JEFFERSON’S FINAL STATE OF THE UNION MESSAGE, 1808, A SCARCE BROADSIDE PRINTED ONLY ONE WEEK AFTER ITS DELIVERY TO CONGRESS, ISSUED AT THE HEIGHT OF THE EMBARGO CRISIS, “HIS BITTEREST TRIAL” IN A NATION DIVIDED WITH TALK OF SECESSION
JEFFERSON, Thomas. [Eighth Annual Message to Congress]. Agreeably to appointment, the following Message was this day communicated to both Houses of Congress by the President: The Message To the Senate and House of Representatives of the U. States. IN: The Farmer’s Cabinet-Extra. Amherst, New Hampshire: Tuesday, November 15, 1808. Original folio sheet of laid paper printed in four columns on recto only (12 by 19 inches), uncut. $4800.
Very early public printing of Jefferson’s eighth and final State of the Union Address, the first to be delivered not in person but in writing only-a key document expressing Jefferson’s failure in the Embargo Crisis that tested a nation-this scarce folio printing published only one week after its delivery to Congress, printed as an “Extra” to the November 15, 1808 edition of the Amherst, New Hampshire weekly, The Farmer’s Cabinet, and signed in type “TH: Jefferson.”
In mid-1807 the British H.M.S. Leopard drew alongside the U.S.S. Chesapeake and demanded to impress any deserters. Upon refusal, the Leopard “poured three broadsides into the American warship and rendered her helpless… News of this insult to the flag brought the first united expression of American feeling since 1798,” and Jefferson “could have had war at the drop of a hat.” Instead he chose a new path. “For years Jefferson had been wanting an opportunity to try commercial exclusion as a substitute for war. The moment had arrived. A private word to the faithful in Congress, and in one day, 22 December 1807, it passed the Embargo Act” (Morison, 372-3). Yet Jefferson’s bold plan “did not bring England and France to their knees. In one year it destroyed 80% of all American trade and brought on the worst depression since the Revolution. At the same time, it was widely ignored by Americans” (Randall, 580). “New England became so hostile to the Embargo-Jefferson later described her as four dead states hanging on the body politic-secession talk flourished” and there were even rumors of some “secretly negotiating with British agents to effect a separation” (Brodie, 420). Henry Adams notes that amidst this national fury, the “‘loss of popularity was Jefferson’s bitterest trial… In the past, Jefferson felt that those who opposed him (and therefore opposed the people) were either malicious plotters or their dupes. But that became a difficult thing to maintain during the Embargo crisis” (Wills, Henry Adams, 240).
In this final State of the Union Message, written in consultation with Vice-President Madison and Secretary of the Treasury Gallatin, “the most important thing the President had to report was that a ‘candid and liberal experiment’ had failed… Jefferson himself, minimizing divisiveness, was claiming that the Embargo had demonstrated to the citizenry ‘the necessity of uniting in support of the laws and rights of their country” (Malone, 619n, 630). His embattled legislation nevertheless stood until, “to Jefferson’s great mortification, what he described as a ‘panic’ swept through Congress in March 1809” and the Embargo was repealed just before he left office, costing “the new Madison administration most of its bargaining power” and a fresh seizure of American ships. “By the time Madison declared war in 1812, over 6,000 men had been impressed and almost a 1,000 ships taken” by the British (Brodie, 420). “In view of these later events Jefferson’s final Message may be said to have marked the end of his presidential leadership” (Malone, 621).
In this final Message to Congress, Jefferson additionally reshaped presidential tradition by delivering it in writing rather than in person. It was a model that remained unchallenged until the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. This scarce Farmer’s Cabinet-Extra appears in the same format and only one day after its appearance in the Boston Gazette; preceded by the November 8 broadside printings by the National Intelligencer, Gazette and other newspapers (Shaw & Shoemaker 15689). With two advertisements and one notice in the final column. NAIP shows no listings for this Farmer’s Cabinet printing; OCLC shows one copy. See Shaw & Shoemaker 16472-3.
Faint creasing, light edge-wear to this scarce, very early, near fine copy of a major presidential document in early American history.