ELLERY, William (1727-1820), Signer (Rhode Island). Autograph letter signed (''Wm Ellery Coll.'') to District Attorney Ray Greene, ''Coll[ecto]rs Office Port of Newport,'' 10 May 1794. 2 full pages, 4to, integral address leaf in Ellery's hand, remains of wax seal.
ELLERY, William (1727-1820), Signer (Rhode Island). Autograph letter signed ("Wm Ellery Coll.") to District Attorney Ray Greene, "Coll[ecto]rs Office Port of Newport," 10 May 1794. 2 full pages, 4to, integral address leaf in Ellery's hand, remains of wax seal.
ENFORCING THE FIRST EMBARGO. In response to British orders in council which threatened the new nation's growing maritime trade, Congress had passed the nation's first embargo, against Britain, in March. Predictably, it proved difficult to enforce, as illustrated by Ellery's account of two merchant vessels that elected to defy the act. Ellery quotes instructions from Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, informing him that "'The case stated...with regard to certain vessels which violated the law laying an embargo, ought to be reported to the District Attorney in order that he may judge whether the parties are indictable for disobeying an injunction of the Law...'" Accordingly, Ellery informs Greene that two vessels have recently sailed from Newport "for foreign Parts." Before they sailed, Ellery had ordered them boarded and informed of the law. In addition, Ellery recounts, "I read the act laying an embargo to them, told them that they might return to Providence, and particularly pointed out to them, that if they should proceed [to defy the embargo]...and be captured and condemned, they could not expect that government of the Union would endeavor to procure an indemnification. They concluded to return to Providence and in a few days weighed anchor, stood up the bay, and with a seeming intention to return thither [to Providence], but as soon as they gained the North...pushed through the passage and went to sea..." Ellery supplies particulars of both vessels and their merchant owners in Providence.
The nation's first experiment with an embargo was allowed to lapse after 60 days, and did little to discourage subsequent, more drastic British restrictions on American merchant trading vessels. This continuing infringement culminated, 13 years later, in Jefferson's sweeping and ultimately disastrous Embargo Act of 1807.