1998 Document Based Question Essay

971 words - 4 pages

During the Revolutionary period in the early eighteen hundreds, two dominant political parties; the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalists, were at odds in terms of political ideas on how to run the country, and how to treat the Constitution. Jeffersonian Republicans believed in strong state governments, a weak central government, and a stringent understanding of the Constitution unlike the Federalist. The Federalist favored a powerful central government, weak state governments and had a broad elucidation of the Constitution. Though such characteristics of both political parties were accurate, it only went to a certain extent. The solid divide between the Jeffersonian Republicans and the Federalist began to blur during the presidencies of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Both parties occasionally strayed from their core beliefs, for neither parties were able to lead the nation with purely republican/federalist ideals.
When Jefferson entered office, his intentions were to move away from the Federalist policies and to put the nation onto the pathway that he thought would be more beneficial. His republican beliefs were illustrated in his letter to Gideon Granger on the 13th of August, 1800 (Document A) were he expressed his wish to minimize the power of the central government by strengthening the state governments. “Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government…” Jefferson envisaged a government with the people’s interest at heart, and in order to do so Jefferson believed that the federal Constitution should have been preserved, and if not, the future for the nation would not have been so great. Jefferson wrote to Granger “it [our country] can never be harmonious and solid while so respectable a portion of its citizens support principles which go directly to a change of the federal Constitution … the true theory of our Constitution is surely the wisest.” Jefferson clearly stated that if our citizens were supporting ideas that dealt with changing the Constitution, our nation would in no way prosper amicably, it was best to stick with the ideas of the Constitution. Jefferson’s letter to Samuel Miller on the 23rd of January, 1808 (Document B) also illustrated his strict conduct and belief in the words of the Constitution. “I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises … Certainly no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the general [federal] government … civil powers alone have been given to the President of the U.S. and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.” Because the Constitution stated that the government had no right to intermeddle with the religious beliefs and principles of the people, Jefferson stood by the Constitution and did not allow the government to have such power...

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