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Embargo Act and the USS Chesapeake

Thomas Jefferson

Embargo Act and the USS Chesapeake: Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd American President who served in office from March 4, 1801 to March 4, 1809. One of the important events during his presidency was the Embargo Act.

Definition and Summary of the Embargo Act and the USS Chesapeake
Summary and definition:
The goal of Embargo Act of 1807 was to stop France and Britain, who were at war, restricting American Trade. The Embargo Act averted war with Britain and France but backfired at home and it was the American people who suffered.

The Embargo Act was signed into law on December 22, 1807 and lasted to March 1809 effectively strangling American overseas trade.

Purpose of the 1807 Embargo Act
The purpose of the Embargo Act of 1807 was to introduce a form of non-violent resistance to the British and French interference of U.S. merchant ships carrying, or suspected of carrying, war materials and other goods to their enemies.

Facts about Embargo Act and the USS Chesapeake
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Embargo Act and the USS Chesapeake.

Embargo Act for kids - Napoleonic Wars between France and Britain
Napoleon Bonaparte was the Emperor of the French and determined to build a great empire. The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) erupted, instigating a series of wars between the French Empire of Napoleon and opposing coalitions led by the British. In 1804 Napoleon declared war on the British and their allies. The power of Napoleon was based on the strength of his armies on land. The power of the British was their naval fleet on the water. It was therefore difficult to easily engage in the type of conflicts they preferred. The British and the French therefore tried to inflict damage in other ways by attacking each other's trade and commerce as much as possible.

Embargo Act for kids - France and Britain attack Trade and Commerce
The British attacked the French by declaring continental ports closed to commerce. The French declared all British commerce to be unlawful. Of course under these circumstances British and European ships could not carry on trade.

Embargo Act for kids - France, Britain and America
American ships capitalized on the French and British policies making profits by trading with no effective competition. The British ship owners were furious and demanded that the government put an end to this American trade and commerce. Old British laws that had lapsed were looked up and enforced. American ships that violated the laws were seized by the British. The US was caught in the European crossfire because if any American ships obeyed the British laws, France would seize it as soon as it entered a French harbor.

Embargo Act for kids - Impressment
The British had long used the system of Impressment,  meaning the commandeering or conscription of men into government service, to swell the ranks of the sailors in their navy. British warships began to stop American merchant ships and remove all their sailors who looked like Englishmen! The seamen were then compelled to serve on British men-of-war. This method of kidnapping was called Impressment. Thousands of American seamen were captured in this way and used as forced labor on the British men-of-war ships.

Embargo Act for kids - The Chesapeake Frigate
The subject of Impressment reached new heights with the Chesapeake - Leopard Affair. The USS Chesapeake was an American frigate and the HMS Leopard was a British warship.

Embargo Act for kids - The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair
The Chesapeake–Leopard Affair was a naval engagement that occurred off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, on 22 June 1807. The Chesapeake frigate had just left the Norfolk navy yard in Virginia when the British ship, the HMS Leopard,  ordered her to stop. The Chesapeake refused to sop and the HMS Leopard fired on her. The British boarded the USS Chesapeake and seized four sailors, who they said were deserters from the British navy. Americans were outraged and President. Jefferson ordered all British warships out of US waters and Americans were forbidden to supply them with any provisions, water, or wood. The British backed down and offered to return the seamen from the Chesapeake but they refused to give up Impressment.

Embargo Act for kids - President Thomas Jefferson
President Thomas Jefferson was placed in a terrible position. He could declare war on both Great Britain and on France, but this would be a foolhardy measure for such a new nation. It would also put an end to US trade and commerce. Jefferson looked back on US history when, before the Revolutionary War, the colonists had on occasion brought the British to terms by refusing to buy their goods, by placing an embargo on trade. President Jefferson believed that if the United States refused to trade with France and Britain, the governments of both the nations would be forced to treat American trade and commerce with respect.

Embargo Act is passed by Congress - Ensures Neutral Position of US
Congress passed the Embargo Act on December 22, 1807 to ensure the neutrality of the United States in the wars in Europe. The Embargo Act forbade ships to leave American ports after a certain day. The Embargo Act effectively closed all U.S. ports to export shipping in either U.S. or foreign vessels. Restrictions were also placed on imports from Great Britain.

The Effect of the Embargo Act of 1807 - Effect in the United States
The idea of the Embargo Act was Jefferson's answer to the dilemma. However the American people hated the Embargo Act, especially farmers in the south and the ship builders and merchants in New England whose livelihoods were seriously affected by the new law. The ship owners started to break the law which led to the passing of even stricter rules. The situation in New England was so bad that there was even talk of New England seceding from the Union.

The Effect of the Embargo Act of 1807 - Effect in Europe
The Embargo Act had a negligible effect in Europe. The French and British had stockpiled goods like cotton. This enabled them to raise prices while the stock lasted. The embargo would not work until all of the stocks were exhausted.

The Embargo Act of 1807 replaced by the Non-Intercourse Act
The Embargo Act of 1807 was a failure. Faced with bitter opposition to the Embargo Act, President Jefferson signed the Non-Intercourse Act, permitting U.S. trade with nations other than France and Great Britain.  It was signed on March 1, 1809  - two days before the end of his second term in office.

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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