To Recap: Some Events Leading to the War of 1812
Congress passed Macon’s Bill Number 2 in May 1810. Americans resumed trade with Britain and France. The bill stipulated the United States would re-instate its embargo against the enemy of the first belligerent (Britain or France) to recognize American neutrality.
Napoleon seized the opportunity to draw the United States into his Continental System. During the first week of August 1810, Napoleon dictated a letter to the Duc de Cadore. It was sent to the American legation in Paris. Napoleon duplicitously declared that he was repealing his Berlin and Milan decrees, “it being understood that in consequence of this declaration the English are to revoke their Orders in Council, and renounce the new principles of blockage which they have wished to establish; or that the United States, conformably to the Act you have just communicated, cause their rights to be respected by the English.”
The letter ambiguously indicated the British might rescind their Orders in Council. It clearly stated Napoleon was repealing the Berlin and Milan Decrees. Federalists and some historians, Henry Adams for instance, argued that Madison was duped. The American Minister to Russia, John Quincy Adams, cautioned Madison that Napoleon was luring him into a trap. Chief Justice John Marshall called it “…one of the most astonishing instances of national credulity…” 
Later historians, such as J. C. A. Stagg and Gordon S. Wood, argued that Madison understood the ambiguity of the Cadore letter. Madison was hoping to entice the British into repealing their Orders in Council.
Napoleon, however, did not make the Cadore letter or the repeal public. Indeed, he had no intent to repeal his decrees at all. He issued secret decrees. The French began seizing some, but not all, American ships and cargoes. The situation was intentionally confusing.
Madison was stubborn. On November 2, 1811, despite French depredations, Madison reinstated non-intercourse with Great Britain. Napoleon was delighted. Then Madison annexed the Republic of West Florida. As European powers objected, Napoleon said nothing.
In February 1811, Congress passed a new Non-Importation Act. America would not import British manufactures, although American produce could be exported to Britain.
From 1811-12 the British Isles suffered through a notably difficult winter. Frigid temperatures contributed to crop failure. The price of wheat rose to $4.50 a bushel. Napoleon’s economic sanctions choked off markets for British manufactures. His policies closed all European ports except those in Portugal and Russia. America’s Non-Importation Act closed markets in the United States.
British manufactured goods piled up in warehouses. Violence flared in the streets as workers demonstrated. As factories shut down, manufacturers petitioned Parliament. They needed American markets to survive.
On April 21, 1812, the British Prince Regent, later King George IV, issued a declaration. If Napoleon publicly and truly revoked the Berlin and Milan Decrees, the British would revoke their Orders in Council.
The Prince Regent’s Declaration arrived in Paris on May 1, 1812. The American minister in Paris demanded proof that Napoleon had repealed his decrees. The French minister shocked him by handing him a decree. It was signed by Napoleon at St. Cloud and backdated April 28, 1811. The French minister blatantly lied that it was not backdated, and had been sent to the American government at the time. Madison was compromised.
In America, “War Hawks” from the South and West agitated for war with Britain.
Under pressure from British manufacturers, and rumblings of war from America, Parliament considered revoking its Orders in Council. Debate was delayed when Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated. On June 16, Lord Castlereagh announced the Orders in Council were suspended. 
It was too late. America formally declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812. News of the repeal would take weeks to cross the Atlantic.
Two years later, in November 1814, as he wrote the Olive Branch, Carey changed his mind after examining a document by the Prince Regent on the repeal of the Orders in Council. Originally, on page 40, he wrote that after the British repealed their Orders in Council and offered an armistice Madison should have accepted it.
By page 180, Carey’s opinion had changed. This suggests that page 40 had already been printed, and Carey was rushing the Olive Branch to press. “The tenor of the repeal, as it is termed, of the orders in council, has not been duly considered—nor had I examined it with sufficient attention when I wrote the reflections contained in page 40. That document is liable to objections, of which I believe the public at large are not aware—nor do I know that they have ever been stated fully.”
Carey reprinted an extract from the Prince Regent’s response :
“His royal highness is hereby pleased further to declare…if circumstances shall so require from restoring, after reasonable notice, the order of the 7th of January 1806 and the 26th of April 1809, or any part thereof, to their full effect; OR from taking such other measures of retaliation against the enemy, as may appear to his royal highness to be just and necessary.”
Carey interpreted this to mean that “circumstances” were separate from “retaliation.” He wrote the orders were, technically, never repealed. They were simply suspended until “circumstances should require” that they be re-instituted.
He retracted the following comments:
“But whatever might be the justice, necessity, or policy of the war, when the orders in council were repealed, and an armistice offered by the British government, it was a most fatal error, not to accept it. Negociations for the removal of the rest of our grievances might have taken place: and they would undoubtedly have been conducted under more favourable auspices, than those that preceded them; for England having discovered that she had calculated too far on our passiveness, would have been far more disposed to do us justice.”
 Henry Adams, History of the United States of America During the Administrations of James Madison, (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1986) 180. [First published in nine volumes from 1889 to 1891.]
 Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager, The Growth of the American Republic, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1962) 400-1; Adams, History, 208; Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009) 666.
 J.C.A. Stagg, Mr. Madison’s War: Politics, Diplomacy and Warfare in the Early American Republic 1783-1830 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) 55; Wood, Empire of Liberty, 665.
 Adams, History, 181-2; Wood, Empire of Liberty, 667.
 Adams, History, 266; Wood, Empire of Liberty, 375-6.
 Morison and Commager, Growth of the American Republic, 401.
 Adams, History, 478; Morison and Commager, Growth of the American Republic, 401.
 Adams History, 469-72.
 Adams, History, 489-90.
 Mathew Carey, The Olive Branch: Or Faults on Both Sides (Philadelphia: M. Carey, November 11, 1814) 180.
 Carey, Olive Branch, 180-1.
 Carey, Olive Branch, 40.