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Encyclopedia > Embargo Act of 1807

The Embargo Act was a series of laws passed by the Congress of the United States between the years 1806-1808, during the second term of President Thomas Jefferson. It was brought upon by the Chesapeake incident involving Britain attacking a U.S. ship. Britain and France were at war; the U.S. was neutral and trading with both sides. Both sides tried to hinder American trade with the other. Jefferson's goal was to use economic warfare to secure American rights, instead of military warfare. Initially, these acts sought to punish the United Kingdom for its violation of American rights on the high seas; among these was the impressment of those sailors off American ships, sailors who claimed to be American citizens but not in the opinion or to the satisfaction of the Royal Navy, ever on the outlook for deserters. The later Embargo Acts, particularly those of 1807-1808 period, were passed in an attempt to stop Americans, and American communities, that sought to, or were merely suspected of possibly wanting to, defy the embargo. These Acts were ultimately repealed at the end of Jefferson's second, and last, term. A modified version of these Acts would return for a brief time in 1813 under the presidential administration of Jefferson's successor, James Madison. Type Bicameral Houses Senate House of Representatives President of the Senate President pro tempore Dick Cheney, (R) since January 20, 2001 Robert C. Byrd, (D) since January 4, 2007 Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D) since January 4, 2007 Members 535 plus 4 Delegates and 1 Resident Commissioner Political... Thomas Jefferson (13 April 1743 N.S.–4 July 1826) was the third President of the United States (1801–09), the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), and one of the most influential Founding Fathers for his promotion of the ideals of Republicanism in the United States. ... Look up Impressment in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... This article is about the navy of the United Kingdom. ... James Madison (March 16, 1751 – June 28, 1836), was an American politician and the fourth President of the United States (1809–1817), and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. ...



"jefferson was a perverted crack head who did his slave an had 6 kids was fired into and boarded near Norfolk by the British warship HMS Leopard. Three Americans were dead and 18 wounded; the British impressed three American seamen and one confirmed British deserter. The outraged nation demanded action.[1] and President Jefferson issued a proclamation ordering all British ships out of American waters. Eleven vessels of the British Royal Navy have been named HMS Leopard after the leopard: The first Leopard was a 34-gun ship launched in 1635 and captured by the Dutch in 1653. ...


Immediately Congress passed a new Embargo Act. Unlike the previous non-importation act, this law was aimed at American shippers and their vessels. The new law required, among other things,

1) American vessels were prohibited from landing in any foreign port unless specifically authorized by the President himself.

2) Trading vessels were now required to post a bond of guarantee equal to the value of both the ship itself and its cargo, in order to insure compliance with the law.[2] Jefferson's Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin was against the entire notion, foreseeing (correctly, as it turned out) the nightmare of trying to enforce such a policy, not to mention the public's reaction. "As to the hope that it may...induce England to treat us better," wrote Gallatin to Jefferson shortly after the bill had become law, "I think is entirely groundless...government prohibitions do always more mischief then had been calculated; and it is not without hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals as if he could do better than themselves"[3] Gallatin's concerns were to no avail. Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin (January 29, 1761 – August 12, 1849) was a Swiss-American ethnologist, linguist, politician, diplomat, Congressman, and the longest-serving United States Secretary of the Treasury. ...


January 8

On January 8, 1808, within weeks of the first embargo act being law, a second before he lit a blunt. As historian Forrest McDonald wrote, "A loophole had been discovered in the first act, namely that coasting vessels, and fishing and whaling boats had not been required to post bonds guaranteeing that they would not sail for foreign ports." is the 8th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1808 (MDCCCVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...

The new embargo act now required that all U.S. ships post a bond of twice the value of the ship and cargo. Failure to do so would:

  • Lead to the forfeiture of said ship and cargo
  • Result in "permanent and absolute" refusal in permission to use credit in regard to custom duties
  • Declaration that the oath of the ship's owner and/or captain would henceforth be inadmissible before any customs officer.[4]

Meanwhile, Jefferson requested authorization from Congress to raise 30,000 troops from the current standing army of 2,800. Congress refused. With their harbors for the most part unusable in the winter anyway, New England and the north ports of the mid-Atlantic states, had paid little notice to the previous embargo acts. That was to change with the spring thaw, and the passing of yet another embargo act.

March 12

With the coming of the spring thaw, the effects of the previous acts were immediately felt throughout the coastal states; none more so than in New England with economic downturn devolving into a depression, and spiraling unemployment. While protests up and down the seaboard sprang to life, merchants and shippers simply ignored the laws. On the Canadian border, especially in the area of upstate New York and Vermont, the embargo laws were openly flouted. Federal officials believed parts of Maine such as Passamaquoddy Bay, on the border with British-held New Brunswick, was in open rebellion. By March an increasingly frustrated Jefferson was resolved to enforce the embargo to the letter. Passamaquoddy Bay is an inlet of the Bay of Fundy, between the U.S. state of Maine and the Canadian province of New Brunswick, at the mouth of the St. ... This article is about the Canadian province. ...

On March 12, 1808 Congress passed, and Jefferson signed into law, still another embargo act. This one: is the 71st day of the year (72nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1808 (MDCCCVIII) was a leap year starting on Friday (link will display the full calendar) of the Gregorian calendar (or a leap year starting on Wednesday of the 12-day slower Julian calendar). ...

1) Prohibited, for the first time, the export of any goods, either by land or by sea.

2) Subjected violators to a fine of $10,000, plus forfeiture of goods, for each offense.

3) Granted the President broad discretionary authority to enforce, deny, or grant exceptions to the embargo.[5]

Still the embargo was ignored, violated, and flouted; still the protests continued and continued to grow; and so it was that the Jefferson administration requested and Congress rendered yet another embargo act.

April 24

On March 30, 1808 Jefferson submitted to Congress a proposal for yet another law regarding the American embargo. This act was to be known simply, and unofficially, as "The Enforcement Act". This new act, "...in direct opposition to the fourth and fifth amendments of the Bill of Rights...(and) a more sweeping power than had been given to the king's (George III) agents...that provoked the American colonists to rebellion..."[6] George III (George William Frederick) (4 June 1738–29 January 1820) was King of Great Britain, and King of Ireland from 25 October 1760 until 1 January 1801, and thereafter King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland until his death. ...

Signed into law on 24 April, this was to be the last of the many embargo acts to become law during Jefferson's presidency. The "Enforcement Law" decreed:

  • That port authorities were allowed to seize cargoes without a warrant, and/or to bring to trial any shipper or merchant who was thought to have merely contemplated violating the embargo.
  • That the President of the United States had both the right and the duty to use both the Army and the Navy to enforce the embargo laws.[7]

In seeking to punish the British, the Jefferson administration had declared war on the citizens of America.[8] Both military and naval units mobilized against the citizenry to enforce the Embargo, a clear violation of Jefferson's own republican ideals.


Congress repealed the Act three days before Jefferson left office, replacing it with the Non-Intercourse Act on March 1, 1809, which lifted all embargoes except for those on Britain and France. This act was just as ineffective as the Embargo Act itself and was replaced again the following year with Macon's Bill Number 2, lifting the remaining embargoes. The entire series of events was ridiculed in the press as Dambargo, Mob-Rage, Go-bar-'em or O-grab-me (embargo spelled backward); there was a cartoon ridiculing the Act as a snapping turtle grabbing at American shipping, labeled Ograbme. In the last days of President Thomas Jeffersons presidency, the United States Congress replaced the Embargo Act of 1807 with the almost unenforceable Non-Intercourse Act of March 1809. ... Macons Bill Number 2, which became law on May 1, 1810, was intended to motivate Britain and France to stop seizing American vessels during the Napoleonic Wars. ... The Embargo Act was a series of laws passed by the Congress of the United States between the years 1806-1808, during the second term of President Thomas Jefferson. ... Binomial name (Linnaeus, 1758) Common Snapping Turtle head The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina), or more formally referred to as Common Snapping Turtle when distinguishing them from their larger cousins (Macrochelys), and are popularly nicknamed snappers. They are large freshwater turtles of the family Chelydridae, ranging from southeastern Canada west to... The Embargo Act was a series of laws passed by the Congress of the United States between the years 1806-1808, during the second term of President Thomas Jefferson. ...

A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the "Ograbme".
A political cartoon showing merchants dodging the "Ograbme".

A case study of Rhode Island shows the embargo devastated shipping-related industries, wrecked existing markets, and caused an increase in opposition to the Republican Party. Smuggling was widely endorsed by the public, which viewed the embargo as a violation of their rights. Public outcry continued, helping the Federalists regain control of the state government in 1808-09. The case is a rare example of US national foreign policy altering local patterns of political allegiance. Image File history File linksMetadata Ograbme. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Ograbme. ... This article is about the U.S. State. ... The Democratic-Republican Party, also known as the Republican Party , was founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 1792. ... A countrys foreign policy is a set of political goals that seeks to outline how that particular country will interact with other countries of the world and, to a lesser extent, non-state actors. ...

Despite its unpopular nature, the Embargo Act did have some limited, unintended benefits, especially as it drove capital and labor into New England textile and other manufacturing industries, lessening America's reliance on the British.[9] In Vermont, the embargo was doomed to failure on the Lake Champlain-Richelieu River water route because of Vermont's dependence on a Canadian outlet for produce. At St. John, Lower Canada, £140,000 worth of goods smuggled by water were recorded there in 1808 - a 31% increase over 1807. Shipments of ashes (used to make soap) nearly doubled to £54,000, but lumber dropped 23% to £11,200. Manufactured goods, which had expanded to £50,000 since Jay's Treaty of 1795, fell over 20%, especially articles made near Tidewater. Newspapers and manuscripts recorded more lake activity than usual, despite the theoretical reduction in shipping that should accompany an embargo. The smuggling was not restricted to water routes, as herds were readily drove across the uncontrollable land border. Southbound commerce gained two-thirds overall, but furs dropped a third. Customs officials maintained a stance of vigorous enforcement throughout and Gallatin's Enforcement Act (1809) was a party issue. Many Vermonters preferred the embargo's exciting game of revenuers versus smugglers, bringing high profits, versus mundane, low-profit normal trade.[10] Vermonters: people who live in Vermont, the 14th state to the join the union. ...


  1. ^ McDonald, (1976) p. 136.
  2. ^ Malone,Dumas,Jefferson the President: The Second Term,(Boston, Brown-Little,1974) p. 461.
  3. ^ Gallatin to Jefferson, Dec. 1807, The Writings of Albert Gallatin, ed. Henry Adams, (Philadelphia, Lippincott 1879) Vol.1:368
  4. ^ Ibid. 147.
  5. ^ Ibid. #144
  6. ^ Ibid. 149.
  7. ^ Levy, (1973) p. 107
  8. ^ McDonald, Forrest, The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson,(University of Kansas, 1976)p. 150.
  9. ^ Strum (1994)
  10. ^ Muller (1970).


  • Kaplan, Lawrence S. "Jefferson, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Balance of Power." William and Mary Quarterly 1957 14(2): 196-217. ISSN 0043-5597 Fulltext: online at JSTOR.
  • Levy, Leonard W.; Jefferson and Civil Liberties: The Darker Side, 1963.
  • McDonald, Forrest, The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, (1976)* Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the President: The Second Term, 1974.
  • Mannix, Richard. "Gallatin, Jefferson, and the Embargo of 1808." Diplomatic History 1979 3(2): 151-172. ISSN 0145-2096
  • Muller, H. Nicholas. "Smuggling into Canada: How the Champlain Valley Defied Jefferson's Embargo." Vermont History 1970 38(1): 5-21. ISSN 0042-4161
  • Sears; Louis Martin. Jefferson and the Embargo, 1927.
  • Smelser, Marshall. The Democratic Republic, 1801-1815, 1968. (ISBN 0-06-131406-4)
  • Smith, Joshua M. “‘So Far Distant from the Eyes of Authority:’ Jefferson’s Embargo and the U.S. Navy, 1807-1809,” in Craig Symonds, ed., New Interpretations in Naval History: Selected Papers from the Twelfth Naval History Symposium (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 123-140
  • Smith, Joshua M. “Murder on Isle au Haut: Violence and Jefferson’s Embargo in Coastal Maine, 1808-1809,” Maine History 39:1 (Spring 2000), 17-40
  • Smith, Joshua M. Borderland Smuggling: Patriots, Loyalists, and Illicit Trade in the Northeast, 1783-1820, 2006.
  • Spivak, Burton; Jefferson's English Crisis: Commerce, Embargo, and the Republican Revolution, 1979.
  • Strum, Harvey. "Rhode Island and the Embargo of 1807." Rhode Island History 1994 52(2): 58-67. ISSN 0035-4619

  Results from FactBites:
Embargo Act of 1807 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (688 words)
The Embargo Act of 1807 was an American law prohibiting all export of cargo from American ports.
From the 1790s to 1807, American shippers enjoyed their status as the primary neutral carrier between France and England while both countries were engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, profiting as both Nations purchased American goods and ships.
Congress passed the Embargo Act on December 22, 1807, by votes of 22-6 in the Senate and 82-44 in the House.
Embargo Act of 1807 - definition of Embargo Act of 1807 in Encyclopedia (374 words)
The Embargo Act of 1807 was a United States law prohibiting all export of cargo from US ports.
It was followed by the Non-Intercourse Act, lifting all embargoes except for those on Britain and France, and Macon's Bill Number 2, lifting the remaining embargoes.
The Embargo Act of 1807 was a precursor to the War of 1812.
  More results at FactBites »



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