How the War of 1812 Began: Events Leading to the "Forgotten War"

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How the War of 1812 Began: Events Leading to the “Forgotten War”

You will be able to identify the causes (impressments, expansion, economics, and nationalism) of the War of 1812.

Part 1:

Section 1: French and British Conflict

Great Britain and France’s rivalry turned to violence throughout the 1790s and 1800s. At first, America was allowed to remain neutral, or take neither side, and still sail their ships freely around Europe to sell their goods. However, this quickly changed, as Britain and France began seizing American ships, taking their supplies and goods, and forcing the sailors to fight on their side in the war. This kidnapping of American sailors to work on British or French boats was called “impressments’’.

The US and Great Britain attempted to solve this problem with Jay’s Treaty (The French were angered by Jay’s Treaty (1794) under George Washington, but the British mostly ignored the agreement and continued to impress sailors. The French were angered by Jay’s Treaty because they believed that the US should be supporting them – after all, the French helped the Americans win their independence from Great Britain. In retaliation for this belief, the French began to seize American ships heading to British ports around the world. President John Adams (elected in 1796) sent a group of negotiators to France in order to establish peace between the nations by offering the same kind of terms for France that could be found in Jay’s Treaty with the British. When the Americans arrived, three French agents demanded (1) bribes simply to begin discussions with the French Foreign Minister; (2) a huge loan to the French to fight its war with Britain, and; (3) an apology for unflattering remarks made by President Adams. The Americans immediately left for the United States and made its report to President Adams. The failure of the negotiations left many Americans blaming its own representatives for the failure. In order to prove that it was indeed the fault of the French, the American representatives released a report of their discussions with the French agents, changing the names of the French agents to “X”, “Y”, and “Z”, to conceal their identity, and the conflict became known as the XYZ Affair.

Americans were enraged by this insult handed to them by the French. The hostility between the United States and France erupted into an undeclared war at sea between the two nations, known as the Quasi-War. Merchant and warships from both sides fought each other off the eastern coast of the United States and in the Caribbean between 1798 and 1800. President Adams responded by building up both the Army and the Navy, however both sides eventually agreed to end the conflict in 1800 before an actual war was declared. America’s affection for France, resulting from its support of Americans during the Revolutionary War, quickly died as a result.

1) What side did America take in the conflict between Britain and France? __________________________________________________________________________________________

2) What were “impressments”? What countries did this, and why? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3) How did the French punish the Americans for remaining neutral?


4) How did Americans respond to the XYZ Affair? What was the result of the conflict?


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