The Impressment Treaty


The United States and Britain



France and Britain, Europe’s two most powerful nations, had battled almost continuously since 1793, and their warfare directly affected American trade. Hostilities began during the French Revolution (1789-1799) when England joined other European nations in an unsuccessful attempt to restore the French monarchy, and then continued as Britain led the efforts to stop French expansion under Napoleon I. American presidents from Washington to Madison tried to keep the United States impartial during these conflicts, but both France and Britain flagrantly disregarded the rights of neutral countries.

For the Americans, the greatest irritant was Britain’s practice of impressment, or the seizure of American seamen for service in the British navy. The British government claimed that it only seized subjects of the Crown who sailed under the American flag to avoid wartime service in their own navy. In fact, the British seized not only their own deserters, but also impressed a sizeable number of United States citizens—estimates suggest 6000 or more.

Public outrage over the issue of impressment grew increasingly vocal and some resolution was demanded.

A Treaty was proposed and according to Madison was concluded.

Here, he discusses the treaty in detail. The treaty was finally rejected and the resolution required the Declaration of the War of 1812.