THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (April 13-April 19, 1814)

April 14, 2014 at 1:08 am 1 comment

O Grab Me.

Courtesy New Zealand maritime Museum

Courtesy New Zealand maritime Museum

With the collapse of Napoleon’s Empire in late March, U.S. President James Madison calls for immediate repeal of a maritime trade embargo passed by Congress in December 1813.

The Embargo of 1813 is the latest in a series of attempts by Madison and his predecessor Thomas Jefferson to hurt Britain economically by denying British merchants and consumers American goods and raw materials.

There is another reason for this legislation: smuggling in Maine, Georgia, Vermont and New York – Americans doing business with the enemy despite the war and the widening naval blockade of U.S. seaports. The illegal trade “has reached such proportions” that Congress passes a far reaching embargo, according to George C. Daughan’s War of 1812, The Navy’s War.

To halt the smuggling and hurt British commerce, the new law bans every type of shipping including coastal shipping and fishing outside U.S. harbors Even inland waterways come under the shipping ban.

But like Jefferson’s attempt to slap Britain without starting a shooting war – the Embargo of 1807 – the 1813 law does more harm than good. Back in 1807, wags scrambled the letters of embargo to spell “O Grab Me” or “Mob Rage.” In 1813, American ships once again are barred from leaving American ports to trade overseas. As an example of the economic woes the 1813 Embargo imposed, Daughan notes that in 1806, nearly $16 billion in shipping business was conducted just in New York City. During 1813, that amount dwindled to $60,000.

President James Madison

President James Madison

And the 1813 embargo didn’t stop New York and Vermont farmers from selling fresh produce and meat to the British in Canada. Meanwhile, seaportsin the South were conducting the same type of trade with the very British ships blockading most U.S. Atlantic ports.

The embargo infuriates New England where the economy is dependent on maritime commerce and the British are not even blockading their ports yet. That omission was deliberate on the part of the Royal Navy, which sought to drive a wedge between Madison and the opposition Federalist Party, which was strongest throughout New England.

With Napoleon out of power, there’s no leverage against the British, so Madison calls on Congress to repeal the embargo and signs the legislation on April 14.




Entry filed under: FRIDAY FOTO, Lessons Learned, National Security and Defense, Naval Warfare, SHAKO, THIS WEEK in the War of 1812, Traditions. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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April 2014


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