Monday, June 24, 2013

Presidential Rhetoric V: James Monroe

Welcome to Part Five of our series on the rhetoric of American presidential inaugural addresses. Please feel free to take a peek at the previous entries in the series:
  1. Worthy of Marble?
  2. John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. James Madison
We continue with our present look at the rhetoric of James Monroe's inaugural address, delivered Tuesday, March 4, 1817. As with all of his presidential predecessors, Monroe received a Classical education. Let us see what traces remain in the First Inaugural of the last Founding Father.

As usual, the speech is available via Bartleby, which we reproduce here boldface, with my comments following.

[1] I SHOULD be destitute of feeling if I was not deeply affected by the strong proof which my fellow-citizens have given me of their confidence in calling me to the high office whose functions I am about to assume. [2] As the expression of their good opinion of my conduct in the public service, I derive from it a gratification which those who are conscious of having done all that they could to merit it can alone feel. [3] My sensibility is increased by a just estimate of the importance of the trust and of the nature and extent of its duties, with the proper discharge of which the highest interests of a great and free people are intimately connected. [4] Conscious of my own deficiency, I cannot enter on these duties without great anxiety for the result. [5] From a just responsibility I will never shrink, calculating with confidence that in my best efforts to promote the public welfare my motives will always be duly appreciated and my conduct be viewed with that candor and indulgence which I have experienced in other stations.

We see from the color-coding a preface dominated by first person pronouns: this is the president presenting himself to the people. More so than his predecessors, Monroe feels the need to explain who he is, which he does by the underlined phrases:

  • affected by proof
  • called to office
  • assuming functions
  • deriving gratification
  • sensibilities increased
  • conscious of deficiency 
  • entering into duties
  • not shrinking
  • calculating with confidence
  • promoting welfare
  • duly appreciated
  • conduct viewed
This most important, opening paragraph is structured around five paragraphs and five ideas:
  1. The president is affected by his election
  2. The president is gratified
  3. The gratification is increased by understanding of the importance of the position
  4. The president is humbled by this
  5. The president will do his best.
Monroe begins with what is the standard praise of the president's fellow citizens, but cleverly defines his election as "proof of their confidence," presuming the reason that the people selected him. Monroe continues defining the significance of his election in the following sentence by adding how it was rooted in "their good opinion of my conduct in the public service," and then follows up the observation with a most precise bit of elaboration: on the one hand he derives gratification from their esteem, and on the other hand he characterizes his gratification as of a degree which can only be attained by anyone who has done his best. The rhetorical effect is a sense of parity between what Monroe has offered and what the people want. He continues by defining his sensibility as an appreciation of the gravity of the office, an appreciation which results in a consciousness about his deficiency, and ultimately finds fulfillment in, well, this most specific situation:

[5] From a just responsibility I will never shrinkcalculating with confidence that in my best efforts to promote the public welfare my motives will always be duly appreciated and my conduct be viewed with that candor and indulgence which have experienced in other stations.

Monroe states that he won't shrink from a just responsibility, yet he seems to predicate this derring-do on the fact that his efforts, his motives, and his conduct will be appreciated. He has of course left out an important bit of information: the consequences of his action. Monroe concludes this slick reasoning with the even more clever coda wherein he states that he hopes for the same honesty and forgiveness he's received before; he's asking the people be fair and forgiving by defining them as fair and forgiving.

Undoubtedly the most argued introduction we've seen so far. 

[6] In commencing the duties of the chief executive office it has been the practice of the distinguished men who have gone before me to explain the principles which would govern them in their respective Administrations. [7] In following their venerated example my attention is naturally drawn to the great causes which have contributed in a principal degree to produce the present happy condition of the United States. [8] They will best explain the nature of our duties and shed much light on the policy which ought to be pursued in future.

Monroe only mentions himself once in the whole paragraph, indirectly presenting just his attention as the subject of a passive verb. The effect of this small phrase sandwiched between two long sentences about his illustrious predecessors is that of Monroe pointing up at some great monuments, monuments to which he attributes the great success of the nation. The final sentence of the paragraph completes the gesture by making his predecessors the subject. This is a brilliant bit of rhetoric here:  Monroe appears to yield to their greatness even as he speaks for them and himself. 

[9] From the commencement of our Revolution to the present day almost forty years have elapsed, and from the establishment of this Constitution twenty-eight. [10] Through this whole term the Government has been what may emphatically be called self-government. [11] And what has been the effect? [12] To whatever object we turn our attention, whether it relates to our foreign or domestic concerns, we find abundant cause to felicitate ourselves in the excellence of our institutions. [13] During a period fraught with difficulties and marked by very extraordinary events the United States have flourished beyond example. [14] Their citizens individually have been happy and the nation prosperous.

Like his predecessors, Monroe identifies the self-governance of the American people as the cause of the nation's success. Everywhere we look, he says, we ought not simply be happy, but congratulate ourselves. For whom else would it be appropriate to congratulate the United States, who have flourished "without example." Monroe takes care to note that both individuals and the nation as a whole are happy.

[15] a Under this Constitution our commerce has been wisely regulated with foreign nations and between the States; new States have been admitted into our Union; our territory has been enlarged by fair and honorable treaty, and with great advantage to the original States; the States, respectively protected by the National Government under a mild, parental system against foreign dangers, and enjoying within their separate spheres, by a wise partition of power, a just proportion of the sovereignty, have improved their police, extended their settlements, and attained a strength and maturity which are the best proofs of wholesome laws well administered. [16] And if we look to the condition of individuals what a proud spectacle does it exhibit! [17] On whom has oppression fallen in any quarter of our Union? [18] Who has been deprived of any right of person or property? [19] Who restrained from offering his vows in the mode which he prefers to the Divine Author of his being? [20] It is well known that all these blessings have been enjoyed in their fullest extent; and I add with peculiar satisfaction that there has been no example of a capital punishment being inflicted on anyone for the crime of high treason.

Monroe amplifies his previous thought that both individuals and the nation are happy by describing the state of what relates the two: the constitution. This description also takes the form of a long list [15] which 1) logically flows from the previous thoughts, 2) amplifies them, and 3) stylistically flows from them as well, with the list of short sentences continuing the pattern of increasingly brief periods. The list concludes [16] with an exclamation which brings the idea back to where it began at [14] with the happiness of the people. Monroe now contrasts the exclamatory style as he maintains his theme: with three rhetorical questions, [17-19], he asks who has been deprived of his rights, the implied answer being no one. He concludes with the statement that no one has been found guilty of treason, perhaps a nod to his suppression of Gabriel's Rebellion as Governor of Virginia in 1800, but also a broader conclusion to his theme of Americans' contentment.

[21] Some who might admit the competency of our Government to these beneficent duties might doubt it in trials which put to the test its strength and efficiency as a member of the great community of nations. [22] Here too experience has afforded us the most satisfactory proof in its favor. [23] Just as this Constitution was put into action several of the principal States of Europe had become much agitated and some of them seriously convulsed. Destructive wars ensued, which have of late only been terminated. [24] In the course of these conflicts the United States received great injury from several of the parties. [25] It was their interest to stand aloof from the contest, to demand justice from the party committing the injury, and to cultivate by a fair and honorable conduct the friendship of all. [26] War became at length inevitable, and the result has shown that our Government is equal to that, the greatest of trials, under the most unfavorable circumstances. [27] Of the virtue of the people and of the heroic exploits of the Army, the Navy, and the militia I need not speak.

He now moves from domestic to the foreign affairs by a smooth pivot of imagining an individual who concedes that domestic policy has been a success but thinks America too weak to stand against other nations. Again Monroe states that history has proven the naysayers wrong.

Monroe then recalls the events of the War of 1812 and perhaps the Quasi War with France before it, but chooses some quite indirect description. He describes the foreign nations not as aggressors or belligerents but as "agitated" and "convulsed" as if they suffered from some malady which altered them from their normal conditions. He's taking precautions not to offend anyone. These nations did not declare war either, and to describe who did Monroe slips into the passive voice with "wars ensued." No one nation end the wars either, rather they "have been terminated." The United States was injured, but by whom? In the end, the war simply "became inevitable." So America does not appear passive,  though, Monroe contrasts the idea that America was acted upon by describing its activity amidst the tumult with firm verbs: America stood, demanded, and cultivated. Ultimately, he concludes that the government succeeded in those worst circumstances, a statement which he amplifies by the even less controversial remark that the people, Army, Navy, and militia were heroic, a conclusion he makes by feigned omission, as if the fact is so obvious as to be common knowledge.

[28] Such, then, is the happy Government under which we live—a Government adequate to every purpose for which the social compact is formed; a Government elective in all its branches, under which every citizen may by his merit obtain the highest trust recognized by the Constitution; which contains within it no cause of discord, none to put at variance one portion of the community with another; a Government which protects every citizen in the full enjoyment of his rights, and is able to protect the nation against injustice from foreign powers.

A transitional paragraph which might have fallen prone to boilerplate generalities, Monroe enunciates  with clarity and no artistry or argumentation, the essence of the social compact:

  1. the representatives are elected, and open to the people
  2. citizens are not set at one another 
  3. the government protects citizens to enjoy their rights
  4. the government protects citizens from foreign powers
[29] Other considerations of the highest importance admonish us to cherish our Union and to cling to the Government which supports it. [30] Fortunate as we are in our political institutions, we have not been less so in other circumstances on which our prosperity and happiness essentially depend. [31] Situated within the temperate zone, and extending through many degrees of latitude along the Atlantic, the United States enjoy all the varieties of climate, and every production incident to that portion of the globe. [32] Penetrating internally to the Great Lakes and beyond the sources of the great rivers which communicate through our whole interior, no country was ever happier with respect to its domain. [33] Blessed, too, with a fertile soil, our produce has always been very abundant, leaving, even in years the least favorable, a surplus for the wants of our fellow-men in other countries. [34] Such is our peculiar felicity that there is not a part of our Union that is not particularly interested in preserving it.

It is worth noting here that Monroe distinguishes between the Union and the government, which he states exists only to support it. In light of this statement, the government which Monroe praises would only merit such praise insofar as it supported the union. 

Monroe then moves from the political to the commercial by way of the geographical consisting of [31-33] of an extended visual description of the nation. The verbs paint the picture: the nation is  situated and extends through the continent as it penetrates through to the North and the rivers communicate through the interior. Monroe moves from this latitudinal description with a contrast of the vertical, describing the abundant soil of the land and its blessed divine origin, a point which allows him smoothly to pivot from nature to its bounty, although he adds a particular description:

[34] a Such is our peculiar felicity that b there is not a part of our Union that is not particularly interested in preserving it. 

This statement comes immediately on the heels of his praise for America's natural bounty, to which it most closely refers. Yet Monroe has also just discussed America's political successes, thus this notion of "peculiar felicity" manages to combine with great subtlety not just one but all of America's success. The  b portion of the sentence manages the same association, suggesting that the people do no simply leave peacefully together, but are eager to preserve the Union because of the prosperity which it naturally brings. 

[35] The great agricultural interest of the nation prospers under its protection. [36] Local interests are not less fostered by it. [37] Our fellow-citizens of the North engaged in navigation find great encouragement in being made the favored carriers of the vast productions of the other portions of the United States, while the inhabitants of these are amply recompensed, in their turn, by the nursery for seamen and naval force thus formed and reared up for the support of our common rights. [38] Our manufactures find a generous encouragement by the policy which patronizes domestic industry, and the surplus of our produce a steady and profitable market by local wants in less-favored parts at home.

Monroe moves from the general to the specific, listing the ways in which Americans enjoy prosperity and which their bounty overflows to the less fortunate.

[39] Such, then, being the highly favored condition of our country, it is the interest of every citizen to maintain it. [40] What are the dangers which menace us? [41] If any exist they ought to be ascertained and guarded against.

Monroe uses a frankly transitional paragraph to distance the previous positives from what may be negatives.

[42] In explaining my sentiments on this subject it may be asked, What raised us to the present happy state? [43] How did we accomplish the Revolution? [44] How remedy the defects of the first instrument of our Union, by infusing into the National Government sufficient power for national purposes, without impairing the just rights of the States or affecting those of individuals? [45] How sustain and pass with glory through the late war? [46] The Government has been in the hands of the people. [47] To the people, therefore, and to the faithful and able depositaries of their trust is the credit due. [48] Had the people of the United States been educated in different principles, had they been less intelligent, less independent, or less virtuous, can it be believed that we should have maintained the same steady and consistent career or been blessed with the same success? [49] While, then, the constituent body retains its present sound and healthful state everything will be safe. [50] They will choose competent and faithful representatives for every department. [51] It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. [52] Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. [53] Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. [54] Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.

Monroe softens the potentially unhappy topic with a series of rhetorical questions which all find their answer in one simple, short, declarative statement: [46] The government has been in the hands of the people. The government is successful because the people are [48] intelligent, independent, and virtuous. If they remain so, the government will remain healthful. When they do not, however, they will be no longer a unified people but a populace, a herd or mob, and they will fall prey to a usurper, "themselves the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin." That's the toughest talk we've heard so far about the alternatives to the present state of peace and prosperity. The only hope for liberty is, wisely and with respect for the constitution, to promote intelligence among the people.

[55] Dangers from abroad are not less deserving of attention. [56] Experiencing the fortune of other nations, the United States may be again involved in war, and it may in that event be the object of the adverse party to overset our Government, to break our Union, and demolish us as a nation. [57] Our distance from Europe and the just, moderate, and pacific policy of our Government may form some security against these dangers, but they ought to be anticipated and guarded against. [58] Many of our citizens are engaged in commerce and navigation, and all of them are in a certain degree dependent on their prosperous state. [59] Many are engaged in the fisheries. [60] These interests are exposed to invasion in the wars between other powers, and we should disregard the faithful admonition of experience if we did not expect it. [61] We must support our rights or lose our character, and with it, perhaps, our liberties. [62] A people who fail to do it can scarcely be said to hold a place among independent nations. [63] National honor is national property of the highest value. [64] The sentiment in the mind of every citizen is national strength. [65] It ought therefore to be cherished.

We move again from the domestic to the foreign, a transition which Monroe makes by straightaway noting that it is the fortune of all nations to experience war, that America is not immune to it. Again, though, Monroe insists that any war would be the result of foreign aggression, that America may simply be "involved" in a war. He continues, though, that American commerce at sea is exposed to conflict and affirms that Americans must "support our rights" to maintain character and liberty. As with his spacious description of the nation earlier, Monroe is painting a portrait of a prosperous nation which will by honest work legitimately expand in every way, an encouragement, and perhaps an inchoate vision of his later, famous Monroe Doctrine. 

Monroe hammers home this point with five short, declarative sentences. [61-65]

[66] To secure us against these dangers our coast and inland frontiers should be fortified, our Army and Navy, regulated upon just principles as to the force of each, be kept in perfect order, and our militia be placed on the best practicable footing. [67] To put our extensive coast in such a state of defense as to secure our cities and interior from invasion will be attended with expense, but the work when finished will be permanent, and it is fair to presume that a single campaign of invasion by a naval force superior to our own, aided by a few thousand land troops, would expose us to greater expense, without taking into the estimate the loss of property and distress of our citizens, than would be sufficient for this great work. [68] Our land and naval forces should be moderate, but adequate to the necessary purposes—the former to garrison and preserve our fortifications and to meet the first invasions of a foreign foe, and, while constituting the elements of a greater force, to preserve the science as well as all the necessary implements of war in a state to be brought into activity in the event of war; the latter, retained within the limits proper in a state of peace, might aid in maintaining the neutrality of the United States with dignity in the wars of other powers and in saving the property of their citizens from spoliation. [69] In time of war, with the enlargement of which the great naval resources of the country render it susceptible, and which should be duly fostered in time of peace, it would contribute essentially, both as an auxiliary of defense and as a powerful engine of annoyance, to diminish the calamities of war and to bring the war to a speedy and honorable termination.

Here in the most specific terms we've seen in a presidential inaugural so far, Monroe outlines a national policy. The president seems to expect opposition for he pairs each proposition with either a more expensive, risky alternative, or a lengthy explanation. At [67] Monroe states that defense is expensive, but fortifications are permanent and invasion still costlier, a point which he emphasizes by spending twice as long describing the latter as the former. In [68] Monroe begins his estimation of the forces with the convenient and sensible-sounding size of "moderate but adequate" and then goes through some length to describe what exactly will be the forces' state of mobility while not at war by describing that state as, "a state to be brought into activity in the event of war." Again: sensible-sounding. Monroe is arguing for an army large enough to make anyone think twice about invading, but small enough not to threaten the people, a state which he calls in describing the navy, one "retained within the limits proper in a state of peace." His final sentence fully articulates his plan for the military,

as an auxiliary of defense and as a powerful engine of annoyance, to diminish the calamities of war and to bring the war to a speedy and honorable termination.

The longest sentences of the speech, Monroe's balanced clauses, he surely hoped, would soften any opposition to his plans.

[70] But it ought always to be held prominently in view that the safety of these States and of everything dear to a free people must depend in an eminent degree on the militia. Invasions may be made too formidable to be resisted by any land and naval force which it would comport either with the principles of our Government or the circumstances of the United States to maintain. [71] In such cases recourse must be had to the great body of the people, and in a manner to produce the best effect. [72] It is of the highest importance, therefore, that they be so organized and trained as to be prepared for any emergency. The arrangement should be such as to put at the command of the Government the ardent patriotism and youthful vigor of the country. [73] If formed on equal and just principles, it can not be oppressive. [74] It is the crisis which makes the pressure, and not the laws which provide a remedy for it. [75] This arrangement should be formed, too, in time of peace, to be the better prepared for war. [76] With such an organization of such a people the United States have nothing to dread from foreign invasion. [77] At its approach an overwhelming force of gallant men might always be put in motion.

Monroe contrasts his previous plans by conceding [70] that no free people can remain free if they insist on maintaining a standing army which would be of a size to repel any invasion whatsoever. As a result, the people must be trained in militias, which he states should be put at the command of the government and which will not be oppressive if "formed on equal and just principles." He doesn't mention what these principles are, though, and adds that crises make pressure, not the laws which are designed to provide a remedy. Truly? Can the laws not be bad, or have unintended consequences? In both cases Monroe's argument resists attack because it predicates a good outcome of equality and justice: who would want to deny that? As is his pattern now, Monroe concludes with two declarative statements, asserting the outcome of his policies.

[78] Other interests of high importance will claim attention, among which the improvement of our country by roads and canals, proceeding always with a constitutional sanction, holds a distinguished place. [79] By thus facilitating the intercourse between the States we shall a add much to the convenience and comfort of our fellow-citizens, b much to the ornament of the country, and, what is of greater importance, we shall shorten distances, and, by making each part more accessible to and dependent on the other, we shall c bind the Union more closely together. [80] Nature has done so much for us by intersecting the country with so many great rivers, bays, and lakes, approaching from distant points so near to each other, that the inducement to complete the work seems to be peculiarly strong. [81] A more interesting spectacle was perhaps never seen than is exhibited within the limits of the United States—a territory so vast and advantageously situated, containing objects so grand, so useful, so happily connected in all their parts!

What a clever reasoning here, that the already interconnected nature of America seems to call upon the people to complete what little remains of the task, the task which will strengthen the union by making it more interdependent, an argument which picks up and augments his theme from [55-65] that the various parts of the nation are prosperous individually and together. The pacing and climax here are most fine:

  • 78: Introduction
  • 79: Three reasons to do it
  • 80: A list of why it is easy to do by means of an equally clear clause of result, with the list doubling as a list of the nation's abundant beauty
  • 81: Monroe seems ready to cap of the paragraph without fanfare, but interrupts himself with a dash and concludes with a list amplified first by asyndeton, then anaphora with so, and finally with an exclamation.
[82] Our manufacturers will likewise require the systematic and fostering care of the Government. [83] Possessing as we do all the raw materials, the fruit of our own soil and industry, we ought not to depend in the degree we have done on supplies from other countries. [84] While we are thus dependent the sudden event of war, unsought and unexpected, can not fail to plunge us into the most serious difficulties. [85] It is important, too, that the capital which nourishes our manufacturers should be domestic, as its influence in that case instead of exhausting, as it may do in foreign hands, would be felt advantageously on agriculture and every other branch of industry. [86] Equally important is it to provide at home a market for our raw materials, as by extending the competition it will enhance the price and protect the cultivator against the casualties incident to foreign markets.

A plain paragraph describing Monroe's domestic economic policy which he hopes will permit America independence from the vicissitudes of both foreign supply and demand.

[87] With the Indian tribes it is our duty to cultivate friendly relations and to act with kindness and liberality in all our transactions. [88] Equally proper is it to persevere in our efforts to extend to them the advantages of civilization.

Monroe is moving through the remainder of his policies in plain, explanatory style.

[89] The great amount of our revenue and the flourishing state of the Treasury are a full proof of the competency of the national resources for any emergency, as they are of the willingness of our fellow-citizens to bear the burdens which the public necessities require. [90] The vast amount of vacant lands, the value of which daily augments, forms an additional resource of great extent and duration. [91] These resources, besides accomplishing every other necessary purpose, put it completely in the power of the United States to discharge the national debt at an early period. [92] Peace is the best time for improvement and preparation of every kind; it is in peace that our commerce flourishes most, that taxes are most easily paid, and that the revenue is most productive.

The president attributes the present, happy finances of the nation as evidence of both the government's competency and the willingness of the people to fund it. He states that paying off the national debt is within reach, though he doesn't promise to do so, and suggests that it is during peace time that the nation should save, pay debts, and make internal improvements. A coda to the policy talk.

[93] The Executive is charged officially in the Departments under it with the disbursement of the public money, and is responsible for the faithful application of it to the purposes for which it is raised. [94] The Legislature is the watchful guardian over the public purse. [95] It is its duty to see that the disbursement has been honestly made. [96] To meet the requisite responsibility every facility should be afforded to the Executive to enable it to bring the public agents intrusted with the public money strictly and promptly to account. [97] Nothing should be presumed against them; but if, with the requisite facilities, the public money is suffered to lie long and uselessly in their hands, they will not be the only defaulters, nor will the demoralizing effect be confined to them. [98] It will evince a relaxation and want of tone in the Administration which will be felt by the whole community. [99] I shall do all I can to secure economy and fidelity in this important branch of the Administration, and I doubt not that the Legislature will perform its duty with equal zeal. [100] A thorough examination should be regularly made, and I will promote it.

Moving on to a discussion of his duty as executive, Monroe asks for the latitude to hold everyone who spends public money to account, and promises to make and present a regular examination. (Imagine that!)

[101] It is particularly gratifying to me to enter on the discharge of these duties at a time when the United States are blessed with peace. [102] It is a state most consistent with their prosperity and happiness. [103] It will be my sincere desire to preserve it, so far as depends on the Executive, on just principles with all nations, claiming nothing unreasonable of any and rendering to each what is its due.

[104] Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion which pervades our Union. [105] Discord does not belong to our system. [106] Union is recommended as well by the free and benign principles of our Government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other eminent advantages attending it. [107] The American people have encountered together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. [108] They constitute one great family with a common interest. [109] Experience has enlightened us on some questions of essential importance to the country. [110] The progress has been slow, dictated by a just reflection and a faithful regard to every interest connected with it. [111] To promote this harmony in accord with the principles of our republican Government and in a manner to give them the most complete effect, and to advance in all other respects the best interests of our Union, will be the object of my constant and zealous exertions.

Monroe begins his conclusion, continuing in the plain style with short, declarative sentences.

  1. He paints the people as family which has endured hardship with success. 
  2. He refers to the arguments he made as "experiences" which "enlightened" us, suggesting it is not he but nature and reason which have afforded the conclusions he offered.
  3. If progress has been slow, it is because we proceeded properly.

His final sentence is structured around the two infinitives stating his aims which are then completed by the main verb, tying them back to his own "constant zeal and exertions." This structure allows him to end with the force of the main thought and not trail off into another list.

[112] Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever was success so complete. [113] If we look to the history of other nations, ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic, of a people so prosperous and happy. [114] In contemplating what we have still to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy when he reflects how near our Government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features which characterize it, and that is to be done by preserving the virtue and enlightening the minds of the people; and as a security against foreign dangers to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to the support of our independence, our rights and liberties. [115] If we persevere in the career in which we have advanced so far and in the path already traced, we can not fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the high destiny which seems to await us.

Here he paints the American success as complete, implying a need not for tinkering but for the expansion he envisioned. The anaphora and asyndeton in [113] at "so rapid, so gigantic" is simple but effective; they achieve a breaking-off before the parallel statement, amplifying it and creating a miniature climax. The presence of the conjunction in the parallel "of a people so prosperous and happy," softens the parallelism so the style doesn't become stiff and predictable. The next image in [114] is a beautiful one which mirrors the idea of the expanding nation: the expanding heart of the citizen. Monroe concludes this thought with a list which recapitulates the successes he mentioned and then he concludes with the assertion that the present situation requires not revolution but preservation and perseverance on the present path.

[115] In the Administrations of the illustrious men who have preceded me in this high station, with some of whom I have been connected by the closest ties from early life, examples are presented which will always be found highly instructive and useful to their successors. [116] From these I shall endeavor to derive all the advantages which they may afford. [117] Of my immediate predecessor, under whom so important a portion of this great and successful experiment has been made, I shall be pardoned for expressing my earnest wishes that he may long enjoy in his retirement the affections of a grateful country, the best reward of exalted talents and the most faithful and meritorious service. [118] Relying on the aid to be derived from the other departments of the Government, I enter on the trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which He has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor.

Monroe comes full circle by returning to the theme of his illustrious predecessors. He begins each of these statements with some prefatory phrase, suggesting a launching off point from which he'll move forward.

  • In the administration... examples are presented
  • From these... I shall derive
  • Of my predecessor... I shall express
  • Relying on aid... I enter into trust
The final sentence in essence defines Monroe's conception of the executive office, that of a president reliant on fellow branches and entering into a trust with the fellow citizens who by their own suffrage choose to do so. It then concludes with the standard request for divine guidance and protection, and a recapitulation  the theme of the speech, the hope for the continued protection for the successful nation. 

Monroe's is the first speech clearly patterned on those of his predecessors. Like those speeches, Monroe's opening paragraph is the most syntactically and rhetorically complicated, after which the style relaxes. The paragraphs demonstrate a strong thematic unity, beginning, developing  and ending with a clear concept. In fact, the paragraphs usually end with the word that encapsulates the section's main idea:
  • nation –> prosperity
  • Constitution –> treason
  • government –> foreign powers
  • geography of America –> home
  • national success –> liberty
  • danger –> cherishing [honor]
  • war –> termination
  • militia –> motion
  • expanse of America –> parts!
  • commerce –> markets
  • responsibility –> promote
  • prosperity –> due
  • success –> await us
  • success –> divine favor
Monroe moves smoothly from paragraph to paragraph, each one neatly addressing one policy in a much more specific and comprehensive fashion than his predecessors. Monroe also makes use of all three modes of persuasion:
  1. Establishing his personal character by presenting himself as A) justly elected, B) in a just institution, and C) having served the people before with distinction.
  2. Putting the audience in a frame of mind which recognizes the present, splendid state of the nation.
  3. Proving by logic that certain of his policies are logical and necessary.
Monroe's speech also contrasts his predecessors insofar as it clearly has elements of both political and epideictic oratory. On the one hand Monroe advocates specific policies, especially with respect to national defense, which he aims to establish as expedient and which he defends against specific criticisms, albeit deftly not defining any particular opponents or contrary positions. On the other hand, Monroe is conscious that the speech is of a celebratory, ceremonial nature as well. As such he spends time praising his predecessors and the nation, even as he attempts to prove himself worthy of the honor. 

Overall, Monroe's speech demonstrates precise plain style, moderately adorned in its introduction and only complex when deliberating a course of action. The continuity within paragraphs gives coherence to the arguments and the continuity from paragraph to paragraph makes for an effortless reception as well as presents his policy as effortless and reasonable. The speech is long, but the aforementioned coherence and periodic variety give energy and rhythm to the speech. Finally, Monroe is clear and systematic about emphasizing his main ideas of preserving America's success and maintaining a just and responsible government. 

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