Continual harassment of American commerce by British warships. British laws, known as Orders in Council, declaring blockades against American ships bound for European ports. Attacks by Native-Americans on American frontiers believed to be instigated by British troops in Canada. The unofficial causes were never mentioned publicly and instead have been pieced together by historians over the years.
Impressment is the act of forcing men into military service. Great Britain had a long history of using impressment but escalated this practice after the Napoleonic Wars began in The issue of impressment caused a public outrage in America and is believed to be one of the main causes of the War of Yet, some historians now question how much of a factor impressement really was in the build up to the war.
According to an article by John P.
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Deeben on the National Archives website, out of the total population of 3. Furthermore, Americans sometimes practiced impressment themselves, such as the case with British seamen Charles Davis who was captured and forced to serve aboard the USS Constitution in Deeben par 3. According to Denver Brunsman in his book The Evil Necessity, whether impressment was the cause of the War of or not, it definitely became the justification for it:.
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One point is irrefutable: Impressment served as the key justification for the war once it began. On June 23, , the British government repealed the Orders in Council without knowing because of normal delays in transatlantic communication that the United States had declared war on Britain five days earlier. Republican politicians of the time often compared impressed American sailors to white slaves as a way to evoke strong public reactions. The Orders In Council in Great Britain were a series of Parliamentary Acts intended to gain control of the neutral merchant shipping trade with Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.
When the Napoleonic Wars broke out between France and Great Britain in , both sides tried to prevent neutral countries, such as the United States, from trading with the other in an attempt to deprive their opponent of supplies. The decree stated that any nation wishing to trade with closed ports must first pay transit duties. This was followed by a second edict issued on November 11, , which banned all neutral trade with any port on the European continent. On December 17, , Napoleon responded with the Milan Decree, which declared that the French navy would capture all ships trading with Great Britain or its colonies and confiscate their goods.
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Yet some historians, such as Alan Taylor, doubt the orders in council were a factor at all in the declaration of war. Alan Taylor argues in his book, The Civil War of , that if the orders in council were the cause, there would have been an easy solution to the problem:. On June 16, , just before the Americans declared war, the British suspended the Orders in Council.
They acted to improve a depressed economy in Britain and to avoid a costly war with America. Hastening the news by ship across the Atlantic to America, the British expected the Madison administration promptly to restore peace, as it would have done had the orders truly been the sole major cause of the war. Taylor goes on to explain that politicians at first tried to use the Orders in Council as a way to drum up support for the war but the public was indifferent to the issue:. But the complicated issues of maritime restrictions did not suffice to stir the common Americans needed to win elections, man privateers, and serve in the army.
As the push for war intensified, Republicans turned up the rhetorical heat by emphasizing impressment as a primary grievance. As the Orders in Council failed to ignite public outrage in the build up to the war, it became less of a focal point for Republican politicians and they instead started to focus their efforts on other issues like impressment. A common complaint against the British at the time was that they were supplying Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes with weapons and were instigating Indian attacks against American settlements, according to an article on the American Battlefield Trust website:.
Fur trade in the region was booming, giving the British added incentive to cooperate with the Native Americans.
To facilitate this, the British occasionally provided the Native tribes with arms and supplies. These small provisions were exaggerated, in turn, by indignant and worried Americans. Continued British involvement was seen as an affront to American sovereignty. To that avail, some politicians, such as Thomas Jefferson, argued that conquering Canada and expelling the British from the American frontier was the only way to end these Indian attacks, according to Taylor:. The conquest of Canada will do this.
In reality, many historians believe the claims of Indian attacks being instigated by the British were exaggerated and were merely an excuse to conquer and annex Canada. A scene on the frontiers as practiced by the humane British and their worthy allies, illustration by William Charles, published in Philadelphia circa As Troy Bickham points out in his book, The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, The British Empire and the War of , conflicts between the colonists and the American Indians, whom the British had a long-standing alliance with, were nothing new in North America and they had never been grounds for war with Britain in the past so it is unlikely they would be in American expansion into British-held Canada is considered yet another cause of the War of With the British exit after the Revolution, there was little motivation for the leaders of the new republic to curry favor with the Indians.
Lacking European allies, the position of the Indians became untenable. During the first years of colonization, Anglo-America had been confined to a narrow strip of the continent within a few hundred miles of the Atlantic coast. Less than a century after the war ended, Anglo-America was firmly entrenched along the Pacific coast. The irresistible westward movement of Anglo-America was the legacy of the French and Indian War victory, and it was a disaster for Native America.
Historical Contexts of The Last of the Mohicans: The French and Indian War, and Mids America
The tragic aftermath was the product of the combination of victory and victimization. In twenty-first century scholarship, it has become axiomatic that the immediate context for The Last of the Mohicans was the national debate over Indian removal. While this is not altogether wrong, it is misleading.
In the mids, when the novel was written, Indian removal was a heated topic in Congress and public discourse. In The Making of Racial Sentiment , Ezra Tawil gets around this problem by arguing that in frontier literature in the s, American Indians are racial stand-ins for the other racially-despised group, African Americans.
If racism toward Indians in Cooper and other frontier novelists is just as much about racism toward blacks, then, according to Tawil, the onus on racial mixing with Indians speaks to the onus on mixing with blacks, and the fear of Indian warfare is just as much about the nightmare of slave rebellion. Cooper did need the subterfuge of frontier novels such as The Last of the Mohicans to discuss African-American slaves, racial mixing with blacks, and the prospect of slave uprising.
Notions is written as the first person narrative of a European traveler. I will call him Cooper. He noted that the northern states had pointed the way, and naively assumed that southern states would shortly follow. While granting that local slave uprisings could occur, in both documents he observed that white Americans are far more numerous, far better armed, and far better trained in warfare.
Quite clearly, he feared neither. Moreover, Cooper did not evade the topic of racial mixing with blacks, as Tawil contends. But he knew that color prejudice was a powerful determinant of social class for nonwhite Americans. So the problem involved caste and class.
On the abolition of slavery, Cooper counseled patience; on the amalgamation of blacks and whites, Cooper noted its acceptance elsewhere, but not in his country. He responded differently to the Indian question. In Notions of the Americans he advocated removal and amalgamation.
Unlike abolition, he thought the federal government was the proper authority to institute removal. Removal is necessary because Indians obtain the vices but not the virtues of civilization. Yet human variety represented degeneration. Given a level playing field, Smith believed that variety—in effect, racial difference—would be eliminated, and lesser varieties, such as people with red skin or black skin, would rise to the level of white people. Smith was proposing benevolent colonization.
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Enlisting some of the proponents of Indian removal, benevolent colonization brought together people and organizations concerned with the plight of both American Indians and African Americans. The actual history of the benevolent colonization movement does not substantiate their interpretation. Benevolent colonization was backed by some black and Indian leaders and by many concerned whites who felt that racism was too deep seated for racial minorities to achieve their human potential in the established states.
Such colonies would provide the strong supportive environment that Samuel Stanhope Smith believed would enable people of color to overcome their degenerate condition. Cooper agreed with Smith about the fundamental unity of humanity and the equal potential of diverse people despite the color of their skin. The death of Cora and Uncas in The Last of the Mohicans spoke to the inhospitality of the future United States to people of color and to racial mixing. Cooper supported benevolent colonization for American Indians and racial mixing with whites, but did not directly address benevolent colonization of African Americans and did not support the call for racial mixing within his own country.
The burden is heavy. Her life might have been different in the West Indies where she was born. Had he been able to look beyond the foreseeable future, into the twenty-first century, he might have been wonderfully surprised to see that one of the most respected Americans was a mixture of white, black, American Indian, and Asian; and another was an equal mixture of white and black.
Sappenfield and E. Knopf, , —; Ian K. William M. Fowler, Jr. Norton, , 39— Silver, Our Savage Neighbors , , While this phrase has been applied to other treaties, scholars have found it particularly useful to get at the momentous geopolitical ramifications of the Peace of Paris. Anderson, The War that Made America , vii—viii. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country , Anderson, The War that Made America , viii.