Free Trade and Sailors' Rights
In July 1812, Captain David Porter hoisted a white flag, bearing the slogan, "a free trade and sailors' rights," on the mast of the frigate Essex. Under this banner, Porter sailed from New York harbor to a series of spectacular victories against the Royal Navy. But the real power of this banner exists in the political slogan that it became, distilling the meanings of the War of 1812 for many Americans and concentrating the grievances against Great Britain into an easily digestible and repeatable motto. This soundbite not only gave voice to the American republic's ideals of free trade, neutral rights, and a revolutionary regime in foreign affairs, but also spoke of the inalienable rights of American citizens, cutting to the very core of American identity.
Showing results 1-4 of 4
Both privateers and American naval vessels had crews that included white and black Americans as well as men from other countries. Some were experienced sailors; others were ,greenŠ landsmen. Aboard ship there was a rough equality among seamen with African Americans living and serving next to European Americans. Ashore, however, racial prejudice persisted. Read more
As political tensions heightened among Federalists and Republicans at home, relations with Great Britain worsened over the growing American commerce with France and her colonies. Read more
Although ,Free Trade and Sailor‰s RightsŠ is often touted as the motivation for sailors to go to war, there were also mercenary motives. Read more
Americans had reason to cheer the officers and crews of their navy. Although there had been a Continental Navy during the Revolutionary War, the US government had sold its last ship during the 1780s and did not create a new navy until 1794. Read more