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A Time of Conflict
Transcript of A Time of Conflict
American shipping really took off around 1800.
The United States traded with Europe, Africa, South America, and even China.
America also for the first time had a navy- six frigates had been finally been constructed, commissioned during the Washington administration. (For context: at this time Britain had around 200 frigates and 100 ships of the line)
This was also a time of piracy, but not the fun family-friendly Johnny Depp style of piracy.
In order to trade in the Mediterranean, a country had to pay tribute to the Muslim pirates of North Africa known as Barbary Pirates.
If you didn't pay the ransom, your ships would be attacked and the sailors enslaved in pirate galleys. Basically it was blackmail.
The United States paid this tribute at first, but the ruler of Tripoli asked for even more.
When we refused, Tripoli declared war on the United States.
Basically a draw
The U.S. sent its small navy but couldn't defeat the pirates in their home waters.
One nice story- when the ship Philadelphia was seized in 1804, a navy captain named Stephen Decatur slipped into the harbor and burned the ship to keep the pirates from using it.
Other than that though, basically a wash. We ended the war in 1805 after offering to pay 60,000 dollars to get prisoners back.
But wait, there's more!
American trouble on the high seas continued.
Britain and France refused to respect the
of American ships. Britain impressed our sailors while France seized our ships.
Leopard vs Chesapeake
The worst offense came in 1807. A British ship, the
, had the audacity to just sit right outside the Virginia coast and wait for a ship to come by so they could impress its sailors.
An American ship, the
, refused to be boarded. The
then opened fire, killing three Americans.
The nation wanted war. Jefferson refused. Instead he pushed through the Embargo Act, banning exports to ALL foreign countries.
The idea was this would hurt the British and French.
Jefferson also thought this would force Americans to become the happy little farmers he dreamed of- instead it just made everyone poorer.
The British and French didn't really care either.
Election of 1808
While Jefferson left office after the failure of the Embargo Act, the Federalists were still too weak to mount a good challenge.
James Madison defeated Charles Pinckney and we got another Republican president.
Closer to War
In 1810 Congress decided that they would trade again with the first country that lifted its restrictions.
Napoleon jumped first so we started trading with France again. But they still kept capturing our ships because they're jerks.
Hawks vs Doves
The nation was still divided over whether to go to war with Britain. Some, called hawks, wanted war, while others, doves, wanted peace.
Britain made things even worse by selling weapons to natives in the American west.
Finally, in Spring 1812, Madison asked for a Declaration of War against Britain. He got it.
Tomorrow: The War of 1812!
What a naval battle of the time might have looked like....