Americans began the War of 1812 with high hopes
of conquering Canada. But their strategy and efforts were badly flawed, and
before long British and Canadian forces had thrown the United States on the
defensive. The Americans fared somewhat better in naval warfare, but by 1814
the British had burned Washington and were threatening New Orleans. The Treaty
of Ghent ended the war in a stalemate that solved none of the original issues.
But Americans counted the war a success and increasingly turned away from
European affairs and toward isolationism.
Despite some secessionist talk by New Englanders
at the Hartford Convention, the ironic outcome of the divisive war was a strong
surge of American nationalism and unity. Political conflict virtually disappeared
during the Era of Good Feelings under President Madison. A fervent
new nationalism appeared in diverse areas of culture, economics and foreign
The Era of Good Feelings was soon threatened
by the Panic of 1819, caused largely by excessive land speculation and unstable
banks. An even more serious threat came from the first major sectional dispute
over slavery, which was postponed but not really resolved by the Missouri
Compromise of 1820.
Under Chief Justice John Marshall, the Supreme
Court further enhanced its role as the major force upholding a powerful national
government and conservative defense of property rights. Marshalls rulings
partially checked the general movement toward states rights and popular
Nationalism also led to a more assertive American
foreign policy. Andrew Jacksons military adventures in Spanish Florida
resulted in the cession of that territory to the U.S. American fears of European
intervention in Latin America encouraged Monroe and J. Q. Adams to lay down
the Monroe Doctrine.