Thomas Jefferson Strict Constructionism

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When a convention was held to revise the weak Articles of Confederation, the representatives from each state ultimately created an entirely new document - the Constitution. The government under the Constitution was praised by some, saying that a stronger central government was exactly what the country needed. These people began calling themselves Federalists and interpreted the Constitution broadly to execute their ideals of a strong federal government. Anti-Federalists believed that the Constitution was giving the federal government too much power and that state legislatures should have most of the power. These people began calling themselves Democratic-Republicans and interpreted the Constitution strictly to execute their ideals of a weaker …show more content…
Like all Democratic Republicans, in 1800, Jefferson believed that the Constitution was the most rational system possible and as long as the state governments were overseen by the federal government, as the Constitution states, the union would be perfectly harmonious (Doc A). In this letter, Jefferson demonstrates his strict constructionism to a future member of his cabinet. However, at the time, Jefferson was merely a candidate for presidency, so it is possible that he may have exaggerated the extent of his strict constructionist beliefs in order to gain the trust and votes of others who were wanted to preserve the federal Constitution and follow it exactly as written. In 1803, Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory, including the New Orleans port, from Napoleon, doubling America’s size and directly interfering with the aforementioned comments he had made. The port of New Orleans drastically improved interstate commerce and the newly acquired vast regions of land supported Jefferson’s hopes that the country’s future would be focused on agriculture and independent farming. Even though Jefferson often acted against his party’s ideals, he did argue that the president and federal government didn’t have the constitutional right to meddle with the religious …show more content…
During the Napoleonic wars between France and Britain, Jefferson enacted an Embargo Act that prohibited trade with European powers as a result of impressment and disrespect of US neutrality. The act backfired horribly and economically hurt America more than it did the British. This is reflected in Alexander Anderson’s political cartoon (Doc C), which depicts a man trying to smuggle American tobacco to a British ship. The cartoon portrays the Embargo Act as an overreach and criticizes it for being “cursed”, as many thought it was. In a series of resolutions by the Hartford Convention in 1815 (Doc E), we see that the radical Federalists who created the report were still criticizing Jefferson’s policies. For example, the second resolution states that ⅔ of both the Senate and House of Representatives must agree before admitting new states into the union, a subtle sign towards the Louisiana Purchase. Similarly, the third and fourth resolves pointed towards the embargo enacted by Jefferson, although it was repealed in 1809. To support their resolves, the Hartford Convention stated that the Congress had no constitutional right to act without the consent of the states, depicting strict constructionism among a group of diehard Federalists who should be advocating for broad

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