Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


Kevin Hardwick

Neal Amin

Chris Arndt


The declaration of war in June of 1812 brought more questions than it did answers for the United States. Economically, the government was not prepared to fund a war with multiple fronts. To make matters worse, the government’s primary source of income was through import duties, which they expected to decrease drastically as the war progressed. Militaristically, the United States Navy was too small to offer the protection that was needed from Britain, who possessed the world’s strongest navy at the time. Luckily for the United States, Congress in conjunction with President James Madison authorized privately owned ships to participate in the war effort. These ships worked to supplement the United States Navy, while working primarily to disrupt the British shipping industry. While this was their primary objective, privateers provided much more through their involvement in the War of 1812.

This thesis looks at the contributions of American privateers during the War of 1812. The first chapter will look at the ways in which privateers negatively affected British shipping and the British Royal Navy. The second chapter focuses on the ways in which privateers were able to provide economic support to the United States, while simultaneously hurting the British economy. Finally, the third chapter focuses on the social aspect of privateering. This last chapter demonstrates the ways in which the men aboard these ships viewed their actions as patriotic, as well the way writers and newspaper editors viewed the actions at home.



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