PRESIDENT ANDREW JACKSON
*The four years of John Quincy Adams’ presidency saw rifts open among the Jeffersonian Republicans. John Adams and Henry Clay began to call themselves the National Republicans, and believed in Jefferson’s spirit of improvement, supporting public works and internal improvements (such as roads, canals, lighthouses, et cetera). Those supporting Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun called themselves Jacksonian Democrats or Democratic Republicans and followed Jefferson’s ideas of a limited government, believing the states should manage their own affairs and improvements.
*The election of 1828 is one of the first to feature two candidates with widely divergent views: Adams and Jackson, and Jackson, friend of the common man, wins in a landslide. It is a rough campaign, though, in which Adams is again called a pimp, Jackson is again called a murderer, and he is also called an adulterer and his wife Rachel is so insulted that it breaks her heart and she dies.
*Jackson was so popular, especially in the West, that when he became president, the White House was mobbed on inauguration day. This was partly because in the previous decade, most states had removed the property qualifications for voting, and, indeed, many western states (where land was cheap) had never had them in the first place. Three times as many people voted in 1828 as in 1824, and for the first time the elected a man who was not either from Virginia or named Adams.
*To reward his political supporters, Jackson distributed government jobs in great quantity in a form of patronage derisively called the spoils system.
*Although Jackson believed in unobtrusive government, he himself was very active, vetoing more bills than all former presidents put together. Most of this was done in the name of preventing the federal government from spending money or getting in the way of the states, but it made the president and his office very powerful—and his opponents accused him of tyranny, calling him King Andrew I.
*The great crisis of Jackson’s presidency came with the Tariff of 1828, passed by Congress shortly before his first term began.
*The Tariff, known in the South as the Tariff of Abominations, put a heavy tax on imports, which protected northern manufacturers but raised prices for everyone else, and especially hurt the South.
*South Carolina resurrects the old idea of nullification, and refuses to comply with the law, according to the principle of state sovereignty, which means that because the states created the Constitution and signed it as independent states, they have the right to secede from the Union. This issue, among others, is hotly debated on the floor of the Senate, especially between Massachusettsman Daniel Webster and South Carolinian Robert Hayne.
*Andrew Jackson is invited to a dinner in South Carolina given by John C. Calhoun in honour of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday on 13 April, 1829, and each offers a toast. The idea was to feel Jackson out on the matter of states’ rights. Jackson knew what was going on, though, and begins by offering a toast to ‘Our Federal Union: it must be preserved!’ Calhoun, tough to the end, counters with ‘Our Union: next to our liberty most dear.’
*In 1832 yet another tariff is passed, raising prices even further, and South Carolina nullifies the tariff and threatens to secede.
*Jackson may like the states, but he hold the Union above all, as do enough of Congress to pass the Force Bill, which gave Jackson the power to threaten South Carolina with 50,000 federal troops.
*South Carolina cancelled her nullification of the tariff, but did nullify the Force Bill.
*Elsewhere, the Indians remaining east of the Mississippi had problems. They had existed as ‘dependent nations’ within the United States, with their own laws, territories, and governments. The Cherokee had even created a syllabary (invented by Sequoya) in which almost the entire nation became literate, and published a national newspaper and a constitution based on that of the United States. They had taken up farming (and slavery) and lived almost exactly like white people. The Civilised Tribes had become civilised indeed.
*However, gold was found on Indian lands, specifically that of the Cherokee in Georgia. White people in the area wanted access to this gold, and (with Jackson’s support) convinced Congress to pass the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which allowed the President to give Indians land in Louisiana (mostly in modern Oklahoma) in exchange for their more fertile and pleasant land east of the Mississippi.
*Some Indians ran into the woods and mountains and hid. Other resisted. About 1,000 Indians in the Illinois Territory were led by a warrior named Black Hawk against the United States. In Florida, the Seminole, led by Osceola, fought a war in the swamps, and some of them remain in Florida to this day, unconquered in the Everglades, where they run casinos.
*Unique among the Indians, the Cherokee sue the government in the Supreme Court. Moreover, John Marshall sides with them, saying that Georgia has no authority over the Cherokee lands. Andrew Jackson, though, ignoring his oath to execute the laws of the land, says ‘John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.’
*In 1838, the US Army rounded up over 15,000 Cherokee and led them along the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma in the dead of winter. About one in four died on the way. A few made a deal with the government, though, and were allowed to stay in Western North Carolina.
*In addition to the Indians, whom he had always hated, and the South Carolinians, who annoyed him, Jackson had as a great enemy the Bank of the United States. A private bank where the US government kept its money and which issued paper money backed by government gold, the National Republicans like Clay and Webster supported it because it supposedly made the national currency more stable. Jackson, however, blamed the bank for the depression of 1819, when the Bank had issued paper money and made loans carelessly, ultimately hurting small farmers. He also hated the man that was president of the bank, Nicholas Biddle.
*When Congress tried to renew the Bank’s charter in 1832, Jackson vetoed that, saying banks should be managed by the states, and that the federal government could spread its gold around to state banks. Shortly afterwards Jackson defeated Henry Clay in the presidential election and the National Republicans collapse. However, a new party was formed around those who hated Andrew Jackson. The anti-Jackson party was called themselves the Whigs, after the English opponents of a strong monarch.
*In 1836, Jackson was followed by his Vice-President and the creator of the Democratic Party, Martin Van Buren, who had to deal with the depression caused in part by the destruction of the Bank.
*In 1840, van Buren, unpopular due
to the depression, was defeated by another war hero, this time a Whig,
William Henry Harrison, victor of Tippecanoe. With John Tyler, he
ran on the meaningless campaign slogan of ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler, too!’
They defeated van Buren, but Harrison gave the longest inaugral address
ever, and refused to wear his overcoat lest doing so make him look weak.
He caught pneumonia and died after one month in office, making John Tyler
the first sitting Vice-President to become President upon the death of
his predecessor. Tyler, though, was a Democrat put on the ticket
to balance it, so he was not liked by either the Democrats or the Whigs,
and he would not accomplish much during his presidency.
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This page last updated 17 September, 2003.