Macon's Bill No. 2 (1810)


Temporarily reversed Jeffersonian commercial policy and allowed trade with the warring states of England and France.

Passed into law May 1,1810, following the failed Embargo of 1807 and the expiration of the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, Macon’s Bill No. 2 attempted to influence the policies of France and Britain. The measure continued the Jeffersonian policy of threatening to sever economic relations to force these nations to respect U.S. neutrality and shipping rights on the high seas. Sponsored by Republican Representative Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, the bill lifted all restrictions on trade with France and England and promised to only bar war ships from American ports. It also stated that if either belligerent ended its restrictions against U.S. commerce before March 3, 1811, the president could authorize the resumption of noninter-course against the nation that refused to change its policy within three months of the first country’s declaration to end its restrictions against American shipping.

The bill enabled Napoleon Bonaparte to manipulate American policy to his own advantage, and it increased tensions between the United States and England. On November 1,1810, Napoleon officially revoked the Berlin and Milan decrees that blockaded England and authorized the seizure of U.S. ships that refused to trade with France. According to the provisions of the bill, England was to revoke its restrictions by February 1, 1811. Although British officials did issue licenses to American ships to enter English ports, Parliament’s unwillingness to officially renounce the Orders in Council that blockaded continental Europe forced the United States to reimpose nonintercourse against Britain. Even though Napoleon continued to seize American ships in French ports in violation of Macon’s Bill No. 2, the actions of the British Navy proved more threatening and more damaging to U.S. shipping and neutrality and furthered the divide that resulted in the War of 1812.

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