Within just three decades of fighting for independence from Great Britain, the United States was once again contemplating war against its former adversary. In the intervening period, Great Britain thwarted U.S. trade by commandeering American ships, blockading ports that imported U.S. goods, and forcing thousands of American sailors into service with the British Navy. British actions devastated American commercial interests, dealing a blow to the fledgling nation’s efforts to establish itself as a world power. A report from the Committee on Foreign Relations in June 1812 considered war inevitable: “Seeing in the measures adopted by Great Britain, a course commenced and persisted in, which must lead to a loss of national character and independence, feel no hesitation in advising resistance by force.”
The House passed a war resolution—the first in its history—against Great Britain on June 4, 1812. This record, received and agreed to by the House on June 18, reflects the Senate’s minor language changes to the original declaration of war. President James Madison affixed his signature to the bill later that day, formally acknowledging a state of war existed between United States and Great Britain.