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By T-Frost Sep 30, 2013 478 Words
During the period of 1801-1817, Democratic-Republicans and Federalists had different views of the Constitution; strict interpretation and then loose interpretation. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were two Democratic-Republican presidents who viewed the Constitution strictly. However, Jefferson would sometimes adopt federalist practices and loosely interpret the Constitution. The federalists during the Hartford Convention viewed the Constitution super strictly; especially many objectives of the War of 1812 were unconstitutional. Throughout 1801-1817, Jefferson had both strict and loose interpretations of the Constitution, as did federalists.

Toward the end of Jefferson’s presidency, loose interpretation became the common thing throughout his party with the adaptation of Hamilton’s financial plan. In Jefferson’s letter to Samuel Kercheval, he stated that citizens have to adapt to Constitution depending on the era (Doc C). Even though Jefferson allowed Alien and Sedition acts to expire and repeal the Excise tax, all other programs in Public Credit stayed in place. “I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions…” (Doc C).

Madison issued the very first protective tariff in 1816, which John Randolph talks about in his speech to the House of Representatives (Doc F). “Their Principle now is old federalism vamped up into something bearing the superficial appearance of Republicanism” (Doc F). Randolph accuses Madison of being just like John Adams by loosely interpreting the Constitution’s Commerce Compromise to raise revenue in government (Doc F). The only provision of Hamilton not passed by Congress was one that called for a protective tariff. It was viewed by southern merchants as being a violation of our tenth amendment, which protected state rights.

Democratic-Republicans traditionally viewed things with a strict mind-set. On August 31, 1800, Thomas Jefferson wrote to Gideon Granger, future member of Jefferson’s cabinet, saying “…it (our country) can never be harmonious and solid while so respectable a portion of its citizens support principles which go directly to a change of the federal Constitution…” (Doc A). Jefferson thought that the Constitution should remain unchanged. “Our Country is too large to have its affairs directed by a single government” (Doc A).

He believed that majority of the Legislature of the US must keep up the federal Constitution and states must keep up rights that are granted to them. Eight years later, in a letter to Samuel Miller, he states, “Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise or to assume authority in religious discipline” (Doc B). Jefferson shows his support towards the Bill of Rights by making it clear federal government can’t change them.

The Republicans did have a strict view of the Constitution at times. Then, at other times they would loosely interpret the Constitution. Federalists acted the same way. Usually they would view it loosely but at other times, it is viewed by them strictly. All in all, Jeffersonian Republicans view the Constitution loosely and strictly, as do the Federalists.

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