Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Abandons the President's Speech

In 1801, Thomas Jefferson decided that the President's speech ought no longer be dictated before Congress and instead simply submitted it in writing in a dispatch carried by aides. The act of making the address, after all, bore unwanted similarities to the British monarch's speech from the throne, and Jefferson — his ownership of slaves notwithstanding — was known for his irrepressible democratic idealism. Historians suggest the act of submitting a written statement to Congress, rather than grandiosely uttering it, invested a kind of egalitarian simplicity into the proceedings. It also conveniently shielded the President from the howls and heckling of his many opponents.