The East Coast Press and Popular Culture: Impressment
The British navy’s longstanding system of forcing men into service became a major source of contention between Great Britain and the United States after the American Revolution. Refusing to recognize U.S. naturalization, the British navy regularly impressed American sailors who had been born in Great Britain. Tensions between the two nations nearly broke into open warfare in 1807 after the crew of the HMS Leopard attacked the USS Chesapeake just off the coast of Virginia, boarded the American ship, and removed four sailors, three of whom were naturalized American citizens. Opposition to impressment animated public support for Congress’s declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812 and remained a point of focus especially along the Atlantic seaboard, as this New York newspaper article shows. The songbook, also published in New York, praises “Yankee Tars,” a colloquial name for American sailors, and the effort to defend their freedom. From the perspective of many Americans on the east coast, the war remained primarily a naval conflict with Great Britain that was being fought to reaffirm the Revolution’s ideals of independence from British power.