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When Maryland was mentioned in State of the Union addresses, from James Madison to Donald Trump

The Baltimore Sun

As one of the 13 original colonies and a neighbor to Washington, Maryland has frequently earned mentions during State of the Union speeches over the years.

Here’s a look at several presidents who mentioned Maryland and its cities during the highly anticipated addresses:

James Madison

In his message to Congress in 1814 — which, like most State of the Union addresses in the 19th century, was delivered as a written message rather than a speech — James Madison referenced a series of victories against the British in the War of 1812. Naturally, the Battle of Baltimore, which occurred just days prior, appeared in the remarks.

“In the recent attempt of the enemy on the city of Baltimore, defended by militia and volunteers, aided by a small body of regulars and sea men, he was received with a spirit which produced a rapid retreat to his ships, whilst concurrent attack by a large fleet was successfully resisted by the steady and well-directed fire of the fort and batteries opposed to it,” Madison wrote.

James Monroe

In touting the construction of defensive “fortifications” along the coast of the United States, Monroe made note in his 1820 State of the Union (also written) that such structures in Baltimore had recently been repaired.

John Quincy Adams

In 1825, citizens of the United States were pushing into new Southern and Western territories, generating an interest in infrastructure and trade to support the American expansion. Adams spoke during his State of the Union address that year of Congress’ recent push to lay new roads and to incorporate the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Companies.

Adams spoke again of Maryland during his 1827 State of the Union address when discussing how American expansion was being met with resistance from native tribes. Adams said that the U.S. military was in need of improvement and that security reports had been made on a post road from Baltimore to Philadelphia and on the Chesapeake canal.

Martin Van Buren

In 1838, two attorneys from Maryland sued the postmaster general, resulting in a settlement being paid out of the National Treasury for the first time in U.S. history. The suit was discussed at length by President Martin Van Buren during his State of the Union address that year, including how Maryland law played a role in the case.

James Buchanan

The relationship between the United States and Mexico was tenuous in 1859. Mexico’s nascent government was recently challenged by a military rebellion. The new Mexican president was driven from the capital and a competing government was established. President James Buchanan, not knowing which faction of power to recognize, sent a Marylander — identified only as “Mr. McLane” in the State of the Union address that year — to the new nation to suss out who was in charge.

Abraham Lincoln

Maryland was touted in all four of President Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union addresses as an example of a state that had successfully and peaceably complied with the Union Army’s efforts and emancipation.

“Maryland is secure to liberty and union for all the future,” Lincoln said. “The genius of rebellion will no more claim Maryland. Like another foul spirit being driven out, it may seek to tear her, but it will woo her no-more.”

Rutherford B. Hayes

In December 1877, Hayes shared in his State of the Union address some details of the Baltimore railroad strike and the subsequent riots earlier that year. Nine people died and 16 were wounded in Baltimore during the riots, according to the Maryland State Archives. Hayes dispatched military troops to preserve peace and maintain order.

The next year Hayes’ State of the Union mentioned a national convention held in Baltimore to discuss a growing interest in preventing animal abuse.

Grover Cleveland

As President Grover Cleveland neared the end of his term in 1888, he touted some of his presidential accomplishments in his fourth State of the Union address. One of those accomplishments, he said, was the successful eradication of a serious outbreak of European lung plague that had swept cattle industries across the United States, including in Maryland.

During his second term in 1896, Cleveland gave a shout-out to contractors based in Baltimore for constructing gunboats and torpedo boats to help strengthen the U.S. Navy.

Benjamin Harrison

In September 1889, laborers on the island of Navassa — a U.S. territory at the time — revolted and killed their employers because of cruel treatment. The men were arrested and tried in the United States court at Baltimore, President Benjamin Harrison mentioned during his State of the Union address in 1891.

Lyndon B. Johnson

In his 1967 State of the Union, Johnson referenced a visit he made to Johns Hopkins two years prior.

Richard Nixon

In 1973, Nixon delivered a series of six written State of the Union messages to Congress focused on different public policies. In his address on community development, he spoke of a new transit system planned in Baltimore.

Jimmy Carter

Carter announced during his 1981 State of the Union (in a written message days before his term ended) plans to create Inter-agency Coal Task Force Study in part because congestion at major U.S. coal exporting ports, including Baltimore, could delay and impede exports, he said.

Bill Clinton

The Revs. John A. Cherry and Diana Cherry, of Full Gospel AME Zion Church in Prince George’s County, were honored by Clinton during his 1995 State of the Union. The couple were among Americans the president highlighted for representing “what we ought to be doing.”

“I visited their church once, and I learned they were building a new sanctuary closer to the Washington, D.C., line in a higher-crime, higher-drug rate area because they thought it was part of their ministry to change the lives of the people who needed them,” Clinton said.

In 1994, Clinton was scheduled to visit General Motors’ Broening Highway plant in Baltimore — one of several visits designed to bolster points he planned to make in his address.

However, Clinton over-rehearsed for his 64-minute speech and became so hoarse that he was ordered by doctors to keep quiet, thus causing the visit to be canceled.

George W. Bush

Bush started his 2007 State of the Union by congratulating Baltimore native Nancy Pelosi, who had just become speaker of the house. The president spoke of how proud Pelosi’s late father, former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Rep. Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., would have been to see her as speaker.

“In his day, the late congressman Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., from Baltimore, Maryland, saw Presidents Roosevelt and Truman at this rostrum,” Bush said. “But nothing could compare with the sight of his only daughter, Nancy, presiding tonight as speaker of the House of Representatives.”

Donald Trump

While Trump hasn’t referenced Baltimore in an official State of the Union, he did mention the city in his 2017 address to a joint session of Congress. (The past five presidents have given speeches of this nature after their inaugurations, but they are not technically State of the Union addresses.)

“We've financed and built one global project after another, but ignored the fates of our children in the inner cities of Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, and so many other places throughout our land,” Trump said.

On Tuesday, Trump recognized Washington County’s Tom Wibberley, whose son, Navy Seaman Craig Wibberley, was one of the 17 sailors who died in a bombing of a Navy-guided missile destroyer in 2000. Last month American forces killed one of the leaders of that attack. “Tom, we vow to always remember the heroes of the USS Cole,” Trump said.

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