A Republic in an Age of Empires

The War of 1812 was part of a broad conflict between Great Britain and France that embroiled many nations, both European and Native, over the course of a century. From the American perspective, the conflict was the final act of the American Revolution. American aspirations to sustain the new republic on a continental scale ultimately brought them into conflict with their former colonizer, and also with the Native nations whose lives, lands, and liberties were threatened in the North American contest between the British Empire and the United States. How would the radical gamble of an American republic premised on the sovereignty of the collective people resist and exploit the challenges of Europe's far-flung empires, and negotiate competing claims for liberty and sovereignty among its neighbors in the "New World?"

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  • Painting of Britannia and Columbia holding hands and celebrating peace

    The conclusion of the War of 1812 was eagerly anticipated. Expensive and unpopular among both British and American citizens, the news of peace was greeted enthusiastically by everyone affected by the war. Read more

  • Picture of American sailors taken aboard a British ship

    Americans remember the War of 1812 as a second war of independence, as a war to force the British to give up practices that violated American rights and undermined US sovereignty. But this war was a byproduct of a much larger conflict in Europe. Read more

  • Speech from Shawnee Chief Tecumseh to governor William Henry Harrison

    From the earliest settlement of the United States, American settlers have conflicted with American Indian neighbors over border and land disputes. Boundary lines established with the American Indians by the British leading into the American Revolution began chafing the American state after independence. This resulted in hostilities and eventually war as the United States dedicated itself to pressing westward at any cost. Read more

  • Portrait of Shawnee religious leader Tenskwatawa

    Following increasingly restrictive and exploitative land cessation treaties between the United States and Indian nations, tribal people were faced with difficult choices. Would Natives follow the restrictions of the Americans or fight them? Would they remain an independent people, or assimilate into white society? Would they remain on ancestral lands at the risk of enraging land-hungry Americans, or leave home in the interest of keeping peace? Read more

  • Room full of American and British delegates in Ghent, Belgium

    Just as the course of the war was influenced by developments in Europe, so, too, were the peace negotiations. The two warring nations sent peace delegations to Ghent in modern-day Belgium for talks that got underway in August 1814. Because the British had scrapped the Order-in-Council shortly after war had been declared, the only major outstanding issue was impressment. By the time the talks began, the United States had dropped this issue, paving a rocky road to peace. Read more

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