The Nullification Crisis
Digital History ID 302
The Jacksonians made a great effort to persuade voters to identify their cause with Thomas Jefferson and their opponents with Alexander Hamilton. A radical Jacksonian made the point bluntly: "The aristocracy of our country...continually contrive to change their party name," wrote Frederick Robinson. "It was first Tory, then Federalist, then no party, then amalgamation, then National Republican." In point of fact, however, Hamilton's son was a leading Jackson advisor!
Despite his reputation as the President of the common man, Jackson's policies did little to help small farmers, artisans, and working people. Indeed, many historians now believe that notwithstanding his opposition to nullification, slaveholders were the chief beneficiaries of Jackson's policies. His Indian removal policy opened new lands for slavery in the rich cotton lands of the Old Southwest, and his view of limited government forestalled federal interference with slavery.
In this letter to James A. Hamilton (1788-1878), Jackson offers his view of the underlying political motives behind the nullification controversy. In 1840, Hamilton abandoned the Democratic party and supported the Whig Presidential candidate, William Henry Harrison. During the Civil War, Hamilton was an early proponent of slave emancipation as war measure.
I have been I may say, literally, pressed with business from sunrise to 12 at night.... The papers will have given you the union between Mr. Clay & Calhoun & how strange their position [is]. Nullification cannot be recognized as a peaceful & constitutional measure, and the American system of M[r.] Clay being on the wane, a union between these two extremes are formed, and I have no doubt that the people will duly appreciate the motives which have led to it. I have good reason to be gratified, content even, with my own course as I find these men are obliged to adopt it, to give peace & harmony to the union....
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: Andrew Jackson to James A. Hamilton
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