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You are watching: Why did jefferson and madison oppose the national bank

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Caring for the Constitution: Madison and Jefferson’s Opposition to the National Bank of the United States


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In the present-day United States, the Constitution serves as a document of utmost legal authority. This conception can be traced to numerous historical events in which constitutional doctrine decided important legal questions. The first event that set a tradition of constitutional clout was the 1790s National Bank Debate. Alexander Hamilton proposed a bill to establish a National Bank in order to strengthen the economy and alleviate the post-Revolutionary war debt. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson firmly opposed the bill and appealed to George Washington to impose his Presidential Veto to defeat it. Ultimately, Washington signed the bill into law. Modern historical thought asserts that Madison and Jefferson’s greatest criticism of the Bank was that it was unconstitutional, in part because this was what Madison and Jefferson claimed themselves. However, this view may be incorrect. The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that Madison and Jefferson’s true opposition lay with political-economic concerns and their constitutional argument was a legal ploy that they thought would convince Washington to veto the Bank. The study’s research method included investigating primary and secondary sources about the Debate, economic and legal theories that were influential in the late eighteenth century, and the motivations of Madison and Jefferson. Results indicate evidence that confirms the hypothesis, such as Madison and Jefferson’s written correspondence, their prior ideologies, and their perception of Washington’s constitutional priorities. Therefore, results show that Madison and Jefferson’s genuine opposition to the Bank, although perceived by scholars to be constitutional, instead lay in the political-economic realm. The implications of the research are important in considering the symbolism of the Debate. If Madison and Jefferson were insincere in voicing a constitutional opposition against Hamilton’s bill, the American tradition of granting utmost legal authority to the Constitution is based, at least in part, on a disingenuous source.