What was peaceable coercion?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The term “peaceable coercion is most often connected to the presidency of Thomas Jefferson.  It was President Jefferson’s approach to trying to get European countries to respect the rights of the United States and its shipping.

In 1807, France and Great Britain were at war.  They had been in conflict with one another for some years due to the French Revolution.  Their conflict came to include the United States.  This was because each side was trying to prevent the US from trading with the other side.  The US was therefore unable to exercise its right to trade as a neutral country.

President Jefferson knew that the US was not really strong enough to fight an all-out war with either of the European powers.  Therefore, he decided to try to use “peaceable coercion” to force them to respect US rights.  He used the Embargo Act to do this.  Congress passed a law ending all trade with foreign countries.  This was supposed to force (coerce) the British and French to stop blocking American shipping and it was supposed to do so without the use of military force (peaceable).

Thus, “peaceable coercion” was President Jefferson’s strategy of using economic pressure to force France and Britain to respect the US’s right to trade as a neutral country.

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