Amid the many historic events Lord Castlereagh faced as Great Britain’s foreign minister, the “millstone of an American war” was an annoyance more than a high priority.
With British attention trained on Napoleon’s actions, the war with the Americans was simply seen as a side effect of British naval policies against the French. The British challenged the right of American neutrality and blocked American ships from reaching the French-controlled Continent. In retaliation, the United States restricted trade with Great Britain.
When these measures failed to win concessions, the United States declared war, unaware that British trade restrictions were about to be repealed. By 1814, with Napoleon defeated, Castlereagh ordered his commissioners at Ghent to soften their position toward America, paving the way for peace.