The first time when US declared war on another country (June 18, 1812) - History Key

The first time when US declared war on another country (June 18, 1812)

The War of 1812 is also named by the Americans as the Second War of Independence. However, does not enjoy too much attention from historians on its global context because it was a small-scale conflict, fought between the United States and the United Kingdom. Even so, the War of 1812 wasn’t a priority for the British because they were focused on the war with Napoleon.

David and Goliath

The “Second War of Independence” can’t be considered as an isolated event. For the Americans the conflict was a turning point in domestic and foreign politics. Is also considered a decisive moment for their launch for the global political and military dominance.

At first, the war seemed to be a very bad idea. United States was a very young state and they have declared war against the British for the first time. However, the Americans have chosen to remain neutral to the European War, but France and United Kingdom have violated this neutrality. The US president, James Madison urged the Congress to declare war against the English and after a very long debate he managed to convince 79 men of 128.

Portrait of James Madison
Portrait of James Madison © John Vanderlyn/Image Source: Wikipedia

Therefore, on June 18, 1812, the President signed the war declaration. It was the first time when the United States declared war on another country. At that time, the Americans had a very low number of warships compared to their enemies. The British had about 500 warships and it was the largest fleet of the world at that time. The US army consisted of about 5,000 while the British had over 500,000 people.

However, the US Navy resisted well in front of the British, but their army was poorly trained and very poorly equipped. Despite the huge differences, the Americans resisted two and a half years in the conflict and came out of the war with a strengthened national identity. At that time, what happened in the United States seemed like a strange experiment. While Europe was led by monarchs and autocrats, the new democratic republic seemed a complete madness.

US Declaration of War against the United Kingdom
US Declaration of War against the United Kingdom © Image Source: Wikipedia


The origins of the War of 1812 are related to the conflict that has devastated Europe for two decades. The Napoleonic wars had forced the British to take extraordinary measures that have profoundly affected the Americans. For example, in December 1806, Napoleon tried to block the commercial trades between Europe and Britain in order to accept a peace. All the European ports were under French control and were closed to British ships.

War of 1812 Re-enactment, Old Fort Erie, Ontario
War of 1812 Re-enactment, Old Fort Erie, Ontario © Peter K Burian/CC BY-SA 4.0/Image Source: Wikipedia

For nearly two decades the Americans have suffered from the European conflict and the blockades set up by the French and British have brought even more damage to US trade. In addition, the English have taken abusive measures. For instance, they basically banned neutral countries from doing trades in Europe without obtaining permission from them. Even more, they start searching the foreign ships for “smuggling goods” and British deserted soldiers. Probably the final drop was the practice of capturing American citizens to force them to join the Royal Navy.

USS Constitution defeats HMS Guerriere, a significant event during the war
USS Constitution defeats HMS Guerriere, a significant event during the war © Michel Felice Corne/Image Source: Wikipedia

A friend in need is a friend indeed

The war was waged in four different directions: at sea, along the US East coast, along the border with Canada and along the Gulf Coast. During the war, both sides invaded other territories, but the invasions were temporary successes. Therefore no territorial changes took place after the conclusion of the peace treaty. The peace treaty signed was negotiated freely by both sides and made the relations between UK and US to develop harmoniously and profitably or both sides.

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