Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Declaration of War

From late 1811 into the early months of 1812, Congress debated a declaration of war against Great Britain.  Senators and Representatives from the south and west tended to support it and those from the northeast were against it.  New England traders, whose business had been decimated by embargoes, impressment, and cargo seizures, hoped for a relaxation of anti-trade policies in Europe.  In the spring, diplomatic dispatches came from Europe in which the warring powers re-stated their positions.  President James Madison presented the dispatches to Congress and denounced the conduct of Great Britain.  Both houses of Congress debated intensely, ultimately returning a resolution for war, which Madison signed on June 18, 1812.