The War of 1812 was a military conflict, lasting for two-and-a-half years, between USAball and UKball, its North American colonies and its American Indian allies. Seen by USAball and Canadaball as a war in its own right, it is frequently seen in Europe as a theatre of the Napoleonic Wars, as it was caused by issues related to that war.
USAball declared war on June 18, 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by the British war with Franceball, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honor after humiliations on the high seas, and possible American interest in annexing British territory in modern-day Canadaball.
The war was fought in three principal theatres. Firstly, at sea, warships and privateers of each side attacked the other's merchant ships, while the British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the USAball and mounted large raids in the later stages of the war. Secondly, land and naval battles were fought on the American–Canadian frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes, which saw Canadian and British troops burning down the white house. the Saint Lawrence River and the northern end of Lake Champlain. Thirdly, the American South and Gulf Coast also saw big land battles, in which the American forces defeated Britain's Indian allies and a British invasion force at New Orleansball.
The Treaty of Ghent
Factors leading to the peace negotiations
By 1814, both sides had either achieved their main war goals or were weary of a costly war that offered little but stalemate. They both sent delegations to a neutral site in Ghent, Flanders (now part of Belgium). The negotiations began in early August and concluded on December 24, when a final agreement was signed; both sides had to ratify it before it could take effect. Meanwhile both sides planned new invasions.
In 1814 the British began blockading the United States, and brought the American economy to near bankruptcy, forcing it to rely on loans for the rest of the war. American foreign trade was reduced to a trickle. The parlous American economy was thrown into chaos with prices soaring and unexpected shortages causing hardship in New England which was considering secession. But also to a lesser extent British interests were hurt in the West Indies and Canada that had depended on that trade. Although American privateers found chances of success much reduced, with most British merchantmen now sailing in convoy, privateering continued to prove troublesome to the British, as shown by high insurance rates. British landowners grew weary of high taxes, and colonial interests and merchants called on the government to reopen trade with the U.S. by ending the war.
Negotiations and peace
At last in August 1814, peace discussions began in the neutral city of Ghent. Both sides began negotiations warily The British diplomats stated their case first, demanding the creation of an Indian barrier state in the American Northwest Territory (the area from Ohio to Wisconsin). It was understood the British would sponsor this Indian state. The British strategy for decades had been to create a buffer state to block American expansion. Britain demanded naval control of the Great Lakes and access to the Mississippi River. The Americans refused to consider a buffer state and the proposal was dropped. Although article IX of the treaty included provisions to restore to Natives "all possessions, rights and privileges which they may have enjoyed, or been entitled to in 1811", the provisions were unenforceable. The Americans (at a later stage) demanded damages for the burning of Washington and for the seizure of ships before the war began.
American public opinion was outraged when Madison published the demands; even the Federalists were now willing to fight on. The British had planned three invasions. One force burned Washington but failed to capture Baltimore, and sailed away when its commander was killed. In northern New York State, 10,000 British veterans were marching south until a decisive defeat at the Battle of Plattsburgh forced them back to Canada. Nothing was known of the fate of the third large invasion force aimed at capturing New Orleans and southwest. The Prime Minister wanted the Duke of Wellington to command in Canada and take control of the Great Lakes. Wellington said that he would go to America but he believed he was needed in Europe. He emphasized that the war was a draw and the peace negotiations should not make territorial demands.
The Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, aware of growing opposition to wartime taxation and the demands of Liverpool and Bristol merchants to reopen trade with America, realized Britain also had little to gain and much to lose from prolonged warfare especially after the growing concern about the situation in Europe. After months of negotiations, against the background of changing military victories, defeats and losses, the parties finally realized that their nations wanted peace and there was no real reason to continue the war. Now each side was tired of the war. Export trade was all but paralyzed and after Napoleon fell in 1814 France was no longer an enemy of Britain, so the Royal Navy no longer needed to stop American shipments to France, and it no longer needed to impress more seamen. It had ended the practices that so angered the Americans in 1812. The British were preoccupied in rebuilding Europe after the apparent final defeat of Napoleon.
British negotiators were urged by Lord Liverpool to offer a status quo and dropped their demands for the creation of an Indian barrier state, which was in any case hopeless after the collapse of Tecumseh's alliance. This allowed negotiations to resume at the end of October. British diplomats soon offered the status quo to the US negotiators, who accepted them. Prisoners would be exchanged, and captured slaves returned to the United States or be paid for by Britain.
On December 24, 1814 the diplomats had finished and signed the Treaty of Ghent. The treaty was ratified by the British three days later on December 27 and arrived in Washington on February 17 where it was quickly ratified and went into effect, thus finally ending the war. The terms called for all occupied territory to be returned, the prewar boundary between Canada and the United States to be restored, and the Americans were to gain fishing rights in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence.
The Treaty of Ghent failed to secure official British acknowledgment of American maritime rights or ending impressment. However, in the century of peace until World War I these rights were not seriously violated. The defeat of Napoleon made irrelevant all of the naval issues over which the United States had fought. The Americans had achieved their goal of ending the Indian threat; furthermore the American armies had scored enough victories (especially at New Orleans) to satisfy honour and the sense of becoming fully independent from Britain.