Norfolk: Historic Southern Port

By Thomas J. Wertenbaker; Marvin W. Schlegel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE
Coercion--Peaceful and Otherwise

From the opening of the European war in 1792, the West Indian trade and the American carrying trade to Europe was seriously hampered by the belligerents. Although the French and Spaniards were glad to have the ships of Boston, New York, or Norfolk supply their islands with provisions and lumber and carry off molasses and rum, now that the British frigates had made the sea so unsafe for their own shipping, they were on the alert to break up any trade between the United States and the British West Indies. Their cruisers and privateers roved in Caribbean waters ready to pounce upon any vessel headed for Jamaica, or Antigua, or Nevis. So early as January, 1795, the Happy Return, belonging to John Calvert of Norfolk, was captured by the French schooner Resolution and sent as a prize to Charleston.1llowing the X. Y. Z. affair French seizures became so frequent as to bring ruin to many American shippers. "Our merchants have been plundered of many millions," complained the Norfolk Herald, in January, 1801. "In this town claims against the French are . . . in all about $2,000,000." A year later the principal sufferers organized to petition Congress for relief, and to correspond with victims elsewhere.2

The treaty of September, 1800, with Napoleon did not end the French depredations. In December, 1802, when the schooner Maria, of Norfolk, was at anchor at Tobago, a boatload of sailors from the French frigate La Badine, boarded her and took her out to sea.3 In

____________________
1
Norfolk Herald, Feb. 28, 1795.
2
Ibid., Jan. 28, 1802.
3
Ibid., Jan. 29, 1803.

-95-

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