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The Embargo Act of 1807 was Thomas Jefferson's retaliation against the British and French, who were engaged in war and each tried to prevent the other from trading with the United States. When British naval frigate HMS Leopard opened fire upon the USS Chesapeake, which was not a warship, twenty sailors were wounded and three killed. The British boarded and reclaimed former British sailors and hanged them.
While The Embargo Act wrought economic hardship upon farmers, merchants, and sailors alike by cutting off trade to the two countries, Jefferson's self-proclaimed act did convey his strength in refusing Britain and France any trade after the United States. It was also a non-combative measure that cost no bloodshed in its retaliation for the injuries to the Chesapeake and its crew. Although American foreign policy included the concept of “freedom of the seas,” Jefferson, nevertheless, urged Congress to suspend temporarily this policy in order to avoid war with either, or both, countries.
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