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Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersLiving the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Topic: Predicaments of Early Republican LifeTopic: ReligionTopic: PoliticsTopic: ExpansionTopic: Equality
Topic: Politics
Overview of Living the Revolution
Resource Menu: Politics
Text 1. Government and Liberty
Text 2. Agriculture and Manufacturing
Text 3. George Washington
Text 4. State and Federal Power
Text 5. Thomas Jefferson
» Reading Guide
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Text 6. National Identity
Text 7. The Politics of Foreign Affairs
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Reading Guide
5.  Thomas Jefferson
- First Inaugural Address, 1801
- Letter to John Holmes, 1820: "A Fire Bell in the Night"

  Thomas Jefferson

Four years stand between Washington's Farewell Address and Thomas Jefferson's First Inaugural Address—four tumultuous years under John Adams which saw many of Washington's warnings go unheeded. Constitutional crisis, sectional strife, party politics, foreign entanglements—all were part of the nation's reality when Jefferson became president in the first months of a new century. In his Address he expresses awe at the task of leading a nation "advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye." Awe at the precarious future of the new government, the "world's best hope." He calls out to his fellow-citizens to value above all the principles for which the Revolution was fought and to aid him in securing them for future generations.

Nineteen years later, as Congress debated the Missouri Compromise, Jefferson wrote perhaps his most despairing letter. Could it be that the illustrious goals attained by his "generation of '76" would be destroyed by the "unworthy passions of their sons"? Was the nation committing suicide? Would that he would die, he bemoans, before it happens! Useful to pair these documents in the classroom. 4 pages.

Discussion questions
  ·  To Jefferson, what is encompassed in "living the revolution"?
  ·  What principles must be revered to preserve the nation? (Which does he define as "sacred"?)
  ·  What does he ask of the common man, the "honest patriot"?
  ·  In what lies his greatest anxiety? his firmest optimism?
  ·  What message does he give concerning the Sedition Acts (and the opposing party)?
  · How does his advice in 1820 compare with the principles listed in his 1801 address? To what core principles does he adhere?

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Topic Framing Questions
  •  What core political issues defined themselves in the new republic?
  •  What caused the greatest optimism and anxiety among American leaders?
  •  What do the religious overtones in these political texts express?
  •  What national identity evolved in the three decades from 1789 to 1820?

Toolbox: Living the Revolution: America, 1789-1820
Predicaments | Religion | Politics | Expansion | Equality

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Revised: May 2003