Loose/Strict Constructionist Essay

By both definition and widespread perception the Jeffersonian-Republicans were strict constructionists, meaning they closely followed the framework of the Constitution. On the other hand, the belief was that Federalists, who thought the Constitution was open for interpretation, were loose constructionists. Although both the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison (Democratic-Republicans) mainly supported these theories, they, like other politicians of the time, often made exceptions to their “policies. ”

During Jefferson’s Presidency, he often conveyed his strict constructionist stance regarding certain issues; therefore he followed the ‘defined’ ideals of the Democratic-Republican Party.

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After just entering office (August of 1800), Jefferson sent a message to Gideon Granger (Doc. A), a future cabinet member. His letter depicted his opposition regarding the idea of a strong, “single” centralized government in America (a Federalist-minded view). For example, one of the most noteworthy things Jefferson did during his political career was outwardly oppose Hamilton’s plan for a National Bank.

This truly demonstrated Jeffersonian-Republican opposition (before 1800) towards any sort of Federalist ideal.

Throughout his political career, he also portrayed his belief in the Constitution as it was written, rather than accept views of the Federalists (which, he implied, would lead to a monarchy). During his last year in office (1808), Jefferson is shown to have written another letter (Doc. B), this time to a Mr. Samuel Miller. Here, he re-asserted his desire for a government to follow the ideals of the Constitution, and thus make sure there will be a full separation between church and state (first amendment rights).

James Madison, also being a Democratic-Republican, supported, for the most part, the same principals Thomas Jefferson did. As shown by Document H, Madison is depicted as to standing firm on his Republican ideals when affirming his position: that funds cannot be set apart for the development of national transportation because “such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution. ” Not only did he express his anger towards a loose following of the Constitution in Doc. H, but Madison also went as far as vetoing a popular “Bonus-Bill.

Although it was unpopular (especially amongst Federalists), he vetoed the proposed legislation because he believed it seemingly gave the government powers that the Constitution had not granted. Although both Presidents mostly stood firm regarding their strict constructionists views (as explained before), they, along with many other politicians (including Federalists), at times, had acted incredibly hypocritical when it came to their stances. Often it was demonstrated that Federalists became more strict, while Republicans became increasingly loose.

First, Federalist Daniel Webster demonstrated this change in political position in document D. In his speech, he opposed President Madison’s position regarding a mandated military draft. He claimed that Madison was acting outside the guidelines of the Constitution, which illustrated Webster’s change from a loose constructionist to more of a strict constructionist. Secondly, Jefferson, a self-proclaimed strict constructionist also joined the group of political hypocrites. For example, Jefferson’s most grand defiance of the Constitution of the United States was his approval of the Louisiana Purchase.

Even though the Constitution didn’t necessarily allow for such action, Jefferson made an executive decision to pursue the idea of expanding America, and thus starting a westward movement. Apparently the success of the Louisiana Purchase must’ve altered Jefferson’s mindset, because eight years after his Presidency (1816), Jefferson wrote a letter to Samuel Kercheval (Doc. G), which gave support to exploring some change/further interpretation of the Constitution. Lastly, Republicans also at times slandered Madison for being too much like a Federalist (Webster in Doc. D and Doc. F).

In this document (F), Randolph outwardly spoke against his executively proposed tariffs of 1816, which truly angered many strict constructionists. Not only was he slandered for his proposed tariffs, but also his establishment of the “American System” that favored the re-establishment of a Second National Bank in America. These examples of prominent politicians slightly swaying from their political party, demonstrate the presence of political opportunists even in the 1800s. “When judged by the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison (for the most part), it would appear that Jeffersonian-Republicans were indeed strict constructionists.

It also appeared that both Presidents, along with other politicians, chose certain times to act hypocritical” (Parker); Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase and Madison’s re-establishment of a national bank are two portrayals of those instances. In general, the politicians of 1800-1817 laid the foundation for political opportunists to maneuver their way into power by challenging normal ways of thinking/unpopular philosophies. This precedent is still being followed today, and although it may not be too beneficial at times, it has strengthened democracy and this republic of the United States of America.

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