Impressment of American Seamen

Sovereignty Attacked

This engraving, showing a Royal Navy boarding party forcibly removing sailors from an American ship, portrays a major American grievance against Britain. In the years prior to the outbreak of war, the British had infringed upon American sovereignty by stopping and boarding American vessels at sea to search for sailors who could be impressed into (compelled to join) the Royal Navy. British naval boarding parties frequently encountered former Britons who had immigrated to the United States. They refused to recognize the naturalized citizenship of these Americans and treated them as if they were still British subjects.

Impressment of American Seamen
Engraving by unknown artist, 1884
Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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