Impacts of the War of 1812

October 10, 2008
By Deanna Kovach, Charlotte, NC

The War of 1812, which was fought between the British and the Americans, had many political, economic, and judicial impacts on the United States. When the war was over, there was a widespread feeling of unity and nationalism among Americans and several new leaders emerged. The federal government upheld their authority over the states, while the economy was booming and the nation was prospering.

Although neither the British nor the Americans made significant gains from the war, the Americans felt more empowered after fighting against England for the second time, and in turn, the Americans earned respect (as well as a small amount of territory) from other nations for being able to hold their own against the British. The American victory at the Battle of New Orleans, which was fought after the War of 1812 officially ended, boosted American morale and escalated the level of nationalism in the United States. The increased level of nationalism led to a stronger unification and the “Era of Good Feelings”. Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison, two important figures in the War of 1812, earned the respect and admiration of the American people and later became leaders of the United States. During the Battle of Fort McHenry, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, the future national anthem of the United States, was written.

During the War of 1812, the American economy went through many changes. The British blockaded the eastern coast of the United States, which prevented the Americans from engaging in foreign trade. This lack of international trade caused the Americans to begin manufacturing everything that they needed. Decaying, centuries-old factories in the United States were restored and reused, while new factories were being built. This post-war time also saw the invention of interchangeable parts and the cotton gin, which helped factories as well as farms to be more efficient. Henry Clay’s American System, which required a national bank, a “protective” tariff, and a strong transportation system, caused significant changes in the economy. The American System led to the creation of the Protectionist tariff of 1816 and the establishment of the Second Bank of the United States. The economy of the South went through changes and suffered a loss of labor since many slaves were helped by the British and were able to escape during the war.

The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice John Marshall, made many decisions that upheld the authority of the federal government as well as the Constitution over the states. In the 1810 case of Fletcher vs. Peck, the Supreme Court showed that they could abolish state laws if they were not in accordance with the Constitution. The state of Georgia gave away millions of acres of land to a private interest, which caused many people to become angry. Because of the Georgians’ reactions, they called off the deal (between the state and the private interest). The Supreme Court ruled that this “cancelling” of the deal was unconstitutional because states cannot nullify contracts. In the 1819 case of McCulloch vs. Maryland, the Supreme Court strengthened the federal government by ruling that states could not tax federal institutions when the state of Maryland tried to tax the local branch of the Bank of the United States. The Supreme Court protected private businesses from state interference in the 1819 case of Dartmouth vs. Woodward by ruling that it was unconstitutional for a state to interfere with private contracts.

The War of 1812 significantly changed the American way of life. The fight with Britain led to increased patriotism, territorial expansion, the growth of American industry, and the preservation of rights by the Supreme Court and the federal government. All these changes resulted in a more prosperous, self-sufficient American society.

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