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    Thomas Jefferson Embargo Act Broadside. 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." One page, 8" x 13", [Washington, D.C.]; January 9, 1808. The 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.

    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.

    The broadside offered here announces the first of several supplementary acts to the embargo. Passed by Congress on January 8, 1808, this act addressed a loophole in the 1807 Embargo Act that had exempted coastal fishing and whaling vessels that turned out to be circumventing the act by trading with Great Britain, primarily through Canada. The supplementary act was primarily concerned with the bonding coastal as well as river vessels. Those violating the law would be liable to suffer several penalties, including forfeiture of their ship and cargo or a fine double the value of both. The supplementary act also removed the warship exemption from privateers and or vessels with a letter or marque, and set fines and procedures for 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. Jefferson in March 1809, shortly before leaving the presidency, signed legislation repealing the embargo.

    The broadside has the usual folds with some weakness and minor separations, and two ink burn holes in lower half of the left hand column. On the verso of the broadside, the center horizontal fold, the lower half of the central vertical fold, and a small portion of another vertical fold have tape repairs. Else very good, with broad untrimmed margins.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
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