How and why did the Napoleonic Wars in Europe spread to include invasion of US soil, including the destruction of the US Capitol? What similarities do you see between the causes and events of the War of 1812 and modern overseas events affecting significant US cities and borders?

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The War of 1812 can be seen as an extension of the Napoleonic Wars. War Hawks in the United States Congress believed that they could annex Canada while Britain was occupied with fighting France. Also, United States merchants ran the risk of running the British blockade to trade with Britain and France. British ships stopped American ships and raided their cargoes. Also, the British used impressment to fill its own merchant marine with sailors whom they said deserted to American ships. The United States was outraged at this breach of sovereignty, claiming that it had a right to trade with whomever it wished and that British naval captains were guilty of kidnapping American sailors. The outrage of impressment, trade restrictions, and a desire to gain Canada ultimately led to the United States declaring war on Britain.

The war did not go well for the United States; the Canadians refused to join the United States and actually helped the British. The United States burned York, which is present-day Toronto. In retaliation, the British burned Washington D.C. After Napoleon left power in 1814, the War of 1812 ended as Britain did not have any major interests in the United States as long as the Americans did not invade Canada again. The United States and Britain returned to being trading partners and impressment stopped.

This war has some similarities with recent and current events. The United States went to war with Germany in WWI largely due to Germany not respecting American rights to trade with the Entente powers. 9/11 marked the first time Washington D.C. had been directly attacked since the War of 1812. The United States is still involved with issues in other countries. The United States intervenes regularly in the Middle East to establish its view of order in the region. Currently, American lawmakers rattle their sabers at Russia for its actions in Syria and Ukraine. The United States also protests any Chinese encroachment into the South China Sea via artificially created islands as a threat to its trading routes in the region.

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The War of 1812 was in part an outgrowth of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. The U.S. decided to declare war on Britain in part because the British Navy was impressing Americans into serving on their ships; impressment of about 10,000 American merchant sailors was one of the major irritants that led the U.S. to declare war. In addition, the Chesapeake-Leopard incident, in which the British ship the HMS Leopard pursued the American frigate the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia in 1807, was another cause of the war. The crew of the Leopard was apparently looking for deserters from the British Navy, and the ships were involved in a short battle. Afterward, the British government refused to back away from impressment, which was a vital issue at the time because the Royal Navy was such a brutal institution that many sailors tried to escape to other nations' boats, and Britain was involved in a war with France.

After the Chesapeake-Leopard incident, the public response was a cry for war, but Jefferson, who was President at the time, tried to use diplomatic solutions, to no avail. He passed the Embargo Act of 1807, which was intended to end all American imports to Britain and France. The U.S. wanted to trade with both countries and remain neutral. However, the Embargo Act largely only hurt American shipping. The other causes of the war were the desire for America to expand west, while the British gave support to Native Americans along the western frontier to prevent American expansion.

The war included attacks by the Royal Navy along the coast, including along the Chesapeake, leading to an attack on Washington, D.C. and the burning of the White House, U.S. Capitol, and Navy Yard. Once Napoleon left power in 1814, Britain and France became allies, and one of the causes of the war had ended.

Today, wars abroad also involve the U.S. For example, the devastating civil war in Syria, which has been going on since 2011, has resulted the migration of millions of immigrants to Europe and some to the U.S. Ongoing unrest in the Middle East has resulted in violence in the U.S. For example, al-Queda claimed that American support of Israel was in part the reason behind the 9/11 attacks, in addition to the American involvement in the Persian Gulf War. As the War of 1812 involved attacks on American soil, such as the burning of the White House and U.S. Capitol, the events of 9/11 also included attacks on domestic targets such as the Pentagon, in addition to hijacking planes. 

 

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