Jefferson’s Constitutional Gamble

Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 gives the President the power to negotiate treaties and the Senate the duty to ratify them. The power to purchase land from a foreign nation is not listed amongst the presidential powers.

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The 1807 Tale of Ograbme

Jefferson sent James Monroe and Thomas Pinkney to England to negotiate a treaty that would resolve our differences. In December 1806, the pair brought back a proposed treaty that did not include an agreement by England to end impressment. Jefferson refused to send the document to Congress for ratification in January 1807 so the treaty died.

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The Laundry List of Section 8

Section 8 is the longest in the Constitution and has 18 clauses that gives the House of Representatives the most power in the Federal government. What is amazing is that most of the clauses are only a single short sentence long.

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Jefferson’s National Defense Conundrum

Jefferson and his Secretary of the Navy – Robert Smith – were faced with executing an expeditionary warfare campaign in the Mediterranean. This meant a significant expansion in the size of the U.S. Neither the Navy, nor the Army, had any experience this type of warfare which today, we would call power projection.

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The Legacy of the Sedition and Alien Acts of 1798

While the Sedition Act expired in 1800 and the Alien Friends Acts in 1801, the Naturalization Act and the Alien Enemies Acts had no termination date. Today, the Alien Enemies Act lives on as Chapter 3, Sections 21-24 of Title 50 of the United States Code.

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Origins of the Sedition Act of 1798

The Democratic Republicans saw the flood of immigrants as potential voters and Federalists saw them as potential agents of a foreign government. Note that the Federalists were not trying to stop immigration, but, as we would say today, “get a handle on it.” They wanted to know who was coming into the country.

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Divisive Issues Are Not New to U.S. Politics

Besides the conflict between France and the U.S. and the fallout from the Jay Treaty, President Washington was dealing with several tricky domestic issues. One was the orderly transition of power to his successor. This would be the first time that the theories outlined in the Constitution would be put into practice.

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Political Hot Buttons from the 1790s

When the United States of America was founded, there was no book or instruction manual on how to run a republic. Yes, most of our Founding Fathers schooling had included studying the Greeks and Romans. There was John Locke and 17th and 18th Century philosophers. Back then, our Founding Fathers couldn’t go to the local Barnes & Noble and browse the shelves for books on how to run a republic. Our Founding Fathers were, to use two overworked platitudes “breaking new ground” and “creating it on the fly.”

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The Ultimate Civics Course Project

Madison’s proposed amendment was still in legal purgatory until Gregory Watson, a University of Texas undergraduate, wrote a paper in 1982 on the proposed amendment for a political science course. Watson posited that since the Constitution does not apply a statute of limitations on any amendment, any proposed amendment can be voted on at any time.

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Madison’s 17 Proposed Amendments

Three times in 1789 – August 24th, September 5th, and September 25th – the First Congress voted to ratify Madison’s amendments either as originally written or as modified by the legislative body. By the time the First Congress adjourned, all but three of the 17 worked their way into the 10 amendments that made up the Bill of Rights.

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