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Jeffersonian Republicans Vs. Federalists

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Autor:  mikki1288  17 February 2009
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As the young colonies of America broke away from their mother country and began to grow and develop into an effective democratic nation, many changes occurred. As the democracy began to grow, two main political parties developed, the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists. Each party had different views on how the government should be run. The Jeffersonian Republicans believed in strong state governments, a weak central government, and a strict construction of the Constitution. The Federalists opted for a powerful central government with weaker state governments, and a loose interpretation of the Constitution. Throughout the years, the political parties have grown, developed, and even dispersed into totally new factions. Many of the inconsistencies and changes can be noted throughout the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

When Thomas Jefferson entered office in 1800, he came in with lots of new ideas and goals as the president. Jefferson believed in a smaller central government with stronger state governments. He was a Republican and favored the view of strict construction. He believed that, "Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government…" (Document A). Jefferson and his Republican party believed in a government that was going to work for the people and that was going to have them at its best interests. That is why they believed in having stronger state governments, they were closer to home and to the people they were governing, therefore they knew more of what the public needed. Document B also refers to strict construction and Jefferson's beliefs. It talks about the freedoms that were stated in the constitution, mainly, the freedom of religion. Jefferson believes that the federal government should not have any say in dealing with religion of the people. The Republicans believed that any law stated in the Constitution should be strictly followed.

As Jefferson's presidency wore on, the Jeffersonian Republican beliefs began drifting farther away from the original ideals they began with. Some of the decisions made by Jefferson proved to follow the loose construction of the Constitution of the Federalists. When he made the decision to purchase the Louisiana Territory, he never obtained congressional approval. He followed loose construction and federalist ideas by going against the Constitution. He made the purchase because he thought he was doing what was good for the country. Also, when Jefferson passed The Embargo Act, he was going against the Republican Party beliefs. Supported by Document C, the Embargo Act was a great upset to the American public. No where in the listing of the presidential powers did it state that a law such as the Embargo Act could be passed. When Jefferson passed this Act, he may have had the good of the country at heart, but he was following the Federalist principle of power in the central government and a loose interpretation of the powers in the Constitution. As the Jeffersonian Republicans grew together and learned a great deal more about their nation, they realized that some of their principles had to change. The country would never stay united if the country kept advancing and the government stayed in the same spot. As Jefferson once wrote, "…I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind…institutions must advance also and keep pace with the times." (Document G). Jefferson realized in this letter to Samuel Kercheval that, sometimes, people's ideas and beliefs must grow and change in order to make things better and stay with the times. The Jeffersonian Republicans also realized this. That is why as the nation progressed they obtained more of the ideals of the Federalists.

James Madison was a great president of his time; he made many excellent decisions, many of which were inconsistent with his beliefs. Madison was also a Jeffersonian Republican who was a strict constructionist. Madison once said, "Who will show me any constitutional injunction which makes it the duty of the American people to surrender everything valuable in life, and even life itself…" (Document D). Seeing as the Constitution said nothing in accordance to drafting people for the army, Madison believed that it should not be done. Document D could also be interpreted by thinking Madison is calling for a smaller or a minimal army and navy. If
it is interpreted like this, he is still sticking with the views of the Democratic Republicans, which liked smaller armies and navies. In March of 1817, when Madison vetoed an internal improvement bill, he made the Democratic Republicans very happy. His party believed that internal improvements should be carried out by the states' themselves if the improvement was not going to benefit the nation as a whole, and not just a part of the nation. Also, he states in his message to Congress that, "…such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution…the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the general and the state governments..." (Document H). This explanation of his follows directly by the beliefs of his Jeffersonian Republic Party.

Throughout Madison's presidency, the nation grew and progressed. The Jeffersonian Republican's beliefs were altered and took more of the form of the old Federalists. After the Federalist Party had there last big meeting at the Hartford Convention, they mainly died. Many strong Republicans of the nation considered some of their talking treasonous. But, as stated in Document E, many good ideas also emerged from their Convention. Some of these ideas were taken and used by the Jeffersonian Republicans. These ideas that Republicans were taking, went by loose interpretation of the Constitution, they talked of amendments, which would have never been done by the strict constructionists. This just proves the fact that the Democratic Republicans were growing and maturing by taking on new ideals and doing things that would better the country as a whole. John Randolph, a Democratic Republican of the time even suggested that the Jeffersonian Republicans were taking on the old Federalism principles during Madison's term. Document F explains how, "this government created and gave power to Congress to regulate commerce…not to lay a duty but with a steady eye to revenue…"

As the country grows and matures into a great nation, people realize that change is inevitable and sometimes even needed. Within the time period of 1802 to 1817, many Jeffersonian Republicans realized that their ideals and principles weren't always best for the nation. That is why they adopted some of the ideals of the old Federalist Party. Also, during this time, the Federalists died out. As realized after the Hartford Convention, the nation did not need nor want the Federalists anymore if the Democratic Republicans could get the job done. Although people changed a great deal during this time, it seemed to be beneficial to the nation. If people had not grown and never continued to learn and aspire to what is needed, then we may have never gotten to this great nation that the United States of America is today.

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