• "The Misfortune to Get Pressed:" The Impressment of American Seamen and the Ramifications on the United States, 1793-1812

      Urwin, Gregory J. W., 1955-; Waldstreicher, David; Glasson, Travis; Taylor, Alan, 1955- (Temple University. Libraries, 2015)
      The impressment of American seamen by the Royal Navy was one of the most serious dilemmas faced by the United States during the early republic. Thousands of American citizens were forced into British naval service between 1793 and 1812. This dissertation uses a wide-variety of sources including seamen’s letters, newspapers, almshouse records, US Navy officer’s correspondence, and diplomatic communiqués, to demonstrate the widespread impact impressment had on American society. A sizable database on impressed Americans was created for this dissertation. The database was instrumental in some of this work’s most important theses. Drawing on an array of sources, such as newspaper reports, seamen appeals, and State Department reports, the database contains detailed information on thousands of men. Far more Americans were pressed in the Royal Navy than previously believed. While historians have long accepted that New England suffered most from impressment, in fact it was the mid-Atlantic states that lost the most mariners to the Royal Navy. Southern states were also impacted by impressment far more than anybody has realized. Seaman abductions profoundly affected American domestic, foreign, and naval affairs. Impressment influenced American culture and played a role in the African slavery debate of the early republic. Impressment also exacted a heavy toll on waterfront communities as wives and children struggled to adjust to life during the prolonged absence of the primary wage earner. Although the federal government attempted repeatedly to either legislate or negotiate a resolution to the impressment issue, all efforts were in vain. When James Madison prepared to lead the United States to war against Great Britain in 1812, the belligerence of impressment figured largely in his decision, as well as in Congressional support for war. Impressment has often been viewed as an issue of minor importance, confined largely to New England. In actuality, impressment was a national concern that impinged on a myriad of issues during the early American republic.