There was never a single event, something akin to a Fort Sumter or a Pearl Harbor, that sparked the War of 1812. There had been considerable tensions over impressment of sailors, but there were also several other major causes of the war.
In a sense, the War of 1812 was inevitable. The United States, still a young country, felt its commerce, and thus its survival, was being threatened by incessant bullying by Britain.
And, a faction of western expansionists in the U.S. Congress came to believe American forces could simply march in and seize Canada. As the war officially began 200 years ago today, American forces were already marching to present day Michigan, intent on invading British territory.
There was no fanfare or public spectacle when President Madison signed the declaration of war. Preparations for war, as well as intense opposition to it, continued with little change.
A shameful early defeat, the American surrender of Fort Detroit, made the war seem like a horrendous idea. Other events, such as a thrilling victory by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere, boosted spirits.
The War of 1812 has often been overlooked, though, in some ways, it united the country. And it definitely established that the United States would not be a failed experiment in independence.
Illustration: Banner proclaiming "Free Trade and Sailors' Rights," which flew from the mast of USS Chesapeake/Library of Congress
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