Andrew Miller and his Eagles - American Citizens, British Subjects and Rights in the ImpressmentControversy
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
In 1812 impressment was left as the implied cause for the outbreak of war between Britain and the United States of America. Scholars have focused on how impressment was involved in diplomacy. There remains, however, a lack of investigation into the justification of impressment. This dissertation explores the impressment of Americans by the Royal Navy and the resulting fallout. The research will focus on one group in particular: naturalised American citizens. The aim is to show that the conflict over impressment stemmed from Britain and America possessing different conceptualisations of citizenship and rights. The dissertation examines the history of impressment in Britain and the doctrine of indefeasible allegiance together with American arguments against the doctrine. This research is based on the correspondence of politicians, treatises, laws and secondary scholarship. Using these sources a narrative of diplomacy and rights will be constructed. Upon the examination of the evidence it becomes clear that American claims about the unjustness of the impressment of naturalised American citizens are wrong. While there was a dispute if naturalisation could occur, the fact is that the American government loudly disputed the British right to reclaim a large number of naturalised sailors when by the laws of America these sailors were not naturalised.