Open main menu

Embar′go-Acts are orders to restrain the ships either of a foreign nation with whom war has been declared or of the home nation from leaving port. An embargo-act was passed in the United States in 1794. This act was the answer to the British orders-in-council of 1793. France and England had each tried to cripple the other by declaring in turn that neutral vessels carrying to either were the lawful prize of the other. The United States had too weak a fleet to declare war, and, therefore, tried to bring the two powers to terms by preventing her own vessels from trade. The southern party, chiefly agricultural, was in power, and their action crippled New England, which was so hard hit by its loss of trade that it threatened to secede. A stricter embargo-act was passed in 1807. Exports fell from $110,084,207 in 1807 to $22,430,960 in 1808. The American carrying-trade has never since fully recovered. England, the chief offender in seizing American ships and pressing American sailors (for France did not command the sea), alone profited by the American embargoes. In 1809 the embargo was removed, but in its stead a non-intercourse act was passed against trade with France or England. War broke out with England in 1812. A new embargo was levied until 1814. In spite of the opinion of Jefferson, it seems clear that the embargoes injured the home country more than her enemies, and thus were unsound.