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   Chapter 102 1807). No.102

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3200

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: American trade.]

[Sidenote: Admiralty decisions.]

The renewal of the war between England and France in May, 1803, at first was advantageous to the United States; it precipitated the cession of Louisiana and it gave new employment for American shipping. French West Indian products were freely imported, re-shipped, and exported, thus avoiding the rule of 1756 (§ 85); as a result, the customs revenue leaped in one year from fourteen to twenty millions. In 1805 these favorable conditions were reversed. In May the British admiralty courts decided that goods which had started from French colonies could be captured, even though they had been landed and re-shipped in the United States. Captures at once began; English frigates were stationed outside the port of New York, and vessels coming in and going out were insolently stopped and searched; impressments were revived. In 1804 thirty-nine vessels had been captured by the British; in 1805 one hundred and sixteen were taken; and probably a thousand American seamen were impressed.

[Sidenote: Continental System.]

On Oct. 21, 1805, the combined French and Spanish fleets were overwhelmed at Trafalgar. Thenceforward England had the mastery of the seas, while France remained supreme on land. Napoleon, who had in 1804 taken the title of Emperor, was determined to destroy English trade with the Continent, and had no scruples against ruining neutrals in the attempt. He resolved upon a "Continental System,"-to shut against the importation of English goods the ports of France and her dependencies and allies, including, as

the result of recent conquests, almost the whole northern coast of the Mediterranean, and a considerable part of the coast of the German Ocean and the Baltic Sea.

[Sidenote: Orders and decrees.]

The English retaliated with an Order in Council, dated May 16, 1806, by which the whole coast from Brest to the river Elbe was declared blockaded. There was no blockading squadron; yet American vessels were captured as they left their own ports bound for places within the specified limit. Napoleon retorted with the Berlin Decree of Nov. 21, 1806, in which he declared the whole British Islands in a state of blockade; the trade in English merchandise was forbidden, and no vessel that had touched at a British port could enter a French port. These measures were plainly intended to cut off the commerce of neutrals; and as the European wars had now swept in almost every seafaring power, on one side or the other, the Americans were the great neutral carriers. In January, 1807, Great Britain announced that neutral vessels trading from one port under French influence to another were subject to capture, and that all French ports were blockaded. The Milan Decree of December, 1807, completed the structure of injustice by ordering the capture of all neutral vessels which had been searched by an English vessel. In 1806 the Jay Treaty expired, and the Americans lost its slight protection. The effect of this warfare of proclamations was at once seen in the great increase of captures: one hundred and ninety-four American vessels were taken by England in 1807, and a large number by the French.

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