Semi-Daily Journal Archive

The Blogspot archive of the weblog of J. Bradford DeLong, Professor of Economics and Chair of the PEIS major at U.C. Berkeley, a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Two Questions About the History of the Federalist Period

The sixteen-year-old asks two questions:

First, neither wing of the original Federalist Party was "strict constructionist." The Hamilton-Adams wing was aggressively eager to expand the power of the federal government from the get-go. The Madison-Jefferson wing protested severely as long as the levers of power were in the hands of their ex-friends and now adversaries, but once Jefferson was president the Jefferson-Madison wing was happy to run the activist Hamiltonian government, and to do even more: witness the Louisiana Purchase.

Why, then, do those who, like Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, claim to be "strict constructionists" call their organization the "Federalist Society"? Does this make any sense?

Second, what would John Marshall have thought of the Bush-McCain Torture Bill?

I think he has been procrastinating on his homework again, this time by reading Albert Beveridge's Life of John Marshall, given to him by his uncle.

His answer for the second question is that John Marshall would have disapproved: he did, after all, advise John Adams not to sign the Alien and Sedition Acts. And the infinite jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was his bab.

The first question remains a puzzle. The only answer I've been able to come up with is that their understanding and knowledge of history is so poor that they don't have a clue as to what the real Federalists actually thought.

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