting the rights of individuals, the Bill of Rights was intended to further limit the power of the federal government.
Two political parties emerge
The Constitution's framers hoped that the government would remain as unified as it had been when the first president of the United States, the unanimously elected George Washington (1732-1799; president 1789-93) took office. Nevertheless, differing ideas about the role of government in people's lives led to the emergence of two distinct political parties with different philosophies.
These differences of opinion had been expressed during the debates that came before the Constitution's ratification. Those who supported the Constitution—including statesman Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804), future president James Madison (1751-1836; see biographical entry), and future Supreme Court chief justice John Jay (1745-1829)—were called Federalists. They pushed for a strong central government and the growth of commerce and industry, attracting the support not only of wealthy merchants, lawyers, and owners of large plantations but of city dwellers. They believed that only a powerful national government could handle such tasks as controlling the settlement of the West, overseeing commerce and taxation, and establishing an army capable of fending off foreign invaders.
Opposed to the Federalists were small-scale farmers and others who worried that Congress would burden people with high taxes, that the president had too much power, and that ordinary people's concerns would be overlooked in favor of the wealthy. At first those who shared these concerns were not part of any particular group, but eventually they come together as a political party known as Democratic-Republicans or just Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1846; president 1801-09).
The nation's founders disapproved of political parties, which they believed existed only to promote the interests of members rather than the good of the whole country. Nevertheless, by the early 1790s it was clear that there were two such groups in the United States, the Federalists and the Republicans, each claiming that it had been forced into taking a party stance on various issues by the other side. The Federalists dominated the political scene through the 1790s. The last Federalist president, John Adams (1735-1826; president 1797-1801), worked to build the young nation's commercial interests along with its army and navy. The population of the United States was growing, however, and the majority of its citizens were living on small farms. There was increasing resentment toward the growing military and taxes necessary to support the stronger federal government. More and more Americans were coming to see the Republican Party as the defender of common, working people. In 1801 Republican Party candidate Jefferson won the presidential election. Although Jefferson tried to downplay the division between the parties, claiming "We are all Republicans—we are all Federalists," it was clear that his own party had come to the forefront. Jefferson and Congress proceeded to cut the size of the United States's army and navy in order to cut expenses and reduce the national debt created by the previous Federalist administration, leaving the country in no position to go to war.
Important events, at home and abroad
While the young nation was struggling with its internal politics, during the first decade of the nineteenth century, several important events took place both at home and abroad that would change the course of American development and lead directly to the War of 1812. One was the war being fought in Europe between Great Britain and France, and the other was the Louisiana Purchase, which added a vast area of new territory to the United States. At the same time white settlers desire for lands traditionally inhabited by Native Americans would influence a war that was supposed to be about the freedom to roam the sea.
The Napoleonic Wars
In 1789 the French Revolution ended the reign of monarchs (kings and queens) in France. What followed was a period of great violence and chaos when the new government proved unstable. France was involved in a number of military conflicts in Europe and elsewhere, including the so-called Quasi War (1798-1800) with the United States, when the two countries fought an undeclared war over shipping rights, mostly in the Caribbean region. In 1799 a popular military commander named Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) took over as leader of France, initially calling himself First Consul for Life but eventually taking on the title of Emperor Napoleon I.
Napoleon brought order and many positive changes to France, especially in the areas of law, education, and the economy. But he also carried on an aggressive, expensive, and finally disastrous campaign to conquer the rest of Europe.
Napoleon's armies gained victories in many parts of Europe, including Austria, Italy, and most of Germany, in the quest for a French empire. Nevertheless, France could not overcome the awesome strength of the British navy and thus was unable to invade Great Britain. The final blow came at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805, when Napoleon was soundly beaten by a British naval force under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson (1758-1805), firmly establishing Great Britain as the "Mistress of the Seas." As long as Great Britain controlled the sea, Napoleon had no hope of conquering the British.
A trade battle at sea
Unable to defeat Great Britain through military action, Napoleon began a campaign to damage its trade with other countries. In 1806 and 1807 he issued the Berlin and Milan decrees, which ordered all nations to stop trading with Great Britain or face stern punishment (such as seizure of ships) from France. The British responded with laws called the Orders in Council, which required anyone intending to trade with France to stop first in England and purchase a license. This created a blockade of European ports, meaning that those who did not go along with the order could lose their ships if they were caught.
The United States was caught squarely in the middle of this economic battle. Before this, American merchants and shipping companies had made a lot of money through trade with both Great Britain and France, profiting especially from the needs of both countries for war materials. Now their ships could be seized by either country, even though the United States was officially neutral (not involved in the war). The United States had enjoyed a relatively good relationship with France (especially after the end of the Quasi War in 1800 and the election of Republican president Thomas Jefferson) but because the British ruled the seas, the United States had no real choice in the matter but to follow Great Britain's orders. Some ships did ignore the blockade. The profits were great, but so were the risks: between 1807 and 1812 France and Great Britain (along with their allies) seized about nine hundred American ships.
Impressment angers Americans more
At the same time, American resentment of Great Britain's rule of the high seas was being stirred up even more by a practice called impressment. The British navy was known as the best in the world, yet its sailors were among the world's unhappiest. They suffered from dismal working conditions and harsh discipline and were paid very low wages. Many deserted, often finding jobs on American merchant ships or even U.S. Navy ships. (In fact, it is estimated that about a quarter of the fifty thousand to one hundred thousand sailors who worked on American ships during this period were British.) Great Britain claimed the right to stop ships at sea and search them for deserters, who would then be impressed (forced) back into service with the British navy. Americans objected not only because they felt that no one had the right to stop their ships, but because U.S. sailors were sometimes impressed by mistake. Between 1803 and 1812 as many as six thousand Americans may have been impressed into the British navy. The British justified this by insisting that anyone born in Great Britain was a British citizen, even if he or she had since become an American citizen under U.S. law.
The Chesapeake-Leopard incident
The sparks of anti-British feeling were stirred into a blaze by an incident that occurred in June 1807. As it was sailing out of Chesapeake Bay (on the East Coast of the United States in the present-day states of Maryland and Virginia), the U.S. Navy frigate (a two-decked warship that could carry from twenty-five to fifty guns) Chesapeake was stopped by the British naval ship Leopard. The Leopard's commander, Captain Salusbury Humphreys, demanded that several deserters who had sought refuge on the Chesapeake be returned to the Leopard. The Chesapeake's commander, Commodore James Barron, denied that there were any British sailors on board and refused the British permission to search his ship. The Leopard responded by attacking the unsuspecting Chesapeake with a broadside (firing all the guns on one side of a warship at more or less the same time) that killed three sailors and injured eighteen. Unprepared for battle, the Chesapeake immediately surrendered. The British boarded and removed four sailors, one of whom was eventually hanged for desertion.
News of this incident was itself like a broadside, causing an explosion of anger among Americans. There were even calls for war against Great Britain, and some state militias (small armies made up of troops residing in a particular state; under certain circumstances they could be called into action by the federal government) began gearing up for a fight. Jefferson wanted to avoid war, but he did order all British warships out of U.S. ports. Four years later Great Britain would apologize for the incident, but by that time the damage was done…the insult had been felt too deeply.
Jefferson tries to punish Great Britain and France
Meanwhile Jefferson had already taken some steps to force Great Britain to change its damaging trade policies. In 1806 Congress passed the Non-Importation Act, which said that no British goods could be imported to the United States. Since the act actually took effect after the Chesapeake-Leopard incident had so angered Americans, Jefferson realized stronger measures were needed. So in December 1807 Jefferson, knowing the United States's military readiness was inadequate and in armed conflict the young nation would surely meet defeat, responded with the Embargo Act, which barred U.S. ships from sailing to any foreign ports and thus halted U.S. trade with other countries. Jefferson thought this act would punish Great Britain and France, but his plan backfired.
Although the effects of the Embargo Act were felt in Great Britain and France, it did the most damage in the United States. The act proved devastating to the merchants, shipowners, and sailors of the northeastern United States, who depended on overseas trade for their livelihoods. Southern planters, who had previously sold vast quantities of tobacco, rice, and cotton to Great Britain, also were hurt. Farmers couldn't sell their goods, ships sat idly in ports, and warehouses were empty. The measure's many opponents began referring to it as the "O-Grab-Me Act" (a name created by spelling embargo backwards).
After fourteen months, in 1809, the Embargo Act was replaced by the Non-Intercourse Act, which restored trade with all countries except Great Britain and France. It was followed by Macon's Bill Number 2 in 1810, which removed all trade restrictions but said that if either Great Britain or France would loosen its trade rules, the United States would put the non-intercourse law back in effect against the other country until it also agreed to change its rules. Eager to gain an advantage over England, Napoleon promised that he would lift the Berlin and Milan decrees, which had restricted trade with Great Britain. He had no intention of actually following through on this promise, but President James Madison (who had been elected in 1808) took him at his word and cut off all trade with Great Britain.
In 1809 the United States and Great Britain came close to resolving the problems through an agreement between Madison, when he was secretary of state under Jefferson, and George Erskine, Great Britain's minister to the United States. The Erskine Agreement, as it was called, said that Great Britain would drop its Orders in Council and the United States would drop its non-intercourse practices. But before the agreement could be signed, British foreign secretary George Canning (1770-1827), who was set on taking a much harder line toward the United States, called Erskine back to England. Both sides were disappointed by the failure of this diplomatic (related to international relations) effort.
By the summer of 1811, as efforts to resolve these disagreements continued to fail, it seemed that the United States was coming closer to war with Great Britain. More and more Americans suspected that England was up to its old tricks and hoping to turn the United States into a British colony again. In fact, the U.S. Congress was now dominated by a group of young lawmakers who felt this way and were eager for a fight would soon be granted.
The War Hawks dominate Congress
The 1808 election of James Madison as president of the United States extended the rule of the Republicans, the party of the previous president, Thomas Jefferson. In general, the Republicans were more anti-British and more inclined toward a war with Great Britain than the Federalists, who were afraid that a war would hurt America's shipping industry even more. But the influence of the Federalists was declining, and the congressional election of 1810 helped to push them farther down that slope. The new Congress was dominated by a group of aggressive, impatient young men whose enthusiasm for starting a new conflict with Great Britain led to their being nicknamed the War Hawks.
Most of the War Hawks were from the western and southern states, where people favored going to war with Great Britain, not only over shipping but also to secure their settlements on the frontier and possibly to acquire new land to settle. The very influential Speaker of the House (elected by all of the representatives to serve as their leader) was Henry Clay from Kentucky; other War Hawks included South Carolina's John Calhoun and Felix Grundy of Tennessee. Too young to remember the devastating toll that a war could take on a country (unlike the previous generation, which had lived through the American Revolution), these men argued that only all-out war would convince Great Britain to change its harmful policies on the seas. They also thought Great Britain was behind the Native American uprisings against the United States's western settlements.
Many Americans supported and represented by the War Hawks also wanted the United States to invade and conquer the large and valuable territory of Canada, which belonged to Great Britain. In addition, southerners were interested in expanding into the Spanish territory of Florida, then divided into East Florida and West Florida (covering what is now coastal Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama). This area was coveted because its easily navigated rivers would provide traders access to the Gulf of Mexico; it also served as a safe haven for runaway slaves and hostile Native Americans. The fact that Spain was an ally of Great Britain would provide an excuse for an invasion of the Spanish territory if the United States was at war with the British.
Americans eager to move west
Westward expansion (the movement of people westward past the first frontier, which had been defined by the western borders of the first thirteen colonies) had been an important issue even before the War Hawks and others began to covet Canada and Florida. Between 1790 and 1803 four new states had sprung into existence—Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio—all of them carved out of what had been wilderness. Louisiana joined the union in 1812. The population of the United States was growing rapidly; in fact it would leap from three million in 1780 to eight million by 1815. Jefferson and other leaders believed that westward expansion was a necessary safety valve to keep cities from becoming overpopulated. Also, the failing shipping industry had caused high unemployment in the Northeast and it was hoped that the West would provide new economic opportunities.
In 1803 an agreement called the Louisiana Purchase made even more land available, fueling both Americans' enthusiasm for moving west and the government's need to make the frontier easier and safer to settle.
The Louisiana Purchase
Beyond the borders of the states that existed at the beginning of the nineteenth century was a huge land mass stretching to the Pacific Ocean, through which ranged the Native Americans who had lived there for thousands of years. Some white explorers and trappers also were there, many of them in search of valuable beaver pelts and other furs. From the early eighteenth century, a large portion of this land had been held by France; although it also had belonged to Great Britain and Spain for short periods, it was a French territory again by 1800.
This area covered more than eight hundred thousand square miles, including the present-day states of Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, the part of Minnesota that is west of the Mississippi River, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, most of Kansas, the parts of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado that are east of the Rocky Mountains, and Louisiana west of the Mississippi but including the city of New Orleans.
The leader of France, Napoleon, dreamed of increasing his own and his country's fame and glory by establishing a great colonial empire in North America. But he was already waging an expensive war with England (see "The Napoleonic Wars" in this chapter). He was strapped for cash, so he decided to give up his dream of a New World empire and offer his North American territory to the United States. Although Jefferson and other leaders had no previous intention of acquiring France's land, Napoleon offered them an incredible bargain: this huge territory for only $15 million! The agreement between France and the United States, called the Louisiana Purchase, was signed in April 1803. The largest area ever added to the nation at one time, this purchase doubled the size of the United States, and it made westward expansion seem even more natural.
Native Americans resist white encroachment
Meanwhile, Americans were venturing into and beginning to settle what was called the Northwest Territory. It included the present-day states of Ohio (which in 1812 had about 250,000 white settlers), Indiana (which had 25,000), Illinois (13,000), and the still only sparsely populated Michigan. It was an area dense with forests, rivers, and lakes—including the five Great Lakes of Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior—and home to the beaver and other animals whose pelts and furs were in great demand by fashion-conscious Europeans. The hunters and traders who had lived in the Northwest Territory for decades were now starting to give way to farmers and land speculators (people who buy land with the hope that they will be able to sell for a quick profit) knew they could make their fortunes selling land to settlers.
Between 1783 and 1815 the U.S. Congress passed a series of land acts that made it easier for ordinary people to buy land. Territory that had previously been inhabited by Native Americans was being opened up to white settlers, being acquired through purchase, treaties, or by just taking the land and driving the Native Americans away. This practice was justified by the American sense of what would come to be known as "manifest destiny," the idea that it was actually the duty of white people (who viewed their own culture as superior to those of native peoples), to conquer the continent.
Meanwhile, the many Native American tribes who lived in the wide-open expanses of the United States, existing as they had for thousands of years by hunting and small-scale farming and often warring with each other, did not share European ideas about land ownership. The concept that one person could own a piece of earth was not understood by them. The result was that they were often cheated or tricked into signing away their rights to the land beneath their feet. Both white settlers and the Native Americans who had signed treaties often failed to honor them, and conflicts increased in number and intensity. The U.S. government let the Native Americans know that if they planned to settle down as farmers and adapt themselves to the ways of white people they could remain in the region, otherwise they must leave their traditional hunting grounds and move farther west. The Native Americans saw white settlers arriving in greater and greater numbers, and their resentment led to violence.
Frequent and brutal attacks on white settlements by members of the Shawnee, Delaware, Miami, and Winnebago tribes who lived in the Northwest Territory struck fear in the hearts of those who were considering a move to that region. The United States government was encouraging its citizens to settle these territories (which were slated to become states eventually), and war veterans were even offered free land. The potential rewards were great, but there was a great risk of death at the hands of angry Native Americans. Contributing to these concerns was the widely held belief that the British, who carried on a great deal of fur trading in the territory, were actively encouraging the natives to attack settlers. It was even said—just as it had been during the Revolutionary War—that British agents paid Native Americans for white scalps. Claims like these were probably exaggerated, but the War Hawks made much of this rumored alliance between Great Britain and Native Americans because it helped to fuel their drive toward war. The Battle of Tippecanoe, a conflict between U.S. soldiers and Native Americans in what is now Indiana, provided a spark to ignite that fuel.
The Battle of Tippecanoe
Some historians consider the Battle of Tippecanoe (named for the river near which it took place) the first battle of the War of 1812, even though it took place about seven months before war was officially declared. In any case, it would prove to be one of the major confrontations between Native Americans and whites to take place east of the Mississippi River.
In the years just before the outbreak of the War of 1812, a Native American leader of great power and character emerged, and for a short time his existence seemed to pose the biggest threat to westward expansion. A member of the Shawnee tribe, Tecumseh (c.1768-1813; see biographical entry) was intelligent and courageous and had won the respect of his enemies as well as his allies. He believed that the only way Native Americans could hold on to their land—and thus to the lives they had known for so many centuries—was through organized, unified resistance against white encroachment (gradually taking over another person's property).
Convincing all of the different tribes, many of which had fought bitterly against each other in the past, to come together was no easy task. Aiding Tecumseh in his mission was his brother, Tenskwatawa (1775-1836; see box in Tecumseh biographical entry), a shaman or medicine man whom white people called the Prophet. Seven years younger than Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa had once been addicted (dependent on a habit-forming substance) to alcohol, but he had overcome his addiction and urged other Native Americans to put aside the bad habits they had learned from white people (especially drinking liquor, which had already done much damage among the Native American populations). While Tecumseh told Native Americans that their land was owned jointly by all of them and thus could not be signed away by any one person or tribe, his brother told them to hold on to traditional beliefs and customs. Together these brothers became an effective pair.
Tecumseh's followers gather at Prophet's Town
Tecumseh began traveling up and down the Mississippi River valley to gain support for his cause. Beginning in 1808 the followers he and Tenskwatawa had attracted began to gather at a village called Prophet's Town, located in northern Indiana near the present-day town of Lafayette. Meanwhile, the governor of Indiana, William Henry Harrison(1773-1841; see biographical entry), was extremely worried about the increasing Native American resistance; furthermore, he believed that the British were helping the Native Americans in their cause. Harrison was strongly in favor of westward expansion and had pushed it along himself in 1809 by getting chiefs of the Potawatomi, Miami, and Delaware tribes to give up some of their lands. During the summer of 1810 Harrison met with Tecumseh, who told the governor that there could be no sale of Native Americans' land without the approval of all, and that he would severely punish the chiefs who had cooperated with Harrison.
The next summer Tecumseh again met with Harrison at Vincennes, Indiana. Although Harrison had asked him to come unarmed, Tecumseh showed up with several hundred battle-dressed warriors. Tecumseh told Harrison that the Native American alliance was simply imitating the example of the United States by banding together for their own good and protection. As he left Vincennes, Tecumseh informed Harrison that from there he would travel south to visit more Native American communities. Harrison realized that Tecumseh's absence from Prophet's Town made this a good time to stifle the trouble he believed was brewing there.
Gathering a force of one thousand men that included regular U.S. Army soldiers as well as members of Indiana's militia and some volunteers from Kentucky, Harrison headed toward the village. He intended to demand that the Native Americans there first hand over those responsible for some recent attacks on white settlers, then disperse. On November 6, as the group neared Prophet's Town, they received a message from Tenskwatawa proposing a meeting the next day. Harrison and his men stopped and set up camp for the night.
A bloody confrontation
Meanwhile, in Prophet's Town, Tenskwatawa (in Tecumseh's absence) was busy stirring the gathering of Native Americans from ten or more different tribes into a frenzy of anger and bloodthirstiness. He told them they should attack the white men's camp under the cover of darkness, and he promised them that his magical powers would turn the enemy bullets into soft, harmless clumps of mud. The Native Americans attacked in the early morning hours of November 7, 1811.
At first it seemed that the Native Americans had the advantage, as the light from their burning campfires made Harrison's troops easy targets. In the first moments of the battle many of Harrison's men were killed, and Harrison himself had a narrow escape: in the confusion, he had been unable to find his white horse and had leapt onto a dark one instead, while the officer who mounted Harrison's horse was killed by Indians who thought they were slaying the general. After about two hours, however, the Indians retreated, leaving behind thirty-eight dead warriors. The Americans suffered about two hundred casualties, including about sixty-three men killed either during the battle or aboard the jolting wagons that carried the wounded away. The total casualties on Tenskwatawa's side were probably similar. Proclaiming a great victory for his own men—since the goal of chasing the Native Americans away from Prophet's Town had been met—Harrison ordered his troops to burn the now empty village.
Tenskwatawa's followers were furious, and the weak excuses he offered for why his magic had not protected them fell flat. Tecumseh returned to find Prophet's Town in ruins and his brother disgraced. He banished Tenskwatawa to keep him from causing further trouble. Believing that now his only option was an alliance with the British, who promised to protect Native Americans' rights to land if they won the war, Tecumseh finally joined those Native Americans who had agreed to fight alongside the British. In October 1813 he would lose his life at the Battle of the Thames (near presentday Chatham, Ontario, Canada).
The Battle of Tippecanoe had three major results: it helped bring an end to any prospect of an alliance among the Native American tribes, it helped Harrison win the 1840 presidential election—Harrison played on his reputation as a war hero, using as his campaign slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" (John Tyler [1790-1862] was the vice presidential candidate), and it fueled people's eagerness for war with Great Britain. Americans reacted to the news of the battle with anger and indignation, adding it to their list of complaints about the difficulties of settling in the West. When it was learned that British weapons had been found on the battlefield, anti-British sentiment also was inflamed. Only a few days after the Battle of Tippecanoe, Congress met to discuss the prospect of war with Great Britain. Seven months later this war would become a reality.
Where to Learn More
Dowd, Gregory Evans. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745-1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
Dudley, William S., and Michael S. Crawford, eds. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History. 2 vols. Washington, DC: Naval Historical Center, 1985-92.
Edmunds, R. David. The Shawnee Prophet. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
Edmunds, R. David. Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. Boston:Little, Brown, 1984.
Elting, John R. Amateurs to Arms!: A Military History of the War of 1812. 1991. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Press, 1995.
Heidler, David S., and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds. Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1997.
Hickey, Donald R. The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
Mahon, John K. The War of 1812. 1972. Reprint. Cambridge, Mass.: DaCapo Press, 1991.
Discriminating Generals. [Online] http://www.militaryheritage.com/home.htm (accessed on November 26, 2001).
Documents on the War of 1812. [Online] http://www.hillsdale.edu/dept/History/Documents/War/FR1812.htm (accessed on November 26, 2001).
"War of 1812." KidInfo. [Online] http://www.kidinfo.com/American_History/warof1812.html (accessed on November 26, 2001).
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Thomas Warner Letters. [Online] http:www.haemo-sol.com/thomas/thomas.html (accessed on November 26, 2001).
War of 1812. [Online] http://www.galafilm.com/1812/e/index.html (accessed on November 26, 2001).
War of 1812-1814. [Online] http://www.members.tripod.com/~war1812/ (accessed on November 26, 2001).
War of 1812—Forgotten War. [Online] http://www.multied.com/1812/ (accessed on November 26, 2001).
Public Opinion on the Embargo Act
The following newspaper editorial documents public sentiment on the matter of the Embargo Act. The act was passed in 1807 as a result to a series of restrictions on U.S. shipping and commerce by Great Britain and France. Controversial from the beginning, the act eliminated trade with other nations and was supposed to force Britain and France into respecting the neutral trading rights of the United States. Although the law inconvenienced England somewhat, it severely disrupted the U.S. economy, especially that of the New England States. As a result, the act was repealed by Congress in 1809.
"The Embargo Experiment Ended," Baltimore Federal Republican, March 1809
The embargo now ceases to be in force, and every merchant who can give a bond with good sureties to double the amount of vessel and cargo, is entitled to clear out for any port except in France or England or the dependency of either of them. After depriving government of its means of support for sixteen months, and preventing the people of the United States from pursuing a lawful and profitable commerce, and reducing the whole country to a state of wretchedness and poverty, our infatuated rulers, blinded by a corrupt predilection [preference] for France, have been forced to acknowledge their fatal error, and so far to retrace their steps. To the patriotism of the New England States is due the praise of our salvation. By their courage and virtue have we been saved from entanglements in a fatal alliance with France. The whole system of fraud and corruption has been exposed to the people, and those very men who were the first to cast off the yoke of England, have lived to save their country from falling under the command of a more cruel tyrant. The patriot who had the courage to encounter the fury of the political storm, who stepped forth in the hour of danger to give the first alarm to his country, we trust will one day be rewarded with the highest honors in the gift of a grateful people.
Source: Documents on the War of 1812. [Online] http://www.hillsdale.edu/dept/History/Documents/War/FR1812.htm (accessed on November 26, 2001).