Samuel Taggart speaks against the War

[T]he Orders in Council [British policy to seize US cargo ships, one of the causes of the US declaration of war] have been more rigorously carried into effect, on the part of Great Britain. And since the additional hostile attitude assumed during the present session of Congress, has been known in Great Britain, I understand, from the public prints, that orders have been given for their still more rigid execution. Unless she saw fit to rescind them, this was naturally to be expected. In proportion as we assume a more hostile attitude towards her, and show a disposition to embrace her enemy in the arms of friendship and affection, it was to be expected that she would either relax and accede to our demands, or adhere more rigorously to her own system. She has chosen the latter.

As it respects the impressment of seamen, this is a delicate and a difficult subject, and if it is ever adjusted to mutual satisfaction it must be by war, and whenever there is mutually a disposition to accommodate, it will be found necessary to concede something on both sides. . . . It is vain to contend against the principle [of drafting citizens for the military], since we have sanctioned it by our laws, and daily practise upon it, however hardly we may think of some of the particular modes in which it is applied. I feel satisfaction, however, in the reflection, that it has never had the sanction of my vote. The principle then being admitted, the only ground of complaint is the irregular application of it to Americans. Great Britain does not claim, she has never claimed the right of impressing American citizens. She claims the right of reclaiming her own subjects, even although they should be found on board of American vessels. . . .

It is said to be necessary to go to war, for the purpose of securing our commercial rights, of opening a way for obtaining the best market for our produce, and in order to avenge the insults which have been offered to our flag. But what is there in the present situation of the United States, which we could reasonably expect would be ameliorated by war? in a situation of the world which is perhaps without a parallel in the annals of history, it would be strange indeed, if the United States did not suffer some inconveniences, especially in their mercantile connexions and speculations. . . .

What is the particular achievement to be accomplished by this armament, which is to be kept up at such an enormous expense, and which is to bring the war to a successful termination? Why, the conquest of Canada. . . . Our rights on the ocean have been assailed, and, however inconsistent it may seem to go as far as possible from the ocean to seek redress, yet this would appear to be the policy. We are to seek it, it seems, by fighting the Indians on the Wabash or at Tippecanoe, or the Canadians at Fort Malden, at Little York, at Kingston, at Montreal, and at Quebec. . . .

For whose benefit is the capture of Canada? What advantages are we likely to reap from the conquest? Will it secure the liberty of the seas, or compel Great Britain to rescind her Orders in Council? Did we ever know an instance in which Great Britain gave up a favorite measure for the sake of saving a foreign possession, perhaps of very little value to her? Will the advantages to be derived from the conquest of Canada be an equivalent for the loss and damage we may sustain in other quarters? What is Great Britain to be about all the time that we are wrestling Canada out of her possession? Is it consistent with the vigor with which she usually acts, to stand by and tamely look on? Either she will attempt a vigorous defence of Canada, or she will not. If she does, some of the difficulties of the enterprise have been stated. If she does not, it will be that she may be the better able to inflict a severe blow in some other quarter. Admitting war to be sincerely intended, no course could be devised more inconsistent with the maxims of sound policy than that which appears to be pursuing by the United States.

Source: Samuel Taggart, Speech, June 24, 1812, Annals of Congress, 12th Cong., 1st Sess., pages 1649-1650, 1652, 1662-1663, 1666-1667.