The War of 1812 Was Opposed By Many Americans

The Declaration of War Passed the Congress, But Divisions Remained

President James Madison, who move toward war against Britain was controversial. - Library of Congress
President James Madison, whose move toward war against Britain was controversial.  Library of Congress
Updated June 22, 2015.

When the United States declared war against Britain in June 1812, the vote on the declaration of war in the Congress was fairly close, reflecting how unpopular the war was to large segments of the American public.

Though one of the main reasons for the war had to do with the rights of sailors on the high seas and the protection of American shipping, the senators and representatives from the maritine states of New England tended to vote against the war.

Sentiment for war was perhaps strongest in the western states and territories, where a faction known as the War Hawksbelieved that the United States could invade present day Canada and seize territory from the British.

The debate about the war had been going on for many months, with newspapers, which tended to be highly partisan in that era, proclaiming pro-war or anti-war positions.

The declaration of war was signed by President James Madison on June 18, 1812, but for many that did not settle the matter.

Opposition to the war continued. Newspapers blasted the Madison administration, and some state governments went so far as to essentially obstruct the war effort.

In some cases opponents to the war engaged in protests, and in one noteworthy incident, a mob in Baltimore attacked a group which opposed the war. One of the victims of the mob violence in Baltimore, who suffered serious injuries from which he never fully recovered, was the father of Robert E. Lee.

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