War of 1812 War of 1812, conflict between the United States and Great Britain from 1812 to 1815. Fought over the maritime rights of neutrals, it ended inconclusively. Background Over the course of the French revolutionary and the Napoleonic wars between France and Great Britain (1793-1815), both belligerents violated the maritime rights of neutral powers. The United States, endeavoring to market its own produce, was especially affected. To preserve Britain's naval strength, Royal Navy officers impressed thousands of seamen from U.S. vessels, including naturalized Americans of British origin, claiming that they were either deserters or British subjects. The United States defended its right to naturalize foreigners and challenged the British practice of impressment on the high seas. Relations between the two nations reached a breaking point in 1807 when the British frigate Leopard fired on the USS Chesapeake in American territorial waters and removed, and later executed, four crewmen. In addition, Britain issued executive orders in council to blockade the coastlines of the Napoleonic empire and then seized vessels bound for Europe that did not first call at a British port. Napoleon retaliated with a similar system of blockades under the Berlin and Milan decrees, confiscating vessels and cargoes in European ports if they had first stopped in Britain. Collectively, the belligerents seized nearly 1500 American vessels between 1803 and 1812, thus posing the problem of whether the United States should go to war to defend its neutral rights. Americans at first prepared to respond with economic coercion rather than war. At the urging of President Thomas Jefferson, Congress passed the Embargo Act of 1807, prohibiting virtually all U.S. ships from putting to sea. Subsequent enforcement measures in 1808-1809 also banned overland trade with British and Spanish possessions in Canada and Florida. Because the legislation seriously harmed the U.S. economy and failed to alter belligerent policies, it was replaced in 1809 by the Non-Intercourse Act, which forbade trade with France and Britain. In 1810 Macon's Bill No. 2 reopened American trade with all nations, but stipulated that if one belligerent repealed its antineutral measures, the United States would then impose an embargo against the other. In August Napoleon announced the repeal of the Berlin and Milan decrees on the understanding that the United States would also force Britain to respect its neutral rights. Although Napoleon continued to seize American vessels in French ports, President James Madison accepted his statements as proof that French antineutral decrees had been lifted.