The Embargo Act placed a restriction on trade after European ships harassed U.S. vessels.
The Embargo Act, adopted by the United States Congress in 1807, imposed a full embargo on the French Empire involved in the war and Great Britain.
The embargo was a response to violations of the neutrality of the United States by seizing US merchant ships and merchandise as a prism by the navies of both European countries. In addition, the Royal Navy used the forced incorporation of American citizens into the crews of warships. Both Great Britain and France resorted to plundering American units as a way to sustain the war effort. The Chesapeake Leopard Affair was the brightest and most painful example of this policy for the citizens of the young American nation.
President Thomas Jefferson acted prudently in trying to match the response to the public’s agitation. His recommendation was economic warfare, not military mobilization. Congress passed the Embargo Act on December 22, 1807. The expected effects of this drastic move were to force both France and Britain to withdraw from robbery activity, forced enlistment and to respect the neutrality of the United States. The embargo turned out to be an impractical measure, as it was both a diplomatic and economic failure. After its introduction, it imposed great burdens on the American economy and citizens.
The extensive circumvention of the restrictions on maritime and land trade by American merchants and the legal loopholes in the act have significantly reduced the embargo. British merchants have appropriated the lucrative trade routes left by Americans. Demand for English goods in South America increased, which compensated for the losses suffered as a result of the embargo.
The bill also undermined the national unity, causing strong protests, especially in New England’s commercial centers. It intensified support for the Federalist Party and contributed with it to obtaining a large number of seats in Congress.
On March 1, 1809, after 15 months, in the last days of President Jefferson’s term, the embargo was canceled.