Lesson 3: Britain, Napoleon, and the American Embargo, 1803–1808

Foreign policy continued to dominate American political concerns between 1800 and 1807. In 1803 war once again broke out between France and Great Britain, and American commercial interests once more became a target for both countries. This lesson will examine the ways in which these countries challenged American neutrality during the Thomas Jefferson administration. By looking at government documents, civic toasts, and newspaper reports students will explore American interpretations of European actions, as well as the logic behind the decision to employ a retaliatory embargo.

Guiding Questions

Was an embargo the best means of addressing European depredations on American shipping? Were there other feasible options?

Learning Objectives

Identify European attacks on American neutral rights

Articulate the logic behind the Embargo Act of 1807

Assess the arguments for and against the application of the embargo