A Blow to Our Honor

The HMS Leopard fired broadsides into an American warship… about to conduct a diplomatic transport.  Three American sailors were killed and 18 wounded, including Commodore James Barron.  An overt act of war carried out to apprehend four Royal Navy deserters, only one of which was a British subject.  American citizens were abducted and eventually received corporal punishment.  The British Captain ignored Barron’s overtures and humiliated the Americans thoroughly.

June 22, 1807- Act of War

June 22, 1807- Act of War

President Thomas Jefferson remarked… “Never since the Battle of Lexington have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present, and even that did not produce such unanimity.” 


James Madison drafted the official US response- honor was at stake…

  • England disavow the action- an apology was preferred
  • British warships must leave American territorial waters
  • Four abducted America sailors be returned
  • British government pay restitution for damages
  • Royal Navy stop impressing sailors from ships under the US flag
  • Admiral George Berkeley, the Royal Navy’s North American commander, be recalled
Embargo folly

Embargo folly

King George III was slow to respond to any American demands… The Jefferson administration responded with the Embargo Act of 1807- an economic disaster.  James Madison inherited the diplomatic quagmire in 1809.  President Madison, who had drafted the American demands as Secretary of State, still saw them as pending…. For President Madison, the Chesapeake/Leopard affair had not been resolved.


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