There were several causes of the War of 1812: the elevated tensions between America and Great Britain led to several conflicts both political and military, and the American desire for expansion into the Northwest Territory forced Great Britain to develop a more aggressive policy toward the United States. Trade tensions were also a major cause, as the United States wished to continue trading with France, a country with whom Great Britain was at war. The British wanted to prevent such a trade relationship, which led to political strife.
One of the more overt conflicts between the United States and Great Britain was impressment. Great Britain was fighting a war and needed experienced sailors to keep their naval fleets manned. Many British sailors were independent merchants, however, and they went to the United States to participate in booming trade opportunities. Great Britain began intercepting American ships looking for such men, and they would essentially capture them and force them into service on British ships. Americans found this to be insulting and an aggressive act toward their country.
The British also supported the Indian Raids that prevented American expansion into what was known as the Northwest Territory. This area was made up of modern-day Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. The British supported the raids because these lands provided a buffer between the United States and Canada, which was under British control, and they supplied the Indian forces with arms and other means for fighting American settlers. American expansion was slowed to a halt in the region, preventing settlers from taking advantage of valuable farmland in the area.
Americans saw British interference in their expansion pursuits as outwardly aggressive. James Madison was president of the United States at the time, and he called on Congress to act on the grievances the United States had listed against Britain; a declaration of war followed soon after. Many Canadians and British suggested that the United States had gone to war simply to annex parts of Canada, though this point is disputed by scholars. The elevated tensions between America and Great Britain had been building for decades, and one single cause cannot be pinpointed as leading to the war.