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1812

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In June of 1812 the United States declared war on Britain. This

declaration was the result of almost thirty years of stormy relations between the two nations. It both took the British by surprise and worried many Americans who saw it as a foolish endeavor. The United States, maintained a cautious neutrality through successive administrations since 1789. The potential risks in changing this policy and settling the existing grievances against Britain by force were many.

The United States objected to many British maritime practices. The British carried out most of these practices in the 1790's during the first period of the war between Britain and France. However, they enforced them much more often after the renewed hostilities in 1803. The British shipping interests and their supporters also felt the

American merchant marine was profiting immensely from the

European wars. This growth of American shipping was a threat to British commercial supremacy, to British naval power, and to the safety of the country. Restrictions on American commerce would do harm to France. At the same time it would help the British maritime interests compete with the United States' shippers. Another of the maritime issues was that of impressment. It was the most volatile issue between the two countries. This was because it dealt with sovereignty. Impressment involved the right to search for deserters. It also involved the right of any British officer to make an on-the-spot decision concerning a man's nationality. The British position was that they had the right of sovereignty to chase fugitive nationals anywhere up to a line where another nation's sovereignty barred that pursuit. Britain claimed no right to search American vessels in territorial waters of the United States. Nor did the United States deny that Britain had the right to search American vessels in British territorial waters. It was a question of jurisdiction on the high seas, over which neither could claim sovereignty, which caused the problem. The abuses that accompanied the search and impressment of suspected deserters were extremely upsetting to the American public.

The British naval officers, in view of the manpower problems they were having at the time, sometimes made mistakes and illegally impressed an American citizen. Though the British would correct these errors, it often took years to find and free an American they had illegally impressed. Americans considered this to be an insult to their sovereignty. They also felt that any nation that allowed the seizure and virtual enslavement of its citizens could not consider itself independent.

After the Chesapeake affair British officers in Canada realized the likelihood of hostilities. They began to make arrangements to insure the friendship of the Indians of the Old Northwest. This was a fairly easy task due to the constant pressure put on these tribes by the westward expansion of the United States. Beginning in 1805 the

Shawnee, Tecumseh, and his brother, Prophet, were trying to

form a general Indian confederacy to resist this westward expansion. The British started aiding them in 1807. In

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