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Jefferson's Call for Nationhood

The First Inaugural Address

By Stephen Howard Browne

Publication Year: 2003

Widely celebrated in its own time, Thomas Jefferson’s first inaugural address commands the regard of Americans from across the political spectrum. Delivered as the young nation found itself embroiled in bitter partisan struggles, the speech has been hailed as the Sermon on the Mount of good government. Curiously, this masterpiece—the full text of which is reproduced in this volume—has never received sustained analysis. Here, Stephen Howard Browne describes its origins, composition, meaning, and delivery. His wellcrafted argument and accessible prose offer a model of analysis for rhetorical scholars and students and an added dimension to the history of the early republic and the understanding of American political thought.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Series: Library of Presidential Rhetoric


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p. ix

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p. xi

So slender a volume ought not to suggest paucity of support. Indeed, it could not have been written without the contributions, some silent, of the many scholars with whom it has been my great fortune to work through the years. Marty Medhurst first...

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Test of Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address

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pp. xiii-xvii

Friends and fellow-citizens, Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that...

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pp. 3-11

Late in the morning of March 4, 1801, the tall, fair, and conspicuously informal Virginian walked several hundred yards from his lodgings to mount the steps of the unfinished Capitol. Accompanied by a small but impressive parade of militia officers, Thomas...

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Chapter 1. “Brethren of the Same Principle”: The First Inaugural Address and the Language of Party

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pp. 12-49

John Quincy Adams was not, by any measure, an impressionable man. But after seven years abroad, he could not upon his return to American shores but feel pleasantly surprised at the prospect before him. “The appearance of our country,” he wrote Rufus King in October...

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Chapter 2. “The Strongest Government on Earth”: The First Inaugural Address as Political Theory

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pp. 50-87

America was founded, like no other republic, upon ideas. The revolution that ushered it into existence was promoted, sustained, and justified through appeals to commonly held values; the Constitution had enshrined a government of laws, not men; and the new...

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Chapter 3. “The Circle of Our Felicities”: Rhetorical Dimensions of the First Inaugural Address

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pp. 88-130

Thomas Jefferson was at length elected president of the United States of America on February 17, 1801. That left, even for his rapid pen, precious little time to compose what was to become, in Fawn Brodie’s words, “one of the great seminal papers in American political history.” Public anticipation of the inaugural day...

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pp. 131-134

Thomas Jefferson professed to be above party; claimed no exalted status as a political theorist; declined the orator’s laurel. I have attempted in these chapters to suggest that in fact Jefferson was not above party, that he was a political thinker of genuine stature, and that...


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pp. 135-143


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pp. 144-152


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pp. 153-155

E-ISBN-13: 9781603446778
E-ISBN-10: 160344677X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585442522
Print-ISBN-10: 1585442526

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: Frontis.
Publication Year: 2003

Series Title: Library of Presidential Rhetoric
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OCLC Number: 53976645
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Jefferson's Call for Nationhood

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Subject Headings

  • Jefferson, Thomas, -- 1743-1826 -- Political and social views.
  • United States -- Politics and government -- 1801-1809.
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Language.
  • Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826 -- Oratory.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Inaugural addresses.
  • Rhetoric -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 18th century.
  • Discourse analysis -- United States.
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