The War of 1812

Historical content: 
Slavery and Westward Expansion
Historical skills: 
Background knowledge, Contextualization, Corroboration
Common Core: 
#1 (Gr. 6-12)



Use the background information, your knowledge of history, and the document to answer the questions that follow. 

Background Information: Under pressure from advisors and other politicians, President James Madison issued a proclamation of war on Britain on June 18, 1812. Many Americans believed that the war with Britain would help settle territorial disputes in the Midwest, Canada, and Florida. This passage is from Madison’s official proclamation of war.


Title: "By the President of the United States of America, A Proclamation."
Author: James Madison
Date: June 18, 1812.

Source text: 

"By the President of the United States of America, A PROCLAMATION. Whereas the Congress of the United States, by virtue of the Constituted Authority vested in them, have declared by their act, hearing date the eighteenth day of the present month, that WAR exists between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their territories; Now, therefore, I, James Madison, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim the same to all whom it may concern: and I do specially enjoin on all persons holding offices, civil or military, under the authority of the United States, that they be vigilant and zealous…. And I do moreover exhort all the good people of the United States, as they love their country… that they exert themselves in preserving order, in promoting concord, in maintaining the authority and the efficacy of the laws, and in supporting and invigorating all the measures which may be adopted by the constituted Authorities, for obtaining a speedy, just, and an honorable peace."

Question 1: How are the Napoleonic Wars in Europe connected to the United States’ declaration of war in 1812?

Question 2: How is the settlement of the Northwest Territory connected to the United States’ declaration of war in 1812?

About the Assessment

Like Connections to the Philippine-American War, this assessment gauges students' knowledge of the past.  Rather than measure whether students can simply recall decontextualized facts, this assessment requires students to make connections across time and construct an argument about how events are connected. Students with a strong sense of the past will be able to explain that Madison's proclamation of war on Britain was in part due to trade restrictions enforced by the British during the Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain.  Strong students will also explain that Britain's support for Native American tribes resisting US expansion into the Northwest Territory contributed to the declaration of war on Britain.