America’s Second War of Independence

proclamation of war by Pres. Madison from the Library of Congress website.
proclamation of war by Pres. Madison

The War of 1812 is sometimes called America’s Second war for independence. There are a few reasons why:

  • in this war, the now united states of America (formerly a federation, or mere confederation of colonial states, prior to the Constitutional Convention of 1787-89) asserted its rights as a nation on the global stage of early 19th century world politics
  • in this war, the United States of America consolidated territorial boundaries that clarified its own sovereign domain
  • in this war, the United States made clear to itself, internally, that it had an important, and independent, role to play in the larger stage of global nation-states.

This war is also important because of the way the bellicose posture of the nation toward the indigenous Americans was solidified for the next hundred years.

I learned (or re-learned) these truths after recently finishing the book: Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A.J. Langguth.

Another installment in my reading related to the revolutionary war period, this book helped to clarify some of the political lines of trajectory that began in the Seven Years War (concluded with the treaty of Paris in 1763) and earlier, as well as show how the transition from the revolutionary personalities of the late 18th century (Washington, Adams, Jefferson, for example) took place in the early 19th century world of emerging American politics.

Langguth’s book was helpful for three reasons. Continue reading