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The Embargo Act of 1807 was an effort by President Thomas Jefferson to keep the United States out of European wars that had been waged since 1803. In Europe, Napoleon was sweeping across the continent, and almost every European power was aligned against France. Initially, the United States sought to continue trade with Europe, but France and Britain refused to acknowledge the United States' neutrality.
Soon, Britain began attacking US merchant ships and impressing United States merchant sailors into the British navy.
In an effort to limit United States involvement in the European conflicts, Jefferson decided to close United States ports to all foreign trade. Instead of engaging with Europe, Jefferson essentially withdrew.
His effort to remain neutral in the face of European warfare was noble but ultimately failed to accomplish his goal. Not only did American traders flout the blockade by smuggling goods in and out of the United States, but before his presidency ended Jefferson reluctantly rescinded the embargo and allowed trade between the United States and all other foreign countries excluding Britain and France.
==Why did France and Britain interfere with American trading ships at sea?==
[[File:Shannon_Chesapeake.jpeg|thumbnail|left|250px|The HMS Shannon and the USS Chesapeake by W. Elmes, 1813]]
During the conflict between Britain and France, the United States remained neutral. President Thomas Jefferson wanted to maintain the United States' neutrality
in order to continue trading with Europe. Over the next four years, tensions with Britain and France ramped up as both countries refused to honor the US's neutral status. Both countries boarded American merchant ships, impressed sailors, and searched their cargo.
By 1807, the British had become increasingly bold and attacked an American Navy ship, the USS Chesapeake, just of the coast of Virginia. The British ship was allegedly looking for British deserters, but this was part of Britain's effort to harass American shipping. Britain had already banned the United States from trading with France and its colonies.