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Jefferson and Madison Presidencies

Topics: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, United States Constitution / Pages: 4 (831 words) / Published: Feb 6th, 2006
During the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison (1801-1817), a dual political party government was starting to form. In the Constitution, which was made in 1787, it is portrayed Jeffersonian Republicans as strict constructionists and Federalists as broad ones. It is true that the Democratic-Republicans believed in the strict construction of the constitution and a weaker federal government, thinking that if there were high concentration of central government, it would lead to a loss of individual and state rights. Madison and Jefferson were two members of this political party, with Jefferson being known as the founder and leader of it. The Federalists, on the other hand, believed that a stronger central government was needed and the Articles of Confederation were too weak. The Democratic-Republican Party (also known as Anti-Federalists) began because of groups that opposed Alexander Hamilton’s fiscal policies. These groups were organized into a party in the mid-1790s by Jefferson and Madison, but it wasn’t until 1800 though that they had a breakthrough and began taking control of the Presidency and Congress. Meanwhile, the Federalist Party was on a slow decline because of Hamilton and Adams not being there anymore and was eventually destroyed as a political force after the Hartford Convention (1814-1815). The meeting was held to discuss several constitutional amendments needed to protect New England’s interests (Document E). This left a short break from political debates and competition, known as the “Era of Good Feeling”.
The Federalist Party was made in the first Washington administration to support the fiscal policies of Hamilton and came to support a strong national government, loose constitution, and a more industrial, less agricultural economy. John Adams and Alexander Hamilton were among its leaders. They were doing well until the Democratic-Republicans took over Congress and the Presidency in the “Revolution of 1800”. After that, they continued to decline and died off at the end of the War of 1812.
From 1801-1809, Thomas Jefferson ran the presidency as a strict constitutionalist who reminded the people that the majority couldn’t have all of the power, but the minority needed to be tended to also. He was a great advocate of equality and liberty and knew that people had their own rights, such as the right to having your own religious preference and being able to follow it without the government choosing it for you (Document B). Jefferson also kept in mind that as times would change, so would the government and its needs. As he write in 1816: “I know…. that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind” (Document G). This was a very mature thing for him to remember at that time, to not only think about the present but also to make room for future changes.
While Jefferson did help to found the Republican-Democratic party, many of the decisions he made in office favored a strong central government and strong executive power, which seems to be a clear characteristic of the Federalist Party. However, he also cut back the government’s size and reduced its expenses.
While James Madison was president from 1809-1817, he was well known for his abilities in foreign affairs during a time when Britain and France were on the brink of war with us. He also made sure that the government would use power fairly and not inflict it or problems on the people as a burden. During a proposed tariff in 1816, it was reminded that “power was given to Congress to regulate commerce and equalize tariffs on the whole of the United States” and that “it is unjust to aggravate the burdens of the people for the purpose of favoring the manufacturers” (Document F). Madison also managed to keep in mind that nothing drastic should be done unless approved, such in the case of a network for transportation. As Madison said to Congress concerning an Internal Improvements Bill: “such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction…I have no opinion but to withhold my signature from it” (Document H).
Jefferson and Madison were accomplished men during their presidencies that also understood that collaboration could be helpful. They worked together and focused on national issues that highlighted their philosophies and published these as letters known as The Adams-Jefferson Letters. The first formation of political parties was in process and they ran the early Democratic-Republican Party well. The parties started out opposite of each other with the Democratic Republicans wanting an agriculture-based economy and a loose government, as to allow for the central government to not take away from personal and state rights; and as the Federalists, who mostly lived in New England and wanted a strict, tight government, but died out after the leaders left, the Hartford Convention, and the War of 1812.

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