JEFFERSON, Thomas and James MADISON, Presidents. Document signed ("Th: Jefferson") as President and ("James Madison") as Secretary of State, Washington, D.C., 19 April 1808. 1 page, large folio, 400 x 257mm., on paper watermarked "J Whatman 1806," large circular papered Great Seal of the U.S., three tiny holes at fold intersections, one catching a letter, but in excellent condition.
ENFORCING THE EMBARGO IN NEW ENGLAND: A PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION TO CONTROL "INSURRECTIONS AGAINST THE AUTHORITY OF THE LAWS OF THE UNITED STATES"
Jefferson's Embargo Act attempted to secure the benefits of war through peaceful economic sanctions. In their struggle against Napoleon, the Allies had closed French ports to American merchant ships; France, in turn, barred American vessels from ports under Allied control, thus denying American vessels the protection of neutrality. Jefferson's response, the Embargo Act passed by Congress on 22 December 1807, endeavored to withhold from the belligerents raw materials and finished goods normally purchased from the United States. It produced a decline in American exports estimated at 75 and a decline in imports of some 50 with powerful economic repercussions, particularly in New England, which possessed a well-developed manufacturing economy. A considerable illicit trade developed along the water route down Lake Champlain and the Richelieu and St. Lawrence rivers (Canada was a natural market for the exports of New England, and there had long been a considerable trade in lumber, potash, provisions, and other commodities). Alarmed by reports of armed resistance to the embargo on Lake Champlain and concerned that civil and military authorities were conniving in its violation, Jefferson issued the present proclamation:
"Whereas information has been received that sundry persons are combined...on lake Champlain and the Country thereto adjacent for the purposes of forming insurrections against the authority of the laws of the United States...and that such combinations are too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings, or by the powers vested in the Marshals by the laws of the Untied States...Now... that this authority of the laws may be maintained and...those concerned ...in any insurrection or combination...may be duly warned, I have issued this my Proclamation, hereby commanding such insurgents... instantly and without delay to disperse and retire peacably...And I ...command all officers...and all other persons civil or military... within the vicinage of such insurrections or combinations, to be aiding and assisting by all the means in their power, by force of arms or otherwise, to quell and subdue such insurrections or combinations, to seize upon all...who shall not...disperse and retire...and to deliver them over to the civil authority...to be proceeded against according to law."
"Several weeks later, the governors of Vermont and New York issued the Proclamation, and each dispatched a small body of militia men to the Lake Champlain district...St. Albans, Vermont afterwards passed resolutions that denied the need for the militia since there was no insurrection. There was nothing more, they claimed, than individual evasions of the embargo..." Defiance of the embargo continued in spite of the threatening language of the proclamation: "Jefferson himself seems to have recognized that it [the Proclamation] was a mistake." (D. Malone, Jefferson the President, p.587) Resigned to the prospect that the northern trade could not be sealed off, Jefferson turned his attention instead to the coastal trade. In the end, in spite of his diligent efforts, opposition mounted, and just before leaving office Jefferson agreed to the relaxation of some of the Embargo's strictures and the passage of the Non-Intercourse Act.
Presidential proclamations are extremely rare. Published in Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1907, 1:450-451. Provenance: B. Altman -- The present owner.