The War of 1812

Start Free Trial

Student Question

To what extent was the War of 1812 a "second American revolution"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The War of 1812 was at the time often denominated a "second war of independence," as it marked the second time the U.S. had rebelled against presumed British tyranny. Even though the U.S. did not achieve its objectives in the war (impressment, the very issue on which the war was fought, was not mentioned in the Treaty of Ghent) there was a surge of nationalism and a common belief that the image of the U.S. government had been enhanced by the war.

Additionally, the Jefferson Embargo coupled with the loss of foreign trade during the war itself had led to increased domestic manufacturing. Since American industry was suddenly exposed once more to cheap foreign goods following the end of the war, the Tariff of 1816, the first designed to protect American Industry, was passed by Congress. It is doubtful that American industry would have progressed as rapidly were it not for the Embargo and the War.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Some historians (myself included) call the Revolution of 1775 America's political revolution from Britain, and the War of 1812 America's economic revolution from Britain.

Since the Revolution, Britain's navy still controlled the oceans, seizing American ships, keeping the cargoes, and "impressing" American sailors into British service - effectively kidnapping our citizens.

While the war itself was largely a pointless stalemate (Britain controlled the oceans, but was unwilling to invade an doccupy the US again), the Treaty of Ghent that ended it also resolved, for the most part, the major differences between the two countries.  Winning freedom of the seas for our trade ships gave us economic independence.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The war of 1812, also known as the Inconclusive Revolution, is called the second American Revolution because while in the first revolution we fought to become our own country, this second revolution asserted our American rights, and gave Americans the opportunity to show their true colors, their courage and the message of "Do not thread on us" when it comes to our rights.

The Peace Treaty of 1783 marked the end of the first American Revolution. At the time, there was continuous expansion of the territories, and the United State still had territories belonging to both the French and the Spanish. In the same token, the new Americans were conducting trades with nations in Europe, and were building its military with the aid of foreign consultants. It was a fine line between ethics and irony, but they did what they had to do.

On the other hand, Europe did not share the feeling of self that the Americans felt, and still sort of treated them as colonists. Hence, Britain could have bullied the united states into following certain rules that would block their development as a country.

One of those rules was trade. Britain, starting a fight with France that would be known as the French Revolution (1793-1815) forbade the United States from trading or doing any kind of communication with France. This was a heavy thing to do- when u think about it, people in the ranks of Benjamin Franklin had a long-established and solid relationship in the Parisian community as an ambassador. How could we stop now?

Hence, the United States under the command of James Madison declared war on Britain in 1812, and took the Declaration of Independence as its guidon. It was the first manifestation of war with Britain after 20 years of battling back and forth for our newly-created rights.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

People sometimes refer to the War of 1812 as a second war for American independence because it was caused by various types of British interference with America's independence.  The war ended the interference and made the US much more free from Britain than it had been.  The major kinds of interference were:

  • British forts were still on US territory in what is now the Midwest
  • The British used those forts to supply Indians and to encourage them to attack American settlers
  • The British would stop American shipping and impress American sailors

All of these stopped after the War of 1812.  Therefore, it seems logical to call it a second war for independence.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial