1998 DBQ

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade November 2001

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The perception that Federalists were loose constructionists and that Jeffersonian Republicans were very strict constructionists was very well founded, but not accurate 100% of the time. The presidency of Thomas Jefferson mainly supported the theory that the Jeffersonian Republicans were strict constructionists. James Madison's presidency supported that theory as well. Both presidents, however, made exceptions to their general policies when an issue was just too big to fit inside the tiny box of their shared school of thought.

Jefferson proved himself a constructionist most of the time he was in office. In August of 1800, Jefferson's first year in office, he sent a letter to Gideon Granger (document A) stating his support for the constitution and its basic principles, and also stating that Federalists opposed those principles by their loose interpretation of the document. He implies that loose interpretation leads to change, and in this case, that will create a strong national government that resembles a monarchy and doesn't adhere to the rights of states as guaranteed by the Constitution.

In another letter, this time to Samuel Miller (document B) during his last year holding office, Jefferson reinforces the image of strict constructionism by stating that he intends to break the precedent established by his predecessors to better adhere to the Constitution's policy on separation of church and state. Jefferson's widely known philosophy that the National Bank should not be established because the Constitution didn't say that it could was another example of his strict constructionism (Blum). Blum also mentions that even in his first speech to Congress, Jefferson put the constraint on the ideas he presented them with that everything had to be done "within the limits of their Constitutional powers"�.

Madison, also being a Democratic-Republican, supported the same principles as Jefferson. Speaking for President Madison, Daniel Webster (document...