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Loose Vs. Strict Constructionalism

Autor:   •  March 8, 2011  •  1,487 Words (6 Pages)  •  893 Views

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Ordinarily, Federalists have been categorized as relatively loose constructionists and have been known to interpret the United States Constitution rather broadly, whereas the Republicans have often been categorized as strict constructionists and have been known to interpret the constitution in manner best described as "word for word." However, this characterization was only accurate to a certain extent during the years between 1801 and 1817 and both party's deviations from their respective characteristic views were exemplified in their actions during this period. Although the Federalists were typically loose constructionists, and the Republicans strict constructionists, during the presidencies of Jefferson and Madison both parties acted in ways that refuted these notions quite frequently. However, this only occurred after determining, in that specific instance, what each man believed would be beneficial to the country in the long run, regardless of whether or not that particular action was in fact entirely constitutional.

Each party had its own characteristic views pertaining to the United States constitution and how it should be interpreted. In one address Jefferson gave to Gideon Granger, a future member of the his cabinet, the President, as head of the Republican Party, he expresses his beliefs that the Constitution should be preserved in accordance with "its obvious principles" and the rights it clearly and "unquestionably" stated (Doc A). Jefferson's precise and articulate choice of words in this passage to a future member of his cabinet solidifies that fact that Republicans are known to very strictly interpret the constitution and its included principles. He also says that the Federalists are attempting to "monarchise" the American government and subsequently revert back to the status quo antebellum of pre-Revolutionary War. In another address to a Presbyterian minister named Samuel Miller, Jefferson also acknowledges that the Constitution did not appoint the federal government authority over any religious discipline and therefore that responsibility falls to the state (Doc B). Jefferson is applying the very principle from the tenth amendment of the constitution that states that any rights not delegated to the federal government are reserved for the state government. He also goes on to add that even though previous executives have been quoted intertwining prayer with their duties, by the constitution he has only been allotted certain civil powers and these do not include the power "to direct religious exercises of his constituents." Another famous head of the Republican Party was James Madison who also maintained strict constructionist principles. ," It was also documented in James Madison: Message to Congress vetoing an Internal Improvements Bill that when a bill was proposed to Madison entitled "An act to set apart and pledge certain funds for internal improvements"

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