By Richard Buel
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Additional info for America on the Brink: How the Political Struggle Over the War of 1812 Almost Destroyed the Young Republic
They had little interest in the expansion of European settlement in the West, which the prosperity of the East was underwriting, except as land speculators and as a siphon for relieving the more settled areas of malcontents. Instead, the inner core of New England’s Federalists leaders seemed principally interested in having their ideological anxieties confirmed by Republican behavior. They longed for political vindication. 25 The closest the new president initially came to confirming Federalists fears was to support repeal of the Judiciary Act of 1801, under which Adams had appointed many judges to federal office in the closing hours of his administration, thus depriving these officials of their jobs.
America’s neutral commerce provided an inviting means. In early January 1807, shortly after signing the Monroe-Pinkney treaty, Britain had retaliated against the Berlin Decree with an order issued by the Privy Council that banned neutral shipping from the coastal trade of France and her allies. Napoleon responded in kind by excluding all British products as well as ships from entering the portions of the continent that he controlled. 79 While both powers were escalating their pressure on the commerce of neutrals, Britain precipitated a crisis with the United States by attacking an American frigate.
At the same time word came from France that it no longer regarded the FrancoAmerican Convention of 1800 as exempting United States vessels and their cargoes from the Berlin Decree. 83 This was an alarming prospect for all who recalled that the nation, allied with France, had barely survived the revolutionary war against Britain. Additionally the nation’s merchant marine, scattered as it was across the broad expanse of the world’s oceans, remained helpless hostage to the depredations of potential adversaries.