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 It was repealed as Jefferson left office in 1809.
Words of Wisdom
On the impressment of our seamen, our remonstrances have never been intermitted. A hope existed at one moment, of an arrangement which might have been submitted to, but it soon passed away, and the practice, though relaxed at times in the distance seas, has been constantly pursued in those in our neighbourhood.