“The war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution had given” - Treaty negotiator Albert Gallatin reflecting on the War of 1812
“The war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution had given”
Without gaining territory or wealth, the United States nonetheless forged a victory in their memories of the war, forgetting the setbacks to focus on the strength of the Union.
During the decades following the War of Independence, the United States endured a state of turmoil as Republicans and Federalists fought for power and influence in the young nation. Many loyal British subjects filled the former colonies, and immigrants seeking cheap land and decent wages flooded into the port cities. Many felt that the long-term future of the republic was far from certain.
The decision to declare war on Britain contributed to division amongst Americans. Federalists opposed the war, while Republicans hoped for quick victories that would unite the nation under their leadership. One politician lamented the goal of conquering the continent, asking, “Will not the addition of these Territories accelerate a dissolution of the Union?”
When the Americans suffered losses in the first battles of the war, the situation seemed dire. Suffering a financial crisis and lack of popular support for the war, the United States became desperate for victory or peace.
Fortunately, the Americans began to find success in battles on the frontier, on the seas, and even the Atlantic coast. Naval commanders became popular heroes, and state militias received praise for defending the republic. As the negotiation of a peace treaty came to an end, a decisive battle at New Orleans strengthened the sense of American victory.
Although the war’s outcome was not overwhelmingly positive and political battles continued, many Americans focused on the memorable successes and created a legacy of victory against oppressive Britain.
According to Albert Gallatin, one of the negotiators of the Treaty of Ghent, “The war has renewed and reinstated the national feelings and character which the Revolution had given, and which were daily lessened … They are more Americans; they feel and act more as a nation; and I hope that the permanency of the Union is thereby better secured.”