Constitution And Tariffs Essay, Research Paper
Between 1801 and 1817 the two parties in the national government of the United States traded sides on the issue of loose construction vs. strict construction of the Constitution because they had also traded sides of the power table. The Democratic-Republicans having gained power seemed to have abandoned their strict constructionist beliefs and adopted a broader perspective. The Federalists having lost power seemed to have dropped the loose construction and adopted strict interpretation. These years show people that political parties sometimes change their values in order to serve their own needs.
John Randolph sees the situation unfolding right before his eyes, but his speech apparently has no effect on the House (F). Randolph, a Democratic-Republican, believes that the Tariff of 1816 will harm the majority of people in the U.S. for the benefit of a few factory owners. As a Democratic-Republican, Randolph stuck to his beliefs that the welfare of the majority is more important and opposes the tariff, but the rest of the Democratic-Republican House was power hungry and approved the tariff. In this case, Randolph saw the problem and pointed it out, but it still had no effect.
In 1800 before becoming president, Jefferson wrote to Granger (A) that he still believed in strict interpretation of the Constitution. Even though the Constitution does not specifically state that the president may make purchases using the nation?s funds, Jefferson used a loose interpretation of the Constitution to buy Louisiana anyway. After his presidency in 1816 in Document G, he writes that a looser interpretation is more effective. Jefferson?s blatant contradiction serves as justification for his actions during the Louisiana Purchase.
When the Embargo Act was passed in 1814, Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans favored a loose interpretation of the Constitution while the Federalists used a strict interpretation. Jefferson believed that the government had the right to restrict trade with foreign nations because it was necessary and proper. Federalists believed that according to the Constitution the federal government had the right to regulate only interstate commerce. In 1814 the Federalists went so far as to hold the Hartford Convention (E) to try to eliminate the Embargo Act. Once again, the parties seemed to have traded their values in accordance with their status.
Another example of switched beliefs involves Madison, while he was President in 1817. The Internal Improvements Bill would allow the United States government to use funds collected from taxes on stocks to build roads and canals for commerce, but Madison vetoed the bill based on a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He states that even though the government has the power to regulate interstate commerce, it does not have the power to regulate it by creating roads or canals (H). Once again, a Democratic-Republican in power puts the party?s original values aside and makes a decision using a strict interpretation.
The political parties of 1801-1817 definitely broke their traditional mold of strict vs. broad constructionists according to their position of power. Democratic-Republicans under Jefferson and Madison used strict interpretations of the constitution instead of the typical broad construction. Similarly, Federalists at this time used broad interpretations of the constitution instead of the typical strict construction. Due to this unpredictable behavior and the similarities to a corrupt government this time period must have been very confusing and frightening for the common citizen