What was the Embargo Act of 1807?
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The Embargo Act of 1807 was a law passed at the behest of president Thomas Jefferson to protect American shipping.
Jefferson had inherited a serious foreign policy problem from his predecessors. For years the French and the British had been impressing American sailors to help man their navies and there was very little that the Americans could do about it. In hopes of avoiding armed conflict, Jefferson proposed passing the Embargo Act, which would have halted trade with both nations until the impressments ended. In theory the economic hardship would be so severe the two nations would relent in order to resume trade.
In fact what happened was the entire American merchant marine went belly up, costing 55,000 American sailors their jobs. It was called a “Dambargo” by New England traders and shipwrights. Congress eventually repealed the unpopular embargo in 1809, and impressments continued. Only the end of the Napoleonic Wars would solve the impressment issue.
This act, championed by Thomas Jefferson, embargoed all American shipping. A number of laws made it up, but the core goal was to respond to British activity on the seas (military and economic) by shutting down American trade with foreign nations. The British and the French had each put restrictions on trade, and this was an attempt to respond, and to avoid war. It damaged the American economy.
This Embargo Act was the United State’s attempt to not get embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars between Great Britain and France. From 1789 to 1805 the young United States enjoyed an increasing trade with the French Empire, supplying Napoleon against Great Britain. In 1807, Britain passed the Orders in Council, which forbade American trade with France. Britain wished to stop the US supply to France and feared the expanding American fleet would soon compete with theirs. Napoleon responded by forbidding all nations to trade with Britain. American merchants responded by engaging in the highly profitable and dangerous practice of blockade running, trading with both France AND Britain and incurring the wrath of each! Although American foreign policy included the concept of “freedom of the seas,” Jefferson urged Congress to suspend temporarily this cornerstone of American foreign policy to avoid war with either, or both, countries. The Embargo Act expressly forbid American ships to leave for any foreign port. The Act hit New England merchants the hardest; the resulting economic downturn rippled into a country wide depression. Three days before Jefferson’s term as president ended in 1809, Congress repealed the Act. It deferred the US’s entry into the Napoleonic Wars, but unfortunately, that deferment failed when the US finally declared war on Britain in 1812.
Rise of The American Nation, 3rd ed., Todd & Curti, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972, pg. 237.
The Embargo Act of 1807 was an act, spearheaded by Thomas Jefferson, passed by the 10th Congress, and its main purpose was to place an embargo on all shipping under US's jurisdiction, and prevented all of them from getting clearance to venture into foreign territories without authorized permission. This Act was passed as a opportunity to attack British and its naval expansion activities, and also as a act of vengeance, as a British warship HMS Halifax attacked one of its frigates, USS Chesapeake, killing three and wounding 18 Americans, infuriating the US. Jefferson ordered a proclamation blocking Britain ships to get out of American water, and use the ACT as a way to suppress Britain aggression and expansionist policy, cutting trade as a result.
The embargo Act was passed by Thomas Jefferson.Thomas Jefferson’s embargo failed because he underestimated Britain's dependence on American trade, Britain produced a bumper grain crop, Latin America opened its ports for commerce, he miscalculated the difficulty of enforcing it. It forbidded all exportation of goods from the United States. Britain and France had been continuously harassing the U.S. and seizing U.S. ship's and men. The U.S. was not prepared to fight in a war, so President Jefferson hoped to weaken Britain and France by stopping trade. The Embargo Act had an opposite effect, it was hurting our economy. It was repealed in 1809. The Embargo Act helped to revive the Federalists. It caused New England's industry to grow. It eventually led to the War of 1812.
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