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How did Jefferson violate his claim to be a “strict constructionist” of the...

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kylekasman | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted March 22, 2012 at 12:51 PM via web

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How did Jefferson violate his claim to be a “strict constructionist” of the Constitution in the two cases mentioned below?  

Some historians say he contradicted himself on that in his handling of the Louisiana Purchase and his prosecution of Aaron Burr on treason charges.  Why would a “strict constructionist” not have handled these two incidents as Jefferson did?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 22, 2012 at 12:58 PM (Answer #1)

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A strict constructionist is a person who believes in following the Constitution to the letter and does not think that the government should do anything that the Constitution does not specifically allow it to do.  Jefferson violated each of these ideas in the two cases you mention.

In the case of the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson bought Louisiana from France even though there is nothing in the Constitution that says a president can do this.  In the case of Aaron Burr, Jefferson and his administration pursued a treason case against Burr even though Burr could not have been convicted of treason under the wording of the Constitution.  In doing these two things, Jefferson was going against his own strict constructionist beliefs.

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