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House Declaration of War, June 4, 1812, with Senate Amendments, June 17, 1812

After President James Madison asked Congress to declare war against Britain, the House of Representatives voted 79–49 to pass this declaration. “War hawks,” led by Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, prevailed over members favoring neutrality and Federalists sympathetic to Britain. Clay argued that war was justified to defend U.S. rights against British offenses.

war . . . is hereby declared to exist between Great Britain and her dependencies and the United States of America and their Territories and …the President of the United States is hereby Authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect.

Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives and Records Administration

House Declaration of War, June 4, 1812, with Senate Amendments, June 17, 1812 House Declaration of War, June 4, 1812, with Senate Amendments, June 17, 1812 war . . . is hereby declared to exist between Great Britain and her dependencies and the United States of America and their Territories and …the President of the United States is hereby Authorized to use the whole land and naval force of the United States to carry the same into effect.

The War of 1812

In 1812 Congress exercised for the first time its constitutional power to declare war. Provoked by Britain’s refusal to respect the neutrality of United States merchant vessels during Britain’s war with France, Congress declared war against Great Britain. British superiority at sea—already evident in its seizure of American ships and impressment of sailors—gave it military advantages. Awakened to the need for greater sea power, Congress acted to provide and maintain a stronger navy.