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Britain's deal with Tecumseh

Meanwhile, in the green forests of the frontier, a strong Shawnee leader named Tecumseh (1811) united tribes from Canada to Mexico and prepared to push the settlers back. The British were more than happy to supply guns to the American Indians. William Henry Harrison, U.S. governor of Indiana, led a band of militia toward Tecumseh's headquarters on the Tippecanoe River while the chief was away gathering together his allies.

Tecumseh's brother unwisely attacked the militia before the American Indians could get together, telling the braves that his medicine-man powers would keep them from being wounded. When magic didn't stop the militia's bullets, the American Indians fled, and Tecumseh's rebellion was over before it started. Tecumseh fought on, eventually charging alone into the middle of an American army. An old American frontiersman helped the American Indians give Tecumseh's body an honored burial.

The War of 1812 against Britain

After being pushed around for years, the United States declared war on Great Britain in 1812. The United States could hardly have been more divided; war resolutions barely passed in Congress. The war was most popular in the South and in the Middle and Western states. New England greeted the news of war with mourning.

The young United States faced a war with its old enemy Britain, still the most powerful empire in the world. Faced with the experienced British military, the young United States was in trouble trying to go to war without the support of the whole country. New England refused to let its militias fight and probably loaned more money to Britain than to the U.S. government. New England even helped supply food for the British invaders from Canada.

How could New England, the hotbed of freedom and revolution, as well as a major shipping area, turn against an American government that was determined to preserve the freedom of international shipping? A lot of the answer was politics. New England was Federalist territory; the people there would rather lose a war than see Jefferson's Republicans win.

Like slipping on a banana peel and sliding into a gold mine, the War of 1812 was an embarrassment that turned out fine. New England didn't want to fight; inexperienced American troops often ran from a British army hardened by years of combat with Napoleon, and old generals from the Revolutionary War proved that they needed to retire. U.S. invasions of Canada failed miserably; the British army burned Washington, D.C., and the British navy raided and blockaded American ports.

The good news was that the United States achieved some victories to remember:

- The USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), with a crew that was one-sixth free blacks, blew away proud British ships.

- The star-spangled banner continued to wave over Baltimore Harbor and inspired the national anthem.

- A thrown-together force of sailors, frontiersmen, free blacks, Frenchmen, and pirates smashed a larger force of experienced British regulars to save New Orleans.

When the smoke cleared, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent (1814), without any formal gains for either side. The United States gained respect for standing up to the great British Empire, and Americans felt a new sense of national pride.

It had been a close thing. Toward the end of the war, at the Hartford Convention (1814), angry New England states demanded more power but shut up when news of the victory at New Orleans reached the capital at about the same time as their complaints. Ironically, New England started all the talk about nullification and secession that would become popular in the South with respect to the issue of slavery.


With so many years of embargo and blockade, the United States had time to develop its own industries, and the government was involved in the growth of American business from the beginning of the country. Following the war, Congress passed the protective Tariff of 1816, which taxed foreign imports to make American goods more competitive. Congressman Henry Clay championed the American System (1820), which included easy credit, increased tariffs, and support for roads and canals to move American products. An added bonus: Roads and canals were the most important way to encourage settlement of the West.


Question: What were the most important new forms of transportation in the early United States?

Answer: Roads and canals were the most important new avenues of transportation.

James Monroe (1817), the last of the Revolutionary War heroes to be president, served two terms that were free of enough controversy to be called the Era of Good Feelings. Of course, nothing involving humans is completely without controversy; Monroe faced plenty of debate about tariffs, the Bank of the United States, where and how to build canals and roads, and how much to charge for the sale of the millions of acres of public lands that were up for grabs.

Whatever its political challenges, the nation continued to build transportation. The Cumberland Road began in 1811 and eventually stretched from Maryland to the frontier at Illinois. The first steamboat to make it down the Ohio River and on to New Orleans also sailed in 1811.

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