On the Natural Aristocracy

by Thomas Jefferson

Discussion Questions

1. What does Jefferson mean by the “natural aristocracy”? Who does he mean by the “pseudo-aristoi”?

2. Does Jefferson think that his “belief that there is a natural aristocracy among men” is consistent with democratic government? How does he reconcile the two?

3. How does Jefferson distinguish his position from that of John Adams, to whom he is addressing this letter? Do the differences between them involve principles or goals of government or are they differences about how to achieve goals?

4. How does the legislation he supported in Virginia enact his democratic goals?

5. What does Jefferson think is the place of education in a democracy? Why does he think that education is a political concern?

6. Does Jefferson show any awareness of the problem that of ambitious men to which Lincoln refers in his speech on "The Perpetuation of our Political Institutions"?

Paper topics
1. Compare and contrast Jefferson's and Lincoln's views of the dangers faced by democratic governments and the solutions or advice they offer.

Jefferson Reading

Guide to unit 2

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