Jefferson’s Inaugural Address as a Neo-Aristotelian Criticism
Modern, American political culture continues to be defined by partisan politics. Themes of gridlock, the inability to compromise, and violently competing differences in opinion define the narrative of American political action and governance. On March 4, 1801 Thomas Jefferson delivered an inaugural address that pivoted around new partisan politics that defined the election of 1800. The election of 1800, between Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Aaron Burr, was the first partisan election of the newly formed federal government. The political environment of the 1790s defined the context of Jefferson’s Inaugural Address and created a lasting theme of partisan politics in America. Through an analysis of Neo-Aristotelian criticism a deeper understanding will be gained on the cause, accomplishments, and the lasting impacts of Jefferson’s Inaugural Address.
Neo-Aristotelian criticism states, that in order to understand rhetoric we must first understand the motivations that caused the speaker to speak. The rise of partisan politics, narrowed the focus of Jefferson’s Inaugural Address. Therefore, to understand his motives, we must first understand the historical context of his Address. The competitive nature of the election of 1800 was not only defined by the Presidential race in 1796 that is credited as the, “first truly competitive presidential contest in the nation’s history.” It was also defined by newly formed partisan beliefs and a sharp divide in political ideology between the Federalists and the Republicans. This divide was a result of tensions over the specifics of Jay’s Treaty in 1794. The treaty sought to resolve issues between Great Britain and America. It was sai...
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...ess was motivated by vicious partisanship that threatened the unity of the United States of America. Jefferson hoped to instill a sense of unity, a common agenda, and a common aspiration to reach a higher American ideal. He successfully achieved his intention of provoking unity and bipartisanship, in response to a polarized political climate. However, the partisan nature of the election of 1800, cited in his Inaugural Address, continues to effect the efficiency of American government. Jefferson’s ideals are the foundation for American political thought, but the partisan divided created before and perpetuated during his presidency is in an important turning point in American politics. Through an analysis of Neo-Aristotelian criticism, it is clear that his ideology served a lasting purpose and impact on American political thought in a positive and negative way.
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