In 1807, President Thomas Jefferson signed the Embargo Act
of 1807 making all exports from the United States illegal to force Britain and
France to respect American neutrality during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1809, just before Jefferson left office,
Congress replaced the Embargo Act with the Non-Intercourse Act lifting all
embargoes on American shipping except those bound for British and French
ports. In 1810, Madison and Congress
tried to induce Great Britain and France into revoking their trade restriction
edicts by offering to repeal the non-intercourse act. With the onset of war, existing embargoes
expired and Congress issued a new Embargo Act in 1813. The act prohibited
American ships and goods from leaving ports.
Commodities produced in the British Empire were banned. Foreign ships
trading in American ports were not allowed to trade unless 75% of the crew were
citizens of the ship’s flag. Finally, no ransoming of ships was allowed.
Offering a spectacular printing of the 1813 Embargo Act, entitled “An Act laying an Embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States,” 3 pp, 8” x 13 ¾”. This particular copy was designated to the collector of the customs for the District of Gloucester [MA], dated December 17, 1813, approved and signed in type by [President] James Madison, H. [Henry] Clay, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and J.B. Varnum, President pro tempore of the Senate and signed by WILLIAM JONES, Acting Secretary of the Treasury under Madison.
WorldCat records only two copies.
In very small part, the act states “…That an embargo be, and hereby is laid on all ships and vessels in the ports and places within the limits or jurisdiction of the United States…and that no clearance be furnished to any ship or vessel, except vessels in ballast with their necessary sea stores under the immediate direction of the President of the United States; that the President be authorized to give such instructions to the officers of the revenue, and of the navy and of the private armed vessels and, revenue cutters of the United States…
“If any person or persons shall put, place, or load on board any ship, vessel boat, or water craft…any specie, goods, wares, merchandise…to export…within or without the limits of the United States…upon conviction be adjudged guilty of a high misdemeanor and fined a sum by the court before which the conviction is equal to four times the value of such specie…
“The several collectors are authorized in the mean while, and until the cargoes shall have been discharged, or the bond given as aforesaid, to take possession of such vessels, and to take such measures as may be necessary to prevent their departure…
“The President of the United States may authorize the collectors of the customs (when in his opinion it can be done without danger of the embargo being violated, and under such limitations as he may deem expedient) to grant permission to vessels or boats, whose employment has uniformly been confined to the navigation of bays, sounds, rivers or lakes within the jurisdiction of the United States…to take on board at any time such articles of domestic or foreign growth…as may be designated in such permission, bond with one or more sufficient sureties being previously given to the United States by the owner, owners…of such vessel or boat…in an amount equal to three hundred dollars for each ton of the said vessel or boat…
“If any vessel or boat, not having received permission and a bond…shall take on board any article or articles prohibited by this act, such vessel or boat shall moreover…forfeit and pay a sum equal to the value of the vessel or boat and of the cargo put on board…
“The owner or owners of all vessels licensed for fisheries or those bound on a whaling voyage, and having no other cargo than necessary sea stores and the usual fishing tackling apparel, shall give a general bond in four times the value of the vessel and cargo, and that they will not, during the continuance of this act, proceed to any foreign port or place, and will return with their fishing fare to some port or place within the United States…
“That the powers given to the collectors…to refuse permission to put any cargo on board any vessel, boat, or other water craft, to detain any vessel, or to take into their custody any articles for the purpose of preventing violations of the embargo, shall be exercised in conformity with such instructions as the President may give, and such rules as he may prescribe for that purpose…Any person aggrieved by the acts of any collector…may file his petition before the district court…stating the facts of his case…The said court may summarily hear and adjudge thereupon as law and justice may require…If the said court shall adjudge against such petition, the collector shall be entitled to treble costs…
“It shall be lawful for the public and private armed vessels of the United States to capture and seize, on the high seas or elsewhere, any ship or vessel which shall have violated any of the provisions of this act, and to send the same into any port of the United States for adjudication…
“It shall be lawful for, and the duty of all officers of the customs and revenue officers of the United States, and they are hereby enjoined, to examine, search, an effectually ascertain the amount and kinds of articles all such vessels about sailing may have on board, so as to prevent their taking any cargo or other lading, than the stores, provisions, armament, furniture and equipment generally proper and necessary for such vessels…” Much more.
WILLIAM JONES (1760-1831), who signed the document, apprenticed in a shipyard during the Revolutionary War, seeing combat in the battles of Trenton and Princeton and later serving at sea. In the decades that followed, he was a successful merchant in Charleston, SC, and Philadelphia. In 1800, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican. When the War of 1812 was raging, Jones became Secretary of the Navy in January 1813. His policies contributed greatly to a strategy of coastal defense and commerce raiding on the high seas. From May 1813 to February 1814, Jones also served as Acting Secretary of the Treasury and in 1816 was appointed President of the Second Bank of the United States.
Folds, toning with a couple of fold splits repaired with archival tape. A couple trivial stains and chips away from the text. Overall a very fine copy of this historic law enacting this War of 1812 embargo.
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