Domestic Supporters and Opponents

The schism between supporters and opponents largely represented the division between the two political parties at the time: Democrative-Republicans and Federalists. These two rival political parties were the first adversary parties since the nations founding. Federalists emerged under Alexander Hamilton with preference to a manufacturing and foreign trade based economy, with Republicans preferring an agrarian economy with limited involvement with outsiders.[1]  Former President Thomas Jefferson (under whom the Embargo Act of 1807 was passed) and President James Madison who was then calling for war, were both Republicans.

Supporters

Expansion into Canada was how some Americans saw their country’s legitimacy being defined. War Hawks were large proponents of expansionism at this time, feeling that British actions were threats to free trade and just plain disrespectful. War Hawk Henry Clay was elected Speaker of the House and determined to defend America’s reputation and interests by pushing Spain out of Florida and England out of Canada.[2] The South and West hence supported the war, as they wanted more land for their farming and plantations. Newer western states like Kentucky, Tennessee, anf Ohio favored war to “eliminate Indian threat.”[3]

Opponents

Though there were supporters of the war, the War of 1812 had great opposition as well. It had the smallest margin of support for declaration of war ever with a vote of 78 to 49 in the House and 19 to 13 in the Senate.[4] New England was strongly opposed because though the issues of impressment were directly affecting this part of the nation, they feared that war would put an even greater risk on the already threatened trade. Many were turned off by the lousy presidential decisions of the past like the Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts that left the trade economy hurting.

Federalists who mainly populated the North all voted against the war, and their opposition continued even after war was declared. The Baltimore riots were significant in showing political tensions. Early in 1812 in Baltimore, violence was turned toward the offices of an anti-war Federalist newspaper the Federal Republican and a torture of the editors later followed when they tried to return (one death resulted).[5] This continued opposition would eventually lead to the end of the Federalist Party after the war.



[1] Glenn S. Gordinier, The Rockets’ Red Glare, 19.

[2] David Harrell, Unto a Good Land, 261.

[3] Glenn S. Gordinier, The Rockets’ Red Glare, 69.

[4] "

[5] Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812, 178.

Comments