December 22, 1807 — The Embargo Act of 1807 was signed today. Sponsored by President Thomas Jefferson and enacted by Congress, it was a general embargo that made any and all exports from the United States illegal.
Historians explain that the goal was to force Britain and France to respect American rights during the Napoleonic Wars. “They were engaged in a major war; the U.S. wanted to remain neutral and trade with both sides, but neither side wanted the other to have the American supplies. The American goal was to use economic coercion to avoid war and to punish Britain.”
The policy was highly unpopular with shipping interests, and historians have judged it a failure. It was repealed as Jefferson left office in 1809.