the War of 1812
|Orders in Council (1807)|
|Embargo Act of 1807|
|Non-Intercourse Act (1809)|
|Macon's Bill Number 2|
|Rule of 1756|
|Little Belt Affair|
A war hawk, or simply hawk for short, is a term used in politics for someone favoring war in a debate over whether to go to war, or whether to continue or escalate an existing war. War hawks are the opposite of war doves. The terms derive from analogy with birds: hawks are predators that attack and eat other animals, whereas doves mostly eat seeds and fruit and historically symbolize peace.
The term originated in the run-up to the War of 1812 with the "War Hawks", who consisted of Democratic-Republicans and mostly were from southern and western states (the American West then consisted of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, as well as territories in the Old Northwest that did not yet have votes in Congress) and the older block of the Congress, encompassing most Republicans. They advocated war against Britain to protect American shipping from Royal Navy interference, which the War Hawks believed hurt the American economy and injured American prestige. War Hawks from western and landlocked states also believed that the British were instigating American Indians on the frontier to attack American settlements; the War Hawks therefore urged an invasion of British Canada to punish Britain and end the threat.
Prominent Virginia Congressman John Randolph of Roanoke, a staunch opponent of entry into the war, created the term "War Hawk". Therefore, no 'official' roster of War Hawks existed: historian Donald Hickey notes, "Scholars differ over who (if anyone) ought to be classified as a War Hawk." One scholar believes the term "no longer seems appropriate." Most historians use it to distinguish from the Twelfth Congress about a dozen members whom Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky led; John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was another notable War Hawk. Both men became and for decades remained important in American politics. Among the other men who are traditionally called War Hawks are Richard Mentor Johnson of Kentucky, William Lowndes of South Carolina, Langdon Cheves of South Carolina, Felix Grundy of Tennessee, and William W. Bibb of Georgia.
The older members of the Party, led by United States President James Madison and Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, unsuccessfully tried to defeat the War Hawks movement; they felt that the United States was unprepared for war.
Variations of the term
In modern U.S. usage "hawk" means a fierce advocate for a cause or policy; e.g., "deficit hawk", "privacy hawk", etc.
- Roger H. Brown, "The War Hawks of 1812: An Historical Myth" in Indiana Magazine of History, Vol LX (June 1964), 137-151 .
- Reginald Horsman, The Causes of the War of 1832 (New York: A.S. Barnes, 1962), ch. 13.
- Eaton, Clement (1957). Henry Clay and the Art of American Politics. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company. p. 25.
- Donald Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1989), p. 334n.8.
- Daniel M. Smith, The American Diplomatic Experience (Boston, 1972) p.60