The Importance of the War of 1812

The obscurity of this war, however, should not blind us to its significance, for it was an important turning point, a great watershed, in the history of the young republic.  It concluded almost a quarter of a century of troubled diplomacy and partisan politics and ushered in the Era of Good Feelings.  It marked the end of the Federalist party but the vindication of Federalist policies, many of which were adopted by Republicans during or after the war.  The war also broke the power of American Indians and reinforced the powerful undercurrent of Anglophobia that had been spawned by the Revolution a generation before.  In addition, it promoted national self-confidence and encouraged the heady expansionism that lay at the heart of American foreign policy for the rest of the century.  Finally, the war gave the fledgling republic a host of sayings, symbols, and songs that helped Americans define who they were and where their young republic was headed.  Although looking to the past, the war was fraught with consequences for the future, and for this reason it is worth studying today.

The war also produced its share of heroes–people whose reputations were enhanced by military or government service.  The war helped catapult four men into the presidency – Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, James Monroe, and William Henry Harrison – and three men into the vice-presidency – Daniel D. Tompkins, John C. Calhoun, and Richard M. Johnson.  The war also gave a significant boost to the political or military careers of other men.  Indeed, for many young men on the make, the war offered an excellent launching pad for a career.

An American Perspective on the War of 1812 by Donald Hickey –


Though the War of 1812 is remembered as a relatively minor conflict in the United States and Britain, it looms large for Canadians and for Native Americans, who see it as a decisive turning point in their losing struggle to govern themselves. In fact, the war had a far-reaching impact in the United States, as the Treaty of Ghent ended decades of bitter partisan infighting in government and ushered in the so-called “Era of Good Feelings.” The war also marked the demise of the Federalist Party, which had been accused of being unpatriotic for its antiwar stance, and reinforced a tradition of Anglophobia that had begun during the Revolutionary War. Perhaps most importantly, the war’s outcome boosted national self-confidence and encouraged the growing spirit of American expansionism that would shape the better part of the 19th century.

Taft’s note – notice any interesting connections between the first two pieces?  hmmm….. same author, or maybe some un-cited sources …

The History Channel –


The War of 1812 was important to the U.S. Navy for several reasons. The war demonstrated to the American public the vital importance of an effective naval force for national defense. It validated early policy decisions to implement cutting-edge technology for our warships. And it established a heritage of competence, heroism, and victory.

Dr. Michael Crawford, Naval History and Heritage Command,  United States Navy –


As I said, first of all, it assures people that the Republic can stand the stress, and the Constitution will not be suborned. And the other thing is that, prior to that, we were still emotionally a little branch of Europe – insignificant edge of the European world. We seem to have broken the knot with that survival. In other words, what was in essence a no-win, no-lose agreement [the treaty of Ghent] for us meant that we had stayed in the ring with the greatest power in the world and we’d at least survived. And so the Republic is vindicated, that’s one. And almost as a man, Americans put their backs to the Atlantic, focused on the Rocky Mountains, and for a century devoted themselves to the exploitation, good or bad, of the continent. We didn’t really kind of go back into being an international player until the war with Spain at the end of the century. That I think is the most direct result on the American side. It was part of that shakedown I mentioned of the Constitution, and most Americans would say we passed the test, now let’s get on with it.

Joe Whitehorn, American Historian,


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