Monday, June 08, 2009

Ograbme, Part III

When Congress ended the Embargo in 1809, it replaced it with a law temporarily banning all American trade with Britain and France. American port inspectors were then surprised by the number of vessels heading for such obscure ports-of-call as Tonningen, Saint Bartholomew island, and Fayal, in the Azores Islands. Herbert Heaton suggests that these captains were bending the truth a little: they may indeed have intended briefly to stop in their declared destinations, but their final destinations were more lucrative ports in Europe and the West Indies. (Heaton, "Non-Importation," 192.) The new - and easily evaded - non-intercourse act lasted for a year before Congress replaced it with the more flexible (but ultimately unworkable) Macon's Bill No. 2, then with a straightforward ban on British imports, which lasted until Congress declared war on Britain.

Jefferson and his colleagues had hoped the Embargo would inaugurate a new era of "peaceable coercion" in international relations - a "republican alternative" to war. The limited resources of the early American state, however, combined with the ancient ingenuity of American merchants, almost by themselves guaranteed that the experiment would fail.*


* Well, more or less. The British government did finally repeal its trade restrictions in 1812, but Congress didn't receive this news until after it had declared war on Britain.

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