Historic Broadside Act Signed in Print “Th; Jefferson” Titled “An act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States.” of January 9, 1808
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(THOMAS JEFFERSON) (1743-1826). Third President of the United States (1801-1809), Principle Author of the Declaration of Independence. (Signature in Printed Text.)
January 9, 1808-Dated, Printed Broadside Act of Congress, Signed within its printed text, “Th; Jefferson” (not hand-signed), 1 page, measuring 8” x 13”, Washington, Fine. This being An Act Supplementary to the Act entitled, “An act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbors of the United States.” It is well printed in black ink on laid period paper, its full huge original margins on all four sides, previously folded for mailing, two small burn holes located in the lower left column each affecting a few words of text as shown, and has some very fine virtually invisible archival reinforcement of some folds on its clean blank reverse. This historic Broadside bears the names of Joseph B. Varnum, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; George Clinton, Vice President of the United States and President of the U.S. Senate; and Thomas Jefferson as President. This Broadside announces the first of several supplementary Acts to the Embargo. It is passed by the Congress on January 8, 1808, whereby this Act addressed a loophole in the 1807 Embargo Act that had exempted coastal fishing and whaling vessels, that subsequently turned out to be circumventing the Act by trading with Great Britain, primarily through Canada. The supplementary act was primarily concerned with the bonding of coastal as well as river vessels. Those violating the law would be liable to suffer severe penalties, including potential forfeiture of their ship and cargo, or a fine double the value of both!
This Act also removed the “Warship” exemption from Privateers and/or vessels with a Letter of Marque, and it set fines and procedures for the seizure for foreign ships loading cargo for export. In March 1808, a second supplementary act was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Jefferson, which prohibited all exports, by either sea or land. Despite the embargo and its supplementary acts, many American shippers ignored the unpopular measure, while protests against the act steadily increased. Thomas Jefferson in March 1809, shortly before leaving the presidency, signed legislation repealing the embargo. During the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted from 1803 to 1815, Britain and France imposed trade restrictions in order to weaken each other's economies. The United States declared neutrality and did not support either country. Despite its neutral stance, United States trade was disrupted by the restrictions imposed by Britain and France.
As time went on, harassment by the British of American ships increased. This included impressment and seizures of American men and goods. The volatile situation came to a head with the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair, in which the British ship HMS Leopard pursued and captured the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, in June 1807, seeking deserters from the Royal Navy.
Four crew members were removed from the ship and tried for desertion, with one being executed. Americans were outraged by the incident, generating calls for war with Great Britain. President Thomas Jefferson chose economic over military warfare, and the result was the Embargo Act of 1807. Passed by Congress on December 22, 1807, the act closed all U.S. ports to export shipping in either U.S. or foreign vessels, and restrictions were placed on imports from Great Britain.