Early 19th Century SotU’s
The close of Jefferson’s presidency saw his State of the Union becoming far more detailed and pointed in his language (less flower, more power?). He seemed less reluctant to keep a ‘defensive militia’ available at all times, and chided some states for dropping the ball on security. Perhaps most interesting was his subtle self-congratulatory reference to the budget surplus (“Shall it lie unproductive in the public vaults? Shall the revenue be reduced? Or shall it not rather be appropriated to the improvements of roads, canals, rivers, education, and other great foundations of prosperity and union under the powers which Congress may already possess or such amendment to the Constitution as may be approved by the States?”).
Madison’s State of the Union addresses showed clearly how he became more amenable to a national bank and a strong military, chiefly due to the War of 1812. His detailed examination of the conflicting forces and recent events is impressive (and certainly would not have survived unedited in the TV age!). Also significant is his condemnation of the slave trade (in the 1810 SotU): “American citizens are instrumental in carrying on a traffic in enslaved Africans, equally in violation of the laws of humanity and in defiance of those of their own country. The same just and benevolent motives which produced interdiction in force against this criminal conduct will doubtless be felt by Congress in devising further means of suppressing the evil.”
James Monroe was, in many ways, a problematic president; he set a precedent for the use (up to and including misuse and abuse, depending on your opinion) of executive powers in military matters, and had a mixed record regarding slaves and native Americans (and even Jews) — but was responsible for the Monroe Doctrine, which nearly single-handedly established the independence and autonomy of the Americas in the face of colonial imperialism, and presided over an “Era of Good Feelings”.