1. Explain Alexander Hamilton’s financial programs as secretary of the treasury 

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2. Describe the vision of the Democratic-Republicans and how it differed from the Federalists 

3. Explain the Haitian Revolution and its relation to slavery and rebellion in the United States 

  1. Describe the significance of      the Election of 1800 
  2. Explain the significance of the      court case, Marbury v. Madison 

6. Explain the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark’s expedition 

7. Explain Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh’s goals for a pan-Indian Confederacy and the impact of their efforts 

8.  Identify the causes of the War of 1812 

9.  Describe key events and turning points during the War of 1812 

Discuss the political and social consequences of the War of 1812  


Introduction to American Finances and Early Political Parties

While they did not yet constitute distinct political parties, Federalists and Anti-Federalists, shortly after
the Revolution, found themselves at odds over the Constitution and the power that it concentrated in
the federal government. While many of the Anti-Federalists’ fears were assuaged by the adoption of
the Bill of Rights in 1791, the early 1790s nevertheless witnessed the rise of two political parties: the
Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. These rival political factions began by defining
themselves in relationship to Hamilton’s financial program, a debate that exposed contrasting views
of the proper role of the federal government. By championing Hamilton’s bold financial program,
Federalists, including President Washington, made clear their intent to use the federal government to
stabilize the national economy and overcome the financial problems that had plagued it since the
1780s. Members of the Democratic-Republican opposition, however, deplored the expanded role of
the new national government. They argued that the Constitution did not permit the treasury
secretary’s expansive program and worried that the new national government had assumed powers it
did not rightfully possess. Only on the question of citizenship was their broad agreement: only free,
White males who met taxpayer or property qualifications could cast ballots as full citizens of the

Hamilton’s Financial Programs


• 1. Explain Alexander Hamilton’s financial programs as secretary of the treasury

Alexander Hamilton’s Program

President George Washington’s cabinet choices reflected continuing political tensions over the size
and power of the federal government. John Adams served as vice president, and Washington chose
Alexander Hamilton to be his secretary of the treasury. Both men wanted an active government that


would promote prosperity by supporting American industry. However, Washington selected Thomas
Jefferson as his secretary of state, and Jefferson was committed to restricting federal power and
preserving an economy based on agriculture. Almost from the beginning, Washington struggled to
reconcile the Federalist and Republican (or Democratic-Republican) factions within his own

Alexander Hamilton was an ardent nationalist who believed a strong federal government could solve
many of the new country’s financial ills. Born in the West Indies, Hamilton had worked on a St. Croix
plantation as a teenager and was in charge of the accounts at a young age. He knew the Atlantic
trade system very well and used that knowledge in setting policy for the United States. In the early
1790s, he created the foundation for the U.S. financial system. He understood that a robust federal
government would provide a solid financial foundation for the country.

The United States began mired in debt. In 1789, when Hamilton took up his post, the federal debt
was over $53 million. The states had a combined debt of around $25 million, and the United States
had been unable to pay its debts in the 1780s and was therefore considered a credit risk by European
countries. Hamilton wrote three reports offering solutions to the economic crisis brought on by these
problems. The first addressed public credit, the second addressed banking, and the third addressed
raising revenue.

The Report on Public Credit

For the national government to be effective, Hamilton deemed it essential to have the support of
those to whom it owed money: the wealthy, domestic creditor class as well as foreign creditors. In
January 1790, he delivered his “Report on Public Credit”, addressing the pressing need of the new
republic to become creditworthy. He recommended that the new federal government honor all its
debts, including all paper money issued by the Confederation and the states during the war, at face
value. Hamilton especially wanted wealthy American creditors who held large amounts of paper
money to be invested, literally, in the future and welfare of the new national government. He also
understood the importance of making the new United States financially stable for creditors abroad.

To pay these debts, Hamilton proposed that the federal government sell bonds—federal interest-
bearing notes—to the public. A bond is a loan from an individual to a government. Essentially, the
individual provides money to the government and receives a bond in exchange. The bond may be
thought of as an IOU issued by the government –the government promises to pay the bondholder
back at some agreed-upon future date and pays the bondholder interest in the meantime. These
bonds would be issued by the federal government and guaranteed by it. Significantly, in Hamilton’s
view, bondholders now have a vested interest in the nation’s success–they want to be paid
back. Creditors could exchange their old notes for the new government bonds. Hamilton wanted to
give the paper money that states had issued during the war the same status as government bonds;
these federal notes would begin to yield interest payments in 1792.

Figure 2. As the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton (a), shown here in a 1792 portrait by John Trumbull, released

the “Report on Public Credit” (b) in January 1790.

Hamilton designed his “Report on Public Credit” (later called “First Report on Public Credit”) to ensure
the survival of the new and shaky American republic. He knew the importance of making the United
States financially reliable, secure, and strong, and his plan provided a blueprint to achieve that goal.
He argued that his plan would satisfy creditors, citing the goal of “doing justice to the creditors of the
nation.” At the same time, the plan would work “to promote the increasing respectability of the
American name; to answer the calls for justice; to restore landed property to its due value; to furnish
new resources both to agriculture and commerce; to cement more closely the union of the states; to
add to their security against foreign attack; to establish public order on the basis of upright and liberal

Hamilton’s program ignited a heated debate in Congress. A great many of both Confederation and
state notes had found their way into the hands of speculators, who had bought them from hard-
pressed veterans in the 1780s and paid a fraction of their face value in anticipation of redeeming
them at full value at a later date. Because these speculators held so many notes, many in Congress
objected that Hamilton’s plan would benefit them at the expense of the original note-holders. One of
those who opposed Hamilton’s 1790 report was James Madison, who questioned the fairness of a
plan that seemed to cheat poor soldiers.

Not surprisingly, states with a large debt, like South Carolina, supported Hamilton’s plan, while states
with less debt, like North Carolina, did not. To gain acceptance of his plan, Hamilton worked out a
compromise with Virginians Madison and Jefferson, whereby in return for their support he would give
up New York City as the nation’s capital and agree on a more southern location, which they preferred.
In July 1790, a site along the Potomac River was selected as the new “federal city,” which became
the District of Columbia.

Hamilton’s plan to convert notes to bonds worked extremely well to restore European confidence in
the U.S. economy. It also proved a windfall for creditors, especially those who had bought upstate

and Confederation notes far below face value. But it immediately generated controversy about the
size and scope of the government. Some saw the plan as an unjust use of federal power, while
Hamilton argued that Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution granted the government “implied powers”
that gave the green light to his program.

The Report on a National Bank

As secretary of the treasury, Hamilton hoped to stabilize the American economy further by
establishing a national bank. The United States operated with a flurry of different notes from multiple
state banks and no coherent regulation. By proposing that the new national bank buy up large
volumes of state bank notes and demanding their conversion into gold, Hamilton especially wanted to
discipline those state banks that issued paper money irresponsibly. To that end, he delivered his
“Report on a National Bank” in December 1790, proposing a Bank of the United States, an institution
modeled on the Bank of England. The bank would issue loans to American merchants and bills of
credit (federal bank notes that would circulate as money) while serving as a repository of government
revenue from the sale of land. Stockholders would own the bank, along with the federal government.

Like the recommendations in his “Report on Public Credit,” Hamilton’s bank proposal generated
opposition. Jefferson, in particular, argued that the Constitution did not permit the creation of a
national bank. In response, Hamilton again invoked the Constitution’s implied powers. President
Washington backed Hamilton’s position and signed legislation creating the bank in 1791.

The Report on Manufactures

The third report Hamilton delivered to Congress, known as the “Report on Manufactures,” addressed
the need to raise revenue to pay the interest on the national debt. Using the power to tax as provided
under the Constitution, Hamilton put forth a proposal to tax American-made whiskey. He also knew
the importance of promoting domestic manufacturing so the new United States would no longer have
to rely on imported manufactured goods. To break from the old colonial system, Hamilton, therefore,
advocated tariffs (a tax) on all foreign imports to stimulate the production of American-made goods.
To promote domestic industry further, he proposed federal subsidies to American industries. Like all
of Hamilton’s programs, the idea of government involvement in the development of American
industries was new.

With Washington’s backing, the entire Hamiltonian economic program received the necessary
support in Congress to be implemented. In the long run, Hamilton’s financial program helped to
rescue the United States from its state of near bankruptcy in the late 1780s. His initiatives marked the
beginning of an American capitalism, making the republic creditworthy, promoting commerce, and
establishing a solid financial foundation for the nation. His policies also facilitated the growth of the
stock market, as U.S. citizens bought and sold the federal government’s interest-bearing certificates.

The Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans


• 2. Describe the vision of the Democratic-Republicans and how it differed from the

The Democratic-Republican Party and the First Party System

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson felt the federal government had overstepped its authority by
adopting the treasury secretary’s plan. Madison found Hamilton’s scheme immoral and offensive. He
argued that it turned the reins of government over to the class of speculators who profited at the
expense of hardworking citizens.

Jefferson, who had returned to the United States in 1790 after serving as a diplomat in France, tried
unsuccessfully to convince Washington to block the creation of a national bank. He also took issue
with what he perceived as favoritism given to commercial classes in the principal American cities. He
thought urban life widened the gap between the wealthy few and an underclass of landless poor
workers who, because of their oppressed condition, could never be good republican property owners.
Rural areas, in contrast, offered far more opportunities for property ownership and virtue. In 1783
Jefferson wrote, “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen
people.” Jefferson believed that self-sufficient, property-owning republican citizens or yeoman farmers
held the key to the success and longevity of the American republic. (As a creature of his times, he did
not envision a similar role for either women or nonwhite men.) To him, Hamilton’s program seemed to
encourage economic inequalities and work against the ordinary American yeoman farmer.

Opposition to Hamilton, who had significant power in the new federal government, including the ear of
President Washington, began in earnest in the early 1790s. Jefferson turned to his friend Philip
Freneau to help organize the effort through the publication of the National Gazette as a counter to the
Federalist press, especially the Gazette of the United States. From 1791 until 1793, when it ceased
publication, Freneau’s partisan paper attacked Hamilton’s program and Washington’s administration.
“Rules for Changing a Republic into a Monarchy,” written by Freneau, is an example of the type of
attack aimed at the national government, and especially at the elitism of the Federalist Party.
Newspapers in the 1790s became enormously important in American culture as partisans like
Freneau attempted to sway public opinion. These newspapers did not aim to be objective; instead,
they served to broadcast the views of a particular party.

Figure 1. Here, the front page of the Federalist Gazette of the United States from September 9, 1789 (a), is shown beside that of

the oppositional National Gazette from November 14, 1791 (b). The Gazette of the United States featured articles, sometimes

written pseudonymously or anonymously, from leading Federalists like Alexander Hamilton and John Adams. The National

Gazette was founded two years later to counter their political influence.

Federalists and Democratic-Republicans

Opposition to the Federalists led to the formation of Democratic-Republican societies, composed of
men who felt the domestic policies of the Washington administration were designed to enrich the few
while ignoring everyone else. Democratic-Republicans championed limited government. Their fear
of centralized power originated in the experience of the 1760s and 1770s when the distant,
overbearing, and seemingly corrupt British Parliament attempted to impose its will on the colonies. To
opponents, the Federalists promoted aristocracy and a monarchical government—a betrayal of what
many believed to be the goal of the American Revolution.

While wealthy merchants and planters formed the core of the Federalist leadership, members of the
Democratic-Republican societies in cities like Philadelphia and New York came from the ranks of
artisans. These citizens saw themselves as acting in the spirit of 1776, this time not against the
haughty British but by what they believed to have replaced them—a commercial class with no interest
in the public good. Their political efforts against the Federalists were a battle to preserve
republicanism, to promote the public good against private self-interest. They published their views,
held meetings to voice their opposition, and sponsored festivals and parades. In their strident
newspapers attacks, they also worked to undermine the traditional forms of deference and
subordination to aristocrats, as they viewed in this case the Federalist elites. Some members of
northern Democratic-Republican clubs denounced slavery as well.

Defining Citizenship

While questions regarding the proper size and scope of the new national government created a divide
among Americans and gave rise to political parties, a consensus existed among men on the issue of
who qualified and who did not qualify as a citizen. The 1790 Naturalization Act defined citizenship in
stark racial terms. To be a citizen of the American republic, an immigrant had to be a “free white
person” of “good character.” By excluding enslaved persons, free Blacks, Native Americans, and
Asians from citizenship, the act laid the foundation for the United States as a republic of White men.

Full citizenship that included the right to vote was restricted as well. Many state constitutions directed
that only male property owners or taxpayers could vote. For women, the right to vote remained out of
reach except in the state of New Jersey. In 1776, the fervor of the Revolution led New Jersey
revolutionaries to write a constitution extending the right to vote to unmarried women who owned
property worth £50. Federalists and Democratic-Republicans competed for the votes of New Jersey
women who met the requirements to cast ballots. This radical innovation continued until 1807, when
New Jersey restricted voting to free White males.

Free and Enslaved Black Americans and the Challenge to


• 3. Explain the Haitian Revolution and its relation to slavery and rebellion in the United

Revolution in France, and even more so, revolution in Haiti, left southern White people terrified at the
possibility of a slave revolt. Soon enough, they feared their worst nightmare was coming true.

Gabriel’s Rebellion

Led by an enslaved man named Gabriel, close to one thousand enslaved Black people planned to
attack Richmond in late August 1800 to end slavery in Virginia. According to the plan, some of the
conspirators would set diversionary fires in the city’s warehouse district. Others would attack
Richmond’s White residents, seize weapons, and capture Virginia Governor James Monroe. On
August 30th, two enslaved men revealed the plot to their master who notified authorities. Faced with
bad weather, Gabriel and other leaders postponed the attack until the next night, giving Governor
Monroe and the militia time to capture the conspirators. After briefly escaping, Gabriel was seized,
tried, and hanged along with twenty-five others. Their executions sent the message that others would
be punished if they challenged slavery. Subsequently, the Virginia government increased restrictions
on free people of color.

Gabriel’s rebellion, as the plot came to be known, sent several messages to Virginia’s White
residents. It suggested that enslaved Black people were capable of preparing and carrying out a
sophisticated and violent revolution—undermining White supremacist assumptions about the inherent
intellectual inferiority of Black people. Furthermore, it demonstrated that White efforts to suppress
news of other slave revolts—especially the 1791 slave rebellion in Haiti—had failed. Not only did
some literate enslaved persons read accounts of the successful attack in Virginia’s newspapers,
others heard about the rebellion firsthand after July 1793 when slaveholding refugees from Haiti
arrived in Virginia with their enslaved laborers.

Independence in Haiti

The complicated situation in Haiti, which remained a French colony in the late 1790s, also came to
the attention of President Adams. The president, with the support of Congress, had created a U.S.
Navy that now included scores of vessels. Most of the American ships cruised the Caribbean, giving
the United States the edge over France in the region. In Haiti, the rebellion leader Toussaint, who had
to contend with various domestic rivals seeking to displace him, looked to end a U.S. embargo on
France and its colonies, put in place in 1798. Toussaint needed help in order to deal with civil unrest.
In early 1799, in order to capitalize upon trade in the lucrative West Indies and undermine France’s
hold on the island, Congress ended the ban on trade with Haiti—a move that acknowledged
Toussaint’s leadership, to the horror of American slaveholders. Toussaint was able to secure an
independent Black republic in Haiti by 1804.

The Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) inspired free and enslaved Black people and terrified White
people throughout the United States. Port cities in the United States were flooded with news and
refugees. Free people of color embraced the revolution, understanding it as call for full abolition and

the rights of citizenship denied in the United States. Over the next several decades, Black Americans
continually looked to Haiti for inspiration in their struggle for freedom.

For example, in 1829 David Walker, a Black abolitionist in Boston, wrote an Appeal that called for
resistance to slavery and racism. Walker called Haiti the “glory of the Blacks and terror of the tyrants”
and said that Haitians, “according to their word, are bound to protect and comfort us.” Haiti also
proved that, given equal opportunities, people of color could achieve as much as White people. In
1826 the third college graduate of color in the United States, John Russwurm, gave a
commencement address at Bowdoin College, noting that, “Haytiens have adopted the republican
form of government…[and] in no country are the rights and privileges of citizens and foreigners more
respected, and crimes less frequent.” In 1838 the Colored American, an early Black newspaper,
professed that, “No one who reads, with an unprejudiced mind, the history of Hayti…can doubt the
capacity of colored men, nor the propriety of removing all their disabilities.” Haiti, and the activism it
inspired, sent the message that enslaved and free Black people could not be omitted from
conversations about the meaning of liberty and equality. Their words and actions—on plantations,
streets, and the printed page—left an indelible mark on early national political culture.

The Black activism inspired by Haiti’s revolution was so powerful that anxious White people
scrambled to use the violence of the Haitian revolt to reinforce pro-slavery, White supremacy by
limiting the social and political lives of people of color. White publications mocked Black Americans as
buffoons, ridiculing calls for abolition and equal rights. The most (in)famous of these, the “Bobalition”
broadsides, published in Boston in the 1810s, crudely caricatured African-Americans. Widely
distributed materials like these became the basis for racist ideas that thrived in the nineteenth century
and beyond. These tropes divided White citizens and Black non-citizens. But such ridicule also
implied that Black Americans’ presence in the political conversation was significant enough to require
it. The need to reinforce such an obvious difference between Whiteness and Blackness suggests that
the differences might not be so obvious after all.

Figure 1. The idea and image of Black Haitian revolutionaries sent shockwaves throughout white America. That enslaved Black

and freed people might turn violent against White people, so obvious in this image where a Black soldier holds up the head of a

White soldier, remained a serious fear in the hearts and minds of White southerners throughout the antebellum period.


Henry Moss, a enslaved individual in Virginia, became arguably the most famous Black man of the
day when white spots appeared on his body in 1792, turning him visibly white within three years. As
his skin changed, Moss marketed himself as “a great curiosity” in Philadelphia and soon earned
enough money to buy his freedom. He met the great scientists of the era—including Samuel
Stanhope Smith and Dr. Benjamin Rush—who joyously deemed Moss to be living proof of their
theory that “the Black Color (as it is called) of the Negroes is derived from the leprosy.” Something,
somehow, was “curing” Moss of his Blackness. And in that whitening body of slave-turned-patriot-
turned-curiosity, many Americans fostered ideas of race that would cause major problems in the
years ahead.

Thoughts on Race

The first decades of the new American republic coincided with a radical shift in understandings of
race. Politically and culturally, Enlightenment thinking fostered beliefs in common humanity, the
possibility of societal progress, the remaking of oneself, and the importance of one’s social and
ecological environment—a four-pronged revolt against the hierarchies of the Old World. Yet a tension
arose due to Enlightenment thinkers’ desire to classify and order the natural world. Carolus Linnaeus,
Comte de Buffon, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach and others created connections between race and
place as they divided the racial “types” of the world according to skin color, cranial measurements,
and hair. They claimed that years under the hot sun and tropical climate of Africa darkened the skin
and reconfigured the skulls of the African race, whereas the cold northern latitudes of Europe molded
and sustained the “Caucasian” race. The environments endowed both races with respective
characteristics, which accounted for differences in humankind tracing back to a common ancestry. A
universal human nature, therefore, housed not fundamental differences, but rather the “civilized” and
the “primitive”—two poles on a scale of social progress.

Informed by European anthropology and republican optimism, Americans confronted their own
uniquely problematic racial landscape. In 1787, Samuel Stanhope Smith published his treatise Essay
on the Causes of the Variety of Complexion and Figure in the Human Species, which further
articulated the theory of racial change and suggested that improving the social environment would tap
into the innate equality of humankind and dramatically uplift the nonwhite races. The proper society,
he and others believed, could gradually “whiten” men the way nature spontaneously chose to whiten
Henry Moss. Thomas Jefferson disagreed. While Jefferson thought Native Americans could improve
and become “civilized,” he declared in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1784) that Black people
were incapable of mental improvement and that they might even have a separate ancestry—a theory
known as polygenesis, or multiple creations. His belief in polygenesis was less to justify slavery—
slaveholders universally rejected the theory as antibiblical and thus a threat to their primary
instrument of justification, the Bible—and more to justify schemes for a white America, such as the
plan to gradually send freed enslaved people to Africa. Many Americans believed nature had made
the White and Black races too different to peacefully coexist, and they viewed African colonization as
the solution to America’s racial problem.

Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia sparked considerable backlash from antislavery and Black
communities. The celebrated Black surveyor Benjamin Banneker, for example, immediately wrote to
Jefferson and demanded he “eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas” and instead embrace the
belief that we are “all of one flesh” and with “all the same sensations and endowed…with the same
faculties.” Many years later, in his Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World (1829), David Walker
channeled decades of Black protest, simultaneously denouncing the moral rot of slavery and racism
while praising the inner strength of the race.

Jefferson had his defenders. Men such as Charles Caldwell and Samuel George Morton hardened
Jefferson’s skepticism with the “biological” case for Black and White people not only having separate
creations, but actually being different species—a position increasingly articulated throughout the
antebellum period. Few Americans subscribed wholesale to such theories, but many shared beliefs in
White supremacy. As the decades passed, White Americans were forced to acknowledge that if the
Black population was indeed “whitening”, it was a result of interracial sex and not the environment.
The sense of inspiration and wonder that followed Henry Moss in the 1790s would have been
impossible just a generation later.

Early Partisan Politics


• 4. Describe the significance of the Election of 1800

• 5. Explain the significance of the court case, Marbury v. Madison

The Revolution of 1800

The election of 1800 is often referred to as the Revolution of 1800 because it marked the first
transfer of power from one political party to another in American history, when the presidency passed
from John Adams and the Federalists to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson. The peaceful
transition calmed contemporary fears about possible violent reactions to a new party’s taking the
reins of government. The passing of political power from one political party to another without
bloodshed also set an important precedent.

By 1800, President Adams had lost the confidence of many Americans. They had let him know it. In
1798, for instance, he had issued a national thanksgiving proclamation. Instead of enjoying a day of
celebration and thankfulness, Adams and his family had been forced by rioters to flee the capital city
of Philadelphia until the day was over. Conversely, his prickly independence had also put him at odds
with Alexander Hamilton, the leader of his own party, who offered him little support. After four years in
office, Adams found himself widely reviled.

In the election of 1800, therefore, the Republicans defeated Adams in a bitter and complicated
presidential race. During the election, one Federalist newspaper article predicted that a Republican
victory would fill America with “murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest.” A Republican newspaper,
on the other hand, flung sexual slurs against President Adams, saying he had “neither the force and
firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” Both sides predicted disaster and
possibly war if the other should win.

In the end, the contest came down to a tie between two Republicans, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia
and Aaron Burr of New York, who each had seventy-three electoral votes. (Adams had sixty-five.)
Burr was supposed to be a candidate for vice president, not president, but under the Constitution’s
original rules, a tie-breaking vote had to take place in the House of Representatives. It was controlled
by Federalists bitter at Jefferson. House members voted dozens of times without breaking the tie. On
the thirty-sixth ballot, Thomas Jefferson emerged victorious.

Figure 1. Thomas Jefferson’s victory in 1800 signaled the ascendency of the Democratic-Republicans and the decline of Federalist


The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson viewed participatory democracy as a positive force for the republic, a direct departure from
Federalist views. His version of participatory democracy only extended, however, to the White
yeoman farmers in whom Jefferson placed great trust. While Federalist statesmen, like the architects
of the 1787 federal constitution, feared a pure democracy, Jefferson was far more optimistic that the
common American farmer could be trusted to make good decisions. He believed in majority rule, that
is, that the majority of yeoman should have the power to make decisions binding upon the whole.
Jefferson had cheered the French Revolution, even when the French republic instituted the Reign
of Terror to ensure monarchy would not return. By 1799, however, he had rejected the cause of
France because of his opposition to Napoleon’s seizure of power and creation of a dictatorship.

Over the course of his two terms as president—he was reelected in 1804—Jefferson reversed the
policies of the Federalist Party by turning away from urban commercial development. Instead, he
promoted agriculture through the sale of western public lands in small and affordable lots. Perhaps
Jefferson’s most lasting legacy is his vision of an “empire of liberty.” He distrusted cities and instead
envisioned a rural republic of land-owning White men, or yeoman republican farmers. He wanted the
United States to be the breadbasket of the world, exporting its agricultural commodities without
suffering the ills, in his view, of urbanization and industrialization. Since American yeomen would own
their own land, they could stand up against those who might try to buy their votes with promises of
property. Jefferson championed the rights of states and insisted on limited federal government as well
as limited taxes. This stood in stark contrast to the Federalists’ insistence on a strong, active federal
government. Jefferson also believed in fiscal austerity. He pushed for—and Congress approved—the
end of all internal taxes, such as those on whiskey and rum. The most significant trimming of the
federal budget came at the expense of the military; Jefferson did not believe in maintaining a costly
military, and he slashed the size of the navy Adams had worked to build. Nonetheless, Jefferson
responded to the capture of American ships and sailors by pirates off the coast of North Africa by
leading the United States into war against the Muslim Barbary States in 1801, the first conflict fought
by Americans overseas.

The slow decline of the Federalists, which began under Jefferson, led to a period of one-party rule in
national politics. Historians call the years between 1815 and 1828 the “Era of Good Feelings” and
highlight the “Virginia dynasty” of the time, since the two presidents who followed Jefferson—James
Madison and James Monroe—both hailed from his home state. Like him, they were enslavers and
represented the Democratic-Republican Party. Though Federalists continued to enjoy popularity,
especially in the Northeast, their days of prominence in setting foreign and domestic policy had

Partisan Acrimony

The earliest years of the nineteenth century were hardly free of problems between the two political
parties. Early in Jefferson’s term, controversy swirled over President Adams’s judicial appointments of
many Federalists during his final days in office. When Jefferson took the oath of office, he refused to
have the commissions for these Federalist justices delivered to the appointed officials.

One of Adams’s appointees, William Marbury, had been selected to be a justice of the peace in the
District of Columbia, and when his commission did not arrive, he petitioned the Supreme Court for an
explanation from Jefferson’s secretary of state, James Madison. In deciding the case, Marbury v.
Madison, in 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall agreed that Marbury had the right to a legal remedy,
establishing that individuals had rights even the president of the United States could not abridge.
However, Marshall also found that Congress’s Judiciary Act of 1789, which would have given the
Supreme Court the power to grant Marbury remedy, was unconstitutional because the Constitution
did not allow for cases like Marbury’s to come directly before the Supreme Court. Thus, Marshall
established the principle of judicial review, which strengthened the court by asserting its power to
review (and possibly nullify) the actions of Congress and the president. Jefferson was not pleased,
but neither did Marbury get his commission.

The Louisiana Purchase and Exploring the West


• 6. Explain the significance of the Louisiana Purchase and Lewis and Clark’s

The Louisiana Purchase

Jefferson, who wanted to expand the United States to bring about his “empire of liberty,” realized his
greatest triumph in 1803 when the United States bought the Louisiana territory from France. For $15
million—a bargain price, considering the amount of land involved—the United States doubled in size.
Perhaps the greatest real estate deal in American history, the Louisiana Purchase greatly enhanced
the Jeffersonian vision of the United States as an agrarian republic in which yeomen farmers worked
the land. Jefferson also wanted to bolster trade in the West, seeing the port of New Orleans and the
Mississippi River (then the western boundary of the United States) as crucial to American agricultural
commerce. In his mind, farmers would send their produce down the Mississippi River to New Orleans,
where it would be sold to European traders.

The purchase of Louisiana came about largely because of circumstances beyond Jefferson’s control,
though he certainly recognized the implications of the transaction. Until 1801, Spain had controlled
New Orleans and had given the United States the right to traffic goods in the port without paying

customs duties. That year, however, the Spanish ceded Louisiana (and New Orleans) to France. In
1802, the United States lost its right to free trade through the port, causing outrage among many,
some of whom called for war with France.

Jefferson instructed Robert Livingston, the American envoy to France, to secure access to New
Orleans, sending James Monroe to France to add additional pressure. The timing proved
advantageous. Because enslaved Blacks in the French colony of Haiti had successfully overthrown
the brutal plantation regime, Napoleon could no longer hope to restore the empire lost with France’s
defeat in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). His vision of Louisiana and the Mississippi Valley
as the source for food for Haiti, the most profitable sugar island in the world, had failed. The emperor
therefore agreed to the sale in early 1803.

The true extent of the United States’ new territory remained unknown. Would it provide the long-
sought quick access to Asian markets? Geographical knowledge was limited; indeed, no one knew
precisely what lay to the west or how long it took to travel from the Mississippi to the Pacific. Jefferson
selected two fellow Virginians, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, to lead an expedition to the new
western lands. Their purpose was to discover the commercial possibilities of the new land and, most
importantly, potential trade routes. From 1804 to 1806, Lewis and Clark traversed the West.

Figure 1. This 1804 map (a) shows the territory added to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Compare this

depiction to the contemporary map (b). How does the 1804 version differ from what you know of the geography of the United


The Louisiana Purchase helped Jefferson win reelection in 1804 by a landslide. Of 176 electoral
votes cast, all but 14 were in his favor. The great expansion of the United States did have its critics,
however, especially northerners who feared the addition of more slave states and a corresponding
lack of representation of their interests in the North. And under a strict interpretation of the

Constitution, it remained unclear whether the president had the power to add territory in this fashion.
But the vast majority of citizens cheered the increase in the size of the republic. For enslavers, new
western lands would be a boon; for enslaved persons, the Louisiana Purchase threatened to entrench
their suffering.

Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery Heads West

To head the expedition into the Louisiana territory, Jefferson appointed his friend and personal
secretary, twenty-nine-year-old army captain Meriwether Lewis, who was instructed to form a Corps
of Discovery. Lewis in turn selected William Clark, who had once been his commanding officer, to
help him lead the group.

Figure 2. Charles Willson Peale, celebrated portraitist of the American Revolution, painted both William Clark (a) and Meriwether

Lewis (b) in 1810 and 1807, respectively, after they returned from their expedition west.

Jefferson wanted to improve the ability of American merchants to access the ports of China.
Establishing a river route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean, the fabled Northwest
Passage, was crucial to capturing a portion of the fur trade that had proven so profitable to Great
Britain. He also wanted to legitimize American claims to the land against rivals, such as Great Britain
and Spain. Lewis and Clark were thus instructed to map the territory through which they would pass
and to explore all tributaries of the Missouri River. This part of the expedition struck fear into Spanish
officials, who believed that Lewis and Clark would encroach on New Mexico, the northern part of New
Spain. Spain dispatched four unsuccessful expeditions from Santa Fe to intercept the explorers.
Lewis and Clark also had directives to establish friendly relationships with the western tribes,
introducing them to American trade goods and encouraging warring groups to make peace.
Establishing an overland route to the Pacific would bolster U.S. claims to the Pacific Northwest, first
established in 1792 when Captain Robert Gray sailed his ship Columbia into the mouth of the river
that now bears his vessel’s name and forms the present-day border between Oregon and
Washington. Finally, Jefferson, who had a keen interest in science and nature, ordered Lewis and
Clark to take extensive notes on the geography, plant life, animals, and natural resources of the
region into which they would journey.

After spending the winter of 1803–1804 encamped at the mouth of the Missouri River while the men
prepared for their expedition, the corps set off in May 1804. Although the thirty-three frontiersmen,
boatmen, and hunters took with them Alexander Mackenzie’s account of his explorations and the best
maps they could find, they did not have any real understanding of the difficulties they would face.
Fierce storms left them drenched and freezing. Enormous clouds of gnats and mosquitos swarmed
about their heads as they made their way up the Missouri River. Along the way they encountered
(and killed) a variety of animals including elk, buffalo, and grizzly bears. One member of the
expedition survived a rattlesnake bite. As the men collected minerals and specimens of plants and
animals, the overly curious Lewis sampled minerals by tasting them and became seriously ill at one
point. What they did not collect, they sketched and documented in the journals they kept. They also
noted the customs of the Indian tribes who controlled the land and attempted to establish peaceful
relationships with them in order to ensure that future White settlement would not be impeded.

The corps spent their first winter in the wilderness, 1804–1805, in a Mandan village in what is now
North Dakota. There they encountered a reminder of France’s former vast North American empire
when they met a French fur trapper named Toussaint Charbonneau. When the corps left in the spring
of 1805, Charbonneau accompanied them as a guide and interpreter, bringing his teenage Shoshone
wife, Sacagawea, and their newborn son. Charbonneau knew the land better than the Americans,
and Sacagawea proved invaluable in many ways, not least of which was that the presence of a young
woman and her infant convinced many groups that the men were not a war party and meant no harm.

Figure 3. In this idealized image, Sacagawea leads Lewis and Clark through the Montana wilderness. In reality, she was still a

teenager at the time and served as interpreter; she did not actually guide the party, although legend says she did. Kidnapped as

a child, she would not likely have retained detailed memories about the place where she grew up.

The corps set about making friends with Native tribes while simultaneously attempting to assert
American power over the territory. Hoping to overawe the people of the land, Lewis would let out a
blast of his air rifle, a relatively new piece of technology the Indians had never seen. The corps also
followed Native custom by distributing gifts, including shirts, ribbons, and kettles, as a sign of
goodwill. The explorers presented Native leaders with medallions, many of which bore Jefferson’s
image, and invited them to visit their new “ruler” in the East. These medallions or peace medals were
meant to allow future explorers to identify friendly Native groups. Not all efforts to assert U.S. control
went peacefully; some Indians rejected the explorers’ intrusion onto their land. An encounter with the
Blackfoot turned hostile, for example, and members of the corps killed two Blackfoot men.

After spending eighteen long months on the trail and nearly starving to death in the Bitterroot
Mountains of Montana, the Corps of Discovery finally reached the Pacific Ocean in 1805 and spent
the winter of 1805–1806 in Oregon. They returned to St. Louis later in 1806 having lost only one man,
who had died of appendicitis. Upon their return, Meriwether Lewis was named governor of the
Louisiana Territory. Unfortunately, he died only three years later in circumstances that are still
disputed, and before he could write a complete account of what the expedition had discovered.

Although the Corps of Discovery failed to find an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean (for none
existed), it nevertheless accomplished many of the goals Jefferson had set. The men traveled across
the North American continent and established relationships with many Indian tribes, paving the way
for fur traders like John Jacob Astor who later established trading posts solidifying U.S. claims to
Oregon. Delegates of several tribes did go to Washington to meet the president. Hundreds of plant
and animal specimens were collected, several of which were named for Lewis and Clark in
recognition of their efforts. And the territory was now more accurately mapped and legally claimed by
the United States. Nonetheless, most of the vast territory, home to a variety of Native peoples,
remained unknown to Americans.

Figure 4. This 1814 map of Lewis and Clark’s path across North America from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean was based

on maps and notes made by William Clark. Although most of the West still remained unknown, the expedition added greatly to

knowledge of what lay west of the Mississippi. Most importantly, it allowed the United States to solidify its claim to the immense



Figure 5. This illustration from Castrologia, Or, The History and Traditions of the Canadian Beaver shows a variety of beaver hat styles.

Beaver pelts were also used to trim women’s bonnets.

Beaver hats were popular apparel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in both Europe and the United
States because they were naturally waterproof and bore a glossy sheen. Demand for beaver pelts (and for the
pelts of sea otters, foxes, and martens) by hat makers, dressmakers, and tailors led many fur trappers and
traders west into the wilderness following Lewis and Clark’s expedition in pursuit of riches. Beaver hats fell out
of fashion in the 1850s when silk hats became the rage and beaver became harder to find. In some parts of the
West, the animals had been hunted nearly to extinction.

President Madison and

Tecumseh’s Confederacy


• 7. Explain Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh’s goals for a pan-Indian Confederacy and the
impact of their efforts

Madison as President

Although damaged by the problems of Jefferson’s second term, the Democratic-Republicans still
managed to win the White House once again in the election of 1808, placing James Madison, another
Virginian and close confidant of Jefferson, in the presidency. Jefferson retired to his estate,
Monticello, while Madison was left to find a solution to the ongoing conflict with Britain and France
that had so vexed Jefferson.

As Jefferson’s Secretary of State, James Madison did not have success in convincing the French and
British to leave Americans alone. Now as president, his role had changed, but the problems he faced
were still the same. Although neither France nor Britain wanted to harm the United States, neither
cared what damage they inflicted on the Americans as long as they were able to continue fighting one
another. America could not avoid the conflict; Madison had to try something new. The previous
attempt to use economics had not only failed but had unintentionally harmed the United States. In
place of the Embargo Act, Madison began his presidency with the Nonintercourse Act, which allowed
American trading with all nations excepting France and Great Britain. In practice, this move was little
better than the previous Embargo Act, and the economy still suffered.

On May 1, 1810, a new plan, Macon’s Bill Number 2, was put forward by Congress. It opened trade
again with whichever nation was first to recognize American neutrality and cease attacking American
ships while refusing trade with the other warring nation. Madison did not like the plan, but since
Congress passed the bill, he had to enforce it. Napoleon Bonaparte of France quickly accepted the
terms. For Napoleon, it marked an opportunity to offend the British and hopefully cause them some
economic damage at the same time. It worked to a certain extent. The British were offended,
worsening their already tense relations with the Americans. The economic impact, though, never

Tecumseh’s Confederacy

Meanwhile, Madison faced a war with the Indians of the Northwest. Many Indigenous leaders of the
tribes in the Northwest had tried to adapt to the American ways. They signed treaties ceding lands in
Ohio and Indiana to the United States, thus allowing for American settlers to move in and slowly
expand American territory. These chiefs who supported peace with the United States dominated the
Indians of the area, such as the Shawnee, Miami, and Lenape, until 1805 when smallpox and

influenza swept through the tribes. Among the dead was a Lenape leader, Buckongahelas, who had
led his tribe from Delaware to Indiana to escape American expansion years before. He and others like
him did not trust the Americans and did not want contact with them, due in part to the history of
violent conflict between the two peoples. With the death of Buckongahelas, new leaders rose from the
tribes in the region, including two brothers from the Shawnee: Tenskwatawa, also known as The
Prophet, and his brother Tecumseh.

Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh both were opposed to the Americans and what they saw as an
unhealthy American influence on their people. Tenskwatawa had himself been a heavy drinker before
having a transformative experience during the time of illness in 1805. From then on, he began to
promote a return to the old ways, following strictly Indian customs, promoting Indian culture, and
rejecting American, or “White,” things such as alcohol. As the brothers rose to prominence and
attracted followers, they created problems for the nearby Indians who were pro-American and who
were trying to peacefully co-exist with the settlers.

Tecumseh’s confederacy drew heavily from indigenous communities in the Old Northwest as he
capitalized upon a festering hatred for the land-hungry American republic. Tecumseh attracted a
wealth of allies in his adamant refusal to concede any more land to the republic, in a sense professing
a pan-Indian sovereignty that eluded Native communities during the eighteenth-century. Tecumseh
proclaimed that the Master of Life tasked him with the responsibility of returning Native lands to their
rightful owners. In his efforts to promote unity among Native peoples, Tecumseh also offered these
communities a distinctly “Indian identity” that brought disparate Native peoples together under the
banner of a common spirituality, together resisting an oppressive force. In short, the spiritual
underpinnings of Tecumseh’s confederacy provided the cohesive glue to the diverse communities
that comprised Tecumseh’s resistance movement.

In 1808 the brothers and their followers were forced to move further toward the northwest into lands
inhabited by other tribes in Indiana. They established Prophetstown on the Wabash River where it
joins the Tippecanoe River, south of Lake Michigan and not far from the Indiana-Illinois border. The
village was named after Tenskwatawa, who was seen as a prophet by many who believed in his
spiritual/cultural revival. This time was one of great trouble for the Indians of the area. Deadly bouts of
illness continued to occur, bringing misery to the tribes. Many remained pro-American or pro-British,
wanting to trade with and learn to live with the Whites, while others were drawn to Tenskwatawa. The
differences of opinion crossed tribal lines, creating a sense of uneasiness both for the Indians and
American settlers of the area. These White settlers were concerned about the growing influence of
Tenskwatawa and his anti-White view. Still more settlers were ready to move into the fertile lands,
and in 1809, William Henry Harrison negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne, in which he purchased
millions of acres of land from the Indians of the area. The Indians were not all in agreement about the
sale, a fact that added to the troubles.

Tenskwatawa and his followers were particularly determined in their opposition to the sale.
Tecumseh, who was emerging from his brother’s shadow, was outraged. He argued that no one tribe
owned the land and so no tribe could sell it unless all Indian tribes agreed to the sale. Harrison had
been successful in negotiating the sale because he was able to get several tribes to agree to it, in
part by getting one tribe to persuade others until enough had agreed and the sale went forward.
Tecumseh spoke of killing the chiefs who had signed the treaty and of killing Harrison as well.

Figure 1. Portrait (a), painted by Charles Bird King in 1820, is a depiction of Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa. Portrait (b) is

Rembrandt Peele’s 1813 depiction of William Henry Harrison. What are the significant similarities and differences between the

portraits? What was each artist trying to convey?

The Battle of Tippecanoe

By 1811, Prophetstown’s population had grown to around 3,000 Indians from various tribes of the
Algonquian group, including Shawnee, Winnebago, Iroquois, Kickapoo, Sauk, Fox, and Potawatomi,
among others. With Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa actively opposing the Americans, Harrison had to
act. He led a force to Prophetstown in November, 1811. At this time, Tecumseh was away in the
South, encouraging the Creeks and others to rise against the Americans. While Harrison said he
wanted to negotiate with Tenskwatawa, and Tenskwatawa said he wanted to meet with Harrison,
both were prepared for a fight. Tenskwatawa struck first but was defeated. He was not a military
leader, unlike his brother, but a spiritual one. While his followers attacked the Americans,
Tenskwatawa prayed for their safety and victory. When they lost, he was blamed and denounced by
his own followers, who believed that he did not have the spiritual powers he had claimed.
Prophetstown was burned by the Americans, and Tenskwatawa was abandoned by his followers.
This event was the Battle of Tippecanoe and was hailed by the Americans as a great victory for
Harrison. In reality, it was not so much the military victory but rather the destruction of the Indian
alliance that followed Tenskwatawa that proved significant. Harrison would later successfully run for
president with the slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too.” Although Tenskswatawa was disgraced,
Tecumseh’s reputation and influence continued to grow as he worked to create an Indian alliance to
resist the Americans. He fought on, becoming an ally of the British. The Indian conflicts with the
Americans that he encouraged would become part of the War of 1812.

Native Americans in the South

While Tecumseh attracted Native peoples from around the Northwest and some from the Southeast,
the Red Stick Creeks brought these ideas to the Southeast. Led by the Creek prophet Hillis Hadjo,
who accompanied Tecumseh when he toured the Southeast in 1811, the Red Sticks integrated
certain religious tenets from the north and invented new religious practices specific to the Creeks, all
the while communicating and coordinating with Tecumseh after he left Creek lands. In doing so, the
Red Sticks joined Tecumseh in his resistance movement while seeking to purge Creek society of its

Euro-American dependencies. Creek leaders who maintained relationships with the United States in
contrast believed that accommodation and diplomacy might stave off American encroachments better
than violence.

Additionally, the Red Sticks discovered that most southeastern Indigenous leaders cared little for
Tecumseh’s confederacy. This lack of allies hindered the spread of a movement in the southeast, and
the Red Sticks soon found themselves in a civil war against other Creeks. Tecumseh thus found little
support in the Southeast beyond the Red Sticks, who by 1813 were cut off from the North by Andrew
Jackson. Shortly thereafter, Jackson’s forces were joined by Lower Creek and Cherokee forces that
helped defeat the Red Sticks, culminating in Jackson’s victory at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Following their defeat, the Red Sticks were forced to cede an unprecedented fourteen million acres of
land in the Treaty of Fort Jackson. As historian Adam Rothman argues, the defeat of the Red Sticks
allowed the United States to expand west of the Mississippi, guaranteeing the continued existence
and profitability of slavery.

Tecumseh in the War of 1812

Similar to the Red Sticks, Tecumseh found that many Native leaders refused to join him and
maintained their loyalties to the American republic, which diminished the potential for a truly pan-
Indian resistance movement. After the failures of Native American unity and loss at the Battle of
Tippecanoe in 1811, Tecumseh’s confederation floundered, though he fought on, becoming an ally of
the British. The Indian conflicts with the Americans that he encouraged would become part of the War
of 1812. With the United States distracted, Tecumseh and his army seized several American forts on
their own initiative. Eventually, Tecumseh solicited British aid after sustaining heavy losses from
American fighters at Fort Wayne and Fort Harrison. Even then, the confederacy faced an uphill battle,
particularly after American naval forces secured control of the Great Lakes in September 1813,
forcing British ships and reinforcements to retreat. Yet Tecumseh and his Native allies fought on
despite being surrounded by American forces. Tecumseh told the British commander Henry Proctor,
“Our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, and if it is his
will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.”[1] Tecumseh later fell on the battlefields of
Moraviantown, Ontario, in October 1813. His death dealt a severe blow to Native American resistance
against the United States. Men like Tecumseh, however, left behind a legacy of Native American
unity that was not soon forgotten.

The War of 1812


• 8. Identify the causes of the War of 1812

• 9. Describe key events and turning points during the War of 1812

• 10. Discuss the political and social consequences of the War of 1812

The War of 1812 Begins

The British continued to harass American shipping, and Madison faced enormous pressure at home
to do something to alleviate this situation, even if any action meant war. British support for Indian
resistance further exacerbated the situation. Madison knew that on paper the United States was
militarily no match for Great Britain. But Britain’s continuing attacks on American ships fueled the calls

President Madison and Tecumseh’s Confederacy

for action from the War Hawks in Congress, particularly Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun. Madison,
having done all he could to find a non-military solution, was finally pushed to call for a declaration of
war on June 1, 1812, a declaration that won Congress’s subsequent approval.

Figure 1. George Munger painted The President’s House shortly after the War of 1812, ca. 1814–1815. The painting shows the

result of the British burning of Washington, DC.

In 1812, the Democratic-Republicans held 75 percent of the seats in the House and 82 percent of the
Senate, giving them a free hand to set national policy. Among them were the “War Hawks,” whom
one historian describes as “too young to remember the horrors of the American Revolution” and thus
“willing to risk another British war to vindicate the nation’s rights and independence.” This group
included men who would remain influential long after the War of 1812, such as Henry Clay of
Kentucky and John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Opposition to the war came from Federalists,
especially those in the Northeast, who knew war would disrupt the maritime trade on which they
depended. In a narrow vote, Congress authorized the president to declare war against Britain in June

While the War of 1812 contained two key players—the United States and Great Britain—it also drew
in other groups, such as Tecumseh and his Confederacy. The war can be organized into three stages
or theaters. The first, the Atlantic Theater, lasted until the spring of 1813. During this time, Great
Britain was chiefly occupied in Europe against Napoleon, and the United States invaded Canada and
sent their fledgling navy against British ships. During the second stage, from early 1813 to 1814, the
United States launched their second offensive against Canada and the Great Lakes. In this period,
the Americans won their first successes. The third stage, the Southern Theater, concluded with
Andrew Jackson’s January 1815 victory outside New Orleans, Louisiana.

The War Unfolds

During the war, the Americans were greatly interested in Canada and the Great Lakes borderlands. In
July 1812, the U.S. launched their first offensive against Canada. By August, however, the British and
their allies defeated the Americans in Canada, costing the U.S. control over Detroit and parts of the
Michigan Territory. By the close of 1813, the Americans recaptured Detroit, shattered the Indian
Confederacy, killed Tecumseh, and eliminated the British threat in that theater. Despite these
accomplishments, the American land forces proved outmatched by their adversaries.

Figure 2. As pictured in this 1812 political cartoon published in Philadelphia, Americans lambasted the British and their native

allies for what they considered “savage” offenses during war, though Americans too were engaging in such heinous acts.

After the land campaign of 1812 failed to secure America’s war aims, Americans turned to the infant
navy in 1813. Privateers and the U.S. Navy rallied behind the slogan “Free Trade and Sailors Rights!”
Although the British possessed the most powerful navy in the world, surprisingly the young American
navy extracted early victories with larger, more heavily armed ships. By 1814, however, the major
naval battles had been fought with little effect on the war’s outcome.

With Britain’s main naval fleet fighting in the Napoleonic Wars, smaller ships and armaments
stationed in North America were generally no match for their American counterparts. Early on,
Americans humiliated the British in single ship battles. In retaliation, Captain Phillip Broke, of the HMS
Shannon attacked the USS Chesapeake captained by James Lawrence on June 1, 1813. Within six
minutes, the Chesapeake was destroyed and Lawrence was mortally wounded. Yet, the Americans
did not give up as Lawrence commanded them “Tell the men to fire faster! Don’t give up the ship!”
Lawrence died of his wounds three days later and although the Shannon defeated the Chesapeake,
Lawrence’s words became a rallying cry for the Americans.

Two and a half months later the USS Constitution squared off with the HMS Guerriere. As
the Guerriere tried to outmaneuver the Americans, the Constitution pulled along broadside and began
hammering the British frigate. The Guerriere returned fire, but as one sailor observed the cannonballs
simply bounced off the Constitution’s thick hull. “Huzza! Her sides are made of iron!” shouted the


sailor and henceforth, the Constitution became known as “Old Ironsides.” In less than thirty-five
minutes, the Guerriere was so badly damaged it was set aflame rather than taken as a prize.

In 1814, Americans gained naval victories on Lake Champlain near Plattsburgh, preventing a British
land invasion of the United States, and on the Chesapeake at Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Fort
McHenry repelled the nineteen-ship British fleet enduring twenty-seven hours of bombardment
virtually unscathed. Watching from aboard a British ship, American poet Francis Scott Key penned
the verses that would become the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”


After the British bombed Baltimore’s Fort McHenry in 1814 but failed to overcome the U.S. forces there,
Francis Scott Key was inspired by the sight of the American flag, which remained hanging proudly in the
aftermath. He wrote the poem “In Defense of Fort McHenry,” which was later set to the tune of a British song
called “The Anacreontic Song” and eventually became the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Oh, say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream:
Tis the star-spangled banner: O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

O, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

—Francis Scott Key, “In Defense of Fort McHenry,” 1814

Impressive though these accomplishments were, they belied what was actually a poorly executed
military campaign against the British. The U.S. Navy won their most significant victories in the Atlantic

Ocean in 1813. Napoleon’s defeat in early 1814, however, allowed the British to focus on North
America and their blockade of the East coast. Thanks to the blockade, the British were able to burn
Washington D.C. on August 24, 1814 and open a new theater of operations in the South.

Figure 3. The artist shows Washington D.C. engulfed in flames as the British troops set fire to the city in 1813.

Following the defeat of France, Britain no longer had to concern itself with stopping the United States
from trade with its enemy, and pursued peace negotiations. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war and
was signed in Europe on December 24, 1814. Due to slow communication, the last battle in the War
of 1812 happened after the treaty had been signed. Andrew Jackson had distinguished himself in the
war by defeating the Creek Indians in March 1814 before invading Florida in May of that year. After
taking Pensacola, he moved his force of Tennessee fighters to New Orleans to defend the strategic
port against British attack. On January 8, 1815 (despite the official end of the war), a force of battle-
tested British veterans of the Napoleonic Wars attempted to take the port. Jackson’s forces
devastated the British, killing over two thousand. New Orleans and the vast Mississippi River Valley
had been successfully defended, ensuring the future of American settlement and commerce.
The Battle of New Orleans immediately catapulted Jackson to national prominence as a war hero,
and in the 1820s, he emerged as the head of the new Democratic Party.

The Hartford Convention

But not all Americans supported the war. In 1814, New England Federalists met in Hartford,
Connecticut, to try to end the war and curb the power of the Democratic-Republican Party. They
produced a document that proposed abolishing the three-fifths rule in the Constitution that afforded
Southern slaveholders disproportionate representation in Congress, limiting the president to a single
term in office, and most importantly, demanding a two-thirds congressional majority, rather than a
simple majority, for legislation that declared war, admitted new states into the Union, or regulated
commerce. With the two-thirds majority, New England’s Federalist politicians believed they could limit
the power of their political foes.


Figure 4. Contemplating the possibility of secession over the War of 1812 (fueled in large part by economic interests of New

England merchants), the Hartford Convention posed the possibility of disaster for the still-young United States. England,

represented by the figure John Bull on the right side, is shown in this political cartoon with arms open to accept New England back

into its empire.

These proposals were sent to Washington, but unfortunately for the Federalists, the victory at New
Orleans buoyed popular support for the Madison administration. With little evidence, newspapers
accused the Hartford Convention’s delegates of plotting secession. The episode demonstrated the
waning power of Federalism and the need for the region’s politicians to shed their aristocratic and
Anglophile image. The next New England politician to assume the presidency, John Quincy Adams in
1824, would emerge not from within the Federalist fold, but after serving as Secretary of State under
President James Monroe, the last leader of the Virginia Democratic-Republicans.

After the War

The Treaty of Ghent essentially returned relations between the U.S. and Britain to their pre-war
status. The war, however, mattered politically and strengthened American nationalism. During the
war, Americans read patriotic newspaper stories, sang patriotic songs, and bought consumer goods
decorated with national emblems. They also heard stories about how the British and their Native
allies threatened to bring violence into American homes. For example, rumors spread that British
officers promised rewards of “beauty and booty” for their soldiers when they attacked New Orleans. In
the Great Lakes borderlands, wartime propaganda fueled Americans’ fear of Britain’s Native
American allies, who they believed would slaughter men, women, and children indiscriminately.
Terror and love worked together to make American citizens feel a stronger bond with their country.
Because the war mostly cut off America’s trade with Europe, it also encouraged Americans to see
themselves as different and separate; it fostered a sense that the country had been reborn.

Former treasury secretary Albert Gallatin claimed that the War of 1812 revived “national feelings” that
had dwindled after the Revolution. “The people,” he wrote, were now “more American; they feel and
act more like a nation.” Politicians proposed measures to reinforce the fragile Union through


capitalism and built on these sentiments of nationalism. The United States continued to expand into
Indian territories with westward settlement in far-flung new states like Tennessee, Ohio, Mississippi,
and Illinois. Between 1810 and 1830, the country added more than 6,000 new post offices.

In 1817, South Carolina congressman John C. Calhoun called for building projects to “bind the
republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals.” He joined with other politicians, such as
Kentucky’s powerful Henry Clay, to promote what came to be called an “American System.” They
aimed to make America economically independent and encouraged commerce between the states
over trade with Europe and the West Indies. The American System would include a new Bank of the
United States to provide capital; a high protective tariff, which would raise the prices of imported
goods and help American-made products compete; and a network of “internal improvements,” roads
and canals to let people take American goods to market.

These projects were controversial. Many people believed they were unconstitutional or that they
would increase the federal government’s power at the expense of the states. Even Calhoun later
changed his mind and joined the opposition. The War of 1812, however, had reinforced Americans’
sense of the nation’s importance in their political and economic life. Even when the federal
government did not act, states created banks, roads, and canals of their own.

What may have been the boldest declaration of America’s postwar pride came in 1823. President
James Monroe issued an ultimatum to the empires of Europe in order to support independence in
Latin America. The “Monroe Doctrine” declared that the United States considered its entire
hemisphere, both North and South America, off-limits to new European colonization. Although
Monroe was a Jeffersonian, some of his principles echoed Federalist policies. Whereas Jefferson cut
the size of the military and ended all internal taxes in his first term, Monroe advocated the need for a
strong military and an aggressive foreign policy. Since Americans were spreading out over the
continent, Monroe authorized the federal government to invest in canals and roads, which he said
would “shorten distances, and, by making each part more accessible to and dependent on the
other…shall bind the Union more closely together.” As Federalists had attempted two decades
earlier, Democratic-Republican leaders after the War of 1812 advocated strengthening the state in
order to strengthen the nation.

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