My name is Henry Clay. I am from Kentucky, and the youngest speaker of the House of Representatives ever to be elected. People like me represent the youth and vigor that is making our country a great nation. Our country may be young and the future is bright -- if we have the courage to face it. The British are trying to keep our country down and we must fight them. I have assembled a bloc of fellow representatives who are in favor of war with Great Britain, and I am doing everything I can to encourage Congress to strengthen the military in preparation for war.
The most valuable treasure the United States' has is its honor. Without honor, what do you have? Nothing! How can we live with ourselves if we allow Great Britain to steal our sailors, take our ships and encourage the Indians to shoot our settlers? The British don't respect our flag, it means nothing to them. I say we stand up for that flag and make them respect it! What kind of nation allows its citizens to be kidnapped and forced into a foreign navy? What is the point of fighting a war for independence only to roll over and submit to the whims of bullies and tyrants?
Those that oppose the war argue over what could possibly be gained by declaring war. They think the odds are against us -- that the might of Great Britain's military would crush us. How would that be possible? The British military could take every major city along the coast and still not conquer this country! How could a foreign army conquer the Allegheny Mountains? Didn't we beat the British before during the Revolution? The militia of Kentucky alone could invade the British colonies of Canada and take them! We could raise a million men to fight, if only Congress would agree to do so now.
I say the question is not what we would lose by going to war, but what we would lose by NOT declaring it. We would lose our honor and self-respect, and that would only encourage Great Britain and others to continue doing whatever they feel like. We have no choice. It would be better to go down swinging than to meekly submit and hand over what our great fathers like George Washington fought so hard to attain.
Good day! My name is Josette Dugas and I live in New Orleans. Louisiana is the newest state in the union -- just admitted April 30! Of course it took three weeks for us to find out -- it takes awhile for news to arrive here, you understand! Although we have not yet elected any Senators and Representatives, many of us do have definite opinions about going to war with Great Britain.
The British are ruining our trade with their restrictive acts. I remember years ago when the Spanish restricted trade from New Orleans, then the French took control, and finally the United States. Being of French heritage, I was nervous when the United States acquired Louisiana, but as farmers in Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky started shipping their goods down the Mississippi River, our city prospered. My husband runs a shipping business and he says those were good years.
Now, the British are restricting our trade with their decrees and orders in council. These decrees prevent us from trading with the West Indies and the continent of Europe. We could hardly ship any of our cotton or sugar to sell, and the laws against the slave trade meant that the price of slaves has become very high. Smuggling is rampant. Our nation has tried negotiation and trade restrictions against the British but they have ignored us. If the United States is to take its place among the great nations of the world, then it must declare war against the British. We are a unique people here in New Orleans, with ancestors from France, Spain, Germany, Ireland and Africa -- including many free people of color. We don't like anyone telling us what to do or how to do it, and we truly resent the British restricting our trade. As a proud citizen of this new state, I am hoping our young nation will take decisive action and declare war against Great Britain.
My name is George Roberts. My family and I are from Baltimore. I am a sailor. Being a sailor is one of the few jobs open to a free man of color. I love the freedom of sailing out on rolling ocean. But that freedom is disappearing -- the British are stopping our ships to search for their sailors who have deserted. They also search our vessels for goods they think might help the French in their war against Great Britain. The problem is that they have also seized American citizens -- they call this impressment, and claim it as their right. Tyrants and bullies claim such rights!
It makes me angry that we have continued to endure this as a nation. Thousands of sailors and hundreds of ships have been seized by the British -- how long will we let this continue? I worry that one day the British will stop a ship I am on and kidnap -- because that's what impressment really means -- the kidnapping of Americans for service in the Royal Navy!
Is impressment not slavery by another name? Just as wicked slave catchers kidnap freemen and sell them into bondage, the British steal sailors from American ships. Torn from their country and families, these poor men suffer unspeakable abuses at the hands of British officers. Like the cruel plantation master, British captains deny us liberty and lash our backs if we refuse to work.
Can the United States be truly free and independent if it cannot protect its ships and sailors from foreign powers? If our nation will stand up now and fight for free trade and sailors' rights, maybe one day it will stand up again for freedom and rights for all people living in the United States.
My name is Margaret Elliott and I live with my family in Ohio. Living here -- or any western state -- brings one uncomfortably close to Indians. There's a lot of mistrust, fear, anger on both sides. Last year my husband and I were in Piqua, out in western Ohio, when John Johnston the Indian Agent held a council for peace with the Shawnee and Wyandot Indians. He said they told him that their intention was to remain at peace and to maintain a friendship with the United States. But since then? There have been killings on both sides and also that battle on Tippecanoe Creek. I fear that Indian leaders like Tecumseh and his brother, the one they call "The Prophet," are trying to promote war between the Indians and us settlers. I also believe that some of our own territorial governors like William Henry Harrison are to blame. Harrison is ruthless. He has pressured Indian leaders to give up their lands at a penny or two an acre and he sparked the battle along Tippecanoe Creek.
My husband, like many settlers, view the Indians as merciless savages. They say the British are encouraging them to kill Americans and are actively providing them with food, guns and ammunition. Lots of folks here on the frontier — including Mr. William Hull, the governor of the Michigan Territory — say that a war with Great Britain and an attack on Canada would help frontier settlers and the nation. I disagree.
As a settler, a mother and an Ohioan, I believe the U.S. Army should protect settlers along the frontier. If there is to be war, it should be a limited one against the Indians to protect the borders of our states and territories. Declaring war against Great Britain would give the Indians a powerful ally. In such a war I doubt if the army will be able to protect outlying villages. Families like ours will be forced to move east or to forts for protection. Those folks that publish newspapers promoting war -- they won't be asked to fight. But my husband's a militiaman and I worry about losing him in battle. And if war comes to our own doorstep, we could lose our entire family. We live a lot closer to danger than those on the East Coast.
I am against war with Great Britain and I hope that cooler heads will prevail.
My name is James Madison. As President of this young republic, these 18 United States, I believe that war with Great Britain is unavoidable. For over ten years the British have disrespected the American flag on the high seas by stopping American vessels in order to search them for suspected deserters from the Royal Navy. Under this pretext, thousands of American citizens, our own people, under the safeguard of public law, and of their national flag, have been torn from their country and forced to serve the British nation. We have repeatedly told the British government that this must stop, that it was unlawful and that we would take action to defend the honor of American citizenship. The British ignored us.
British warships hover off our coasts. They harass American merchant ships that sail in and out of our seaports. In some cases, they have taken ships laden with cargoes without compensating our merchants. Why does Great Britain do this? Simply, they want a monopoly on seagoing trade. They see us as an economic threat.
We tried to avoid war. My predecessor, Thomas Jefferson, imposed an embargo – where we avoided trading with both Great Britain and France, however the British continued to seize our sailors and violate our neutrality. Further, the British have threatened us on land as well.
Great Britain actively supports many Native American tribes and urges them to fight American settlers. We regard these tribes as savages and the bloody warfare on the frontier involves not only men, but women and children as well. British soldiers and traders are actively encouraging the Indians to kill Americans. This must stop.
We must stand up for our national rights. As a people we cannot passively allow the British to take advantage of us. We won our independence 36 years ago and now we must defend it. We must defend our sovereignty, our flag and our honor. I urge you to vote for this war this "Second War for Independence."
FRANCIS SCOTT KEY
My name is Francis Scott Key. I have a large estate in central Maryland and a nice home and law practice in Georgetown, just outside of Washington DC. I am a Democratic-Republican like my friend John Randolph of Virginia. Our President and our party support a declaration of war, but I oppose it.
I oppose war with Great Britain on the religious principle that human life is sacred. Sometimes war may be necessary -- I agree that we had to fight to win our independence years ago during the Revolution. But most wars have been the scourge of mankind throughout history -- they bring nothing but death, suffering, and destruction. I love my country, and I despise what the British are doing in seizing our ships and sailors. Many of my friends are ready to enlist and fight. There is talk of invading and conquering the British colonies of Canada. This is wrong. I shall not fight the poor, unoffending Canadians. Although a British colony, they are not responsible for the wrongdoings of the British government. To declare war to conquer Canada at this time is an unjust cause.
I worry that party politics are too involved in this ramp-up to war, and that if we could just step back, calmer heads might find a way to peacefully resolve our differences. Both political parties -- the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans are too busy fighting each other, dividing America for their own political gain. We need to unify ourselves as a people first. Fighting a war against the British over trade and ‘honor' seems like madness to me -- is not life itself more valuable than money and honor?
I have a strange feeling of dread that a declaration of war will bring disaster on the United States. What will become of our lands, our homes, and our freedom if exposed to the havoc and desolation of war?
My name is John Bradford, and I am 36 years old -- the same age as the United States. I own a shipping business in Salem, Massachusetts and have vessels in Boston and New Bedford. For the past ten years, Congressmen from the south and west have been calling for war with Great Britain. Many people in New England like me have prospered by trading with the British, and our businesses depend upon this commerce to continue.
Our farmers' grain, carried across the Atlantic in ships like the ones I own, feed Britain's army in Europe. Great Britain and France are the two most powerful countries in the world and are at war with one another. Between the two, I favor the British. The British are our greatest trading partner and under Napoleon, the French cannot be trusted. Napoleon's armies have invaded and brought ruin over much of Europe. Great Britain and Russia are the only countries standing in Napoleon's way. To declare war against the British would indirectly help the French. We do not want to be caught up in a European war.
I admit, the British seizure of our sailors and ships is unfortunate -- but they only take our ships bound for France and those ship owners should know better and avoid trading with Napoleon. They say the British impress or "steal" our sailors, but this is nothing compared to how many men would be killed if we declared war. When the war in Europe is over the British will no longer see the need to impress our sailors -- so why fight a useless war now?
A war with Great Britain would also mean economic ruin and depression for New England and maybe the whole country! We are not ready for war -- our navy and our army are only a fraction of the size of the British. We cannot possibly combat the might of the British army. If there is war, how can we stop the British from invading? And where will they invade? Kentucky? I think not! They will attack Boston and New York -- the seacoast cities will lose everything!
Some congressmen call for an invasion of British Canada. Why invade Canada if our issues with the British are at sea? I would like to know how a land invasion of Canada would secure American rights to trade freely and protect our seamen from impressment.
I think too that President Madison and the Democratic - Republican Party are trying to declare war for (jab finger) political reasons -- to keep themselves in power. Most of them live in the south and west and do not care what happens to New England. They say that those who do not support going to war are pro-British and traitors. That's not true! My father fought the British at Bunker Hill back during the Revolution. There was a reason to fight the British then. That is not the case today.
My name is John Randolph. I am the master of a large tobacco plantation in Roanoke Virginia, and am very wealthy, owning more than 500 slaves. Currently I am serving as a U.S. Representative. I have been following the events between Great Britain, France and the United States for years. We are faced with a major question: "Is it to be Peace or War?" I am a Democratic-Republican, the same political party as James Madison, our President, and many of my colleagues. They advocate war with the British but I oppose it.
I do not know how any gentleman calling himself a republican can support such a war. Who will profit by it? I will tell you! Speculators, contractors and those who supply the military! Who will suffer from the war? The people. It is their blood, their taxes that must flow to support it. Those who want war say that Great Britain has violated our neutrality by taking ships and cargoes of goods but the French have done so too! The French have taken numerous American ships and impounded them in French ports yet my fellow republicans do not say they want a war with France. Declaring war against the British would be indirectly supporting the empire of France, currently led by that tyrant Napoleon Bonaparte. Why then do some want this war?
I can only infer that these "War Hawks" -- these individuals who strongly urge us to declare war on the British do so to have a pretext to invade the British colonies of Canada and annex them to these United States. This is wrong. The government of the United States was not calculated to wage offensive foreign war, a war of conquest. Invading Canada will not address the trade issues or improve our situation with Great Britain. Rather, with our army in Canada, the ports of Boston, New York and Baltimore will be open to British attack! The British may even encourage slaves in the south to rise up against their masters.
Finally, waging war with the British would be like fighting a brother. We share a common culture, a common language, and a common religion. This war will do nothing but bring ruin to this country and must be avoided.
FEDERALISTS: the other main party of the day, which declined after the War of 1812 (the modern Republican Party did not form until the 1850s)
DEMOCRATIC-REPUBLICAN PARTY: the forerunner of the modern Democratic Party