October 17, 2013
During the Revolutionary Period in the early 19th century, the two dominant political parties, the Democratic Republicans and the Federalists, had many conflicting belies. The Federalists believed that the federal government had certain implied powers that were not laid out in the Constitution. The Jeffersonian Republicans, on the other hand, believed that the government did not have the power to do anything that was not granted in the document. The DemocraticRepublicans can habitually be depicted as strict constitutionalists and the Federalists can be seen as broad constructionists, but to a certain extent, this classification of these two parties during the administrations of Jefferson and Madison, from 1801 to 1817, were fallacious as they occasionally strayed from their core beliefs for what they thought may benefit the United States; Jefferson and Madison both stuck to their original political beliefs for the most part, but in certain cases, strayed from these beliefs for the good of their country.
The Federalists, which were originally led by Alexander Hamilton for his opposition to the Democratic Republicans, stressed the need for order, authority, and regularity in the political world. They believed in the idea of a broad interpretation of the Constitution. Northern merchants and commercially oriented farmers tended to form part of this faction; Americans of English stock also conformed the Federal party. Unlike Republicans, thy had no grassroots political organization and emphasized poorly on involving ordinary people in government. One of their most important issues was the great debt that America was going through. Alexander Hamilton saw this situation and proposed that Congress assumes outstanding state debts, combine them with national obligations and pay interests. His aim was to expand the financial research of the U.S, government and reduce economic power of the states. This was opposed by James Madison that argued that there was no state debt since Virginia, his own state, had already paid. Hamilton agreed to change the plan to benefit Virginia. With this, the first part of Hamilton's program became law in August 1790,later leading to the idea of the First Bank of the United States. The conflict that the Republicans argued against this is wether the Constitution gave Congress the power to establish such bank. Which arose to the differences of interpretation of the Constitution. When Hamilton argued that Congress could choose any means not specifically prohibited by the Constitution to achieve constitutional end. Later, the bill became law, and the bank proved successful. Oppositions between these parties grew, thus creating hatred. This is when political parties started a sort of attacks. Since the members of the House of Representatives voted as coherent groups rather than as individuals(factional loyalty) the amount of non aligned congressmen significantly dropped in 1796, which aided the Federalists to control the first three congresses throughout the spring of 1795. In the spring of 1798, the federalists controlled the Fifth Congress and adopted a set of four laws know as the Alien and Sedition Acts, intended to support dissent and prevent further growth of the Republican party. At first they were claimed as being designed to to protect the U.S. from alien citizens of enemy power and to stop attacks from weakening the government, but the Democratic Republicans attacked these laws as being unconstitutional since the Sedition Act did not protected the vice- president, which occurs to be Thomas Jefferson, a Democratic Republican. These Acts were, however, never appealed to the Supreme Court because they had no rights of judicial review, which were issued by president John Marshal, until 1803 in the case known as Marbury v. Madison. In the case, he ruled that Marbury had a right to his commission of a writ of mandamus but that the court could not compel Madison to honor it, because the Constitution did not grant the Court the power to issue the writ. Thus, President Marshall authorized the Court to issue such writs. The Supreme Court claimed its power to judge the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress. This came to me known as judicial review. But it was not all good for the country. During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, there was war going between France and England, and both countries demanded that they could not ally with the other. Without any choice, president Jefferson prohibited trade with either England or France. This is known as the Embargo Act of 1807. This angered the New Englanders which proclaimed against the injustice and the negative impact of the Embargo Act[Doc C] and even talked about seceding the nation. At Jefferson's renounce the act eventually collapsed under the pressure of domestic opposition. In his last days in office, he tried to lighten the burden by working to replace the embargo with the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809. The Act reopened trade with all nations except Britain and France. When this Act expired in 1810, Congress created the Macon's Bill Number 2 which reopened trade with GB and France, but provided that if either nation ceased to violate American rights, the president could shut down trade. But the French continued to seize American ships. Since the Royal Navy controlled the Atlantic Ocean, Britain was the main target of American hostility. Frustrated and having exhausted all efforts to alter British policy, the U.S. in 1811 and 1812 drifter into war with Great Britain. The war consisted mostly of scuffles and skirmishes; full scale war was rare. But still, Daniel Webster felt that the federal government doesn't have a right to draft man into military[Doc D]. When the war was ended by the Treaty of Ghent in 1814, Federalists delegates from New England met in Hartford, Connecticut to revise the national compact or to pull out of the republic, since they opposed the war. They came up with foolish resolutions [Doc E] which stated their displeasure with the current functions of the national government.When the news about the victory at New Orleans and the peace treaty reached the Hartford convention, the talk about secession and constitutional amendment looked ridiculous and treasonous. This seemed to be the end of the Federalist party. They retreated before a rising tide of nationalism.
While in office, the majority of Jefferson's political philosophy was the same as a constructionist's political philosophy. In Jefferson's first year of his presidency, he gave George Granger a letter in which he states his beliefs of following the Constitution strictly, and his opponents' (the Federalists) political views of loose interpretation [Doc A]. It can be implied through this letter that Jefferson believed that the Federalist's view of loose interpretation would lead to a superior national government, similar to that of a monarchy, which would cut out state's rights which are clearly laid out in the Constitution. Jefferson wrote a letter in his last year of office to Samuel Miller [Doc B], in which he reinforces the image of a strict constitution by stating that he intends to break the precedent of his predecessors to better adhere to the Constitution's policy of separation of church and state. Another example of Jefferson's strict allegiance to the Constitution was his philosophy that the National Bank should not be established because it was unconstitutional. Similar to Jefferson, Madison stuck to his Jeffersonian Republican political beliefs for the most part. Speaking for Madison, Daniel Webster questioned Congress's ability to draft men for the military on the sole argument that the power to do so is not listed in the Constitution. He said that if Congress was not to adhere to the Constitution completely, they would be turning their country into a dictatorship [Doc D]. In his own address to Congress, Madison says that funds cannot be set apart for the development of transportation because that power is not stated in the Constitution [Doc H]. Both of these documents show Madison's very strict constructionists beliefs, and support that common characteristic of Jeffersonian Republicans. In addition to these things, Madison also vetoed the Bonus Bill because it granted the federal government power that wasn't supported by the Constitution. Both Jefferson and Madison supported the characterization of Jeffersonian Republicans as strict constructionists, but in face of political popularity, were forced to retire or compromise some of their core beliefs. For example, because of Jefferson's lack of popularity at the beginning of his presidency, he could not quickly abolish the national bank supported under Adams, even though it was not granted by the Constitution. Jefferson's biggest defiance of his strict interpretation of the Constitution came from his purchase of the Louisiana Territory. Even though the Constitution didn't grant the ability to purchase the territory, Jefferson did so anyway because he couldn't pass an offer to double the size of the country. After his presidency, Jefferson wrote a letter to Samuel Kercheval that showed his support for changing the Constitution since times were changing [Doc G]. This was a huge step from Jefferson's previous statements that the federal government couldn't do anything without it first being granted by the Constitution. Madison is also guilty for the same types of actions. John Randolph accused Madison of having Federalist ideals, specifically referring to Madison using the federal government to set the Tariff of 1816 [Doc F]. Madison also received criticism for his "American System"; The American System set up things not supported by the Constitution, such as the Second Bank of the United States.
From looking at the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison, one can see the ideals of their political party, the Democratic Republicans, emerge. One can also see the hypocriticalness of their said beliefs, through events such as the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, and the reestablishment of the national bank. Sometimes, political views had to be disregarded when trying to care for either the overall well-being of the United States, or when trying to keep one's own popularity high. Generally, Democratic Republicans were strict constructionists and the Federalists were broad constructionists, but the actions under the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison did not always support these views