Introduction and Historical Background
After the ratification of the American Constitution the political divide in the early American Republic was between Federalists, especially strong in New England, and Republicans, with Virginia as their power base. With respect to foreign policy, Federalists tended to place an emphasis on good relations with Great Britain, while Republicans tended to have an orientation towards France. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were leading Republicans, while leading Federalists included John Adams and Alexander Hamilton.
During Jefferson's tenure as president from 1801 to 1809 relations with Great Britain tended to be strained, for instance because of the impressment of American citizens to serve in the British navy during Napoleonic wars. An uneasy peace continued to prevail in the early years of the Madison administration, but a new factor was introduced with the arrival of what have been termed ‘War Hawks’ in the Twelfth Congress in 1811, mostly from Southern and Western States. Here is a description of the atmosphere in the United States:
The picture of Royal Marines abducting American sailors under the color of impressment infuriated the West and South as well as the rest of the country. The rhetoric of the War Hawks insisting that American honor was at stake on the high seas should not be dismissed as empty bluster, for the people of that time regarded the reputations of persons and communities as important signs of their worth and weight. (Heidler and Heidler 2002: 4–5)
President Madison, the Father of the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights, was no firebrand and certainly not eager for war, but on 1 June 1812 he sent a war message to Congress, and Congress passed a declaration of war against Great Britain on 18 June 1812. Both Houses of Congress approved the declaration, but not unanimously. The margins were 79 to 49 in the House of Representatives and 19 to 13 in the Senate (Hickey 2012: 43). Support for the measure came mostly from Republicans, while Federalists tended to oppose the measure.
As regards the State of Maryland, the Southern part of the state tended to be Federalist, but the city of Baltimore was strongly Republican. Baltimore was the third largest city in the United States, with a population that approached 50,000 by 1814.