1 Louis Wischnewsky History 170 Prof. Farrington 20 Jul 11 Final Exam Extra Credit: Question One The controversy surrounding Jeffersons proposed Embargo Act had two aspectsinvolving the American economy and a foreign power deliberately placing American citizens inharms way. John Quincy Adams ultimately played a vital role early on in this historical dramathat would later continue to guide American foreign policy roughly 200 years later, with no sightof change in that policy on the horizon. The question of whether or not Madisons War, the Warof 1812 was inevitable should not even need to be asked. Wars should be only fought when allelse fails. The fact this war was fought and yet, the question lingers these 200 plus years laterlargely demonstrates it was not a necessary war. The debate regarding controversy surrounding any potential embargo against Englandduring the Madison administration is whether or not there was only one aspect of thecontroversy, according to members of this class. Some believe the controversy was strictlywhether or not the United States could afford an embargo against England. The problem withthat assessment is that there had to be a reason to create an embargo to begin with and to thatextent, the other aspect of the controversy was American sailors, not to mention American shipsand merchandise being commandeered, were being impressed into military service in Englandsnavy. Impressing those sailors, those citizens, in effect assured American citizens they would bedying in the service of a foreign nation. Part of the controversy could include the Chesapeake –Leopard Affair in which the entire matter rose to a new level when the English sleight againstAmericans entered what was unquestionably American waters, ergo, American territory.
2 It was that event, according to the Profiles in Courage video, that secured John QuincyAdams path into American history, a path that would lead him to forever be a footprint onAmerican foreign policy. A deeper grasp on why sentiments of the time foresaw a Quincy Adamspresidency would require more than this level of study offers. Perhaps his peers did notgenuinely see such a future but used prospects of such a future as a means to prod his ambitionsinto aiding their political agendas. In any case, Adams fathers urging of the junior Adams toavoid conflict with England was of importance in study of the case. Adams senior was trying toassist in securing the youngers presidential ambitions by telling the younger to avoid the scandaltalk of an embargo would create. Yet, at the same time, in an irony of ironies, Adams the elderencourages the younger to cling to the coattails of Thomas Jefferson. Not only had Adams theelder and Jefferson grown apart, philosophically, from their days as Revolutionaries, butJefferson is championing the call for an embargo! Ultimately it is Quincy Adams conscience that causes him to both avoid his fathersadvice and follow his fathers advice: he sides with Jefferson. Now, the big question is whether ornot Quincy Adams joined Jefferson out of ambition or wanting to do what was right. The answerto that question is unequivocally answered in Adams actions throughout the rest of his life.Perhaps what Jackson called Adams “corrupt bargain” could be seen as a moment of moraldarkness for Adams. Even so, he did not violate any rules and merely followed normal protocolwhen it comes to political posturing. The fact of the matter is, Jackson had not garnered, in 1824,a victory according to the rules. He was one electoral vote shy of an absolute victory and thatpredicament demanded that deals be made somewhere. Jackson should have seen this and takenadvantage of the situation. He did not and that was his loss. In any case, Adams made thepeaceful transition of power in the next election, further reflection of his good intentions in theembargo matter, and went on to rail daily in Congress every time matters he deemed
3inappropriate were allowed to pass through the hands of the check of Congress, further evidenceof Adams good nature. While his soul craving to do what was right compelled Adams to join the call for anembargo, it does not answer whether or not the War of 1812 was inevitable. The easy answer,knowing the circumstances surrounding the lead up to the war, is yes, the war was inevitable andthat is how most are going to answer this question. However, such a view ignores the atmosphere of the day and the results of the war. Tostart off with, it was a war between France and England that even created a need, or reason, forEngland to impress sailors or attempt to prevent trade with France. Thats point one that the Warof 1812 was not inevitable. Second, it was Americas hunger for profits that demanded Americanpoliticians do their damnedest to remain neutral. America could have easily sided with Englandremoving all need for England to do what it was doing. America could have committed navalassistance and troops to Englands cause and that would have benefited America two-fold. Pointtwo? It would have stopped impressment of American citizens and it would have garneredprotection of American ships. More far reaching, though, it would have gained Englandsassistance when it came to American conquest of the Southwest later, and thats point three. TheUnited States could have benefited to a good degree by siding with England – three points thatmake it clear war was not inevitable. However, the fourth point is the anchor: the results of thewar. The Treaty of Ghent secured with England, at best, a stalemate. Psychologically it causedAmericans to falsely believe they had somehow brought the worlds superpowers to fear theUnited States. Strangely enough, this event certainly set the groundwork for America to moredirectly step into the realm of superpower status. But that was roughly a decade away. The controversy of the Embargo Act was that Americans had to make a choice betweenprosperity and defending the liberty and lives of individual citizens. John Quincy Adams was
4somehow positioned as the one man that would decide the virtue of the young nation and,following his conscience, put in play events that would soon come to shape American foreignpolicy forever. The War of 1812, Madisons War (since he was the war hawk president clamoringfor the taste of blood at the time), was an avoidable war. The argument might be made that warwas inevitable, but that would be war in general, not this specific war. In any case, these eventsand this war would go on to encourage John Quincy Adams to craft Monroes Doctrine, a policythat remains at the ready of Secretaries of State to this day.