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CHAPTER XIII

THE EMBARGO

THE war renewed between France and England in 1803, the shadow of which brought us Louisiana, had many other Change of con- things in store for us, both pleasant and unditions

pleasant. The course of the struggle from 1803 to 1815 parallels in many ways that between 1793 and 1802. Some of the factors, however, had changed. Our own West had become strong enough to master its own destiny; it was now so firmly attached to the government that it ceased for the present to enter into the plans of European states. The policy of our government continued to be that of neutrality, but its sympathies were now French instead of English. Its methods of preserving neutrality, moreover, were so decidedly different as to change the whole character of our diplomacy. In the case of both France and England, the preceding war had witnessed experiments; the new one found determined policies. The defeat of Napoleon's navies at Trafalgar in 1805 gave England a more complete control of the sea than she had ever had before, while his victories by land isolated her from the continent in a manner new and menacing.

With the diplomatic elimination of the West, American commerce with the belligerents became the focus of attention. American com

Its steady-going element consisted in the ex

change of our raw products for England's manufactures. Carried on largely in our own vessels, it was safe, fairly unvarying in quantity, and brought in reasonable profits to respectable established firms. Less important was that carried on with the British colonies under temporary suspensions of the navigation laws and by special licences.

merce

Part of this trade, it is true, was practically regular and suited to the conservative temperament. As however, the permissions were based on the needs of the moment, there was a fluctuating margin, which gave opportunity to those with a keen scent for special venture and quick turnovers. News of crops and markets was eagerly read, and the British government was besieged with special applications. In 1809 it refused a licence to export ice and snow from the United States to the West Indies; those were commodities sufficiently abundant in the loyal colony of Canada.

More adventurous, and after 1805 partaking somewhat of the nature of speculation, was the continued attempt to supply France with her breakfast of West American carIndian coffee, sugar, and cocoa. Hayti was

rying-trade now practically free, but its market continued to be France; and the other islands furnished their quota. In return the islands wanted provisions, which we ourselves could furnish, and manufactured goods, which should have come from France but which we often secured for them from England. This trade demanded high freight rates and protected itself by insurance. It produced both fortunes and bankruptcies. By 1805 it overshadowed the safer trade with England. Between 1803 and 1806 our exports of domestic goods sank from $42,206,000 to $41,253,000; those of foreign goods rose from $13,594,000 to $60,283,000.1

Still choicer titbits invited those who frankly disregarded business principles and resorted to speculation pure and simple. To add to their lading of French colonial Speculative products some of the manufactures of England ventures so eagerly desired and so highly priced on the continent, and, protected by licences from England and France, to carry on trade between the enemies, or to carry it on unprotected, induced many to risk ships and liberty. To disregard the

1 Mathew Carey, The Olive Branch, Philadelphia, 1815 (contains many original documents and statistics); British and Foreign State Papers (an annual series).

restrictive laws framed with such rapidity by the United States government, to gamble on a change of regulation before reaching port or on the possibility of bribing officials, to coast from one French port to another, to rove at will over the ocean using whatever flag and papers were convenient at the moment, involved serious risks, but not sufficient danger to exclude such practices. Everywhere the Americans found and made business. Gallatin estimated that our merchant marine grew seventy thousand tons a year and called for over four thousand additional men; and Phineas Bond had already in 1796 referred to the enterprising spirit of so many of our traders in “forcing the prescribed channels of commerce." To snepherd such a reckless crew was no easy task for an administration so firmly based on the idea of self-government, but at heart so paternalistic, as was that of Jefferson.

The attitude of Great Britain toward this trade was not a simple one. Underlying all her actions was a sensitive Great Britain's national jealousy at the growth of a rival merpolicy

chant marine, and a constant purpose to give every possible advantage to her own. She did not wish to cut off all trade with the enemy; she was especially anxious to sell all the manufactured goods possible. She tried, therefore, to confine trade to channels favorable to herself, and to cause it to pass under her watchful eye. Agricultural conditions had so readjusted themselves on the continent that there was less chance of starving France into submission; hence the question of regarding provisions as contraband of war was not so important as in the previous war. In the execution of her policy she showed an arrogance and a carelessness of others that often caused her to persist in practices not essential to her general policy and yet provocative of retaliation. England's policy cannot be considered apart from her bad manners.

The policy of Napoleon toward neutral trade was based on the ideas of the Directory. It was subsidiary to his cen

tral idea of destroying England by destroying her commerce. He would close all the ports of the world to British trade, he would cause her ships to be idle and her Napoleon's factories to be glutted with unsalable goods; policy then bankruptcy and submission would be inevitable. This was the fundamental purpose which underlay his entire foreign policy from 1805, and which resulted in the climatic tragedy of the Russian invasion. While he undoubtedly miscalculated the tenacity of the British will, and thought that less pressure would be necessary to bring a nation of shopkeepers to terms than proved to be the case, his plan was not fantastic and he may have come within sight of success. He himself, when at Elba, reviewing and magnifying, like so many lesser of the fallen, the turns of fortune against him, said that he should have succeeded had not the Spanish revolt opened up to England, after 1808, the trade of Spanish America which she had so long desired and which gave a new market for her surplus products. It should not be held against him as an inconsistency, or as an evidence of the impossibility of his plan, that his armies were often clothed in British goods. He realized the temporary necessity, but under the protection of his system he expected to develop self-sufficing industry on the continent. Indeed, one of the most permanent results of his rule has been found to be precisely this development. With such a policy Napoleon knew no neutrals: trade with his enemy was vital assistance to his enemy. This policy, however, was diplomatically veiled so as to enable him to employ neutral vessels for his own purposes. The details of his regulations therefore change from time to time. Without a navy, he was driven to such measures as could be enforced in his own ports.

In the United States the policy formulated to defend our trade was emphatically Jefferson's, although it so closely resembled Napoleon's that it was attributed to French in

1 T. B. Richards, "An Unpublished Talk with Napoleon," Harper's Magazine, January 1911, pp. 165–175.

the

fluence. If there was any connection, however, it was Jefferson who originated the plan. Even as a youth he had Jefferson's been much impressed with the rapidity with policy

which the colonial non-importation agreements had brought England to terms, and he believed that similar pressure would be as effective between nations as it had proved between colony and mother country. He may well have discussed the matter with the French revolutionary leaders during his residence in France. Certainly on his return he urged it upon Congress in his report of 1793. Now as president he intended to use it as the bulwark of defence for our commerce and our merchant marine.

The first serious difficulty arose with England over the trade of the French West Indies. As a result of decisions

of Sir William Scott in the cases of the Emanuel England and

French in 1799 and the Polly in 1800, that trade had West Indies

been allowed to the Americans if carried on from the colonies to the United States and from the United States to France. July 23, 1805, in the case of the Essex, Scott practically reversed himself, declaring that on an innocent voyage between the United States and Europe the neutral owner of such colonial goods must be able to prove by something more than evidence of a custom-house entry that his original intention had been to terminate his venture in an American port. Upon this theory several American vessels were condemned, and the trade, while not prohibited, was rendered uncertain and difficult; for it was, of course, almost never the intention of the American owner to terminate his venture in the United States, and he was actually in most cases owner merely in form and not in substance, a situation that might be revealed by the British courts which it was framed to deceive. This trade, as well as other branches of traffic, was soon additionally hampered by a British order in council of May 16, 1806, blockading the coast from Havre to Ostend and prohibiting the coast trade to neutrals from Havre to the Elbe.

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