Discuss the development of the issue of Federal Power through its influence on the politics of the early 1800s, particularly in regard to party platforms, Constitutional issues, and leadership. Use the documents and your knowledge of American history from 1790- 1825.

Document A

Outcome of Presidential Elections, 1796-1824


Political Party


   John Adams    Federalist    1796
   Thomas Jefferson    Democratic-Republican    1800
   James Madison    Democratic-Republican    1808
   James Monroe    Democratic-Republican    1816
   John Quincy Adams    Democratic-Republican    1824


Document B
    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The Constitution of the United States, Amendment X (1791)

Document C
     Sec.2. That if any person shall write, print, utter, or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered, or published, or shall knowingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering, or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, either house of Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the Constitution of the United States, or to resist oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage, or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against the United States, their people of government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years.

The Sedition Act of July 14, 1798

Document C

     …. The Constitution vests the whole judicial power of the United States in one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as Congress shall…establish.  The powers of legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written.  The Constitution is either a superior paramount law, unchangeable by ordinary means, or it is on a level with ordinary legislative acts, and, like other acts, is alterable when the Legislature shall please to alter it.
Certainly, all those who have framed written constitutions contemplate them as forming the fundamental and paramount law of the nation, and, consequently, the theory of such government must be, that an act of the legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void.

     It is, emphatically, the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.

John Marshall, 1803. Marbury v. Madison.



Document E
    The revolution of 1800…was as real a revolution in the principles of our government as that of 1776 was in its form; not effected indeed by the sword, as that, but by the rational and peaceable instrument of reform, the suffrage of the people. The nation declared its will by dismissing functionaries of one principle, and electing those of another, in two branches, executive and legislative, submitted to their election. Over the judiciary department, the Constitution has deprived them of their control. That, therefore, has continued the reprobated system, and …after twenty years' confirmation of the federated system by the voice of the nation, declared through the medium of elections, we find the judiciary on every occasion, still driving us into consolidation.
In denying the right they usurp of exclusively explaining the Constitution, I go further than you do, if I understand rightly your quotation of The Federalist, of an opinion that " the judiciary is the last resort in relation To the other departments of the government, but not in relation to the rights of the parties to the compact under which the Judiciary is derived."
     …The Constitution, on this hypothesis, is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please. It should be remembered, as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also…

Thomas Jefferson, On the Supreme Court (1819)

Document F

     If any one proposition could command the universal assent of mankind, we might expect it would be this- that the government of the Union, though limited in its powers, is supreme within its sphere of action. This would seem to result necessarily from its nature. It is the government of all, and acts for all. Though any one State may be willing to control its operations, no State is willing to allow others to control them. The nation, on those subjects on which it can act, must necessarily bind its component parts. But this question is not left to mere reason: the people have, in express terms, decided it, by saying, "this constitution, and the laws of the United States, which shall be made in pursuance thereof," "shall be the supreme law of the land," and by requiring that the members of the State legislatures, and the officers of the executive and judicial departments of the States, shall take the oath of fidelity to it.
     The government of the United States, then, though limited in its powers, is supreme; and its laws, when made in pursuance of the constitution, form the supreme law of the land, "anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

John Marshall, The Federal Government Is Supreme over the States (1819)

Document G

     I beg to lay down the following propositions as being equally incontestable in themselves, and assented to by enlightened advocates of the Constitution at the time of its adoption.
     1. That the Constitution conveyed only a limited grant of powers to the general government, and reserved the residuary powers to the governments of the states and to the people; and that the Tenth Amendment was merely declaratory of this principle, and inserted only to quiet what the Court is pleased to call "the excessive jealousies of the people."
     2. That the limited grant to Congress of certain enumerated powers only carried with it such additional powers as were fairly incidental to them, or, in other words, were necessary and proper for their execution.
     3. That the insertion of the words "Necessary and Proper", in the last part of the 8th section of the 1st article, did not enlarge the powers previously given, but were inserted only through abundant caution.
     It was deemed by the enlightened fathers of the Constitution as essential to the internal happiness and welfare of their constituents to reserve some powers to the state governments; as to their external safety, to grant others to the government of the Union.

Spencer Roane, The Federal Government Is Not Supreme over the States (1819)

Document H
     I. Resolved, that whosoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force…That the government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution, the measure of its powers; but as in all other cases of compact among parties having no common Judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself as well of infractions as of the mode and measure of redress…
     II. Resolved, that it is true as a general principle, and is expressly declared by one of the amendments to the Constitution that "the powers not delegated the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, arer reserved to the States respectively to the people;" and that no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States, or the people: That thus was manifested their determination to retain themselves the right of judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening their usual freedom.

Kentucky Resolutions (1798)

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