The War of 1812 Research Paper
The War of 1812: Who Won?
The War of 1812 had a profound impact on the development of North America and the relationships of the local territories with Great Britain, whose position was traditionally very strong in the region. In this respect, it should be said that basically the conflict had broken out between two major opponents who struggled for the domination in North America, between the USA and Great Britain. At the same time, it should be pointed out that this war may be viewed as an imperialistic war in a way because interests of both Great Britain and the USA were not only to protect its national interests and preserve its territories but also to maintain its power and gain the leadership in the region. On the other hand, in spite of the military actions that had taken place for almost three years from 1812 to 1815, it was still quite difficult to define the winner in this war because the territorial frontiers in North America had not been changed and the status quo had been preserved. In such a situation, it is necessary to take into consideration the position of all parties of the conflict, analyze their goals and effects of the war on their further development and their role in North America.
The US in the War of 1812
Basically, speaking about the role of the US in the War of 1812 and the effects of the war on this country, it should be pointed out that formally the US initiated the war and launched the military campaign against the British and its North American coloniesi. However, it would be a mistake to estimate that the US was an aggressor who is solely responsible for the breakout of the war. In actuality, the war became a natural result of the growing tension between the US and Great Britain which affected not only political but mainly economic sphere that apparently threatened to the national interests of the US. In such a context, the declaration of the war on Great Britain was a logical response of the US on the restrictive measures undertaken by Great Britain concerning the trade of the US with other countries, namely France. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the conflict also had a significant historical background of the competition between the US and Great Britain in North America.
In this regard, it should be said that the US targeted not only at the elimination of barriers in the international trade of the US with other countries, but the country also targeted at the territory expansion. At any rate, the US attempted to strengthen its position in the North, i.e. in the colonies of Great Britain, which were known as British North America at the epoch, and which later became Canada.
Taking into consideration the reasons for the war and goals of the US, it would be quite logical to use them as the basis for the assessment of the outcomes of the war. Basically, the winner in the war is the country that meets its goals, while if it fails than the country may be viewed as the loser in the war. However, the War of 1812 was quite a different and such a definition of the winner in the war can hardly be applicable to the US or any other country in the war. As the matter of fact, the US did not get any new territories after the end of the war, but still the country got rid of the barriers established by Great Britain and limiting consistently the American trade other countries of the world. At this point, it is possible to estimate that the US had reached the major goal of the war and thus it had won the war, even though it had failed to occupy new territories.
Obviously, the retreat of the British navy and elimination of barriers in the international trade of the US restored the pre-war status quo, but it is necessary to remember that the war had brought a lot of other benefits for the US and during the war the US had strengthened its position in North America consistently. In fact, it is possible to speak about the indirect effects and benefits of the war, which make it possible to estimate that it is the US that has won the War of 1812. In this respect, it should be pointed out that Great Britain did not really pay a lot of attention to the military operations in America, since it was mainly focused on European military campaign against Napoleon. As a result, the military and technological superiority of Great Britain could not be fully used in the war and the British chose the defensive strategy, which proves to be extremely beneficial for the US.
The reason is quite obvious – being free to act, the US army could develop and improve its strategy and tactics to defeat the enemy, which did not push on American but just defended its position. At any rate, the US army dealt only with a small part of the British military machine and the War of 1812 gave Americans valuable experience, which they could use in the future. In such a way, the War of 1812 could be viewed as a perfect training for the US army, if there were no victims among Americans and destructions, such as the “burning of Washington”ii. Nevertheless, the US army had acquired experience and it was extremely important since before the war Great Britain dealt with a weaker and less experienced army and due to its military and technological superiority it could probably defeat the US army if the British did their best and were not involved in the Napoleonic wars. In contrast, after the war, the US army became a strong and experienced rival whose power had become unchallengeable and arguable in the region and during the 19th and 20th centuries the US had been the main military power in the region.
Moreover, such a strengthening of the US army was determined by the significant economic and technological progress of the US. Paradoxically, this progress was the result of the blockade of the US organized by Great Britain. Being deprived of an opportunity to import strategically important products and equipment that were necessary to the US army, Americans developed the production of these strategically important goods on American plants. On the one hand, it stimulated the development of American industry, which compensated economically the stagnation of American agriculture in the result of the blockade, while, on the other hand, the country got a strong military-oriented industrial facilities, which could supply the national armyiii. As a result, even though the US did not get any new territory, this country may be viewed as the winner in this war because it have overthrown Great Britain as the hegemonic power in North America, it managed to develop free trade, its international politics and economy became absolutely independent from Great Britain and, what was more important, the US got a strong army and industrial basis for the further strengthening of the army and the national economy. In fact, after the war, the US became at least equal rival of Great Britain. Moreover, due to this war the US created the basis, military, technological and economic, for the future dominance in the region.
Great Britain in the War of 1812
As the US has been just defined as the winner of the War of 1812, the only logical conclusion that can be made in regard to Great Britain is the fact that this country has lost the war. However, it is important to underline that the defeat of Great Britain should be viewed in short-term and long-term perspectives. In such a context, it should be said that in short-term perspective Great Britain can hardly be viewed as a loser and, what is more, taking into consideration the goals of the war, it can be viewed as a winner. But, in the long-run, it is obvious that the War of 1812 was the beginning of the end of the British dominance in North America.
First of all, it should be said that the major goal of Great Britain was to stop the trade between the US and France. In fact, Great Britain does not really take seriously the war in America, when Europe was affected by the Napoleonic wars. In this respect, it is important to underline that it was the victory in Europe that was the primary goal of Great Britain because the victory of Napoleon would threaten to the ruling regime in Great Britain and other European monarchies, while American continent was viewed by the British as the colony and the sphere of economic interests, which were not vitally important at the moment for Great Britain.
Moreover, Great Britain did not really launch the war on the US, instead, it just attempted to meet its strategic goals by means of restricting American export to other countries, especially France. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that Great Britain and its North American colonies successfully developed trade with New England, which was a part of the US but refused to support financially and military the US army. In such a way, the main goal of Great Britain in the war was the blockade of American trade with France. From this standpoint, Great Britain may be viewed as a winner in this war since it had managed to prevent the US from trade with France during the war from 1812 to 1814. In actuality, Great Britain dominated on the sea and the US navy could not really compete with Great Britain. At the same time, the end of the War of 1812 in America may be viewed as a logical conclusion of a military campaign or blockade of the US by Great Britain. In fact, by 1814, when the Treaty of Ghent was signed, Great Britain practically solved its problems in Europe and there were no threats from Napoleon and France. In such a situation, Great Britain did not need to waste forces and money on the war in America after the devastating Napoleonic wars in Europe. As a result, Great Britain agreed to sign a peace treaty to preserve the status quo in America.
In such a context, it is obvious that Great Britain, similarly to the US, may be viewed as a winner because it achieved its strategic goals. But it is necessary to underline that it was a short-term, local victory, which, in a long-run, meant the defeat of Great Britain. What is meant here is the fact that the War of 1812 strengthened its major rival in the region, the US, and practically put an end to its plans concerning the further colonization of the continentiv. Moreover, the emergence of nationalism in its colonies in North America practically marked the end of Great Britain’s presence in the continent in the long-term perspective that could not be interpreted otherwise but as the defeat.
Canada/British North America in the War of 1812
At this point, it is possible to speak about the third party, which were not the most significant and powerful in the conflict and which actually fulfilled the role of an ally of Great Britain, British North America, which lately became Canada. Formally, British North America could not be viewed as an equal participant of the war because it was a colony of Great Britain. However, British North America probably benefited the most from the War of 1812. To put it more precisely, the weakening of the position of Great Britain in a long-run was strategically important for British North America as well as the failure of the US to invade its territories.
In actuality, the War of 1812 led to a very favorable situation for British North America to gain independence from Great Britain. On the one hand, British North America preserved its territory and proved its ability to protect from the foreign expansion from the part of the US. This local victory provoked the emergence of nationalism that contributed to the spread of ideas of the independence and creation of the new state in North America. This trend was enforced by the weakening of the position of Great Britain, which could not launch military operations in the region without a risk of facing a military opposition from the part of the USA.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the War of 1812 brought controversial results. In fact, speaking about the immediate results of the war, it is hardly possible to speak about a winner or loser because the status quo was preserved and formally the situation in North America had not changed at all. However, the major outcome of the war was the weakening of the position of Great Britain in the continent and an unparalleled strengthening of the US. Such a result of the war makes it possible to speak about the victory of the US in the war, in strategic terms, because the war gave the US not only a significant military experience but it also stimulated the development of national industry, made the country less dependent on import and, what was more important, the war put the end to the hegemony of Great Britain in North America. However, such a situation was the most favorable for British North America/Canada because this war actually paved the way to the independence of British colonies in North America.
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