James Madison faced the events that eventually led the United States to war during his presidency. According to his beliefs, he preferred to take a diplomatic approach, especially in regards to the Orders in Council. The Orders in Council were decrees from the government of England. The Orders in Council greatly impacted trade because they set blockades in place. Public opinion began to shift and some thought that Madison should declare war on England. He still preferred a diplomatic route to address the blockade issue. Despite this emphasis on diplomacy, Madison requested that Congress expand the United States military. This was not in alignment with Madison's beliefs, which were to deemphasize the military.
England was at war with France. The British wished for the United States to avoid trade with France. The British sometimes used the power of their Navy to stop the Americans from trading with France. This occurred in spite of American neutrality and caused tensions to grow. The British Navy also gave weapons to Native Americans with the goal of them attacking American settlers. The United States government and citizens were divided about whether or not they should go to war against Britain. James Madison had to abandon his preference for diplomacy and for a deemphasis on military action. The United States entered the War of 1812 under his leadership. This was an obstacle he had to face.