Declaration of War
An American PerspectiveOn June 1, 1812, President James Madison sent the "war message" to Congress. This document cited numerous American grievances against Great Britain including; impressment, the practice of searching American vessels in American waters, trade embargoes detrimental to the American economy and finally, the alleged incitement to violence of the First Nations by the British Army. Although this message was not a overt call for war, its implication was obvious.
A few days later, the House of Representatives voted seventy-nine to forty-nine in favour of war. This vote was far from unanimous and the ideological rift in the House would plague President Madison for the entire course of the war. Most of the members opposed to war were from the Northeastern states.
The spectre of war stirred up a fierce debate in the Senate. One vote ended in deadlock on June 12, but ultimately the War Hawks had their way, and on June 17, the Senate voted nineteen to thirteen in favour of war.
President Madison signed the Declaration of War on June 18. Express riders set off immediately to deliver the alarming news to the western frontier and outlying seaports.