Causes of the War of 1812: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 The War of 1812
  • 0:54 Impressment
  • 1:24 Stopping Trade
  • 2:12 Native Americans
  • 2:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

The War of 1812 was a second war fought between the United States and Great Britain after the American Revolution. This lesson will teach you about the main reasons the U.S declared war against the British.

The War of 1812

It's time for recess and you can't wait to play kickball with your friends. But when you get outside, the class bully stops you and says you have to play Four Square with his friends because they don't have enough players. Although you don't want to do it, you have no choice.

Something similar happened between British soldiers and American citizens and was one of the causes of the War of 1812, which was a war between Great Britain and the United States several years after the U.S. won independence during the Revolutionary War. It lasted from 1812 to 1815.

At the time, France and Great Britain were at war with each other but the U.S. was neutral. This meant that it didn't take sides or support one country over another and wanted to stay out of the fight. But the U.S. got stuck in the middle of the two countries at war anyway. Then the British took some actions against the U.S. that caused the U.S. to declare war on Great Britain. Let's take a look at what Great Britain did.


War requires soldiers, but the life of a British soldier was not easy and the British continuously needed more soldiers for their war against France. So they began stopping U.S. merchant ships (ships carrying goods) looking for people that they said were British deserters (someone who is in the military and leaves without permission) or actual British citizens to force them to fight for the British navy.

This practice, called impressment, angered the United States because many of the men who were taken were really American citizens and the British had no right to force them to fight in their navy.

Stopping Trade

The U.S. economy, particularly in New England, relied very heavily on trading with other countries. However, both France and Britain were blockading each other's ports, not allowing other ships to enter. This prevented American ships that were carrying goods from getting to Europe where the goods could be sold, so Congress passed the Embargo Act. This law made it illegal for American ships to take and sell goods to any country in Europe. America hoped that this embargo would cause Europe to miss the American goods and force the French and British to quit blocking American ships and stopping trade.

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