The story

Non-Intercourse Act [March 1, 1809] - History


An ACT to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France, and their dependencies; and for other purposes.

Be it enacted . ., That from and after the passing of this act, the entrance of the harbors and waters of the United States and of the territories thereof, be, and the same is hereby interdicted to all public ships and vessels belonging to Great Britain or France, excepting vessels only which may be forced in by distress, or which are charged with despatches or business from the government to which they belong, and also packets having no cargo nor merchandise on board And if any public ship or vessel as aforesaid, not being included in the exception above mentioned, shall enter any harbor or waters within the jurisdiction of the United States. or of the territories thereof, it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, or such other person as he shall have empowered for that purpose, to employ such part of the land and naval forces, or of the militia of the United States, or the territories thereof, as he shall deem necessary, to compel such ship or vessel to depart.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That it shall not be lawful for any citizen or citizens of the United States or the territories thereof, nor for any person or persons residing or being in the same, to have any intercourse with, or to afford any aid or supplies to any public ship or vessel as aforesaid, which shall, contrary to the provisions of this act, have entered any harbor or waters within the jurisdiction of the United States or the territories thereof; and if any person shall, contrary to the provisions of this act, have any intercourse with such ship or vessel, or shall afford any aid to such ship or vessel, either in repairing the said vessel or in furnishing her, her officers and crew with supplies of any kind or in any manner whatever, or if any pilot or other person shall assist in navigating or piloting such ship or vessel, unless it be for the purpose of carrying her beyond the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, every person so offending, shall forfeit and pay a sum not less than one hundred dollars, nor exceeding ten thousand dollars; and shall also be imprisoned for a term not less than one month, nor more than one year.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That from and after the twentieth day of May next, the entrance of the harbors and waters of the United States and the territories thereof be, and the same is hereby interdicted to all ships or vessels sailing under the flag of Great Britain or France, or owned in whole or in part by any citizen or subject of either; vessels hired, chartered or employed by the government of either country, for the sole purpose of carrying letters or despatches, and also vessels forced in by distress or by the dangers of the sea, only excepted. And if any ship or vessel sailing under the flag of Great Britain or France, or owned in whole or in part by any citizen or subject of either, and not excepted as aforesaid, shall after the said twentieth day of May next, arrive either with or without a cargo, within the limits of the United States or of the territories thereof, such ship or vessel, together with the cargo, if any, which may be found on board, shall be forfeited, and may be seized and condemned in any court of the United States or the territories thereof, having competent jurisdiction, and all and every act and acts heretofore passed, which shall be within the purview of this act, shall be, and the same are hereby repealed.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That from and after the twentieth day of May next, it shall not be lawful to import into the United States or the territories thereof, any goods, wares or merchandise whatever, from any port or place situated in Great Britain or Ireland, or in any of the colonies or dependencies of Great Britain, nor from any port or place situated in France, or in any of her colonies or dependencies, nor from any port or place in the actual possession of either Great Britain or France. Nor shall it be lawful to import into the United States, or the territories thereof, from any foreign port or place whatever, any goods, wares or merchandise whatever, being of the growth, produce or manufacture of France, or of any of her colonies or dependencies, or being of the growth, produce or manufacture of Great Britain or Ireland, or of any of the colonies or dependencies of Great Britain, or being of the growth, produce or manufacture of any place or country in the actual possession of either France or Great Britain: Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to affect the cargoes of ships or vessels wholly owned by a citizen or citizens of the United States, which had cleared for any port beyond the Cape of Good Hope, prior to . [December 22, I807,] . or which had departed for such port by permission of the President, under the acts supplementary to the act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States. SEC. II. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States be, and he hereby is authorized, in case either France or Great Britain shall so revoke or modify her edicts, as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States, to declare the same by proclamation; after which the trade of the United States, suspended by this act, and by the. [Embargo Act] . and the several acts supplementary thereto, may be renewed with the nation so doing:

SEC. I2. And be it further enacted, That so much of the . .[Embargo Act] . and of the several acts supplementary thereto, as forbids the departure of vessels owned by citizens of the United States, and the exportation of domestic and foreign merchandise to any foreign port or place, be and the same is hereby repealed, after . [March I5, I809,] . except so far as they relate to Great Britain or France, or their colonies or dependencies, or places in the actual possession of either....

SEC. I3. And be it further enacted, That during the continuance of so much of the . [Embargo Act], . and of the several acts supplementary thereto, as is not repealed by this act, no ship or vessel bound to a foreign port, with which commercial intercourse shall, by virtue of this act, be again permitted, shall be allowed to depart for such port, unless the owner or owners, consignee or factor of such ship ol vessel shall, with the master, have given bond with one or more sureties to the United States, in a sum double the value of the vessel and cargo, if the vessel is wholly owned by a citizen or citizens of the United States; and in a sum four times the value, if the vessel is owned in part or in whole by any foreigner or foreigners, that the vessel shall not leave the port without a clearance, nor shall, when leaving the port, proceed to any port or place in Great Britain or France, or in the colonies or dependencies of either, or in the actual possession of either, nor be directly or indirectly engaged during the voyage in any trade with such port, nor shall put any article on board of any other vessel; nor unless every other requisite and provision of the second section of the act, entitled "An act to enforce and make more effectual an act, entitled An act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, and the several acts supplementary thereto," shall have been complied with....

SEC. I4. and of the several acts supplementary thereto, as compels vessels owned by citizens of the United States, bound to another port of the said States, or vessels licensed for the coasting trade, or boats, either not masted or not decked, to give bond, and to load under the inspection of a revenue officer, or renders them liable to detention, merely on account of the nature of their cargo, (such provisions excepted as relate to collection districts
adjacent to the territories, colonies or provinces of a foreign nation, or to vessels belonging or bound to such districts) be, and the same is hereby repealed, from and after . [March I5,1809]

[SEC. 17 repeals act of April I8, I806, and supplementary acts after May 20,]

SEC. I9. And be it further enacted, That this act shall continue and be in force until the end of the next session of Congress, and no longer; and that the act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, and the several acts supplementary thereto, shall be, and the same ate hereby repealed from and after the end of the next session of Congress.


To John Armstrong

This will be handed you by mr Coles, the bearer of public dispatches, by an Aviso. he has lived with me as Secretary, is my wealthy neighbor at Monticello, & worthy of all confidence. his intimate knolege of our situation has induced us to send him, because he will be a full supplement as to all those things which cannot be detailed in writing. he can possess you of our present situation much more intimately than you can understand it from letters. the belligerent edicts rendered our embargo necessary to call home our ships, our seamen, & property. we expected some effect too from the coercion of interest. some it has had but much less on account of evasions & domestic opposition to it. after 15. months continuance it is now discontinued, because, losing 50 millions of D. of exports annually by it, it costs more than war, which might be carried on for a third of that, besides what might be got by reprisal. war therefore must follow if the edicts are not repealed before the meeting of Congress in May. you have thought it advisable sooner to take possession of adjacent territories. but we know that they are ours the first moment that any war is forced upon us for other causes, that we are at hand to anticipate their possession, if attempted by any other power, and, in the meantime, we are lengthening the term of our prosperity, liberating our revenues, & increasing our power. I suppose Napoleon will get possession of Spain: but her colonies will deliver themselves to any member of the Bourbon family. perhaps Mexico will chuse it’s sovereign within itself. he will find them much more difficult to subdue than Austria or Prussia because an enemy (even in peace an enemy) possesses the element over which he is to pass to get at them & a more powerful enemy (climate) will soon mow down his armies after arrival. this will be, without any doubt, the most difficult enterprise the emperor has ever undertaken. he may subdue the small colonies he never can the old & strong: & the former will break off from him the first war he has again with a naval power.

I thank you for having procured for me the Dynamometer which I have safely recieved, as well as the plough. mr Coles will reimburse what you were so kind as to advance for me on that account. The letters which will be written you by the new Secretary of State (mr Smith)) say to you what is meant to be official. for altho’ I too have written on politics, it is merely as a private individual, which I am now happily become. within two or three days I retire from scenes of difficulty, anxiety & of contending passions to the elysium of domestic affections & the irresponsible direction of my own affairs. safe in port myself, I shall look anxiously at my friends still buffeting the storm, and wish you all safe in port also. with my prayers for your happiness & prosperity, Accept the assurances of my sincere friendship & great respect.

John Armstrong (1758–1843), a native of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, attended the College of New Jersey and served as a Continental army staff officer during the Revolutionary War. After representing New York in the United States Senate, 1800–02 and 1803–04, he was appointed minister to France by TJ in June 1804, replacing his brother-in-law Robert R. Livingston. Armstrong held this appointment until 1810. He was commissioned a brigadier general during the War of 1812 and became James Madison’s secretary of war in February 1813, resigning in September 1814 shortly after the British capture of Washington, for which he was widely blamed ( ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography , 1999, 24 vols. description ends DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography , 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends Princetonians description begins James McLachlan and others, eds., Princetonians: A Biographical Dictionary , 1976–90, 5 vols. description ends , 1776–83, pp. 4–14 JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:471, 473 [12, 20 Nov. 1804] C. Edward Skeen, John Armstrong, Jr., 1758–1843: A Biography [1981]).

An aviso is a ship commissioned to carry dispatches ( OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary , 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). The belligerent edicts were Napoleon’sBerlin and Milan decrees (1806 and 1807, respectively) allowing French ships to capture neutral vessels that visited British ports, and the British Orders in Council (November 1807), which established an economic blockade of European ports.On 1 Mar. 1809, shortly before its final adjournment, the Tenth Congress repealed the embargo by enacting the Non-Intercourse Act, which opened trade with other countries but prohibited it with Great Britain and France. The Embargo Act of December 1807 had prohibited all ships in United States ports from sailing abroad.An early session of the Eleventh Congress was called for 22 may 1809 in order to review foreign policy.

TJ had wanted a dynamometer since 1796, although he did not then know what it was called. In May of that year William Strickland attempted to get him one in London. A spring-operated instrument for measuring the amount of energy exerted by an animal or any mechanical force, the dynamometer was used in testing a plough’s resistance. TJ received a Guillaume plough from the Société d’agriculture du département de la Seine sometime in the spring of 1808 ( PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson , 1950– , 31 vols. description ends 29:115–6 Betts, Farm Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Farm Book , 1953 description ends , 58 Betts, Garden Book description begins Edwin M. Betts, ed., Thomas Jefferson’s Garden Book, 1766–1824 , 1944 description ends , 372, 374, 376).


TOPN: Non-Intercourse Act (Foreign Relations)

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Non-Intercourse Act [March 1, 1809] - History

An Act to Regulate Trade and Intercourse With the Indian Tribes (1790) .

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That no person shall be permitted to carry on any trade or intercourse with the Indian tribes, without a license for that purpose under the hand and seal of the superintendent of the department, or of such other person as the President of the United States shall appoint for that purpose which superintendent, or other person so appointed, shall, on application, issue such license to any proper person, who shall enter into bond with one or more sureties, approved of by the superintendent, or person issuing such license, or by the President of the United States, in the penal sum of one thousand dollars, payable to the President of the United States for the time being, for the use of the United States, conditioned for the true and faithful observance of such rules, regulations and restrictions, as now are, or hereafter shall be made for the government of trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes. The said superintendents, and persons by them licensed as aforesaid, shall be governed in all things touching the said trade and intercourse, by such rules and regulations as the President shall prescribe. And no other person shall be permitted to carry on any trade or intercourse with the Indians without such license as aforesaid. No license shall be granted for a longer term than two years. Provided nevertheless, That the President may make such order respecting the tribes surrounded in their settlements by the citizens of the United States, as to secure an intercourse without license, if he may deem it proper.

SEC. 2. And be it further enacted, That the superintendent, or person issuing such license, shall have full power and authority to recall all such licenses as he may have issued, if the person so licensed shall transgress any of the regulations or restrictions provided for the government of trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and shall put in suit such bonds as he may have taken, immediately on the breach of any condition in said bond: Provided always, That if it shall appear on trial, that the person from whom such license shall have been recalled, has not offended against any of the provisions of this act, or the regulations prescribed for the trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, he shall be entitled to receive a new license.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That every person who shall attempt to trade with the Indian tribes, or to be found in the Indian country with such merchandise in his possession as are usually vended to the Indians, without a license first had and obtained, as in this act prescribed, and being thereof convicted in any court proper to try the same, shall forfeit all the merchandise so offered for sale to the Indian tribes, or so found in the Indian country, which forfeiture shall be one half to the benefit of the person prosecuting, and the other half to the benefit of the United States.

SEC. 4. And be it enacted and declared, That no sale of lands made by any Indians, or any nation or tribe of Indians the United States, shall be valid to any person or persons, or to any state, whether having the right of pre-emption to such lands or not, unless the same shall be made and duly executed at some public treaty, held under the authority of the United States.

SEC. 5. And be it further enacted, That if any citizen or inhabitant of the United States, or of either of the territorial districts of the United States, shall go into any town, settlement or territory belonging to any nation or tribe of Indians, and shall there commit any crime upon, or trespass against, the person or property of any peaceable and friendly Indian or Indians, which, if committed within the jurisdiction of any state, or within the jurisdiction of either of the said districts, against a citizen or white inhabitant thereof, would be punishable by the laws of such state or district, such offender or offenders shall be subject to the same punishment, and shall be proceeded against in the same manner as if the offence had been committed within the jurisdiction of the state or district to which he or they may belong, against a citizen or white in habitant thereof.

SEC. 6. And be it further enacted, That for any of the crimes or offences aforesaid, the like proceedings shad be had for apprehending, imprisoning or bailing the offender, as the case may be, and for recognizing the witnesses for their appearance to testify in the case, and where the offender shall be committed, or the witnesses shall be in a district other than that in which the offence is to be tried, for the removal of the offender and the witnesses or either of them, as the case may be, to the district in which the trial is to be had, as by the act to establish the judicial courts of the United States, are directed for any crimes or offenses against the United States.

SEC. 7. And be it further enacted, That this act shall be in force for the term of two years, and from thence to the end of the next session of Congress, and no longer.


Relations With Britain Hit a Low Point in 1811

Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

James Madison of Virginia was elected president of the United States in 1808. He followed Thomas Jefferson and served two terms.

Madison's first four years were not easy. He had to deal with a foreign policy problem that Jefferson was not able to solve: increasingly tense relations with Britain. His second four years were worse. There was war. Larry West and Leo Scully have our story.

James Madison was inaugurated in Washington on March fourth, 1809. The people of the city were happy with the new president. But the nation was not yet sure what kind of leader he would be.

The French minister to the United States did not think much of him. He said: "Mr. Madison is an intelligent man, but weak. He will always see what should be done, but will not do it."

Like the first three American presidents, Madison had a small cabinet. There would be a secretary of state and a secretary of the treasury.

Madison decided to keep Albert Gallatin in the position of treasury secretary. Gallatin probably knew more about the nation's finances than anyone else. The choice for secretary of state was political. Madison named Robert Smith, the brother of a senator. The new president was not too concerned about Mr. Smith's abilities, because he planned to make foreign policy himself.

Jefferson's biggest foreign policy problem arose from a war between Britain and France. The two nations refused to honor America's neutrality. Each tried to prevent the United States from trading with the other. Both interfered with American shipping. And the British navy sometimes seized American sailors.

President Jefferson ordered a ban on trade with Europe. But it failed to end the hostile acts against the United States.

Britain and France were still at war when Madison was elected president. In place of the trade ban, Congress had approved a new law. It was called the Non-Intercourse Act. The law prevented trade with Britain and France. But it gave President Madison the power to re-open trade if either nation stopped interfering with American ships.

Madison hoped the law would force Britain and France to honor American neutrality. He did not want war. But neither did he want to surrender America's rights as an independent nation.

A month after Madison took office, the British minister in Washington, David Erskine, received new orders from his government. He said he had been given the power to settle all differences between the United States and Britain.

Erskine said Britain would stop seizing American ships if the United States would end the Non-Intercourse Law. He did not make clear that the British government demanded several conditions before an agreement could be reached.

One condition was that the United States continue the law against trade with France. Another was that Britain be permitted to capture American ships that violated the law. Erskine called the conditions, "proposals." He did not force the United States to accept them.

On April nineteenth, President Madison announced that an agreement had been reached. He said the United States would re-open trade with Britain. The American people welcomed the agreement. It appeared that -- after less than two months as president -- Madison had been able to remove the threat of war.

The United States began trading again with Britain on June tenth, as agreed. Hundreds of ships left American ports. Relations with Britain seemed to have returned to normal.

President Madison decided to spend the summer of 1809 at his home in the hills of Virginia. Soon after he arrived, he received surprising news. The British government had rejected the agreement he had reached with Erskine.

A British newspaper said the agreement was not what Britain wanted. It said Erskine had violated his orders and was being called back to London. A new minister, Francis James Jackson, would take his place.

Madison returned to Washington in the autumn, about a month after the new British minister arrived. He learned that Secretary of State Smith had made no progress in talks with him. So the president decided to deal with him directly. He wanted to know exactly why Britain had rejected the agreement. Madison ordered that all communications between the two sides be written. There would be no more talks.

Letters were exchanged. But the British minister failed to explain satisfactorily what had happened. And his letters seemed to charge that the United States had not negotiated honestly. Madison finally broke off all communications, and the British minister left Washington.

America's policy of trade with Britain and France continued to be a serious issue. In the early days of 1810, Congress began to consider a new law to control such trade. After several weeks of debate, the two houses of Congress approved a compromise bill.

The bill ended the Non-Intercourse Act against Britain and France. It permitted trade with any nation. But it gave the president the power to declare non-intercourse again with either Britain or France separately. President Madison signed the bill into law.

Relations between the United States and Britain did not improve during the year. And President Madison once again declared non-intercourse against Britain. Trade between the two countries was stopped at the beginning of March, 1811.

Trade was not the only problem, however. A growing number of Americans believed that the British were helping some Native American Indians to fight the United States.

As the people of the United States began to move to the northern and western territories, the government made treaties with the different Indian tribes. The treaties explained which land belonged to the Indians. and which land could be settled by the white men. The settlers did not always honor the treaties.

A leader of the Shawnee Indian tribe, Tecumseh, decided to take action. He started a campaign to unite all Indians and to help them defend against the white men.

Throughout the west, many Americans believed that the British in Canada were responsible for Tecumseh's efforts to unite the Indians. They demanded war with Britain to destroy the power of the tribes.

In Washington, a new Congress was meeting. Some of the new members were very different from the men who had controlled Congress before. They were less willing to compromise -- and more willing to go to war to defend America's interests. They soon got the name "War Hawks."

The new Congress quickly approved several measures to prepare the United States for war. One bill increased the size of the army by twenty-five thousand regular soldiers and fifty thousand volunteers.

At the same time, America had a new secretary of state. President Madison had not been pleased with the work of Robert Smith. Nor did he trust Smith. The president could not be sure of Smith's support for administration proposals.

Madison wanted his close friend, James Monroe, to be secretary of state. Monroe was then governor of Virginia. He agreed to take the new job.

What the United States did not have at that troubled time was a representative in Britain. When Madison broke off communications with British minister Jackson in Washington, Jackson returned to London. And the American minister in London, William Pinkney, sailed home.

There was no official in either capital to report what was happening. And the two countries were moving closer to war. That will be our story next week.

Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Larry West and Leo Scully. Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION – an American history series in VOA Special English.


Embargo Act

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Embargo Act, (1807), U.S. Pres. Thomas Jefferson’s nonviolent resistance to British and French molestation of U.S. merchant ships carrying, or suspected of carrying, war materials and other cargoes to European belligerents during the Napoleonic Wars.

By 1807 the struggle between England and France had degenerated into a war of economic retribution, as each side attempted to starve the other into submission. Adm. Horatio Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 had given Britain mastery of the seas, but Napoleon still controlled much of continental Europe. Lacking a fleet that could directly threaten Britain, Napoleon implemented the Continental System, a pair of decrees (November 21, 1806, and December 17, 1807) that prohibited British trade with the Continent and threatened seizure of any neutral vessels found trading with England. The British responded by issuing orders in council (November 11, 18, and 25 and December 18, 1807) that imposed a blockade on Napoleonic Europe. In the midst of that economic vise was the neutral United States. With no significant navy, Napoleon was forced to confine his efforts to U.S. vessels in French ports. Thus, the attention of the United States was directed primarily at British actions on the high seas that violated international law.

Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison determined to enforce a recognition of American rights by commercial retaliation, a concept rooted in American foreign policy since the Nonimportation Agreements that preceded the American Revolution. A nonimportation act adopted by Congress in 1806 excluded from the U.S. a limited variety of British manufactured goods, but the operation of the act was delayed for a year pending negotiations for a settlement. In June 1807 Anglo-American relations deteriorated further when the British frigate Leopard fired upon the U.S. warship Chesapeake and forced it to submit to a search for British deserters. Impressment, a practice previously confined to American merchant vessels, was thus extended to a public armed vessel of the United States. Amid a general clamour for war, Jefferson opted for an economic response.

At Jefferson’s request the two houses of Congress considered and passed the Embargo Act quickly in December 1807. All U.S. ports were closed to export shipping in either U.S. or foreign vessels, and restrictions were placed on imports from Great Britain. The act was a hardship on U.S. farmers as well as on New England and New York mercantile and maritime interests, especially after being buttressed by harsh enforcement measures adopted in 1808. Its effects in Europe were not what Jefferson had hoped. French and British dealers in U.S. cotton, for example, were able to raise prices at will while the stock already on hand lasted the embargo would have had to endure until these inventories were exhausted. Napoleon is said to have justified seizure of U.S. merchant ships on the grounds that he was assisting Jefferson in enforcing the act. The Federalist leader Timothy Pickering even alleged that Napoleon himself had inspired the embargo.

Confronted by bitter and articulate opposition, Jefferson on March 1, 1809 (two days before the end of his second term), signed the Non-Intercourse Act, permitting U.S. trade with countries other than France and Great Britain. U.S. trade restrictions were rolled back entirely by Macon’s Bill No. 2 (1810), which authorized the president, upon normalization of commercial relations with either England or France, to reinstate nonintercourse against the other. Seizing the opportunity, Napoleon announced that his decrees were repealed, insofar as they affected the United States. After waiting several months for a similar response from England, Madison—who had succeeded Jefferson as president—prohibited trade with Great Britain in February 1811. That action helped set the stage for the War of 1812.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.


Non-Intercourse Act [March 1, 1809] - History

From the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 through the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814, the nations of Europe were almost constantly at war. England and France were the primary participants in these conflicts, and since both were imperial powers, the wars quickly spread. Eager to avoid being swept into these costly wars, the United States tried to maintain neutrality.

The wars in Europe had proven profitable for the United States: exports of grain, naval stores, and cotton rose dramatically. With expanded exports, American merchant fleets grew in size and world presence. The issue of freedom of the seas and freedom of maritime commerce would ultimately bring war to the republic.

Following the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the Royal Navy, having decimated the French navy, turned to destroying the French economy through a vigorous blockade. Hoping to limit French access to supplies, the British placed restrictions on goods shipped to European ports. Nations wishing to trade with Europe were expected to comply with these restrictions failure to do so would result in confiscation of ships and property by the Royal Navy.

Finding itself ever more isolated, France retaliated by passing a series of decrees voiding the British restrictions and threatening that any nation complying with British orders would have its ships confiscated by French authorities. These policies of blockade and counter-blockade by the British and French directly affected American shipping and pushed the war closer and closer to the neutral United States.

The following outline offers a discussion of the major restrictive acts passed by England and France during this period. They illustrate the increasingly complicated and dangerous world in which American commerce tried to exist.

The Berlin Decree, issued by France in 1806, formally proclaimed a blockade against Great Britain. Any goods manufactured in England or its colonies, no matter the owner, would be considered a fair prize of war. Finally, the Berlin Decree stated that "No vessel coming directly from England, or any of its colonies, or having touched there since the publication of the present decree, shall be received into any harbour."

The Order in Council issued by Britain on January 7, 1807, proclaimed the following:
. . . it is hereby ordered, that no vessel shall be permitted to trade from one port to another, both which ports shall belong to, or be in the possession of France or her allies, or shall be so far under their control as that British vessels may not freely trade thereat and the commanders of his majesty's ships of war and privateers shall be, and are hereby instructed to warn every neutral vessel coming from any such port, and destined to another such port, to discontinue her voyage, and not to proceed to any such port and any vessel, after being so warned, or any vessel coming from any such port after a reasonable time shall have been afforded for receiving information of this his majesty's orders which shall be found proceeding to another such port, shall be captured and brought in, and together with her cargo, shall be condemned as lawful prize.

This was followed by a second edict in November of the same year:
. . . And whereas his majesty's order of the 7 th of January last has not answered the desired purpose, either of compelling the enemy to recall those orders, or of inducing neutral nations to interpose, with effect, to obtain their revocation but, on the contrary, the same have been recently enforced with increased rigour:

And whereas his majesty, under these circumstances, finds himself compelled to take further measures for asserting and vindicating his just rights, and for supporting that maritime power which the exertions and valour of his people have, under the blessing of Providence, enabled him to establish and maintain and the maintenance of which is not more essential to the safety and prosperity of his majesty's dominions, that it is to the protection of such states as still retain their independence, and to the general intercourse and happiness of mankind:

His majesty is therefore pleased, by and with the advice of his privy council, to order, and it is hereby ordered, that all the ports and places of France and her allies, Or of any other country at war with his majesty, and all other ports or places in Europe, from which, Although not at war with his majesty, the British flag is excluded, and all ports or places in the colonies belonging to his majesty's enemies, shall, from henceforth be subject to the same restrictions in point of trade and navigation, with the exception hereinafter-mentioned, as if the same were actually blockaded by his majesty's naval forces, in the most strict and rigorous manner - And it is hereby further ordered and declared, that all trade in articles which are of the produce or manufacture of the said countries or colonies, shall be deemed and considered to be unlawful and that every vessel trading from or to the said countries or colonies, together with all goods and merchandize on board, and all articles of the produce or manufacture of the said countries or colonies, shall be captured, and condemned as prize to the captors.

One of the most important aspects of the Orders in Council was the statement that nations wishing to trade with closed ports must first pay transit duties.

A retaliatory measure to Britain's Orders in Council, the Milan Decree was issued in 1807 by Napoleon. It declared that

Napoleon Bonaparte. From the collections of The Mariners' Museum.

Every ship, to whatever nation it may belong, that shall have submitted to be searched by an English ship, or to a voyage to England, or shall have paid any tax whatsoever to the English government, is thereby, and for that alone, declared to be denationalized, to have forfeited the protection of its king, and to have become English property.

Whether the ships thus denationalized by the arbitrary measures of the English government, enter into our ports, or those of our allies, or whether they fall into the hands of our ships of war, or of our privateers, they are declared to be good and lawful prizes.

President Jefferson responded to the European infringement on American trade with the Embargo Act in December 1807. The act was targeted mainly at Great Britain, whose strong navy was much more effective in stopping American trade than the French. Referring to the act as it was directed toward England, Secretary of State James Madison wrote, "We send necessaries to her. She sends superfluities to us. Our products they must have. Theirs, however promotive of our comfort, we can to a considerable degree do without." The act restricted American shipping to coastal trade alone to enforce this limitation, vessels were required to post a bond for twice the value of their cargo as a guarantee that the vessel was not headed for a foreign port.

But the embargo proved more detrimental to the United States than to its intended victim. The minister to France stated, "Here it is not felt, and in England . . . it is forgotten." Between 1807 and 1808, exports dropped from $108 million to $22 million. The nation fell into a depression worse than any experienced since the early colonial days. Critics of the embargo likened it to a turtle, as it caused the nation to draw into itself and eventually to snap at segments of the nation's economy, from farmer to East Coast merchant.

The Embargo Act was repealed in March 1809 after its negative effects were severely felt by the United States. The Non-Intercourse Act was initiated in its place. This new act restricted trade to England and France and their respective colonies, but allowed for trade with all other nations. The act also provided that if either England or France repealed its restrictive trade policies, the Non-Intercourse Act would be lifted as it pertained to that country.

For a brief period after a promise to repeal the Orders in Council, trade with England was reopened. Soon after trade began, it was shut down again when it was realized that the American ambassador to Great Britain had failed to inform Congress that the Royal Navy intended to help enforce the Non-Intercourse Act against France. The Non-Intercourse Act expired in 1810, having done extensive damage to the United States and to Anglo-American relations.

The Non-Intercourse Act was replaced in May 1810 by Macon's Bill Number 2. This bill lifted all restrictions on trade with both England and France. A provision was added that stated that in the event of either nation repealing its trade restrictions, an embargo would be established against the other nation.

In August 1810, Napoleon informed President Madison of his intention to lift the Milan and Berlin Decrees. In exchange, France expected trade to cease with Great Britain. In February 1811, before receiving proof that France had actually lifted its restrictions (in fact, it had not), the United States renewed an embargo against England and her colonies. France continued to stop American merchant ships and even imposed additional export restrictions and tariffs, essentially eliminating trade between the United States and the European continent. Napoleon's plan was to cause friction between the United States and Great Britain, and it succeeded perfectly.

The impressment of American sailors continued in spite of protests and embargoes by the United States. At times, these cases would erupt in violent confrontations.

Battle between the President and the Little Belt. From the collections of The Mariners' Museum.
On one such occasion, the British frigate Guerrière stopped an American merchantman and seized one of her crewmen. After hearing of this incident, Captain John Rodgers set out in his frigate President in hopes of retrieving the man. Off Long Island, Rodgers came across an unidentified British vessel in the dark and fog. After an exchange of inquiries, Rodgers opened fire on what turned out to be the Little Belt, a 22-gun sloop. The Little Belt fired back at the 44-gun frigate, but sustained much greater damage, with nine killed and twenty-three wounded. With the dawn, Rodgers realized the true identity of his opponent. Though assistance was offered, the Little Belt refused and limped to Halifax for repairs. Many Americans saw this confrontation and its outcome as a suitable revenge for the Chesapeake-Leopard affair.

Many Americans believed that the British were supplying Indian tribes of the Ohio Valley with weapons from Canada. If this were true, only the conquest of Canada and the expulsion of the British from the American frontier could end Indian depredations.

The Republican party had already been split into a number of factions, and the Twelfth Congress of 1811 saw a new faction, the War Hawks. This group consisted of approximately a dozen members, most of them from the frontier regions of the nation. Henry Clay of Kentucky, the most famous of the War Hawks, had been elected Speaker of the House before the age of thirty-five. He was very outspoken against the impressment of American sailors, the Orders in Council, and British assistance to the Native Americans.

As the war approached, the War Hawks favored legislation that prepared the nation for war, both militarily and socially. They supported an embargo against Great Britain that would culminate in military action. This ninety-day embargo was designed to avoid having merchant ships at sea at the outbreak of war. In fact, the embargo had just the opposite effect, with merchants rushing their ships to sea before the embargo began.


Other provisions

Definition of Indian country

In addition to regulating relations between Indians living on Indian land and non-Indians, the 1834 Act identified an area known as "Indian country". This land was described as being "…all that part of the United States west of the Mississippi and not within the states of Missouri and Louisiana, or the territory of Arkansas…" This is the land that became known as Indian Territory.

Trading posts

One of the most defining aspects of the acts was the establishment of a series of "factories" which were officially licensed trading posts where Native Americans were to sell their merchandise (particularly furs). The factories, which officially were set up to protect the tribes from unscrupulous private traders, were to be used as leverage to cause the tribes to cede substantial territory in exchange for access to the "factory" as happened with the Treaty of Fort Clark in which the Osage Nation exchanged most of Missouri in order to access Fort Clark.

Property claims

According to U.S. Attorney General William Wirt:

[T]he United States agree to pay [the Creek Indians] certain specific sums of money, out of which payments there is a reservation of $5,000 to satisfy claims for property taken by individuals of the said nation from the citizens of the United States subsequent to the treaty of Colerain, which has been or may be claimed and established agreeably to the provisions of the act for regulating trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers. [ 48 ]


Historia Obscura

There will be a talk about the effect of the changing laws about privateering on the career of Jean Laffite October 14, 2014 at 6 pm at the Laffite Society Meeting at the Meridian Towers in Galveston, Texas.

The Effect of the Changing Laws Concerning Privateering on the Career of Jean Laffite

Today, very few people have a clear idea of what privateering is and how it differs from piracy, despite the fact that the United States constitution still has a provision for the issuing of letters of marque and reprisal. Many people think that the word “privateer” is a synonym for “pirate”. But before the War of 1812 privateering was a respectable way of life, and this perception changed after the war. Jean Laffite, who had been both a smuggler and a privateer under a letter of marque from Cartagena suffered considerably from a misperception that he was a pirate.

Some of the laws covered will include The Neutrality Act of 1794, the Embargo Act of 1807, the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809 and the Neutrality Act of 1817.

The talk will be preceded by a meeting of the Laffite Society at 6pm and will actually begin at 7pm.


The Burning of Washington

Despite the mounting American victories, English forces had defeated France in Europe. The British victory made available large numbers of troops and supplies which were sent to America in 1814. Nevertheless, setbacks continued to plague the British. Their southern campaign was thwarted by Andrew Jackson’s bloody victory over Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend, Alabama and set the stage for a massive battle at New Orleans. In August of 1814, however, substantial British forces sailed through the Chesapeake Bay and landed in Maryland. British forces routed American resistance at Bladensburg, Maryland, and quickly took the American capital - Washington. On August 24-25, British forces burned Washington to the ground. Despite the bombardment of Baltimore, Maryland, which resulted in Francis Scott Key authoring the Star Spangled Banner, American forces resisted. On September 11, 1814, American forces defeated the British at Lake Champlain and thwarted a large-scale British invasion from Canada.

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