The New International Encyclopædia/Strict Constructionists

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STRICT CONSTRUCTIONISTS. A term in American politics applied to those who, for various reasons, have maintained that the Federal Constitution should be construed strictly in accordance with its letter, as opposed to those, known as ‘broad constructionists,’ who have believed that the Constitution should be construed liberally, and have claimed for the General Government more or less extensive powers, called ‘indirect powers’ or ‘implied powers,’ not granted specifically by the Fundamental Law. Conflicts between the adherents of the two views have recurred frequently in the history of the United States, e.g. in the controversies over the chartering of a United States Bank, over the question of ‘internal improvements,’ and over the power of the General Government with regard to the restriction or prohibition of slavery in the Territories; and it is upon this question that, directly or indirectly, party differences in the United States have been largely based. In general, it may be said that the strict constructionist view has been held, more or less consistently, by the Anti-Federalist and Democratic parties (qq.v.); and the broad constructionist view, more or less consistently, by the Federalist, National Republican, Whig, Free-Soil, and Republican parties (qq.v.); though there has been a tendency for the party iu power, irrespective of its platform, to lean to the side of broad or liberal construction, and for the party in opposition, also irrespective of its platform, to lean to the side of strict construction. A broad constructionist policy has always had for its effect the strengthening of the Central Government as compared with the States; and a strict constructionist policy the strengthening of the States as compared with the Central Government. See Constitution; United States, section on History.