President's Message

John Quincy ADAMS

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ADAMS, John Quincy. President’s Message. IN: National Intelligencer— Extra, December 2, 1828. Washington: [Gales & Seaton], 1828. Broadside sheet of wove stock, measuring 15-1/2 by 21-1/2 inches, printed on recto only.

Probably the earliest newspaper printing of Adams’ last State of the Union Address, in which he acknowledges the unfairness of the famous “Tariff of Abominations,” which all but lost him the presidency.

Adams’ term as president was “a long nightmare, oppressed by a succession of alternately terrible and trivial events, which he seemed powerless to control or avoid” (Brookhiser, 93). Perhaps the last “terrible event” of Adams’ administration was his proposed a high tariff on imported industrial goods, particularly textiles and finished clothing. This bill he thought would protect New England factories, the hub of U.S. industry, from European competitors. Andrew Jackson’s supporters in Congress opposed the tariff but sought to exploit the question in order to embarrass Adams and help Jackson win the presidency in 1828. They framed a bill, which became known as the “Tariff of Abominations,” to “win support for Jackson in Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania while weakening the Adams administration in New England. The bill raised duties on iron, hemp, and flax (which would benefit Westerners), while lowering the tariff on woolen goods (to the detriment of New England textile manufacturers)” (University of Houston). The “Tariff of Abominations” also created a political uproar in the South, where it was denounced as unconstitutional and discriminatory. Southern exporters of raw cotton often took finished goods as partial payment for their crops and the tariff on imported textiles reduced their profits. “The tariff, southerners insisted, was essentially a tax on their region to assist northern manufacturers. South Carolina expressed the loudest outcry against the tariff. At a public meeting in Charleston, protesters declared that a tariff was designed to benefit ‘one class of citizens [manufacturers] at the expense of every other class.’ Some South Carolinians called for revolutionary defiance of the national government” (University of Houston). Adams was met with hostility on all fronts.

In this, Adams’ fourth and last State of the Union Address, he acknowledges the unfairness of the tariff: “The tariff of the last session was in its details not acceptable to the great interests of any portion of the Union, not even to the interest which it was specially intended to subserve. Its object was to balance the burdens upon native industry imposed by the operation of foreign laws, but not to aggravate the burdens of one section of the Union by the relief afforded to another.” But it was too late. Adams’ address was delivered just the day before he learned of his defeat by Andrew Jackson. The ploy had succeeded. John Randolph of Virginia accurately described the object of the 1828 Tariff Bill as an effort to encourage “manufactures of no sort or kind, except the manufacture of a President of the United States.” Not recorded by Shaw & Shoemaker.

Light soiling to top margin, shallow creasing to corners. An extremely good copy. Scarce.

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