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DBQ Jeffersonian vs. Federalists

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During the time period of 1801 to 1817, there were multiple issues in the United States ranging from wars to political boundaries. This time period saw the termination of the Federalist party. The conflicts were between two parties called the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists. The Federalist party was officially started by John Adams. John Adams was also a loose constructionist just like all the other Federalists. Federalists were in favor of a strong central government. On the other side, was Thomas Jefferson who was in office from 1801 to 1809.

Jefferson started the Jeffersonian Republican party. The Jeffersonians were strict constructionists who believed in states rights. They said that anything that is not stated in the Constitution, is reserved for the states to decide. However, this was not always the case. The statement that the Jeffersonian Republicans are usually characterized as strict constructionists who were opposed to the broad constructionism of the Federalists is partly accurate during the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison.

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While any party is in office, that party will almost always be loose constructionists because each party in office wants more power. The Jeffersonians started out as strict constructionists but slowly turned into loose constructionists because they were in office for twenty years.

The Jeffersonians were actually strict constructionists before Jefferson was elected in 1801. For example, the Jeffersonians did not like the idea of a national bank. They thought that banks are reserved for the states because there is nothing in the Constitution that states that the federal government can create a national bank. Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist who proposed the First Bank of the United States, was appointed as the first Secretary of Treasury. He thought that a national bank would help to improve the nation’s credit. Jefferson and Madison were opposed due to that a national bank mainly benefited merchants and investors rather than the whole population. Jefferson to Gideon Granger says, “attached equally to the preservation to the states of those rights unquestionably remaining with them” (Document A). Jefferson is promoting states’ rights here in saying that the state governments hold the right to anything that is not clearly stated in the Constitution. Also, Jefferson states, “The true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest and best that the states are independent as to everything within themselves, and united as to everything respecting foreign nations” (Document A). Jefferson again is stating that the states have more rights and to let the states be independent. Jefferson says this in 1800, one year before he becomes president. During Madison’s presidency, John Randolph, a Quid, says to the House of Representatives, “[W]e have another proof that the present government have renounced the true republican principles of Jefferson’s administration on which they raised themselves to power, and that they have taken up, in their stead, those of John Adams” (Document F). John Randolph is criticizing the acts of Jefferson and Madison.

More specifically, he is criticizing the Tariff of 1816 because imposing a tariff such as a tariff on imported goods, although a right of the federal government in the Constitution, was not promoting state rights. The Jeffersonian party started up as promoting states’ rights and strict constructionism. The Jeffersonian party was slowly drifting away from their basic principles. The Ograbme turtle cartoon in document C shows that the Embargo Act of 1807 was unconstitutional and was not promoting states rights. The Embargo Act was an act that Jefferson passed that cut off all trade during the Napoleonic Era. The Federalists called this act as unconstitutional on the basis that the Congress may “regulate trade with foreign nations, and among the several states…” To regulate trade implies that some trade is allowed. Congress completely banned trade with foreign nations so the Embargo Act of 1807 was clearly unconstitutional. Daniel Webster, a Federalist, said in a speech, “The [Madison] administration asserts the right to fill the ranks of the regular army by compulsion… Where is it written in the Constitution, in what article of 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?” (Document D). Webster is talking about the draft system that the Madison administration had implemented.

The Federalists chastised the idea of a draft because nowhere in the Constitution does it say that the Federal government has the right to do that. Jefferson says, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched” (Document G). He basically says that loose constructionism is good. Changing the Constitution, or adding new bills is okay according to Jefferson in document G. The Jeffersonian Republicans started out as strict constructionists, but due to being in power, they became more and more loose. On the other hand, Jefferson and Madison were partly still strict constructionists. Congress introduced the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 which was then argued against by the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were political statements made by the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures that were drafted to argue that the states had the right to declare any acts of Congress as unconstitutional. By doing this, they argued for states’ rights and strict constructionism. Jefferson and Madison, both being from the Virginia legislature, also advocated states’ rights and strict constructionism. Jefferson then became president soon after and brought his ideas of strict constructionism into play. Near the end of his second term in 1808, Jefferson says to Samuel Miller, a minister, “Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general [federal] government. It must then rest with the states…” (Document B). Jefferson clearly states that the states have the right to religion. Jefferson also says to Gideon Granger, “Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government” (Document A).

Jefferson wants a small federal government to give more power to the states. Both these statements back up the initial idea of the Jeffersonians of strict constructionism and giving more rights to the states. Just like Jefferson’s thinking, when Madison was presented with the Internal Improvements Bill in 1817, Madison clearly was against it saying, “But seeing that 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 and a reliance of insufficient precedents” (Document H). Madison refuses to allow the bill to pass because the power to give money is unconstitutional even though it may be good for the country, “I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses…” (Document H). During these four terms of presidency of Madison and Jefferson, both of them kept their basic ideals and principles that the party was based off of. Therefore, with respect to the federal Constitution, the Jeffersonian Republicans, although usually characterized as strict constructionists, are not completely strict constructionists. When they are in power, they become more and more loose constructionists, but during the times when the Federalists or any other opposing party is in power, they revert back to strict constructionism.

Cite this DBQ Jeffersonian vs. Federalists

DBQ Jeffersonian vs. Federalists. (2017, Apr 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/dbq-jeffersonian-vs-federalists/

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