The United States Constitution is without a doubt the most monumental document of our country’s history. From the time it was released there have been different thoughts on how the Constitution was meant to be interpreted. The Republicans thought of the Constitution as a code of strict guidelines there were to be followed by all citizens over which it stood. The Federalists on the other hand thought that the Constitution was more of a basis on which to act and that its rules could be broadened. During the time when Jefferson and Madison resided as president the views on the Constitution changed do to issues at the time.
Both presidents found that there original stand points on the Constitution were beginning to change and they found themselves on middle ground. With respect to the federal Constitution, the Jeffersonian Republicans are usually characterized as strict followers of the Constitution and opposed the broad constructionist of Federalist presidents. In the time frame of 1801-1817, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the Republican presidents of the time demonstrated the differences of the Republican Party in several aspects involving the interpretation of the Constitution.
Thomas Jefferson dreamed of a nation of independent farmers living under a central government that exercised a minimum of control over their lives and served merely to protect the individual liberties granted by the Constitution. Jefferson, in his dialog with Presbyterian minister Samuel Miller, demonstrated that the government will only be ruled by the Constitution, and not even God would have a say. (Document B) However this didn’t come to pass as Jefferson watched over a nation that was growing more industrial and urban.
Madison also categorized himself as a close follower of the Constitution. When a bill for constructing waterways and roads was proposed, Madison went against it stating that, “Such a power is not expressly in the Constitution. ” (Document H) However Madison soon found himself starting a draft. Daniel Webster expressed that this was against his Republican beliefs for where in the Constitution does it state that government as the power to take children from their families and force them to fight in a war.
(Document D) The assertion of being strict on the Constitution was undermined and soon what was black and white began turning grey. When the Hartford Convention was formed, a group of anti war New England Federalists, many had become opposed to Madison’s doctrine. However the convention was resolved and commended Constitutional amendments. It is clear the Madison had become a loose constructionalist and that his decisions were based on realistic decisions and what would be better for the public at the time they were made.
Another critique of Madison was given by Randolph who attacked Madison’s failure to stay true to his republican principles and taking federalist ideas. This suggested a split in the republican party. (Document F) Jeffersonian Republicans were strict constructionists in aspects of Jefferson dismantling the Navy and placing limitations on the military, Jefferson also upheld to Washington’s two term policy of presidency, Madison’s vetoing of the of the Internal Improvement Bill in 1817 shows he thought internal improvements by the federal government was against the Constitution.
The buying of the Louisiana Purchase by Jefferson shows a loose constructionist view because he bought it without the Senate’s approval. Hamilton’s tax which is a loose view. The embargo shows Jefferson’s loose view, too. In one of the documents Jefferson states that he feels the government needs to be flexible and change with the times. In all, both parties showed loose and strict views in regards to the Constitution. Neither could stay true to there original beliefs as they were replaced by public interest.