The War of 1812:
Should the United States Declare War on Britain?
No American disputed the fact that Britain was interfering with American shipping. Yet while the War Hawks called for war, some people questioned their motives. Read the opinions below, and then decide whether war against Britain was justified.
Grundy Urges War
“What, Mr. Speaker, are we now called on to decide? It is, whether we will resist by force the attempt, made by [Britain], to subject our maritime rights to the arbitrary and capricious rule of her will. . . . Sir, I prefer war to submission. [This] unjust and lawless invasion of personal liberty, calls loudly for the interposition of this Government. . . .”
—Senator Felix Grundy (KY) December 9, 1811
Randolph Opposes War
“Sir, if you go to war it will not be for the
protection of, or defense of your maritime
rights. Gentlemen from the North have
been taken up to some high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the earth; and Canada seems tempting to their sight. . . . Agrarian [greed], not maritime right, urges the war. [We hear] but one word— Canada! Canada! Canada!”
—Senator John Randolph (VA)
December 16, 1811
1. What is Grundy’s reason for war?
2. Does Randolph believe Grundy? Explain.
3. What decision would you have made? Why?