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this seems to have been the object of the last British Order in Council if one may judge from a perusal of Mr Percival's correspondence on the subject. The official reason as stated was a desire to compel the United States to retaliate upon the French government. The vessels bearing these later Orders and Decrees reached the United States at about the same time. Jefferson had always maintained that nations could be compelled by appeals to their interests as effectively, and much more cheaply, as by appeals to their fears. He now had an opportunity to put his theories into practice. Meantime, however, another matter had excited the prejudices of the Americans against Great Britain. This was the dispute as to impressment. Ever since the beginning of the contest between France
and Great Britain in 1793, British sea captains pressment had stopped American vessels and taken from Controversy.
them for service in the British navy British subjects found on board. If the matter had stopped there, it would have been bad enough, as the American government from the beginning denied the right of search. But the matter did not stop there. In the first place it was difficult to distinguish between an American and an Englishman. Indeed, the fate of
many American seamen was a hard one during this period of strife. The English naval captain impressed him because he looked like an Englishman and the French authorities imprisoned him for the same reason. Secondly, the English government refused to recognize naturalization as doing away with the inalienable allegiance due from all British subjects. The doctrine of inalienable allegiance was then the recognized doctrine of European nations; but it seemed a little strange that the British government should have held so strongly to it in view of the Acts of Parliament passed before the Revolution, naturalizing foreigners after short periods of residence in the colonies. It was, as a matter of fact, upon these Acts of Parliament that the American practice of naturalization was based.
The Impressment Controversy.
There were abuses in the system, however, which no doubt irritated the English officers. English seamen deserted at every American port and were encouraged to do so in many States. They were provided with State naturalization papers, in some places as a matter of course. The whole crew of one British man-of-war is said to have deserted, and in a single port there were twelve British vessels detained at one time by reason of wholesale desertions. As the contest progressed, the larger American ports were blockaded by the British cruisers, which stopped every vessel going in or out and impressed seamen almost at will. There were at times several thousand native Americans serving on British war vessels. Finally on June 22, 1807, the matter was brought to a crisis by the British ship Leopard firing on the American frigate Chesapeake. The Chesapeake was just out of the hands of the dockyard authorities, everything was in confusion, and it was only by means of a coal from the cook's galley that one gun was fired in return to save the vessel's honour before her flag was hauled down. The Leopard's officers took from her three American citizens and one English deserter, and the · Chesapeake then made the best of her way back to Norfolk, almost a wreck. A thrill of indignation swept through the United States only equalled by the indignation which had been aroused by the conflict at Lexington in 1775. The President issued a Proclamation ordering all British war vessels out of the waters of the United States, and forbidding any intercourse with them or the furnishing them with any supplies. Redress was demanded, and an attempt was made to couple with the Chesapeake affair the whole question of impressment. The British government disavowed the action of the Admiral by whose orders the outrage had been committed, but refused to give up impressment. The matter therefore was left to embitter the already critical relations of the two countries. It was while affairs were in this unsettled
condition that the Order in Council of November 11th, 1807, was issued. Jefferson recommended an embargo, and Congress, without
debate of any importance, passed an Embargo Jefferson's Embargo Act (December 23, 1807) forbidding American Policy.
vessels to leave the United States for foreign ports, and foreign vessels were not permitted to take any cargo except what was actually on board. The original act was amended from time to time in the direction of greater stringency. The last attempt to enforce it was by the passage of the Enforcement Act of January, 1808. The provisions of this act will serve to show the great difficulty experienced in trying to carry out this embargo policy. The Enforcement Act required, for example, that the owners of coasting vessels, before the cargo was placed on board, should give bonds to six times the value of the vessel and proposed cargo, obliging them to land the goods in the United States. The collectors of customs were authorized to seize goods "in any manner apparently on their way toward the territory of a foreign nation or the vicinity thereof." Under this act, as someone said, the collector of customs at St Alban's, Vermont, was authorized to seize a Vermont cow walking“ toward the vicinity of Canada." The embargo brought about the temporary ruin of Jefferson's popularity and the revival of the Federalist party in New England. It also gave rise to a secession party in that section which played directly into the hands of England. Indeed Lord Castlereagh considered that in so far as the embargo injured the Republican party and helped the Federalists, it operated directly in the interests of Great Britain. From a political point of view, therefore, this policy was a failure. Furthermore, it compelled the Republicans to abandon the ground of 1798, and to adopt broad construction theories in the interpretation of the Constitution. From a national stand-point this was a great gain, but from a Jeffersonian point of view it must be reckoned among the failures.
Fefferson's Embargo Policy.
Effect of the
The embargo produced no effect on France except as it served Napoleon for a useful pretext to justify two later decrees. The earlier of these was
England and issued at Bayonne (April 17,1808), and directed the sequestration of all vessels flying the United States flag on the ground that no American vessels could honestly navigate the ocean while the embargo was in force. The other decree, that of Rambouillet (1810), directed the confiscation of all vessels then in French hands. As to Great Britain, however, the case was different. The embargo no doubt contributed to bring on a commercial crisis in England. Prices of Continental and American goods rose to prohibitive limits. At the same time, the markets of the world being largely closed to her, prices of English goods declined. The Americans, especially the New Englanders, began to manufacture for themselves and it seemed not impossible that the American market might be permanently lost. Since the sufferers among the manufacturing population in England had no political power, it may be said that the embargo as regards Great Britain was a complete failure.
The sufferers from the embargo policy in America, unlike their fellow-sufferers in England, possessed direct
The embargo political power and before long exercised it. The in the United embargo bore more heavily upon Jefferson's own political friends in Virginia than upon anyone else. Virginia's tobacco crop was her principal source of wealth; and for several years the surplus over the needs of the American market was unsaleable. Many planters were ruined outright and many more were seriously crippled; but they bore their injuries with patience. Not so the New Englanders. The shipowner saw his vessels rotting at the wharves at the very moment when freights were at the highest. It was of no use to tell him that the government was protecting him from loss by compelling him to keep quiet. He was quite willing to take the risk and pocket
the profits, trusting to the government to secure indemnification in case his ship should be captured. But the New Englander was not the man to stand idly by and complain. At first he tried to evade the law. When the Enforcement Acts at last made that unprofitable, he turned his attention to manufacturing
- and the manufacturing industries of New England date back to this time. During this period he omitted no opportunity to complain against the Jeffersonian government. The fruits of six years of conciliation were lost in a very short time. Portions of the country, indeed, seemed on the eve of rebellion, and it became evident to Jefferson by January 1809 -- when he had but three months more to serve that the embargo, whether it were a success, as he declared, or a failure, as his enemies asserted, must be repealed and that soon. Madison had meantime been elected President, and to him
Jefferson left the practical conduct of affairs Repeal of the embargo, during the last few months of his official life. 1809.
Madison planned to have the embargo removed in June, 1809. But the subject of repeal was no sooner brought up in Congress, than it became evident that a majority was in favour of an immediate repeal, and the embargo was removed on March 4th, 1809, the day of Madison's inauguration. In its place Congress provided for non-intercourse with France and Great Britain and their respective adherents and dependents.
Historical writers have been accustomed to wax merry over Jefferson's
Mr Jefferson's policy of substituting commercial commercial restrictions for war; but it may well be asked if policy.
the facts of the world's history from 1801 to 1809 justify this view. The nations of Europe were at that time war-mad. Rules of conduct which had obtained for centuries were thrown to the winds by the master despot. The British nation, regarding itself as the saviour of the world, was disposed to treat the neutral as if he were one of the saved.