Per 4Constructionist DBQDuring the period of 1801-1817, the republican and federalist partieswere characterized by strict and loose construction of the federalConstitution. The Republicans were usually characterized as strictconstructionists, which meant they believed in interpreting theConstitution by the exact words presented by its framers. The federalistswere usually characterized as loose constructionists, which meant theyfocused more on the intent of the constitution and its framers. During theyears 1801-1817 our nation witnessed a shift in the traditional policies ofthe Republicans and Federalists, especially in their economic, military,and judicial policies. Even though Jefferson and Madison encompassed bothstrict and loose constructionist policies, during 1801-1817 they began to”out federalize the federalists. “With respect to economics, both Jefferson and Madison shifted theirconstructionist policies.Order now
As evident in Doc A, prior to his presidencyJefferson argued that the government should not assume any power unlessspecifically provided for in the Constitution. However, once Jeffersonbecame president he compromised this view with the Louisiana Purchase. America purchased Louisiana for a hefty $15 million; Jefferson did so eventhough the Constitution did not provide him with the power to make such apurchase. This purchase also contradicts Jefferson’s opinions in Doc B, inwhich he believes that a government must do only that which is”interdicted” by the Constitution. Another economic policy in whichJefferson showed his tendency to shift towards a loose constructionistpolicy when convenient is the Embargo Act of 1807. As evident in Doc C, theembargo act was believed to be an overuse of power by the Federalgovernment.
The constitution did not provide the government with the powerfor an embargo, yet Jefferson used the Constitution loosely to validate hisimplementation of the embargo on Britain. Jefferson placed the embargo onBritain after Britain began to claim they had a right to search Americanmerchant ships. The embargo eventually turned into the non-intercourse actonce an American ship was fired upon by a British ship. These two actsprove that Jefferson and Madison were willing to compromise theirtraditional strict constructionist policies when it was necessary to do so. Madison also had some loose constructionist economic policies.
Prior to hisappointment to Jefferson’s cabinet Madison was considered a Federalist, yeteven though he became a republican with Jefferson, he still had looseconstructionist reservations. One such economic example is his creation ofthe Second National Bank. This move can be considered hypocriticalconsidering one of the greatest differences between Republicans andFederalists was the creation of a National Bank. The resentment towardssuch an action is can be seen in Doc F, in which one democratic republicanis furious with the fact that a republican administration is undertakingFederalist policies. This shows how Madison was willing to shift hispolitical values when it was convenient to do so. Jefferson and Madison also had strict and loose constructionistpolicies with respect to military issues.
As evident in Doc D, DanielWebster is upset that Madison has taken it upon himself to decide that theFederal government has the power to have a military draft. While Madisontypically wanted to follow the Constitution word for word, when he neededto raise an army to go to war he decided that he would merely interpret theintent of the Constitution. He took it upon himself to assert the militarypower of conscription. This use of loose construction in order to justifywar efforts is also evident in the War of 1812. Madison declared war onGreat Britain on June 12, 1812 mainly due to the impressments of Americansoldiers by the British as well as many other disputes with the British. His decision was extremely controversial at the time because no one wassure as to whether his loose interpretation of his Constitutional powerswas correct.
Madison’s decision to go to war, as well as his drive forconscription are examples of his loose constructionist policies. Strict and loose constructionist policies of Jefferson and Madison arenot more evident than in judicial issues. In the case of Fletcher v Peck,the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the original land grantwas a valid contract despite the fact that it was corruptly passed by theGeorgia legislature. The Court said that the new Georgia legislature couldnot void the land sale after the fact.
The Court said that nothing in theConstitution allows states to pass laws which void contracts or land grantsmade by previous state legislatures. The Constitution prohibits statesfrom passing any “law impairing the obligation of contracts. ” This decisionis a perfect example of strict constructionist policies in which Jeffersonand Madison had claimed to uphold. Fletcher v Peck would uphold the valuesMadison claims to posses In Doc H, where he believes he cannot sign aninternal improvement bill due to the fact he was not given the power to doso in the Constitution.
Another monumental court case was Marbury vMadison. In this case, President John Adams made a series of “midnightappointments” to fill as many government posts as possible withFederalists. One of these appointments was William Marbury as a federaljustice. However, Thomas Jefferson took over as President before theappointment was officially given to Marbury. Jefferson instructed Secretaryof State James Madison to not deliver the appointment. Marbury sued Madisonto get the appointment he felt he deserved.
The Supreme Court decided thatthe federal law contradicted the Constitution, and since the Constitutionis the Supreme Law of the Land, it must reign supreme. Through this case,Chief Justice John Marshall established the power of judicial review, whichis the power of the Court not only to interpret the constitutionality of alaw or statute but also to carry out the process and enforce its decision. This decision corresponds with Doc G, in which Jefferson tries to implythat the Constitution is not sacred and can be interpreted in numerousways. In Marbury v Madison, Jefferson tried to argue a loose constructionof the constitution in order to benefit himself. Jefferson did not want theSupreme Court to be filled with Federalists justices. These court cases areexamples of the tip-toeing Jefferson and Madison did between strict andloose constructionist issues.
The period of 1801-1817 can be considered one of fluctuation. Fluctuations of personal opinions and political beliefs are evident inThomas Jefferson and James Madison throughout this period. The traditionalcharacterization of republicans being strict constructionists is not truedue to the fact that Jefferson and Madison followed strict and broadpolicies during their time in office. The wavering of views is most evidentin economic, military, and judicial issues. It is obvious that bothJefferson and Madison had no distinct political view when it came to theinterpretation of the Constitution.