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Embargo Act of 1807

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Embargo Act of 1807
Great Seal of the United States
Long titleAn Act laying an Embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States.
Statutes at LargeStat. 451
Legislative history
  • Introduced in the Senate by Samuel Smith on December 18, 1807
  • Passed the Senate on December 18, 1807 (22–6)
  • Passed the House on December 21, 1807 (82–44) with amendment
  • Senate agreed to House amendment on December 22, 1807 (unknown votes)
  • Signed into law by President Thomas Jefferson on December 22, 1807
Major amendments
Repealed by Non-Intercourse Act § 19

The Embargo Act of 1807 was a general embargo on all foreign nations enacted by the United States Congress against Great Britain and France during the Napoleonic Wars.

The embargo was imposed in response to violations of United States neutrality, in which American merchantmen and their cargo were seized as contraband of war by the European navies. The British Royal Navy, in particular, resorted to impressment, forcing thousands of British-American seamen into service on their warships (under British law of the time, having been born British they were still subjects of the Crown). Britain and France, engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, rationalized the plunder of U.S. shipping as incidental to war and necessary for their survival. Americans saw the Chesapeake–Leopard affair as a particularly egregious example of a British violation of American neutrality. Perceived diplomatic insults and unwarranted official orders issued in support of these actions by European powers were argued by some to be grounds for a U.S. declaration of war.

President Thomas Jefferson acted with restraint as these antagonisms mounted, weighing public support for retaliation. He recommended that Congress respond with commercial warfare, rather than with military mobilization. The Embargo Act was signed into law on December 22, 1807. The anticipated effect of this measure – economic hardship for the belligerent nations – was expected to chasten Great Britain and France, and force them to end their molestation of American shipping, respect U.S. neutrality, and cease the policy of impressment. The embargo turned out to be impractical as a coercive measure, and was a failure both diplomatically and economically. As implemented, the legislation inflicted devastating burdens on the U.S. economy and the American people.

Widespread evasion of the maritime and inland trade restrictions by American merchants, as well as loopholes in the legislation, greatly reduced the impact of the embargo on the intended targets in Europe. British merchant marine appropriated the lucrative trade routes relinquished by U.S. shippers due to the embargo. Demand for English goods rose in South America, offsetting losses suffered as a result of Non-Importation Acts. The embargo undermined national unity in the U.S., provoking bitter protests, especially in New England commercial centers. The issue vastly increased support for the Federalist Party and led to huge gains in their representation in Congress and in the electoral college in 1808. The embargo had the effect of simultaneously undermining American citizens' faith that their government could execute its own laws fairly, and strengthening the conviction among America's enemies that its republican form of government was inept and ineffectual. At the end of 15 months, the embargo was revoked on March 1, 1809, in the last days of Jefferson's presidency. Tensions with Britain continued to grow, leading to the War of 1812.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Thomas Jefferson & His Democracy: Crash Course US History #10
  • ✪ Embargo Act of 1807
  • ✪ Jefferson, Neutrality, and the Embargo
  • ✪ Thomas Jefferson and the Embargo Act
  • ✪ Embargo Definition for Kids


CCUS 10 - Jefferson and 1812 Hi, I’m John Green, this is Crashcourse U.S. history and today we’re going to discuss Thomas Jefferson. We’re gonna learn about how America became a thriving nation of small, independent farmers, eschewing manufacturing and world trade, and becoming the richest and most powerful nation in the world in the 19th century, all thanks to the vision of Thomas Jefferson, the greatest and most intellectually consistent founding father, who founded the University of Virginia and grew twenty varieties of peas at Monticello... [Present John:] Me From the Past! Get to your desk. In a stunning turn of events, Me from the Past is an idiot and Jefferson is more complicated than that. Intro So, in 1800, Thomas Jefferson, pictured here. This is the third time we’ve featured Thomas Jefferson on the chalkboard so we had to go a little Warhol on it. Right so Jefferson, the Republican, ran against John Adams, the Federalist. 1800 was the first election where both parties ran candidates and actually campaigned, and surprisingly, the Federalists’ elitist strategy of “Vote for Adams because he’s better than you,” did not work. Now, both parties realized that it was important to coordinate their electoral strategy to make sure that the vice presidential candidate got least one fewer electoral votes than the Presidential candidate. But then the Republican elector who was supposed to throw his vote away forgot to, so there ended up being a tie between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. As per the Constitution, the election went to the House of Representatives, where it took 36 ballots and the intervention of Alexander Hamilton before Jefferson was finally named president. Incidentally, Burr and Hamilton really disliked each other, and not in, like, the passive aggressive way that politicians dislike each other these days, but in the four-years-later-they-would-have-a-duel-and-Burr-killed-Hamilton kind of way. A duel which occurred--wait for it--in New Jersey. But anyway, shortly after the election of 1800, the 12th amendment was passed, making the electoral college simpler, but not as simple as, say, you know, one person’s vote counting as one vote. Anyway, complain about the electoral college all you want, but without it, we would never have had President Rutherford B. Hayes. And just LOOK AT THAT BEARD. So Jefferson became president, and his election showed that Americans wanted a more democratic politics where common people were more free to express their opinions. The Federalists were never a really a threat again in presidential politics, and arguably the best thing that John Adams ever did was transfer power in an orderly and honorable way to his rival, Jefferson. Jefferson’s campaign slogan was “Jefferson and Liberty,” but the liberty in question was severely limited. Only a fraction of white men were allowed to vote, and of course, there was no liberty for the slaves. There’s a lot of contentious debate on the subject of Jefferson and slavery, but here’s my two cents, which I should NOT be allowed to contribute because we should only round to the nearest nickel, which by the way features Thomas Jefferson. So Thomas Jefferson was a racist and he wrote about black people’s inherent inferiority to whites and Native Americans, and the fact that he fathered children with one of his slaves doesn’t change that. George Washington freed his slaves upon his death. Well, sort of, they were supposed to be freed upon his wife’s death, but living in a house full of people who were waiting for you to die made Martha want to free them while she was still alive. But with few exceptions, Jefferson didn’t free his slaves upon his death and throughout his life, he used the sale of slaves to finance his lavish lifestyle. And, this leads to two big philosophical questions when it comes to history. First, if Jefferson clearly did not think that black people were the intellectual or moral equals of whites and was perfectly comfortable keeping them in bondage, then what does the most important phrase of the Declaration of Independence actually mean? And, the second question is even broader: does it matter if a person of tremendous historical importance had terrible aspects to their character? Does being a bad person diminish your accomplishments? I don’t have a great answer for those questions, but I will tell you that no one remembers Richard Nixon for starting the EPA. But this is very important to understand: slaves were aware of the concept of liberty and they wanted it. So, in addition to an election, 1800 also saw one of the first large scale slave uprisings. Gabriel’s Rebellion was organized by a Richmond VA blacksmith who hoped to seize the capital, kill some of its inhabitants and hold the rest hostage until his demands for abolition were met. But, the plot was discovered before they could carry it out and Gabriel along with 25 other slaves was hanged. But, after the rebellion, Virginians, if they didn’t know it already, were very aware that slaves wanted and expected liberty. And the response was predictable: Virginia made its laws concerning slaves much harsher. It became illegal for slaves to meet in groups on Sundays unless supervised by whites, and it became much more difficult for whites to legally free their slaves. Oh, it’s time for the mystery document? The rules here are simple. Identify the author, no shock. Fail to identify the author, shock. “The love of freedom, sir, is an inborn sentiment, which the God of nature has planted deep in the heart: long may it be kept under by the arbitrary institutions of society; but, at the first favorable moment, it springs forth, and flourishes with a vigour that defies all check. This celestial spark, which fires the breast of the savage, which glows in that of the philosopher, is not extinguished in the bosom of the slave. It may be buried in the embers; but it still lives; and the breath of knowledge kindles it to flame. Thus we find, sir, there have never been slaves in any country who have not seized the first favorable opportunity to revolt.” [1] I mean, from the bit at the beginning about the love of freedom, it seems like it could be Jefferson, but the rest does not seem like Jefferson. It probably wasn't a slave since they were denied access to education precisely because the breadth of knowledge is so dangerous to the institution of slavery. Ugh, this is looking pretty bleak for me, Stan. Mmmm...John Jay? Dang it! Who was it? GEORGE TUCKER? Who the John C. Calhoun is George Tucker? Is there a person watching this who knew that it was George Tucker? Apparently George Tucker was a member of the General Assembly of Virginia, and the Mystery Document was a description of Gabriel’s rebellion that suggested a solution to the inherent problem of rebellious slaves. He argued that we should set up a colony for them in Indian territory in Georgia, which, of course, also wouldn’t have worked because we were soon to steal that territory. But, back to Jefferson: His idea was to make the government smaller, lower taxes, shrink the military and make it possible for America to become a bucolic, agrarian “empire of liberty” rather than an English-style industrial-mercantile nightmare landscape. So how did he do? Well, really well at first. Jefferson got rid of all the taxes except for the tariff, especially the whiskey tax. And then when he woke up with a terrible cheap-whiskey induced hangover, he paid off part of the national debt. He shrunk the army and the navy and basically made sure that America wouldn’t become a centralized, English style state for at least the next 60 years. Low taxes and small government sounds great, but no navy? That would be tough, especially when we needed ships (and Marines) to fight the Barbary Pirates (on the shores of Tripoli) who kept capturing our ships in the Mediterranean and enslaving their crews. This is yet another example of how foreign affairs keeps getting in the way of domestic priorities, in this case the domestic priority of not wanting to spend money on a navy. Also, vitally, Jefferson’s presidency really marks the last time in American history when a Republican president didn’t want to spend money on the military. Don’t get me wrong, Democrats can do it too. I’m looking at you, LBJ. As much as he wanted to get rid of any trace of the Federalists, Jefferson found himself thwarted by that eminently conservative and undemocratic institution, the Supreme Court. Jefferson appointed Republicans to most government positions, but he couldn’t do anything about the Supreme Court, because they serve for life. And, since the country was only like twelve years old, they were all still pretty fresh. Most important among them was Chief Justice, John Marshall, who happened to be a Federalist. Marshall was Chief Justice basically forever and is without question the most important figure in the history of the Supreme Court. He wrote a number of key opinions, but none was more important that the 1803 decision in Marbury v. Madison. Marbury v. Madison is so important because, in that decision, the Supreme Court gave itself the power of judicial review, which allows it to uphold or invalidate federal laws. The court then extended this power to state laws in Fletcher v. Peck and eventually even to executive actions. Like, we think of the main job of the Supreme Court being to declare laws unconstitutional, but that power isn’t anywhere in the constitution itself. Marbury v. Madison gave the Court that power and without it the Supreme Court would probably be a footnote in American history. So unlike Marshall, Jefferson and the Republicans were big proponents of strict construction, the idea that the Constitution should be read as literally as possible as a way of limiting the power of the federal government. The problem is, there might be things the government wants to do that the Constitution didn’t account for, like, for instance, buying a large tract of land from Napoleon, who, as we remember from Crash Course World History, complicates everything. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. So, yeah, Jefferson basically doubled the size of the US in what came to be known as the Louisiana Purchase. Napoleon was eager to sell it because the rebellion in Haiti had soured him on the whole idea of colonies and also because he needed money. Jefferson wanted to purchase New Orleans because western farmers were shipping their products through the city, and when he approached France about this, Napoleon was like, hey, how about I sell you...this? Jefferson couldn’t turn down that deal, so he bought the whole kit and caboodle for $15 million, which is worth about $250 million today. To put that into perspective, a new aircraft carrier costs about $4.5 billion. So he got a good deal. What’s the problem with this? Well nothing if you believe in a powerful government that can do stuff that’s not in the Constitution. But if you are a strict constructionist, like Jefferson, you have to reconcile this obviously beneficial act with there being no mention in the constitution of the President being able to purchase land in order to expand the size of the U.S. So, laying scruple aside, Jefferson bought Louisiana and then sent Lewis and Clark to explore it, which they did, even going beyond the boundaries of the purchase all the way to the Pacific. And this was so cool that it almost makes us forget that it was kind of unconstitutional and a huge power grab for the President. So the question is why did he do it? Jefferson’s desire to increase the size of the country prompted Federalists to complain that “we are to give money, of which we have too little, for land, of which we already have too much.” By doubling the size of the country, Jefferson could ensure that there would be enough land for every white man to have his own small farm. And, this in turn would ensure that Americans would remain independent and virtuous because only a small farmer who doesn’t have to depend on the market for food, or shelter or anything really--well, except slaves--can be truly independent and thus capable of participating in a nation of “free” men. Thanks, Thought Bubble. And, this desire to create a nation of independent farmers producing only primary products helps to explain Jefferson’s other incredibly controversial policy, the embargo. Jefferson imposed the embargo in order to “punish” Britain for its practice of impressing American sailors, as well as its blockade of France, with whom Britain was once again--or possibly just still--at war. So basically, Jefferson wanted free trade among nations, and his solution was to get congress to forbid all American ships from sailing to foreign ports. The theory was that the British were so dependent on American primary products like wood and cotton that if we cut off trade with them the British would stop impressing American sailors and end their blockade. What’s the connection between free trade and Jefferson’s agrarian ideal? Well, the idea was that America would trade its primary products for Europe’s manufactured goods so that the U.S. wouldn’t have to develop any manufacturing capacity of its own Alas, or perhaps fortunately, this did not work. For one thing, Britain and France were too busy fighting each other even to notice America’s embargo. So, they just continued blockading and impressing. Also, the embargo devastated the American economy. I mean, exports dropped by 80% Furthermore, not being able to import European manufactured goods only served to spur American manufacturing. I mean, Jefferson might have wanted Americans to be a bunch of self-sufficient farmers, but Americans wanted European manufactured stuff, like teapots and clocks and microwaves...well then how did they cook stuff, Stan? And if they couldn’t get that stuff from Britain, they would just make it themselves. So in terms of Jefferson’s agrarian ideal, the embargo was a massive failure. And lastly, the embargo limited the power of the federal government about as much as crystal meth limits cavities. I mean, imposing the embargo was a colossal use of federal power and it was also an imposition on people’s liberties. The problem the embargo was supposed to solve didn’t go away and, as we’ll discuss next week, it eventually led to the U.S.’s first declared war. For now I want to leave you with this. Thomas Jefferson is revered and reviled in almost equal measure in American history. The Declaration of Independence, which he mainly drafted, is a signal achievement, delineating some heroic ideas for the founding of the United States, but also embedding some of its crucial shortcomings. And Jefferson’s presidency is like that too. He claimed to champion small government but he enlarged federal power more than Washington or Adams ever did. He imagined an agrarian republic but his policies led to increased manufacturing; he wanted to foster freedom, but he owned slaves and took land from the Indians. In the end, Jefferson’s life and policies encapsulate the best and the worst of us, which is why his Presidency is still worth studying closely. I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson. The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Cafe. If you have questions about today’s video, please ask them in comments where they’ll be answered by our team of historians. And we’re also accepting submissions for the Libertage captions. Thanks for watching Crash Course and as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome...Oh that was a fake out! It’s going this way. CCUS 10 Jefferson ________________ [1] George Tucker, quoted in Foner, Voices of Freedom p. 150.



After the short truce in 1802–1803 the European wars resumed and continued until the defeat of Napoleon in 1814.[1] The war caused American relations with both Britain and France to deteriorate rapidly. There was grave risk of war with one or the other. With Britain supreme on the sea, and France on the land, the war developed into a struggle of blockade and counterblockade. This commercial war peaked in 1806 and 1807. Britain's Royal Navy shut down most European harbors to American ships unless they first traded through British ports. France declared a paper blockade of Britain (which it lacked a navy to enforce) and seized American ships that obeyed British regulations. The Royal Navy needed large numbers of sailors, and saw the U.S. merchant fleet as a haven for British sailors.[2]

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

The British system of impressment humiliated and dishonored the U.S. because it was unable to protect its ships and their sailors.[3] This British practice of taking British deserters, and often Americans, from American ships and forcing them into the Royal Navy increased greatly after 1803, and caused bitter anger in the United States.

On June 21, 1807 the American warship USS Chesapeake was attacked and boarded on the high seas off the coast of Norfolk, VA[4] by the British warship HMS Leopard. Three Americans were dead and 18 wounded; the British impressed four seamen with American papers as alleged deserters. The outraged nation demanded action; President Jefferson ordered all British ships out of American waters.[5]

Initial legislation

Passed on December 22, 1807, the Act:[6]

  • laid an embargo on all ships and vessels under U.S. jurisdiction,
  • prevented all ships and vessels from obtaining clearance to undertake in voyages to foreign ports or places,
  • allowed the President of the United States to make exceptions for vessels under his immediate direction,
  • authorized the President to enforce via instructions to revenue officers and the Navy,
  • was not constructed to prevent the departure of any foreign ship or vessel, with or without cargo on board,
  • required a bond or surety from merchant ships on a voyage between U.S. ports, and
  • exempted warships from the embargo provisions.

This shipping embargo was a cumulative addition to the Non-importation Act of 1806 (2 Stat. 379), this earlier act being a "Prohibition of the Importation of certain Goods and Merchandise from the Kingdom of Great Britain"; the prohibited imported goods being defined where their chief value which consists of leather, silk, hemp or flax, tin or brass, wool, glass; in addition paper goods, nails, hats, clothing, and beer.[7]

The Embargo Act of 1807 is codified at 2 Stat. 451 and formally titled "An Embargo laid on Ships and Vessels in the Ports and Harbours of the United States". The bill was drafted at the request of President Thomas Jefferson and subsequently passed by the Tenth U.S. Congress, on December 22, 1807, during Session 1; Chapter 5. Congress initially acted to enforce a bill prohibiting imports, but supplements to the bill eventually banned exports as well.

Impact on U.S.

The embargo, which lasted from December 1807 to March 1809 effectively throttled American overseas trade. All areas of the United States suffered. In commercial New England and the Middle Atlantic states, ships sat idle at the wharves, and in the agricultural areas, particularly in the South, farmers and planters could not sell their crops on the international market. For New England, and especially for the Middle Atlantic states, there was some consolation, for the scarcity of European goods meant that a definite stimulus was given to the development of American industry.

The embargo was a financial disaster for the Americans because the British were still able to export goods to America: initial loopholes overlooked smuggling by coastal vessels from Canada, whaling ships and privateers from overseas; and widespread disregard of the law meant enforcement was difficult.[8]

A 2005 study by economic historian Douglas Irwin estimates that the embargo cost about 5 percent of America's 1807 GNP.[9]

Case studies

A case study of Rhode Island shows the embargo devastated shipping-related industries, wrecked existing markets, and caused an increase in opposition to the Democratic–Republican Party. Smuggling was widely endorsed by the public, who viewed the embargo as a violation of their rights. Public outcry continued, helping the Federalists regain control of the state government in 1808–09. The case is a rare example of American national foreign policy altering local patterns of political allegiance. Despite its unpopular nature, the Embargo Act did have some limited, unintended benefits to the Northeastern region especially as it drove capital and labor into New England textile and other manufacturing industries, lessening America's reliance on the British.[10]

In Vermont, the embargo was doomed to failure on the Lake Champlain–Richelieu River water route because of Vermont's dependence on a Canadian outlet for produce. At St. John, Lower Canada, £140,000 worth of goods smuggled by water were recorded there in 1808 – a 31% increase over 1807. Shipments of ashes (used to make soap) nearly doubled to £54,000, but lumber dropped 23% to £11,200. Manufactured goods, which had expanded to £50,000 since Jay's Treaty of 1795, fell over 20%, especially articles made near tidewater. Newspapers and manuscripts recorded more lake activity than usual, despite the theoretical reduction in shipping that should accompany an embargo. The smuggling was not restricted to water routes, as herds were readily driven across the uncontrollable land border. Southbound commerce gained two-thirds overall, but furs dropped a third. Customs officials maintained a stance of vigorous enforcement throughout and Gallatin's Enforcement Act (1809) was a party issue. Many Vermonters preferred the embargo's exciting game of revenuers versus smugglers, bringing high profits, versus mundane, low-profit normal trade.[11]

The New England merchants who evaded the embargo were imaginative, daring, and versatile in their violation of federal law. Gordinier (2001) examines how the merchants of New London, Connecticut, organized and managed the cargoes purchased and sold, and the vessels used during the years before, during, and after the embargo. Trade routes and cargoes, both foreign and domestic, along with the vessel types, and the ways their ownership and management were organized show the merchants of southeastern Connecticut evinced versatility in the face of crisis.[12]

Gordinier (2001) concludes the versatile merchants sought alternative strategies for their commerce, and to a lesser extent, for their navigation. They tried extra-legal activities, a reduction in the size of the foreign fleet, and the re-documentation of foreign trading vessels into domestic carriage. Most importantly, they sought new domestic trading partners, and took advantage of the political power of Jedidiah Huntington, the Customs Collector. Huntington was an influential member of the Connecticut leadership class (called "the Standing Order"); he allowed scores of embargoed vessels to depart for foreign ports under the guise of "special permission." Old modes of sharing vessel ownership in order to share the risk proved to be hard to modify. Instead established relationships continued through the embargo crisis, in spite of numerous bankruptcies.[12]

Enforcement efforts

Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin was against the entire embargo, foreseeing correctly the impossibility of enforcing the policy and the negative public reaction. "As to the hope that it may...induce England to treat us better," wrote Gallatin to Jefferson shortly after the bill had become law, "I think is entirely groundless...government prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals as if he could do it better than themselves."[13]:368

Since the bill hindered U.S. ships from leaving American ports bound for foreign trade; it had the side-effect of hindering American exploration.

First supplementary act

Just weeks later, on January 8, 1808, legislation again passed the Tenth U.S. Congress, Session 1; Chapter 8: "An Act supplementary..." to the Embargo Act (2 Stat. 453). As historian Forrest McDonald wrote, "A loophole had been discovered" in the initial enactment, "namely that coasting vessels, and fishing and whaling boats" had been exempt from the embargo, and they had been circumventing it, primarily via Canada. This supplementary act extended the bonding provision (i.e. Section 2 of the initial Embargo Act) to those of purely domestic trades:[14]

  • Sections 1 and 2 of the supplementary act required bonding to coasting, fishing and whaling ships and vessels. Even river boats had to post bond.
  • Section 3 made violations of either the initial or supplementary act an offense; failure of the shipowner to comply would result in forfeiture of the ship and its cargo, or a fine of double that value, and denial of credit for use in custom duties; a captain failing to comply would be fined between one and twenty thousand dollars, and would forfeit the ability to swear an oath before any customs officer.
  • Section 4 removed the warship exemption from applying to privateers or vessels with a letter of marque.
  • Section 5 established a fine for foreign ships loading merchandise for export, and allowed for its seizure.

Meanwhile, Jefferson requested authorization from Congress to raise 30,000 troops from the current standing army of 2,800. Congress refused. With their harbors for the most part unusable in the winter anyway, New England and the north ports of the mid-Atlantic states had paid little notice to the previous embargo acts. That was to change with the spring thaw, and the passing of yet another embargo act.[13]:147

With the coming of the spring, the effect of the previous acts were immediately felt throughout the coastal states, especially in New England. An economic downturn turned into a depression and caused increasing unemployment. Protests occurred up and down the eastern coast. Most merchants and shippers simply ignored the laws. On the Canada–US border, especially in upstate New York and Vermont, the embargo laws were openly flouted. Federal officials believed parts of Maine, such as Passamaquoddy Bay on the border with British-held New Brunswick, were in open rebellion. By March, an increasingly frustrated Jefferson was resolved to enforce the embargo to the letter.[citation needed]

Other supplements to the Act

On March 12, 1808, Congress passed and Jefferson signed into law yet another supplement to the Embargo Act. This supplement[citation needed] prohibited, for the first time, all exports of any goods, whether by land or by sea. Violators were subject to a fine of US$10,000, plus forfeiture of goods, per offense. It granted the President broad discretionary authority to enforce, deny, or grant exceptions to the embargo.[13]:144 Port authorities were authorized to seize cargoes without a warrant and to try any shipper or merchant who was thought to have merely contemplated violating the embargo.

Despite the added penalties, citizens and shippers openly ignored the embargo. Protests continued to grow; and so it was that the Jefferson administration requested and Congress rendered yet another embargo act.


An 1807 political cartoon showing merchants caught by a snapping turtle named "Ograbme" ("Embargo" spelled backwards). The embargo was also ridiculed in the New England press as Dambargo, Mob-Rage, or Go-bar-'em.
An 1807 political cartoon showing merchants caught by a snapping turtle named "Ograbme" ("Embargo" spelled backwards). The embargo was also ridiculed in the New England press as Dambargo, Mob-Rage, or Go-bar-'em.

The Embargo was hurting the United States as much as Britain or France. Britain, expecting to suffer most from the American regulations, built up a new South American market for its exports, and the British shipowners were pleased that American competition had been removed by the action of the U.S. government.

Jefferson placed himself in a strange position with his Embargo policy. Though he had so frequently and eloquently argued for as little government intervention as possible, he now found himself assuming extraordinary powers in an attempt to enforce his policy. The presidential election of 1808, in which James Madison defeated Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, showed that the Federalists were regaining strength, and helped to convince Jefferson and Madison that the Embargo would have to be removed.[15]

Shortly before leaving office, in March 1809, Jefferson signed the repeal of the failed Embargo. Despite its unpopular nature, the Embargo Act did have some limited, unintended benefits, especially as entrepreneurs and workers responded by bringing in fresh capital and labor into New England textile and other manufacturing industries, lessening America's reliance on the British merchants.[10][16]

Repealing the legislation

On March 1, 1809, Congress passed the Non-Intercourse Act, a law that enabled the President, once the wars of Europe ended, to declare the country sufficiently safe and to allow foreign trade with certain nations.[17]

In 1810 the government was ready to try yet another tactic of economic coercion, in the desperate measure known as Macon's Bill Number 2.[18] This bill became law on May 1, 1810, and replaced the Non-Intercourse Act. It was an acknowledgment of the failure of economic pressure to coerce the European powers. Trade with both Britain and France was now thrown open, and the United States attempted to bargain with the two belligerents. If either power would remove her restrictions on American commerce, the United States would reapply non-intercourse against the power that had not so acted. Napoleon quickly took advantage of this opportunity. He promised that his Berlin and Milan Decrees would be repealed, and Madison reinstated non-intercourse against Britain in the fall of 1810. Though Napoleon did not fulfill his promise, strained Anglo-American relations prevented his being brought to task for his duplicity.[19]

The attempt of Jefferson and Madison to resist aggression by peaceful means gained a belated success in June 1812 when Britain finally promised to repeal their Orders in Council. The British concession was too late, for by the time the news reached America the United States had already declared the War of 1812 against Britain.

Wartime legislation

America's declaration of war, in mid-June 1812, was followed shortly by the Enemy Trade Act of 1812 on July 6, which employed similar restrictions as previous legislation; it was likewise ineffective and tightened in December 1813, and debated for further tightening in December 1814. After existing embargoes expired with the onset of war, the Embargo Act of 1813 was signed into law December 17, 1813. Four new restrictions were included: An embargo prohibiting all American ships and goods from leaving port; a complete ban on certain commodities customarily produced in the British Empire; a ban against foreign ships trading in American ports unless 75% of the crew were citizens of the ship's flag; and a ban on ransoming ships. The Embargo of 1813 was the nation's last great trade restriction. Never again would the US government cut off all its trade to achieve a foreign policy objective.[20] The act particularly hurt the northeastern states, since the British kept a tighter blockade on the south, and thus encouraged American opposition to the administration. To make his point, the act was not lifted by Madison until after the defeat of Napoleon, and the point was moot. On February 15, 1815, Madison signed the Enemy Trade Act of 1815; it was tighter than any previous trade restriction including the Enforcement Act of 1809 (January 9) and the Embargo of 1813, but it would expire two weeks later when official word of peace from Ghent was received.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Napoleon's brief "Hundred Days" return in 1815 had no bearing on the U.S.
  2. ^ DeToy, Brian (1998). "The Impressment of American Seamen during the Napoleonic Wars". Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750–1850: Selected Papers, 1998. Florida State University. pp. 492–501.
  3. ^ Gilje, Paul A. (Spring 2010). "'Free Trade and Sailors' Rights': The Rhetoric of the War of 1812". Journal of the Early Republic. 30 (1): 1–23. doi:10.1353/jer.0.0130.
  4. ^ "Embargo of 1807". Monticello and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Retrieved December 18, 2015.
  5. ^ Tucker, Spencer C.; Reuter, Frank T. (1996). Injured Honor: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-824-0.
  6. ^ 2 Stat. 451 (1807) Library of Congress, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875
  7. ^ 2 Stat. 379 (1806) Library of Congress, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875
  8. ^ Malone, Dumas (1974). Jefferson the President: The Second Term. Boston: Brown-Little. ISBN 0-316-54465-5.
  9. ^ Irwin, Douglas (September 2005). "The Welfare Cost of Autarky: Evidence from the Jeffersonian Trade Embargo, 1807–09" (PDF). Review of International Economics. 13 (4): 631–645. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9396.2005.00527.x.
  10. ^ a b Strum, Harvey (May 1994). "Rhode Island and the Embargo of 1807" (PDF). Rhode Island History. 52 (2): 58–67. ISSN 0035-4619. Although the state's manufacturers benefited from the embargo, taking advantage of the increased demand for domestically produced goods (especially cotton products), and merchants with idle capital were able to move from shipping and trade into manufacturing, this industrial growth did not compensate for the considerable distress that the embargo caused.
  11. ^ Muller, H. Nicholas III (Winter 1970). "Smuggling into Canada: How the Champlain Valley Defied Jefferson's Embargo" (PDF). Vermont History. 38 (1): 5–21.
  12. ^ a b Gordinier, Glenn Stine (January 2001). Versatility in Crisis: The Merchants of the New London Customs District Respond to the Embargo of 1807–1809 (PhD dissertation). U. of Connecticut. AAI3004842.
  13. ^ a b c Adams, Henry (1879). Gallatin to Jefferson, December 1807. The Writings of Albert Gallatin. 1. Philadelphia: Lippincott.
  14. ^ 2 Stat. 453 (1808) Library of Congress, U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875
  15. ^ Tucker, Robert W.; Hendrickson, David C. (1990). "Chapter 20". Empire of Liberty: The Statecraft of Thomas Jefferson. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506207-8.
  16. ^ Frankel, Jeffrey A. (June 1982). "The 1807–1809 Embargo Against Great Britain". Journal of Economic History. 42 (2): 291–308. JSTOR 2120129.
  17. ^ Heidler, David Stephen; Heidler, Jeanne T., eds. (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Naval Institute Press. pp. 390–91. ISBN 978-1-591-14362-8.
  18. ^ Wills, Garry (2002). James Madison: The 4th President, 1809–1817. The American Presidents Series. 4. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-8050-6905-1.
  19. ^ Merrill, Dennis; Paterson, Thomas (September 2009). Major Problems in American Foreign Relations: To 1920. Cengage Learning. pp. 132–33. ISBN 978-0-547-21824-3. Retrieved December 21, 2011.
  20. ^ Hickey, Donald R. "Ch.7: The Last Embargo". The War of 1812 – A Forgotten Conflict. pp. 172, 181.
  21. ^ Tucker, Spencer C.; Arnold, James R., eds. (2012). The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812, a political, social, and military history. ABC-CLIO. pp. 221–25. ISBN 1-85109-956-5.

Further reading

  • Hofstadter, Richard. 1948. The American Political Tradition (Chapter 11) Alfred A. Knopf. in Essays on the Early Republic, 1789–1815 Leonard Levy, Editor. Dryden Press, 1974.
  • Irwin, Douglas A. (2005). "The Welfare Cost of Autarky: Evidence from the Jeffersonian Trade Embargo, 1807–09". Review of International Economics. 13 (4): 631–45. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9396.2005.00527.x.
  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. (1957). "Jefferson, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Balance of Power". William and Mary Quarterly. 14 (2): 196–217. doi:10.2307/1922110. JSTOR 1922110. in Essays on the Early Republic, 1789–1815 Leonard Levy, Editor. Dryden Press, 1974.
  • Levy, Leonard W. (1963). Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side. Cambridge: Belknap Press.
  • Levy, Leonard. 1974. Essays on the Early Republic, 1789–1815. Dryden Press, 1974.
  • McDonald, Forrest (1976). The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0147-3.
  • Malone, Dumas (1974). Jefferson the President: The Second Term. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-54465-5.
  • Mannix, Richard (1979). "Gallatin, Jefferson, and the Embargo of 1808". Diplomatic History. 3 (2): 151–72. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7709.1979.tb00307.x.
  • Muller, H. Nicholas (1970). "Smuggling into Canada: How the Champlain Valley Defied Jefferson's Embargo". Vermont History. 38 (1): 5–21. ISSN 0042-4161.
  • Perkins, Bradford. 1968. Embargo: Alternative to War (Chapter 8 from Prologue to War: England and the United States, 1805–1812, University of California Press, 1968) in Essays on the Early Republic 1789–1815. Leonard Levy, Editor. Dryden Press, 1974.
  • Sears, Louis Martin (1927). Jefferson and the Embargo. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Smelser, Marshall (1968). The Democratic Republic, 1801–1815. New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-131406-4.
  • Smith, Joshua M. (1998). "'So Far Distant from the Eyes of Authority:' Jefferson's Embargo and the U.S. Navy, 1807–1809". In Symonds, Craig. New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers from the Twelfth Naval History Symposium. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. pp. 123–40. ISBN 1-55750-624-8.
  • Smith, Joshua M. (2000). "Murder on Isle au Haut: Violence and Jefferson's Embargo in Coastal Maine, 1808–1809". Maine History. 39 (1): 17–40.
  • Smith, Joshua M. (2006). Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists, and Illicit Trade in the Northeast, 1783–1820. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. ISBN 0-8130-2986-4.
  • Spivak, Burton (1979). Jefferson's English Crisis: Commerce, Embargo, and the Republican Revolution. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. ISBN 0-8139-0805-1.
  • Strum, Harvey (1994). "Rhode Island and the Embargo of 1807". Rhode Island History. 52 (2): 58–67. ISSN 0035-4619.

External links

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