With respect to the federal Constitution, the Jeffersonian Republicans are usually characterized as strict constructionists who were opposed to the broad constructionism of the Federalists. To what extent was this characterization of the two parties accurate during the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison?
Prior to 1800s, the Jeffersonian Republicans are characterized as strict constructionists who believed that the authority of national government rest on what is specified on the Constitution. The Federalists, on the other hand, maintained as broad constructionists who argue that government should do whatever that is not forbidden on the Constitution. However, throughout the course of 1801 to 1817, both parties failed to stay consistent with their original principles and adopted whichever interpretation of the Constitution that serves them best. Politically, the War of 1812, also known as “Mr. Madison’s war” with Britain, stirred the most controversy in Federalist and Republicans. Madison supported the war because of the seemingly auspicious terms he can get out of the war. War of 1812 promised several things: more land for settlement, completely elimination of Britain’s presences in America and Canada, and most importantly, it promised to restore unity in U.S. Federalists, now acting as strict constructions, demands word by word justification of declaring war on Britain. For example, Daniel Webster argued that “…Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article or section is it contained, that you may take children from their parents, and parents from their children, and compel them to fight the battles of any war in which the folly or the wickedness of the government may engage it?...” Many Federalists felt declaring war with the country of their origin is unfaithful to the Canon Laws which they obey in churches. Furthermore, they view France as America’s real enemy since it seized more cargo from American merchants than Britain. Economically,...
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