What ideas for government did Thomas Jefferson stress in his inaugural address?
Jefferson's First Inaugural is usually noted for its appeal for reconciliation between political factions. Mindful of the bitter partisan struggles of the late 1790s that played out in the election of 1800 itself, he urged his countrymen to unite around common beliefs, saying "we are all republicans, we are all federalists." Yet Jefferson also articulated much of his political vision in his speech, emphasizing that the "sum of good government" was to "restrain men from injuring one another" while leaving them "otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits." Jefferson also stressed frugality in government, protecting states rights, avoiding "entangling alliances," maintaining a militia (rather than a standing army), and protecting civil liberties. Many of these statements sound like platitudes, and they were, but they also were politically charged. Jefferson's critique of the federal government under Federalist control was that it had repeatedly overstepped its bounds by claiming powers not delegated to it in the Constitution. Those who read the address would have recognized this, and understood that he was describing his vision for what the federal government would look like under Republican administration. So Jefferson's speech was full of rhetorical flourishes and the appeals for unity that are always found in inaugural addresses, but it also included an extended statement of his beliefs. Limited government, civil liberties, and civic virtue were cornerstones of his thinking, and his speech is an appeal for these ideas.