Thomas Jefferson was succeeded by James Madison, a veteran of the Revolution. Madison, a Democrat, proposed the first 10 Amendments (Bill of Rights) to the United States Constitution.
The Yorktown battle in 1781 was considered the end of the Revolutionary war, however skirmishes continued between the French and the British until the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.
During the years following the Revolution, Britain imposed restrictive measures on the high sea, affecting international commerce.
These orders were continually changing to suit their needs. One such measure imposed in 1809, the same year Madison took charge was "all the ports and places of France and her allies, or of any other country at war with His Majesty, and all other ports or places in Europe, from which, although not at war with His Majesty, the British flag is excluded, and all ports or places in the colonies belonging to His Majesty's enemies, should from henceforth be subject to the same restrictions in point of trade or navigation as if the same were actually blockaded in the most strict and vigorous manner; and also to prohibit "all trade in articles which are the produce or manufacture of the said countries or colonies----"
These actions were deemed clear violations and enough for the Americans to declare war. Madison, as his predecessor considered this to be anti-ethical to their party. War would induce debt at a time they were trying to retire their previous obligations. Their philosophy was to maintain low taxes while eliminating debt which met with the moral views of a country based on agriculture.
More unrest followed in 1810. The Federalists in the northeast were less than happy with Madison. Commercial interests in the New England states conflicted the views of the south and the west, feelings that would continue throughout the entire war.
When the Americans commenced trade with the British (supreme on the seas at that time), it caused them to lose favour with the French forces and instigated Napoleon to declare open trade with the United States and cease prior conduct.
This caused Madison to re-impose restrictions on British trade leading to Napoleon’s attack on United States shipping. Now they faced two enemies on the oceans.
In 1810 in an attempt to appease southern unrest, Madison annexed portions of west Florida abutting the Spanish territory with Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, opening up new markets for American products.
Trying to remain true to his beliefs Madison continued to avoid war even though it appeared inevitable. January 1811 he secretly met with congress to enable him to occupy east Florida. The French and British navies effectively kept American shipping to home ports.
A Kentuckian, Henry Clay, and believer of Alexander Hamilton’s economic philosophy, supported high tariffs on foreign goods which would spur domestic production. He was supported by westerners when he made expenditures to connect the west with the east through the building of roadways.
Near the end of the year 1811, the Americans suspected the English officers in Canada were inciting Shawnee tribes in Indiana. It was substantiated when British muskets and other war material was found left by British, Indian allies in the battlefield against American settlers.
Madison was re-elected in 1812 for a second term but remained on the fence, hoping the British would relent on its maritime policies. It was obvious this would not be the case.
A war resolution was passed in June of 1812, by one vote and after conferring with Thomas Jefferson war was proclaimed.
The war became official with this declaration June 18, 1812:
Canada and the War of 1812
President Madison’s appointment of Generals Andrew Jackson, James Brown and William Henry Harrison was his good fortune. His Under Secretary of War John Armstrong was not, and his failures caused the city of Washington to be seized by the British in 1814.
The British forces were undermanned due to the war in France and Europe, but they were much better prepared. Harrison had already proved his worth in the defeat of the British Indian allies in what is now Indiana.
Major General Isaac Brock of the British forces was wise in making allies of the First Nations people, having only 1600 at his disposal. He did not wait but by boldly attacking the Americans he would prove victorious.
His capture of Michilimakinac July 17 had no casualties. When he arrived at Amherstburg the Americans, under General William Hull.
In August Brock fought with the Shawnee chief Tecumseh at his side and Hull was forced to surrender Detroit, giving the British control not only in Michigan but also the Upper Mississippi.
Next was Queenston Heights, in October, where sadly Brock was killed. The Americans tried to retake Detroit, but the fierce British, Canadian and First Nations militia, under Henry Procter forced them to abandon the conflict.
In 1813, the Americans were determined to capture Kingston to severe ties between Upper and Lower Canada. They were able to occupy York for a brief time, burning and seizing naval supplies. For the remainder of the war neither side took full control of the lake.
Abandoning York in May the Amercans seized Fort George at the mouth of the Niagara River. In June, General John Vincent and his army retaliated against the enemy at Stony Creek, causing the Americans to retreat. Another defeat at BeaverDams saw 600 men captured by First Nation troops. The Americans quit Canada in December but not before burning the town of Newark (Niagara on the Lake). The British army retaliated once more with a brutal attack at Buffalo and Later Washington in August the following year.
The Final Attack in Upper Canada
The Treaty of Ghent (Belgium) was signed Christmas Eve of 1814 and disputes over boundaries were deferred to joint commissions