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Thomas Jefferson and - Wake Forest University

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Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Johnson
Erin Kerr, Shaney Soderquist and AlexWeisner
“The Circle of Our Felicities”: Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address and the Rhetoric of Nationhood
Stephen Howard Browne
Rhetorical Contexts
Democracy and Persuasion are interlockedUnprecedented expansion of the spaces of political actionJefferson’s inaugural (like his politics) = both forward-looking and indebted to certain rhetorical traditionsUsed rhetoric to rededicate common values and mutual commitment to each other’s fortunes
Three Conventions of Public Discourse
1.) Religious2.) Civic3.) PoliticalShaped the 1stInaugural Address, its reception, and its legacy.
Religious Contexts
Adamant not to have religious convictions impose or intrude into the affairs of stateDefined Americans: Religious (often, definitively) without uniformity of faith; Singular;The “American Mind”America as a chosen peopleJohn Winthrop’s “city upon a hill”
Civic Commemoration
Bring history to the national presentJefferson faced an audience well-positioned to recognize the Inaugural for what it was and what it hoped to accomplish.Precedents of “Political Theater”:Local in delivery and sourceReaching out to the nation as a wholeAbout political life, but not overly partisanDisseminate the experience of citizenship
Political Debate
Paradoxical performanceAppeal to “American” principles, rather than party principlesJefferson was the one to realize the potential inherent to the inaugural form
Jeffersonian Style
Transcribed his consummate optimism into the American spiritForm + Content = Singular, lasting image of the manCompared to “well-drawn portraits, which regard and follow us with their eyes in whatever direction we move.”First-person pronoun usage – StrategicSymmetry in politics and rhetoricPropriety and Simplicity
The First Inaugural’s Achievements
Presented a partisan tract and a political treatise, without announcing itself as eitherPrecedent: Encourage, reduce uncertainty, urge to continue on the path towards a prosperous futureSummon fellow republicans to a better version of themselves
Jeffersonvs. Napoleon: The Limits of RhetoricLawrence S. Kaplan
1808 William Cullen Bryant identified Jefferson as “Napoleon’s slave”Napoleon had an enormous impact on Jefferson’s presidencyJefferson’s main goal was to turn the superpowers of France and Britain against each otherTriangular relationship
Territory Strategy
Spain – LouisianaBritain—found a rough path across AmericaFrance—conspiring with the Spanish for control of the Mississippi
Foreign Affairs
War was not the answer in dealing with FranceJefferson faced the Federalist motto of “Political connections with none” as he entered office“Just a difference of opinion, not of principal”Was this a genuine promotion of partisanship?Was he trying to pursue his Republican objectives?
Treaty ofEntaglement
Louisiana cessionJefferson tried to avoid talking about Louisiana“Another year has come around, and finds us still blessed with peace and friendship abroad”
French-American Agreement
Persuasion/intimidation of NapoleonBritish ships blocked key ports, nullifying trade actsNapoleon succeedsJefferson succeeds
Jefferson’s OtherBradford Vivian
Rumors of an affair between Thomas Jefferson and SallyHemingsWidespread interest in the possibility of an affair between Jefferson and his slave in the 20th centuryWinthropJordan’s White over black: American Attitudes toward the Negro 1550-1812was the first story to discuss the affairPublic memory of Jefferson became foreign with the growing story ofHemings
Two Attempts to Prove Affair
Annette Gordon-Reed’sThomas Jefferson and SallyHemings: An American ControversySocial, political, and institutional biases had prevented getting to thetruthArgued historianshad failed to apply standards consistently and fairly to the affairexaminationEugeneA. Foster did a study comparingDNA samplesfrom Jefferson andHemingsTheyused ahaplotypecontaining 19 polymorphic markers taken fromdecendentsof Field Jefferson (uncle), ThehaplotypematchedEstonHeming to the male-line of descendantsLess than 1% chance for this match, most compelling evidence presented in debate
JaquesDerrida and the “pathos of indecision”
Activelyprovokes a response because itstimulatescrisis over standards and proceduresGordon-Reed’s application of forensic standards was a “political intervention: and an “ethical judgment” that weighed all evidence equitableEthos of Foster and his colleagues’ genetic tests were very persuasive in the “undecidability” of the debatePublic view, still undecided
New Stories and Different Voices
The concept ofRomance1995 Film- Jefferson in Paris, displays Jefferson andHemings’ relationship as a Parisian romancePortrays Sally as a teenager who develops into womanhoodThe concept of Jefferson and a young, exotic beautyvery appealing to publicThese accounts invoke the pathos of romance, used to portray the courtly love of an idealized presidentBarbara Chase-Riboud’s1979 novelSallyHemings–portraying Sally as a multidimensional character
RomanceContinued on CBS
CBS (2000)—SallyHemings: An AmericanScandalThe tale conjures a sympathetic version of Jefferson struggling against the institution of slavery for the sake of loveRhetorical functions of a romantic narrativeportrayingHemingsas a heroic figure sacrificing her freedom for that of her children
The Demon in Jefferson
Steve Erickson’s 1993 novelArcd’XMotivated by a desire tobring Jefferson’sunconscious into the light of the 20thcentury,proving the demon people imagine must have lived in him somewhereA Jefferson lusting after a teenager, both of whom was his slave and his late wife’s half sister whom he would enslave again by molestingherProduces anunadulteredencounter with Jefferson’s other: the private demon within the civic saintRepresents ametaphorof AmericaSuggesting that the pursuit of happiness for one political body is conducted through the sacrifice of another’s self-determination
In Summary
The rhetoric of public memory often comes into being as the manifestation of a desire to enlarge our frequently shallow and elliptical knowledge of the pastThe appeal of Jefferson’s secret past becomes a desire to us in the presentJefferson has acquired such a foreign quality that the way we tend to remember him is by his other: by the ghost of SallyHemingsor the ghosts of his own passions
Politics of Character: Andrew JohnsonStephen Howard Browne
Background to Article
17thpresidentFirst president to be impeachedFirst president to succeed the presidency upon assassination of predecessor (Lincoln)
Stephen Howard Browne
Unlovable characterill-suitedin almost every possiblewayWorst presidents to dateThere are three attributes (mind, character, and speech) which set a standard to mark and evaluate presidential virtue, but all work against Johnson
March11,1865Johnson’s Vice-Presidential Inaugural Address
All accounts claim Johnson was drunk forspeechThree main traits for his speech:The use of pronominal and possessive firstpersonSpeaker’s insistence that he is a legitimate claimant to the office he nowoccupiesThe compulsive need to invoke “the people” as the ultimate source of power the final check against party pressures
Self-Regardand the Presidential Ethos
Lincoln andJohnsonJohnson was unable to rise to his positionExample of September 12thSpeechThespeech was not just policy arguments, but strenuous protestations of innocence, appeals to his personal past, and allusions to hisChristlikemission to save his country from the satanic designs of his opponents-
In earlier days very good at captivating large audiencesAble to identify with people in simple and powerful languageThe willingness and honestly is what also mortified northernersIt was his way of engaging audiences and disputing his character that prompted so much criticism
February22, 1866,Speechon White House Balcony on Washington’s Birthday
Demonstrating distance from Lincoln in popular imaginationHadn’t prepared anything, very clearfocused on the profusion of self-references, the demands for respect, the appeals to the peopleTraitors and treason in the South- those still opposed to the restoration of the states, Publicly identified and charge other senators, prominent national reformer, with treason
Two main personality traits
ObstinateInconsistentWillful to the point of abject stubbornnessWeak in the face of flatteryIntransigent when he needed to compromise, but unable to hold a promiseJohnson never acknowledged this, but many listeners heard it and that is what wrecked him
Johnson went against his own professions and melted into the arms ofthe SouthOnce a plebian he had arrived in a place where he was in charge and it was satisfying to spend the bounty of power on those who had forsaken himEverything melted away with his vision of becoming a Southern Gentleman
What is the president’s job?How does Jefferson define his role as President?How does he define the people’s role?What does his era teach us about our era?Why do we care?





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Thomas Jefferson and - Wake Forest University