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Defining Republicanism

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modern history
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About the document

Nacie C.
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documents in English
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  1. Introduction
  2. Keeping the citizenry knowledgeable
  3. George Washington: The first president of the newly formed United States of America
  4. The most precious pieces of knowledge
  5. His enthusiasm and drive for the national university
  6. Factors that might explain Adams loss of zeal for national education
  7. The sponsoring of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
  8. Conclusion
  9. Works cited

When the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolution in 1783, the new American citizens were faced with the challenge of forming a system of government that was functional, well structured, and non-oppressive. Over the course of six years, the former colonies searched for a political identity, and finally ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1789. The Constitution sculpted the American government into a republic, where the power rested in the citizen body and a series of checks and balances protected them from the tyranny of any one man. George Washington took office as the first President of this new American republic in 1789, and from this moment until the end of James Madison's presidency in 1817, presidents attempted to understand and define the nature and shape of republicanism. Though each president attempted to define republicanism through different and unique methods, the ideal of creating an informed and educated citizen body was a common goal among the first four presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. The commonality of this aim suggests that the founding generation considered it an essential facet to the survival of the republic.

[...] Washington sees a population that is involved in government as being a defining characteristic of the republic, and he will reiterate this opinion in the final addresses of his presidency. In his eighth and final annual address, President Washington again lobbied for the establishment of a national institution, reporting that every time he thought on the matter he found more justification for the project: Amongst the motives to such an institution, the assimilation of the principles, opinions, and manners of our country-men by the common education of a portion of our youth from every quarter well deserves attention. [...]


[...] New York: The Modern Library Chronicles While this paper focuses on the founding generations attempts aim of creating an educated citizen body as a means to establish American republicanism, it is important to note that there are many other categories one could look to mark the progress of defining republicanism. There is ample information in the public addresses of the first four presidents to suggest that one could look at common topics such as foreign affairs, the foundation of a national mint and currency, or the formation of a military establishment, to observe the sculpting of American republicanism. [...]


[...] Though chance and fate may have directed some of the ways republicanism became defined over the course of these years, it is clear that the founding generation made a point to make an educated citizenry a part of the definition. They understood that an educated man was apt to be more protective of his liberties than a man who did not understand them. They also realized that the educated man was liable to be more involved in politics if he understood them. [...]

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