JEFFERSON, Thomas. Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson") as President to Samuel Harrison Smith (1772-1845), publisher of the Intelligencer, Monticello, 13 September 1808. 1 page, 4to, light dampstain to left-hand portion. Matted and framed with the following in an eleborate hinged, giltwood frame. [With:] JEFFERSON. Autograph FREE FRANK as President ("free Th: Jefferson Pr. U.S.") on portion of address leaf addressed by Jefferson to Smith at Washington College, remains of seal, recipient's docket. (2)
JEFFERSON TURNS TO THE PRESS TO DEFEND HIS UNPOPULAR EMBARGO ACT
Four days earlier, Smith, proprietor of the Washington Intelligencer (a staunch supporter of the Jefferson administration), forwarded to the President various petitions from Massachusetts in opposition to the Embargo Act. Jefferson responded, defending the utility and necessity of the act and predicting it would succeed if allowed adequate time to work. Subsequently, his critics submitted a rebuttal to Jefferson's defense. Again, Jefferson obligingly penned a riposte to that communication, which he herewith sends to Smith: "I troubled you by the last post with an answer to the positions against the embargo. I now enclose the copy [not present] of an answer to the counter-addresses, which being not likely to be so numerous. I will pray you print me 50 copies to send them by the post which will leave Washington on Monday the 19th inst. I salute you with esteem and respect..."
The Embargo Act was Jefferson's attempt to find a means short of war to obtain concessions from the two warring powers, France and Great Britain. It was intended to exert significant commercial pressure on both belligerants by denying them certain raw materials and manufactured goods usually purchased from the U.S. And, while it was in effect for too short a time to have acheived its foreign policy aims, it created significant hardships for New England's manufacturing and shipping trades and aroused vehement opposition. In spite of Jefferson's valiant efforts to defend his policy, opposition continued to grow and he was disappointed and humiliated when Congress overturned the embargo just prior to his departure from office.
Philadelphia-born Samuel H. Smith (1772-1845), a banker, came to Jefferson's attention in 1797 with an essay presenting a plan for free public schools. From 1796, Smith was the publisher of an anti-Federalist paper, the Independent Gazetteer, and in 1800 purchased a Washington newspaper, the National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser. "His admiration for Jefferson, whom he often pronounced the greatest man in America, was unbounded, and he warmly advocated every measure which Jefferson proposed" (DAB). The National Intelligencer became the official organ of Jefferson's administration, and issued much of Congress's job printing. Smith and his wife (an unredeemed Federalist) frequently visited Jefferson at Monticello and the White House. In 1803, Smith's paper was the first to publish the text of the Louisiana Purchase Treaty (see lot 130).