nstructionismIt was 1800, when vice president Jefferson succeeded Adams in the role of president. Jefferson stressed republican virtues of independence and equality and his belief in a frugal government. With his inauguration, the transfer of power to the Republican from the Federalists intensified a political conflict between the two political parties. Even though Jefferson stated in his inaugural address that “we are all Republicans, we are all Federalists,” the Federalists and Republicans continued to doubt each other, especially on the issue of the Constitution.
With Jefferson leading the way, Republicans took on the position of a strict interpretation of the Constitution, which did not allow the federal government to take any action that was not specifically addressed by the Constitution. The Federalists, however, advocated by the ideas of Hamilton, remained steadfast to the approach of broad interpretation, which permitted the government to do anything, not expressly prohibited by the Constitution. However, both parties were quick to stray to their political ideologies. Republicans and Federalists adhered to their bureaucratic philosophies in political addresses and speeches, yet both parties varied with cause, straying from their own civic principles.
In various political addresses, Jefferson was seen as inseparable with strict interpretation and a contender for state rights. He tried to affirm the belief that domestic policies should be decided by the states and fears that the Federalists will change the Constitution (docum. A). By the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, Jefferson and Madison asserted that states were the foundation of the nation and therefore had supreme power. The federal government had no right to exercise powers not delegated to it by the Constitution. Jefferson also remained unwavering to strict construction by declaring that the states had the power to determine the matters of religion and not the federal government (docum.B) Madison asserted his contribution to Republicans by vetoing the Internal Improvements Bill, a proposal that would allow Congress to make changes in the Constitution (docum. H)
On the other hand, Jefferson seemed to favor loose construction and believer of a strong federal government on notable occasions. The Louisiana Purchase was one of the circumstances, where Jefferson was on the side of the Federalist’s loose construction. On April 30, Monroe and Livingston signed the Louisiana Purchase with France, acquiring 827,000 square miles of land for 15 million dollars. However, the Constitution did not authorize the president to acquire new territory and incorporate it into the nation. Jefferson proposed a constitutional amendment to allow the purchase, stating that he was exercising the president’s implied powers to protect the nation. Furthermore was the embargo act, which was intended to prevent confrontation between American merchant ships and British and French warships, but was not clearly authorized in the Constitution, turning Jefferson into a broad constructionist (docum. C). The embargo punished Britain and France, but ended up hurting the United States, especially New England. There was also the Tariff of 1816, which levied taxes on imported woolens, cottons, and iron, in effect raising their prices in the United States. According to Republican John Randolph, the revenue-raising tariff was not outlined in the Constitution and violated Republican ideologies (docum. F).
On the other side of the debate were the Federalists. They loosely interpreted the Constitution, stating that they had the action to do anything, not specifically prohibited in the Constitution. Their broad construction of the Constitution was seen in many court cases, which were supervised by Chief Justice John Marshall. In the case of Marbury vs. Madison, the Supreme Court exercised the power to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional and the principle on which Marshall justified his decision was set forth in The Federalist. As for the case of McCulloch vs. Maryland, gave implied powers in the hands of the national government and laid down principles limiting the rights of states. Dartmouth College vs. Woodward, also exhibited Federalists’ ideologies, by declaring that the charter of Dartmouth (a private corporation) was a contract and inviolable by state authority.
However, like the Republicans, Federalists strayed from their civic views on various incidents. They opposed the embargo act, mainly because they were pro-British. The embargo act caused New England, the power base of Federalists, to downfall into economic depression, because the shipping industry collapsed as exports fell by 80%. The New England states then demanded that the government remove its authority to impose embargoes (docum. E). In the Hartford, they wanted to restrict the presidency to one term and required a two-thirds congressional vote to admit new states to the Union (docum. E). Federalists also disapproved of the War of 1812. They claimed it as a Republican war—Mr.Madison’s War. They thought it was unconstitutional to draft people away from state militia (docum.D) . Madison responded with the “elastic clause,” which allowed Congress the power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying out the enumerated list of powers.
Both men (Jefferson and Madison) as well as both parties were steadfast to their views of interpretation in words, but when it came to action, they strayed from their political conceptions about the Constitution. Both political figures reinstated time after time that the nation rested solely on the states, but when the time came, with it was the second war with Britain or the trade with France, the two men broke from strict constructionism, in order to serve the public interest. In general, both presidents took the views of either party when it suited him best.