Chapter 10: Defending & Expanding the New Nation 1803-1818

For the US, gaining international recognition as a separate county did not secure rights to unmolested access to the seas. The British seized American sailors and cargo during the Napoleonic Wars. The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair was the last straw for this issue. Two or three of the American sailors seized by British were African-American. Also Americans were irritated first by Jefferson’s 1807 Embargo Act and later Congress’ Non Intercourse Act, which tried to punish the British by refusing to trade with them—the policies hurt American producers and merchants economically.

The British in Canada also continued to trade with Native Americans-- whose land the Americans were trying move onto. The establishment of Prophet’s town in Indiana by Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother “the Prophet” (who were disgusted that governor ((and future president)) William Henry Harrison plied some Indian leaders with liquor and arranged to purchase 3 million acres for little money) led to the massacre of Shawnee at Tippecanoe in 1811 led by William Henry Harrison, to eastern War Hawks, this was another last straw.

Congress declared war against Britain in 1812. The nation was not united during this war. New England threatened to secede. English troops easily occupied American ports and Native Americans fought with the British army (Tecumseh, a British brigadier general was killed during the battle of the Thames). The Americans were unable to take Montreal, Canada and barely able to defend their current lands. The American navy did have some success in the Great Lakes, Admiral Perry (with whom some African Americans sailors served) famously declared “We have met the enemy and he is ours.” While the Americans almost lost Washington DC when the British set fire to several government buildings including the White House and the Capitol, the Americans experienced victory in Baltimore prompting Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner in 1814.

In the south, the Creek nation divided their loyalties between the British and the Americans. The so-called Red Sticks were Creeks, inspired by Tecumseh, who opposed the Americans while “loyal” Creeks were known as White Sticks who preached peace. After Red Sticks attacked a US fort in Alabama, General Andrew Jackson (another future president) organized 3500 hundred troops, including White Stick Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, and Chicasaws, that wasted Creek towns and massacred 3/4 of Red Stick men, women, and children at Horseshoe Bend. With the Treaty of Horseshoe Bend, Jackson then forced the Creeks to cede 23 million acres of their homeland. The remaining Red Sticks joined with the Seminoles of Florida (many of whom were descended from fugitive slaves).

In January 1815, Andrew Jackson experienced another victory, this time against the British during the Battle of New Orleans, and this time over half of his soldiers included African Americans. While it was a stunning victory, he was unaware that the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium had already ended the war on December 24, 1814.

Economic opportunities for the creation of successful industries improved because of the war (and the embargos) and the national tariff policy. In some crafts, large establishments replaced small shops. The importance of small individual craftsmen decreased as business consolidation meant laborers needed fewer skills and management distanced itself from the workforce. Woman and children went to work in Northern textile factories and tradesmen and craftsmen united in unsuccessful short-lived strikes in an attempt to regain control of their working environment.

The cotton gin (not invented out of whole cloth by Eli Whitney in 1793) made large commercial cotton plantation very profitable in the 19th century. Planters took advantage of the new western lands at the end of the War of 1812 increasing the demand for slaves. Though slave trade had been banned, South Carolina did import slaves, also an internal, domestic slave trade developed within the country. As the institution of slavery matured in the Southeast, owners encouraged women to have children. Some owners felt slave families increased morale, decreased runaways, and increased profits. Slaves protested using both active and passive means: work slowdowns, feigned illnesses, accidental fires, broken tools, misunderstanding directions, and running away. Individual acts of resistance were much more common than group collaboration in a major rebellion (like that planned by Gabriel Prosser in 1800 or the Stono Rebellion from the colonial period), however in 1822 Denmark Vessey, a free black man from St. Thomas, was accused of planning to incite a slave rebellion (resulting in the execution of 35 black men) and 1831 Nat Turner’s Rebellion led to the death of 60 whites.