In all that has been written on the subject of Mr. Jefferson's embargo, one significant aspect remains unquestioned yet always assumed. The embargo of 1808 has invariably been described for better or worse and from beginning to end as Thomas Jefferson's embargo. Whether the third president is characterized as a pacifist or tyrant, whether the purpose is to analyze effects on American trade, manufacturing, politics, urban centers, or individuals, the presence of Jefferson is always felt. For Louis M. Sears, in search of an historical Wilson, the embargo was a sublime experiment, “the matured policy of a lifelong hatred for war”; for Leonard Levy, who finds a darker side, it was the “plan of an idealist trapped.” Both relate peaceful coercion directly to Jefferson's philosophical frame of mind. Though one applauds and the other condemns, both find Jefferson in the...

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