Documents: Early Republic
He explained that virtuous Americans would make the new nation a model for the world: “[T]he foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.”
Finally, he closed by putting the responsibility for the survival of the nation squarely in the hands of citizens. “[T]he preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
In 1803 in the landmark case Marbury v. Madison the Supreme Court established its power of judicial review when it declared unconstitutional Section 13 of the Judiciary Act which appeared to grant the Supreme Court original jurisdiction to hear certain cases outside of what the U.S. Constitution authorizes.
In this Address, Washington announced that he would not seek a third term as President and outlined what he hoped would be “guiding principles” for the new nation. He urged citizens to cherish the Constitution as the best means of preserving their liberty and reminded them that the document contains within itself the means for amendment. He asserted that religion and morality were the basis for justice and necessary for good government.
Finally, he discussed what he considered the two major threats to the young nation: one domestic and one foreign. First, he warned his fellow citizens about what he called “the baneful effects of the spirit of party.” Political parties, he argued, were a threat to the nation because they allowed “a small but artful and enterprising minority” to “put in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party.” Second, judged from the amount of the Address devoted to it, Washington felt the greatest threat to the nation was the dangerous influence of foreign powers. In foreign affairs, he called for the young nation “to steer clear of permanent alliances” with foreign powers.
Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and others argued that the Sedition Act was a clear violation of the U. S. Constitution’s First Amendment and its protection of freedom of speech and press, but the law was never challenged in the courts as to its constitutionality. However, historians believe that Federalist adoption of the law was a factor in their overwhelming defeat in the elections of 1800. In one of his first official acts as the nation’s third President, Thomas Jefferson pardoned all those who had been convicted of violating the Sedition Act.
James Madison authored the Virginia Resolution which said that by enacting the Sedition Act, Congress was exercising “a power not delegated by the constitution, but on the contrary, expressly and positively forbidden by one of the amendments thereto; a power, which more than any other, ought to produce universal alarm, because it is levelled against that right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people thereon, which has ever been justly deemed, the only effectual guardian of every other right.”
No other state acted in support of the Resolutions. However, in the 1830s, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina asserted that he was borrowing from the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions when he argued for the states’ power to nullify national laws. During this 1830’s nullification controversy, Madison rejected the legitimacy of nullification and argued that it was not part of his Virginia Resolution of 1798.
Jefferson thus echoed the words of Rhode Island founder Roger Williams who in 1644 wrote about “a hedge or wall of separation between the garden of the church and the wilderness of the world.” Several U. S. Supreme Court Justices through history have borrowed from Jefferson’s “wall of separation” metaphor. For example, Justice Hugo Black in 1947 in Everson v Board of Education of Ewing Township wrote: “In the words of Thomas Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect a wall of separation between church and state.”
The Purchase eventually raised issues about the expansion of slavery. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 partially addressed this issue, but questions remained as to the power of Congress to regulate slavery in the new territory.
Supreme Court Cases
In one of his numerous appearances before the Supreme Court, a young Daniel Webster successfully argued and won the case on behalf of Dartmouth College.
Marshall pointed out that while the power to charter banks does not appear in the list of Congress’ enumerated powers found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the creation of a bank was a means of executing its enumerated powers: “Although, among the enumerated powers of government, we do not find the word ‘bank,’…we find the great powers to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce…” Those enumerated powers, when combined with the power given Congress in Paragraph 18 of Section 8 “to make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” authorized Congress’ action. This interpretation broadly expanded the power of Congress to enact laws over subjects not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.
Marshall asserted that the people, not the states, were the agents of the Constitution’s establishment. He invoked the supremacy clause of Article VI, Paragraph 2 of the Constitution in the Court’s ruling that Maryland could not tax the national bank. Marshall noted that “the power to tax involves the power to destroy.” By that he meant that a state could impose a tax so burdensome that the entity, in this case the national bank, would not be able to survive.