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Chap. V, History of the United States, Vol. IV, Chap. XI; McMaster, Vol. II, pp. 621-633; Henry Adams, History of the United States, Vol. I.

6. The Lewis and Clark Expedition: Channing, Jeffersonian System, Chap. VII; McMaster, Vol. II, pp. 631-635; Roosevelt, Winning of the West, Vol. IV, Chap. VII; Journals of Lewis and Clark, editions by Elliott Coues and R. G. Thwaites.

7. The Burr Conspiracy: Channing, Jeffersonian System, Chap. XII, History of the United States, Vol. IV, pp. 335–344; W. F. McCaleb, The Aaron Burr Conspiracy; Adams, Vol. II, Chap. XVII, Vol. III, Chaps. X-XIV, XIX.



ENGLAND and France went to war in 1793 and hostilities continued, except for a brief period following the peace of The rule of Amiens, until 1815. In this contest the majority 1756 of the powers of Europe were involved the greater part of the time on one side or the other, so that upon the United States mainly devolved the task of upholding neutral rights. Early in the struggle France opened her West Indian ports to American vessels. This action was in conflict with the so-called “Rule of 1756,” which had been announced by England during the Seven Years' War, and which was, in effect, that when a country closed its colonial ports to foreign vessels in time of peace it could not open them to neutral commerce when engaged in war.

Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities in 1793 England again announced her intention of enforcing this rule. American ships, however, devised a means of evading it. They adopted the practice of carrying the products of the French, Spanish, and Dutch West Indies to a United States port, unloading the cargo, paying the duties, taking out new clearance papers, and reshipping to a European port. When several of the first ships engaged in this practice were captured and taken before the English admiralty courts they were released, but after the renewal of the war in 1803 the British government determined to deal more strictly with the question of neutral commerce and the admiralty courts ruled accordingly. In the case of the Essex July, 1805, Lord Stowell held that if the products of the French West Indies were shipped to the United States with the intention

Orders in

of being immediately reshipped to Europe, the cargo was liable to seizure. This rule became known as the doctrine of continuous voyage, which in a modified form became of great importance in the American Civil War, in the Boer War, and in the Great European War, which began in 1914.

In 1806 England declared a blockade of the coast of Europe from the River Elbe to Brest, to be strictly enforced, however, only between Ostend and Havre. In No- Fren vember Napoleon issued the famous Berlin decrees and

of British Decree, declaring the British Isles in a state of blockade. This was purely a fictitious or paper Council, blockade, since Napoleon's naval forces had been 1800-1807 completely crushed at the battle of Trafalgar and an actual blockade of England was utterly absurd.

In January, 1807, the British government retaliated by an Order in Council which prohibited the coasting trade between ports under the control of France. A later order issued in November of the same year declared an absolute blockade of all European ports from which British ships were excluded. In December Napoleon issued the Milan Decree by which every ship which submitted to British search or which touched at a British port was ordered to be seized.

These decrees and orders were directed mainly at the commerce of the United States. An American ship found it difficult to reach a European port without submitting to British search. If, on the other hand, it stopped at a British port and took on British goods, the only condition on which England would allow it to proceed, it rendered itself liable to seizure as soon as it reached a European port.

Instead of stationing her ships before the ports of Europe and maintaining an actual blockade, England found it easier to station them outside of the principal American Search and ports and search American vessels as they started impresson their voyages. Thus scores of American ships ment were searched and seized within sight of their own shores. Incidentally the searching officers were instructed to inspect the crews of American merchant vessels and seize any deserters from the British navy or any British-born subjects whom they might find aboard. England held the doctrine, once a British subject always a British subject, and denied absolutely the right of expatriation. Many British born subjects who had become naturalized in the United States were thus seized and forced to serve in the British navy.

But this was not the worst feature of the practice. As it was difficult to distinguish between an Englishman and an American, and as the British officers were not overscrupulous when they were short of seamen, they impressed hundreds of native-born Americans into the British navy. Discipline in that service was very severe, flogging still existed, and there were many desertions. Deserters frequently took service on American merchant vessels and occasionally on American warships.

At the beginning of the War of 1812 there were on file in the State Department 6257 cases of impressed seamen

who claimed to be Americans. Lord CastleNumber of impress

reagh stated on the floor of the House of Com

mons that in January, 1811, there were 3300 men intensity of feeling

claiming to be American citizens serving in the against British navy. This was obviously a conservaEngland

tive statement. When the War of 1812 began the British Admiralty Report shows that 2548 impressed, American seamen were imprisoned for refusing to serve against their country. The total number of impressments is estimated by Roosevelt in his Naval War of 1812 at 20,000.

Napoleon's outrages on our commerce were as great as England's, but the British navy showed greater activity, and the impressment of American seamen in sight of our coasts brought the question nearer home and aroused the people to an intensity of feeling against England which it was difficult to restrain.


The depths of our humiliation were sounded in 1807. On June 22 the United States frigate Chesapeake left Norfolk for a cruise to the Mediterranean with four de

The Chesaserters from the British navy aboard. Three of

peakethese were native Americans, and the fact that Leopard they had deserted from the British navy was


1807 known to the officers. The fourth had enlisted under an assumed name and turned out to be a British subject. As the Chesapeake was proceeding towards the Capes the British war vessel Leopard approached and fired a gun as a signal that she wished to communicate with the ship. Her captain said that he had dispatches and sent British officers aboard. The dispatches were orders from his commanding officer to search the Chesapeake for deserters.

The American commander, Commodore James Barron, refused to allow his ship to be searched and, as he had not called his men to quarters, tried to gain time, but before the guns could be manned the Leopard fired three broadsides into the Chesapeake. Barron hauled down his flag, whereupon the British boarded the ship, mustered the crew, and seized the four deserters, but refused to receive the surrender of the ship. Barron was later tried by court-martial and suspended for five years without pay for neglect of duty in failing to call his men to quarters when the Leopard approached.

President Jefferson at once issued a proclamation closing American ports to British warships and forbidding the furnishing of supplies to them. He also called a special session of Congress. Meanwhile Monroe bargo Act, and William Pinckney had signed an agreement December

22, 1807 with the British government. This treaty failed to settle the impressment controversy and was so thoroughly unsatisfactory to Jefferson that he did not submit it to the Senate.

The only course open to the United States was war or commercial restriction. Jefferson knew that our navy was

The Em

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