Essay on Power Promotes Pragmatism

Essay on Power Promotes Pragmatism

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Power Promotes Pragmatism

"In his inaugural speech, Jefferson stated: 'We are all Republicans,
we are all Federalists' - yet the greatest irony of the Virginia
Dynasty was that by 1820, the Republicans were Federalists and the
Federalists were gone, thus proving the political dictum: 'power
promotes pragmatism.'"

Etymologically derived from the Greek prassein ("to do, act,
perform"), pragmatism is defined as "the doctrine that practical
consequences are the criteria of knowledge and meaning and value."
Inextricable from the dynamic nature of politics is the pragmatic
tendency for those in power to orchestrate practical consequences to
benefit themselves and their parties. As is evident in the history of
the Virginia Dynasty, the most effective way to assuage the political
rift between parties is for the dominant party to appeal to an
opposing constituency and to its rival party by embracing their
ideology. This fluid adaptation of value, as in ideology, to practical
outcomes establishes the dictum that "power promotes pragmatism."

Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe constitute the
Virginia Dynasty, the Republican line of Virginian presidents who came
to dominate American politics for the first two decades of the 19th
century. Deemed a "consummate politician" for his ability to espouse
his enemies' persuasions, Jefferson set the precedent for the
proceeding Republican presidents to integrate Federalist ideology into
their executive policies. Regarding Jefferson's political orientation
as a whole, it is only consistent in its ambivalence.Simultaneously an
aristocrat and a liberal, a pacifist and a nationalist, an a...


... middle of paper ...


...nalize the Louisiana Purchase
and his unapproved military measures in the First Barbary War, and
Madison had completely echoed the structure of Hamilton's financial
system in his creation of the Second Bank of the United States. With
their political identity thereby obviated, the Federalists were forced
into assuming the stances of strict constructionism, as in their
reaction to the Louisiana Purchase, and the compact theory of
government, as in the Hartford Convention. As Josiah Quincy declared,
the Republicans had "out-Federalized Federalism" (Hofstadter 54). The
Virginia Dynasty's defeat of the Federalists not only proves that
"power promotes pragmatism"; it reciprocally proves that pragmatism
promotes power.

Works Cited

Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition. NY: Random
House, Inc., 1973.

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