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2 - The Federalist Constitution and the Limits of Constitutional Dissent

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2019

Gerald Leonard
Affiliation:
Boston University
Saul Cornell
Affiliation:
Fordham University, New York
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Summary

Chapter 2 focuses on the decade after the adoption of the Constitution and the first ten amendments, a pivotal era in which constitutional tensions rose and Americans grappled with a host of problems, both domestic and foreign. The ambitious agenda of Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, sought to put America on a course of constitutional development similar to Great Britain, whose powerful fiscal-military state included a centralized bank, permanent national debt, and a powerful army and navy. Resistance to the Federalists was intense, and the opposition to this agenda coalesced around Hamilton’s former ally, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Together with elements of the former Anti-Federalist opposition, the two Virginians led a Republican movement committed to limiting further centralization of power and opposing the creation of a powerful fiscal-military state. A vibrant popular opposition to Hamiltonian Federalism also emerged and occasionally turned violent, as in the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania. In virtually all of the major political conflicts of the era, including the Jay Treaty and the Alien-Sedition crisis, constitutional issues were central. Finally, the Republicans ousted the Federalists and elected their leader, Thomas Jefferson, in the bitterly contested election of 1800.
Type
Chapter
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The Partisan Republic
Democracy, Exclusion, and the Fall of the Founders' Constitution, 1780s–1830s
, pp. 42 - 83
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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