impressment

/im pres"meuhnt/, n.
the act of impressing people or property into public service or use.
[1780-90; IMPRESS2 + -MENT]

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Enforcement of military or naval service on unwilling men.

Until the early 19th century, it flourished in port towns everywhere, as "recruiters" searched through waterfront boardinghouses, brothels, and taverns. They often chose vagabonds or prisoners. Impressed men were forced into service through violence or coercion and were held to their duty by brutal discipline. In the early 19th century, Royal Navy ships halting U.S. vessels to search for British deserters frequently impressed naturalized U.S. citizens, one cause of the War of 1812. Impressment declined in the 19th century as states adopted more systematic recruiting methods. See also conscription.

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▪ forced recruitment
also called  crimping 

      enforcement of military or naval service on able-bodied but unwilling men through crude and violent methods. Until the early 19th century this practice flourished in port towns throughout the world. Generally impressment could provide effective crews only when patriotism was not an essential of military success. Impressed men were held to their duty by uncompromising and brutal discipline, although in war they seem to have fought with no less spirit and courage than those who served voluntarily.

      The “recruiters” preyed to a great extent upon men from the lower classes who were, more often than not, vagabonds or even prisoners. Sources of supply were waterfront boardinghouses, brothels, and taverns whose owners victimized their own clientele. In the early 19th century the Royal Navy would halt U.S. vessels to search for British deserters and in the process would not infrequently impress naturalized American citizens who were on board. This practice was among the grievances that helped bring about the War of 1812.

      Through the 19th century there was a gradual decline in the practice of impressment. As the manpower needs of the military continued to increase, more systematic methods of recruitment became necessary.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Impressment — (colloquially, the Press or press ganging ) is the act of conscripting people to serve in the military or navy, usually by force and without notice. It was used by the Royal Navy, beginning in 1664 and during the 18th and early 19th centuries, in …   Wikipedia

  • Impressment — Im*press ment ([i^]m*pr[e^]s ment), n. The act of seizing for public use, or of impressing into public service; compulsion to serve; as, the impressment of provisions or of sailors. [1913 Webster] The great scandal of our naval service… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • impressment — index abduction, attachment (seizure), compulsion (coercion), distress (seizure), duress, force …   Law dictionary

  • impressment — (n.) 1796, act of impressing into service, from IMPRESS (Cf. impress) (v.) + MENT (Cf. ment) …   Etymology dictionary

  • impressment — [im pres′mənt] n. [ IMPRESS1 + MENT] the practice or act of impressing men or property for the use or service of the public …   English World dictionary

  • impressment — A power possessed by the English crown of taking persons or property to aid in the defense of the country, with or without the consent of the persons concerned. It is usually exercised to obtain hands for the royal ships in time of war, by taking …   Black's law dictionary

  • impressment — noun /ɪmˈpɹɛsmənt/ The act of seizing for public use; impressing into public service. A month later the governors of six more states, meeting in conference, enigmatically urged the impressment of slaves for “the public service as may be… …   Wiktionary

  • impressment — Forcing into service, particularly public service or military service. The seizure of seafaring men for compulsory service in the navy. The power to impress seamen appears to have had a common law origin, but even the early English statutes… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • impressment — noun Date: 1787 the act of seizing for public use or of impressing into public service …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • impressment — Synonyms and related words: abduction, angary, annexation, annexure, attachment, call, call up, collectivization, commandeering, communalization, communization, compulsory military service, confiscation, conscription, crimping, distraint,… …   Moby Thesaurus

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