Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Strict vs. Loose Construction

 
As soon as the US Constitution was written the men who wrote it were divided over how to interpret it!  Even now there is much disagreement on how to interpret the Constitution.  Now we have a Supreme Court that gets the awesome power of interpreting the Constitution.  Americans must accept what the Supreme Court declares even if we do not like what they rule.  This is called Judicial Review!
 
In the beginning of our country the principle of Judicial Review had not been established.  It was not till 1803 with the Supreme Court Case of Marbury v. Madison that this principle was established.  So till that year our Founding Fathers were divided over the meaning of the Constitution.
 
 
Many had different ideas of how to interpret the Constitution.  Should it be a loose or strict interpretation or construction?  One good thing I believe is the Founding Father wrote the Constitution with vague words.  But it made it hard to interpret the Constitution   The language was not clear.  Here are two things that happened because of the division.
 
One political parties were created.  The division became so fierce that many took sides.  Those sides became the first political parties.  The Republican party was headed up by Thomas Jefferson, and the Federalist party was headed up by Alexander Hamilton.  Hamilton and Jefferson despised each other.  Jefferson believed it should be a strict interpretation while Hamilton believed it should be a loose interpretation.  President Washington tried to stay away from this division.  He hated the idea of political parties.
 
He even warned Americans in his Farewell Address.  He said, The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism."
 
Ultimately he favored Hamilton and the loose construction of the US Constitution.  That is the second thing that happened.  The loose interpretation wins!  Surprisingly Jefferson switched sides and made the loose interpretation the American way. It happened because of the Louisiana Purchase.
 
I like that you can see what North America looked like in 1803.
 
Jefferson is now President, and gets the opportunity to buy the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon. He was broke, and needed money.  Napoleon sold it for 15 million dollars!  That was a steal!  As my Mother says you cannot beat that with a stick!  Historians called it the real estate deal of the century!  Jefferson knew that, and wanted to act!  But he could not!  He was strict construction.  Jefferson believed you followed the U.S. Constitution to a tee.  No where in the Constitution does it say a President can buy land from another head of state.
 
Jefferson wrote in a private journal, and it is great for historians!  We know his inner dialogue!  Ultimately he switched positions.  It was too good of a deal to pass up!  So now America has a loose interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
  
 

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