Prior to the War of 1812, Americans were largely divided on whether to grow closer to Britain or grow closer to France. This was complicated by growing tensions and conflict between Britain and France in the Napoleonic period. Federalists, who were often involved in manufacturing and shipping, had significant wealth,...
Prior to the War of 1812, Americans were largely divided on whether to grow closer to Britain or grow closer to France. This was complicated by growing tensions and conflict between Britain and France in the Napoleonic period. Federalists, who were often involved in manufacturing and shipping, had significant wealth, and lived in the Northeast and coastal areas, were in favor of greater ties with Britain. This was largely based on economic and trade interests. Democratic-Republicans preferred closer ties to France, who they remembered as a key ally in the American Revolution.
Within the Democratic-Republican party was a more extreme group that called for war with Britain. This group was known as the "War Hawks" for their militaristic views. War Hawks typically came from more rural areas in America's South and along its western frontier. The War Hawks began as a minority within the Democratic-Republican party, but they eventually would grow to have considerable influence under Henry Clay.
War Hawks had a few motivations behind calling for war with Britain. They, along with many other Americans, were upset by the British policy of capturing American ships, as well as the impressment of American sailors. British ships would stop American ships heading to Europe, capture the goods (especially if they were of a military nature), and oftentimes take sailors from the ships for service in the British navy.
Other factors also encouraged the War Hawks to call for war. This included the fact that the British spurred Native American attacks against American frontier settlers in the Northwest. Additionally, many War Hawks had goals of territorial expansion. They believed that war with Britain could lead to territorial gains in Florida and Canada.
As the War Hawks gained influence, their anti-British sentiment spread across the country. It was the views of the War Hawks that pushed America closer to war with Britain. In 1812, the United States would issue a declaration of war against Britain under the leadership of President Madison. The conflict would result in no real exchange of territory and many defeats for the United States, but it did prove that the United States was strong enough to defend itself. This would provide a newfound confidence for the young nation, which would lead into the Era of Good Feelings.