Macon's Bill Number 2

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Macon's Bill Number 2[1], which became law in the United States on May 1, 1810, was intended to motivate Britain and France to stop seizing American vessels during the Napoleonic Wars. This bill was a revision of the original bill by Representative Nathaniel Macon, known as Macon's Bill Number 1. The law lifted all embargoes with Britain or France. If either one of the two countries stopped attacks upon American shipping, the United States would cease trade with the other, unless that country agreed to recognize the rights of the neutral American ships as well.

Napoleon immediately saw a chance to exploit this bill in order to further his Continental Plan, a form of economic warfare he believed would destroy Britain's economy. A message was sent to the United States, stating the rights of the American merchant ships as neutral carriers would be recognized. President James Madison, a staunch opponent of the bill, grudgingly accepted Napoleon's offer. However, Napoleon had no intention of ever following through on his promise, and Madison soon realized this as well, ignoring the French promise. The British were still highly offended by the agreement and threatened force, thus motivating Napoleon to withdraw altogether. Still, the damage had been done and soon the U.S. and Britain were entangled in the War of 1812 due to the continued harassment of American ships and escalated tensions between the United States and the nations of Europe.

A general consensus among historians is that this bill was effectively useless, as it was quickly seen that the European economies played upon the weaknesses this bill created. As a result, the bill's parameters were never enforced, due to Madison's correct interpretation of France's deviation. Macon's Bill Number 2 responded to the ineffectiveness of the Non-Intercourse Act and the Embargo Act before it.

Ironically, Macon did not vote in favor of the finished draft of the bill.

Notes

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