Tuesday, August 8, 2006


George Cockburn
Admiral George Cockburn:
Dressed to Impress

If you really want to impress someone, then you should kidnap them and force them to serve as a sailor in your Navy. At least, that was the theory of the British Royal Navy, whose practice of impressment of American citizens was one of the causes leading to the War of 1812.

The British policy of impressment stemmed in part from the war they were involved in with France. A shortage of manpower led to them seeking other methods of conscription, and eventually they began boarding American merchant ships and conscripting ("impressing") the individuals they captured into service. Arguably, they were only reclaiming British subjects, but since they didn't recognize naturalization in America, they often took former Brits who were now true American citizens. As you can imagine, the Americans were unimpressed with this logic, leading to the aforementioned War of 1812.

Generally impressment was practiced on people who already had experience as sailors, but occasionally unexperienced individuals might be used as well.

Note: I am uncertain as to whether Admiral Cockburn (pictured) actually was involved in the practice of Impressment, but his involvement in the War of 1812 is enough cause to pick on him for me.

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