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Relations between Great Britain and the United States between 1777 and 1900
Great Britain and the United States’ relationship consisted of many ups and downs between the years after the Civil War and leading up to the end of the Gilded Age in 1900. Both sides caused the changes in their relationship, but some of the major events that contributed to the relations between the two countries consist of the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War.
The Treaty of Paris, signed September 3, 1783, demonstrated Great Britain’s recognition of American independence. This treaty also declared that Americans would retain the right to fish off the coast of Newfoundland, America would restore loyalist properties, and Great Britain could recover debts owed to British creditors. While some of these promises were kept, many were not. Great Britain was resentful towards the United States and attempted to stunt its growth. At the same time, the United States didn’t keep its promises to restore Tory properties. Because of this the British kept troops in America for 20 years and instigated Indian attacks against American citizens.
Once the United States declared its independence, it began to form its official government. The Articles of Confederation were created to enforce the new government, but were heavily influenced by fears left from Britain’s rule. Because the states feared a central government, they considered themselves sovereign and did not yield their power to congress. The country also faced an economic shift to a lawyer, merchant, planter society that was resolute to protect both their liberties and property. As a result of the Articles of Confederation, congress couldn’t assume responsibility, exert authority, or exercise leadership. These powers were needed to control and regulate Interstate and foreign trade as well as taxation. Due to the fact that the Articles of Confederation gave so few powers to Congress, many problems arose that were harmful to the growth of the new country. British ships’ dumping harmed the new American industry and drained away metallic money. These ships were able to bring goods that cost much less than their American counterparts. Congress couldn’t expel the British troops in America or deal effectively with the Indians on our frontier nor stop the pirates from raiding American vessels. This was because each state had to make a treaty with each entity.
Because the British were spiteful towards the United States due to its new found independence, it did many things in attempt to retard its growth. Great Britain outlawed trade with the United States and caused disruptions in fishing and commerce. Great Britain declined to open the ports of the West Indies to trade and refused to remove the redcoats from United States soil because they hadn’t given the Tory land back.
The Louisiana territory was purchased by the United States in 1803. This purchase was made not only to avoid war with France and prevent an alliance with England, but also to double Mississippi river and the port of New Orleans. Both of these additions were critical to the development of the country as well as the development of the country west of the Mississippi River.
War between France and England in 1803 caused impressments and by 1805 both countries tired to prevent American trade and escalated to possible war. The USS Chesapeake was stopped outside US waters in 1807 and several Americans were killed, injured, and imprisoned. Resulted in Embargo act 1807 when US couldn’t trade with foreigners. Embargo Act was lifted because of what it did to American economy. The Non- Intercourse act of 1809 was put in its place. This opened trade to all countries except Great Britain and France. Macon’s Bill #2 allowed for the US to open trade with France after it promised to respect our trade rights.
The war of 1812 began as a response to Great Britain’s treatment of America. In the war message sent to Great Britain, the following issues were stated: Impressments, interference with American trade, blockade of American ports, and Great Britain’s refusal to repeal the Orders in Council. When the United States won the war of 1812, they became the military super power of the world. This was the second war the United States had won against Great Britain thus demonstrating that the United States was a legitimate global power. In addition to the respect the United States won in the mind of Great Britain, other countries respected the United States and refrained from threatening the country which was important after the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine. Many other occurrences during this war caused tension between the United States and Great Britain such as the burning of Washington DC and the battle of New Orleans. The Treaty of Ghent, signed in 1814, ended the war of 1812. This treaty resulted in better relations between the United States and Great Britain, but was considered to be a stalemate in other aspects such as the issue of impressments, trade rights, and the returning of Tory property.
After the War of 1812, the United States and Great Britain reached several crucial agreements. The Rush Bagot agreement established joint ownership of the Great Lakes in 1817, the Webster-Ashburton Treaty settled a dispute over territory in Maine, and the Treaty Line of 1818 established the 49th parallel dictated the upper boundary of the United States. Additionally, Great Britain ended slavery in 1833. This action gave home to American abolitionists. At this time, the issue of slavery was extremely controversial not only with the public, but also within the House. The “gag rule” was put into place to prevent arguments over the issue.
Great Britain’s dependency on cotton caused it to side with rebelling areas of the south. In the 1830s during the Mexican war, Texas wanted to break away from Mexico and join the United States. If Great Britain had recognized Texas, it would have broken the Monroe Doctrine. It was important to the United States that Texas wasn’t recognized because it could have easily out produced the US in cotton. Later, during the Civil War, the south had wanted Britain’s aid in breaking away from the Union. While the British did help some, they did this to insure their future cotton supply. If Great Britain had recognized the South, they would have been breaking the Monroe Doctrine and further straining relationships between the two countries. The people of Britain didn’t want their government to aid the South because many of them had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin and sympathized with the slaves. Even with this, Britain tried to support the South through giving them military aids. One of the most well known incidents was the Alabama Claim. This happened when Great Britain allowed an ironclad ship to leave the Liverpool stockyard and leave to aid the Confederates. This ship was caught by the Union and caused great controversy. Later, when the claim was settled by the Treaty of Washington when Great Britain had to pay the United States a total of $15 million. The Trent Affair, which also occurred during the Civil War, involved British diplomats who met with Confederate leaders caused the Union to become angry with the British nearly leading to war. Both of these events happened after the Caroline Affair of 1837 when British Authorities captured and burned the Caroline on the United States side of the Niagara River and the Creole Affair when British soldiers released a slave ship headed for New Orleans. This caused much controversy because while many Americans thought that slavery was wrong, they also felt that Great Britain had over stepped into American affairs.
During the post Civil War time period until the Gilded Age, many events took place that altered the relationship between Great Britain and the United States. While some of these occurrences harmed their relations at the time, all of the events allowed for the strong relationship the two countries have shared through World Wars and more modern events.