James Madison's Presidency

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Did James Madison stay true to the values of the Democratic-Republican Party while president?

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As President, James Madison took a pragmatic approach to government; and tended to pursue a middle road between his old Strict Constructionist views and a more liberal interpretation. Even though previously he had bitterly opposed the First Bank of the United States, in his first message to Congress after the end of the War of 1812 he called for the creation of a new national bank. As for his previous reservations about the bank, he wrote that the bank issue had been resolved:

by repeated recognitions...of the validity of such an institution in acts of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the Government, accompanied by...a concurrence of the general will of the nation.

It was during his administration that Congress passed the Tariff of 1816, the first such tariff imposed solely to protect American industry rather than as a revenue device. Old Republican values had held that tariffs could only be imposed to raise revenue.

Madison also supported development of a national road, even though he and Thomas Jefferson had previously argued that a constitutional amendment would be necessary. Since no amendment was forthcoming, Madison justified the national road on the basis of its necessity for national defense and also in aid of delivery of the mail, as Congress had the authority to operate "post offices and post roads."

All of this constituted a strangely broad interpretation of the Constitution, hardly in keeping with Madison's earlier pronouncements.

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