Research Subjects: Government & Politics


 


United States. Macon's Bill, Number 2. 1 May 1810  

By Tom Holmberg

Introduction         

Following the rejection of the Erskine Agreement (which would have withdrawn the British Orders in Council) by the British government, Congress established a select committee, chaired by Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, to draft a law in response. The Non-Intercourse Act of March 1809, which had replace the Embargo Act of 1807, had failed to achieve its purpose of influencing the two warring nations by economic sanctions. Macon's Bill, No. 2 (which satisfied neither Macon, who disowned the bill, nor President Madison), enacted by the United States Congress on May 1, 1810, repealed the Non-Intercourse Act (which was due to expire anyway), forbade British or French warships from entering American waters.  It also gave the President the authority to suspend trade with either Britain or France if the other revoked its policy of interdicting American trade. The removal of all restrictions on American trade was extremely favorable to Britain, but President Madison, who found the bill "submissive and degrading in spirit," put the best face on it by hoping that France might be so induced to revoke her trade restrictions.

An Act concerning the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France, and their dependencies, and for other purposes

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That from and after the passage of this act, no British or French armed vessels shall be permitted to enter the harbors or waters under the jurisdiction of the United States; but every British and French armed vessel is hereby interdicted, except when they shall be forced in by distress, by the dangers of the sea, or when charged with despatches or business from their government, or coming as a public packet for the conveyance of letters; in which cases, as well as in all others, when they shall be permitted to enter, the commanding officer shall immediately report his vessel to the collector of the district, stating the object or causes of his entering the harbors or waters of the United States; and shall take such position therein as shall be assigned him by such collector, and shall conform himself, his vessel and crew, to such regulations respecting health, repairs, supplies, stay, intercourse and departure, as shall be signified to him by the said collector, under the authority and directions of the President of the United States, and, not conforming thereto, shall be required to depart from the United States.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That all pacific intercourse with any interdicted foreign armed vessels, the officers or crew thereof, is hereby forbidden, and if any person shall afford any aid to such armed vessel either in repairing her, or in furnishing her, her officers or crew with supplies of any kind or in any manner whatsoever, or if any pilot shall assist in navigating the said armed vessel, contrary to this prohibition, unless for the purpose of carrying her beyond the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, the person or persons so offending shall be liable to be bound to their good behavior, and shall moreover forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding two thousand dollars, to be recovered upon indictment or information, in any court of competent jurisdiction; one moiety thereof to the treasury of the United States, and the other moiety to the person who shall give information and prosecute the same to effect: Provided, that if the prosecution shall be by a public officer the whole forfeiture shall accrue to the treasury of the United States.

SEC. 3. And be it further enacted, That all the penalties and forfeitures which may have been incurred under the act, entitled "An Act to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies, and for other purposes," and also all the penalties and forfeitures which may have been incurred under the act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States, or under any of the several acts supplementary thereto, or to enforce the same, or under the acts to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies, and for other purposes, shall be recovered and distributed, and may be remitted in the manner provided by the said acts respectively, and in like manner as if the said acts had continued in full force and effect.

SEC. 4. And be it further enacted, That in case either Great Britain or France shall, before the third day of March next, so revoke or modify her edicts as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States, which fact the President of the United States shall declare by proclamation, and if the other nation shall not within three months thereafter so revoke or modify her edicts in like manner, then the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, and eighteenth sections of the act, entitled "An act to interdict the commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain and France and their dependencies, and for other purposes," shall, from and after the expiration of three months from the date of the proclamation aforesaid, be revived and have full force and effect, so far as relates to the dominions, colonies and dependencies, and to the articles the growth, produce or manufacture of the dominions, colonies, and dependencies of the nation thus refusing or neglecting to revoke or modify her edicts in the manner aforesaid. And the restrictions imposed by this act shall, from the date of such proclamation, cease and be discontinued in relation to the nation revoking or modifying her decrees in the manner aforesaid.

APPROVED, MAY 1, 1810.

Bibliography

U. S. Statutes at Large vol. II, p. 605-6.

 

Placed on the Napoleon Series: Apirl 2003

 

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