Authored by Matthew Forney Steele
Edited by Walter H.T. Seager
On the 18th of June, 1812, Congress declared war against Great Britain. The grounds upon which the declaration was made were just and sufficient, but not more so than they had been for several years. Nor can it well be seen by a careful review of the case that there was much less cause for war with France than there was for war with England. These two states had been engaged in hostilities for several years. The British Ministry by their “Orders in Council” declared the coasts of France and her allies and colonies in a state of blockade. Napoleon replied with his famous Berlin and Milan Decrees declaring a blockade of British ports. Neither belligerent, of course, was able to maintain an actual blockade of such extensive coast lines, but each seized all vessels caught violating its “paper blockade.” The result of it all was that within three or four years American commerce was practically driven from the seas.
A former Administration, Mr. Jefferson’s, undertook to retaliate by issuing an embargo, prohibiting American vessels from going to sea. This was based on the supposition that Europe could not subsist without American products. It imposed a great hardship on our commerce, of course, had no effect on the belligerents, and was revoked after fourteen months. The same thing was again resorted to in Madison’s administration, with the same result. Another grievance against Great Britain was based on her monstrous assumption of the right to search American ships for British subjects. In fact, this complaint was given first place in the President’s message to Congress, recommending a declaration of war.
But all these outrages had gone on for five or six years, and would probably have been tolerated until the end, if President Madison could have had his way,–for he was as pacific and long-suffering as his Mentor, Mr. Jefferson. But a squad of younger men, led by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, had got control in Congress. They compelled the decision for war.
Oct 22 2014
1502924595 / 9781502924599
US Trade Paper
7″ x 10″
Black and White
History / United States / 19th Century