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During the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison, the Jeffersonian Republicans shifted away from their strict constructionist belief to the broader constructionist belief in order to protect the country from external threats. Simultaneously, the Federalists shifted from their broad constructionist beliefs to a more strict belief in order to undermine the integrity of the Republicans. The Embargo of 1807 and the Louisiana Purchase were significant exercises of federal power, however the presidents were ultimately protecting America. Although the Republicans did uphold their republican values by ensuring that the federal government had a relatively unimportant role in American life, this is an exception rather than guideline for their decisions.
Enlisting American people for the regular army, although unconstitutional, was passed as the Conscription bill through the elastic clause. The elastic clause allows for more bills to be passed that are deemed necessary for this growing nation. It was necessary to pass the Conscription bill in order to protect the people because not enough Americans were volunteering for the army. Some historians may argue that by forcing American people to join, they are forced to surrender everything valuable in their life, however this is the contrary because ultimately this army protected America from external forces such as the British and Native Americans (doc 2). Similarly, in 1807 Jefferson passed the Embargo Act in order to prevent British ships from taking American citizens and putting them in their navy. In order to do so, he prevented any U.S. ships from leaving any ports. Although this caused a depression that primarily affected the merchants, it also saved their lives. It was the better solution than if they were to be in a naval battle to risk losing their life for a country that wasn’t even their own. After the Embargo Act, no other American citizens were unjustly impressed into the British Navy. Through passing this bill and act that were not explicitly written in the constitution, Jefferson and Madison shifted away from being typical strict constructionists for the safety of the country and its citizens from external forces such as the British.
Furthermore, in 1803 Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon in order to create a buffer between the majorities of American civilization and many possibly dangerous Native American tribes. The Louisiana Purchase was the biggest expansion of American soil in history. It was very unlike the strict constructionist belief of meticulously following the constitution. By purchasing this land, Jefferson not only prevented a possible conflict with France, but also protected America and its citizens from Native American threats. Although Napoleon was eager to sell his land by America, if any other country bought the land or if France kept it there was still a possibility of threat. Furthermore, by purchasing this huge area of land, the government was able to create a buffer between the majority of American settlement and the unhappy Native Americans in the West. The rise of Tecumseh posed a serious threat to the concentrated population of America. And since the Native Americans were primarily outside of the boundary of America, this can be considered an external threat. Tecumseh’s strategy in 1809 was to unite all of the Native American tribes of the Mississippi Valley, north and south, to form a powerful alliance. His intentions were to lead many of the people in order to halt white expansion to recover the whole northwest and making the Ohio River a permanent boundary between the two groups of people. Furthermore he attempted to persuade the southern tribes to join his alliance. But, since there was a buffer that slowed down the Native Americans actions, William Henry Harrison was able to drive the most of the Native Americans away, preventing a possible full-blown war. By allowing his ideas and theories to undergo certain changes, Jefferson was able to make appropriate decisions given certain the circumstances. Since this purchase clearly ensured the people’s safety and protected many lives, the characterization of the Republicans shifting to more lenient beliefs is accurate.
Although Jefferson and Madison did strictly follow the constitution in some instances, such as adhering to the protection of the 1st Amendment right, this is ultimately an exception of the shifting beliefs of Republicans to strictly follow the constitution. It is true that it was Jefferson’s belief that the federal government should have very little power. He had a very different vision for the country than that of his predecessors. He intended to create a primarily agrarian society. However it became apparent that after industrialization this simple society would not be attainable. The presidents had to shift their views to correspond to the shifting economy. And since external threats such as the British and Native Americans posed a serious threat, those threats had to be pacified, even if it meant exercising federal power. By protecting the country from external threats, the presidents were in turn able to maintain the Republican value such as the 1st Amendment right. This demonstrates the presidents practicing strict constructionism, and furthermore the American government had no right to interfere with religious institutions because it was deemed unconstitutional (doc 1). So even a traditional broad constructionist wouldn’t be able to interfere with religious institutions because the 1st Amendment protects it. However this is overall not as significant because at this most of the colonies already accepted almost all the religions. Furthermore, the Federalist shifted to a position of simply undermining the Republicans actions. This is in part because of the Republicans shift to a broader constructionist view. For example, Daniel Webster challenged Madison’s Conscription bill by stating it was unconstitutional, however this goes strictly against the typical broad constructionist view of the Federalists (Doc 2).
Under the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison, the Republicans shifted to the broader constructionism in order to protect the nation from possible threats. Without these precautions, America could have possibly been in ruins. Contradicting to their original beliefs, the Federalist used strict constructionism to undermine the Republicans integrity. The original views of constitutional interpretation often opposed the two parties changing agendas, like protecting the country for the presidents, so the original interpretations of the Jeffersonian Republicans and Federalists were inaccurate.
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