Step up and meet Jefferson, the 49th state of the Union, this pamphlet announces. The proponents of this US state-to-be, made up of California’s northern parts and southern bits of Oregon, seem to have been firm believers in the strategy of the fait accompli, for their handbill states: If you preserve the map above, you may be acquiring an historic piece of americana to pass on to your descendents. It’s one of the first ever drawn of the new, 49th “State of Jefferson” which 45,000 secessionists of Oregon and California hope to carve out of their states.
But the fait of Jefferson was never accompli, the secession never consummated. Unbeknownst to the jeffersonists, the tide of history would soon turn against them. Very soon: note the date – Dec. 6, 1941. One day later, a Japanese sneak attack would destroy the American Pacific Fleet. This meant, among a great many other things, no more time for frivolous secessionism. And so the idea of a state named for Thomas Jefferson was killed off . This time by the Japanese agression, but hardly the first time.
The lost state of Jefferson is a star-crossed, but particularly persistent project in American history. From the middle of the 19th century, the name of the third US president has been attached to at least three unsuccessful attempts at state-building.