Make It Stop: Three Times When American Commerce Stopped

In previous episodes, we’ve looked at stocks, water commerce, railroad commerce and retail commerce and the growth of commerce generally, along with inventors and inventions.  The growth of commerce has from the very beginning of U.S. history, created a thing to be managed.   And sometimes stopped.

Americans are a bit more familiar with the stopping of commerce under social distancing, closings and lockdowns as a result of COVID-19 than they might have been when we aired this episode in 2019.

In the fourth of a series on American commerce, a look at three instances of when U.S. commerce was stopped, for a variety of reasons – from an offensive war effort, to a bid for peace, to a management of peacetime.  And we look at the effects of those interventions.

  • The Embargo of 1807: Jefferson annoys the northeast by shutting down crucial Maritime Industries.
  • Woodrow Wilson and his Treasury Secretary William Gibbs McAdoo took over the trains during world war II and shut down half the Auto Industry.
  • Nixon took over free-market pricing with a wage and price freeze in the 1970’s.

The embargo of 1807 is an important part of the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson, not often examined in detailed compared to other events. It brought serious economic problems, but was held up by Jefferson as an experiment by a peaceful power. We also examine his Treasury Secretary Gallatin, who had to implement the plan. We also look at Wilson’s railroad takeover and Nixon’s wage price board.

Drawing by Fred S. Cozzens published in 1897.Die Chesapeake-Leopard-Affaire