When the Federalist party was organized in 1791, those people who favored a strong central government and a loose constitutional interpretation coagulated and followed the ideals of men such as Alexander Hamilton. The first opposition political party in the United States was the Republican party, which held power, nationally, between 1801 and 1825. Those who were in favor of states rights and a strict construction of the constitution fell under the leadership of Thomas Jefferson. These Jeffersonian republicans, also known as anti-federalists, believed in strict adherence to the writings of the constitution. They wanted state's rights and individual rights, which they believed could only be granted under strict construction of the constitution. Thomas Jefferson, the third president, and James Madison, his successor, were close friends and lifelong political associates. Long regarded as advocates for liberty, Jefferson and Madison believed in the principles of government and sought to restore the spirit of the revolution of 1776. These republicans spoke out against anti-monarchial attitudes and opposed the aristocratic and elitist attitudes of the federalists (Peterson, 1975). A weaker central government by the people was the goal of the republican party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, were two presidents who believed in the theory of the republican party, but due to circumstances within the parties and the increasing conflicts between Britain and France abroad, they found it increasingly difficult to act in a manner which coincided with their republican beliefs and at times had to reconcile their actions.
Jefferson's victory in the presidential election is notable because this was the first transfer of national authority from political group to another that was accomplished by peaceful and strictly constitutional means. He began his presidency with a plea for reconciliation and described his election as a recovery of the original intentions of the American Revolution (Ellis, 2000). In his true ideology, Jefferson said that a republic did not require a powerful central government to flourish. In fact, he felt that the health of the nation was inversely proportional to the power of the federal government. ******In Document A, Jefferson writes of the preservation of the constitution and the principles on which it was adopted. He wrote: "Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government" and that "The true theory of our constitution is the surely the wisest and best that the states are independent as to everything with themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations." Jefferson believed that a weaker central government would be more beneficial for domestic policy, but for foreign policy, the central government, might have to take a stronger hand.
From early times in his public career, Jefferson was the subject of attacks on religious grounds. Although he kept his opinions regarding religion very much to himself, and considered this a very private concern his insistence of the complete separation of church and state was well-known. In a now famous letter to Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson wrote "Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god...their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; thus building a wall of separation between church and state." This letter affirmed Jefferson's belief that church and state should be separated and includes the celebrated phrase, "a wall of eternal separation" (Maier, 2000). His views on religion are also expressed in Document B******, Jefferson states, "I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline or exercises...Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in...
Bibliography: 1. Ellis, Joseph. J, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson.
New York: Vintage Books, 1996.
2. Ellis, Joseph. J; Maier, Pauline, et al. Thomas Jefferson: Genius of Liberty.
New York: Viking Studio, 2000.
3. Ketcham, Ralph. James Madison; a Biography.
Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1990.
4. Peterson, Merrill, D. The Portable Thomas Jefferson.
New York: Penguin Books, 1975.
5. Rutland, Robert A.,ed. James Madison and the American Nation, 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia.
New York: Random House, 1994
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