Causes of the War:
Impressments and National Honor:
In 1803, Great Britain and France went to war and the Royal Navy found itself short of manpower. They began boarding American merchant ships in order to seize the British seamen serving on these American vessels. Although this policy of impressments was supposed to reclaim only British subjects, between 1806 and 1812 about 6,000 American citizens were taken against their will ("pressed") into the Royal Navy.
Tensions grew when British frigates stationed themselves just outside US harbors and searched ships and impressed men in full view of US shores. "Free trade and sailors' rights" was a rallying cry for the United States throughout the war.
Free trade, and sailors' rights:
The British practice of impressments came to the forefront with the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair in 1807. The American public was outraged by impressments and many called for war in order to assert American sovereignty and national honor.