Although the Democratic-Republicans were known for their strict construcitonalist values, their leaders, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, often ignored their beliefs to extend the federal government and create national and politcal harmony. This compromising between the parties has dampened the Democratic-Republicans’ harsh constructionalist reputation. Some of the major issues that created Jefferson and Madison’s “flip flopper” reputation revolve around the Louisiana Purchase, the Bank of the United States, and the Embargo Act.
The Louisiana Purchase was one of the major events of Jefferson’s Presidency that established Jefferson’s “flip flopper” reputation. The purchase itself, which would double the size of the country for half the size for fifteen million dollars, was obviously a major plus for the new nation but it was technically unconstitutional. Jefferson believed that the federal government could only exercise the rights specifically given to it in the Constitution; no where did it mention aquiring new territory.
However, because it was such an amazing deal and there was little objection to it from the public, Jefferson pursued with the deal and adopted a large section of the current nation. Another major issue of the time involved the Bank of the United States and the Second Bank of the United States. Originally designed by Federalist Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson despised the idea and would have much rather kept a state-based banking system. However as President, he needed to bank so he kept his opinions to himself.
James Madison also despised the Bank and refused to sign the charter for the Second Bank of the United States. But eventually he was forced to because of the British and the War of 1812. The Embargo Act, initiated by Jefferson, is also a prime example of Republican expansion of the Federal government. The act itself is viewed as one of the biggest failures of Jefferson’s presidency and almost tanked the United States economy. It ruined American exports and caused Jefferson’s party to lose much support. Quite frankly, it was seen as a nussance: the turtle in Document C being a metaphor for the annoying act.
The fact that Jefferson gave the federal government the right to regulate trade in such a drastic way is also not constitutional, therefore shadowing the Deomcratic Republicans reputation as strict constructionalists yet again. The course of action that Jefferson and Madison both took during their presidencies muttled the strict constructionist attitude that is a part of the Democratic Republican party. Both, though more specifically Jefferson, flip flopped in order to do what they thought was best for the nation as a whole, even though it dampered the view of their own political party.