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Battles of the Jacksonian Era
The Bank War
It is to be regretted that
the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to
their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist
under every just government. Equality of talents, of education,
or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions. In the
full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior
industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled
to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these
natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant
titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich
richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society--the
farmers, mechanics, and laborers--who have neither the time nor
the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right
to complain of the injustice of their government. There are no
necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses.
If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven
does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low,
the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.
Jackson's Veto Message
This message...denies to the
judiciary the interpretation of law, and claims to divide with
Congress the power of originating statutes. It extends the grasp
of executive pretension over every power of the government. But
this is not all....It manifestly seeks to inflame the poor against
the rich; it wantonly attacks whole classes of the people, for
the purpose of turning against them the prejudices and the resentments
of other classes.
Daniel Webster's Reply
The Bank Veto.--This is the
most wholly radical and basely Jesuitical document that ever
emanated from any Administration, in any country....It impudently
asserts that Congress have acted prematurely, blindly, and without
sufficient examination. It falsely and wickedly alleges that
the rich and powerful throughout the country are waging a war
of oppression against the poor and the weak; and attempts to
justify the President on the ground of its being his duty thus
to protect the humble when so assailed. Finally, it unblushingly
denied that the Supreme Court is the proper tribunal to decide
upon the constitutionality of the laws!!
The whole paper is a most thoroughgoing
electioneering missile, intended to secure the mad-caps of the
South, and as such, deserves the execration of all who love their
country or its welfare.
Boston Daily Atlas editorial
The United States Bank, as
at present constituted, ought never to be renewed. The reasons
The capital is too vast. In
proportion to the wealth of the country, it is the largest moneyed
monopoly in the world....Republican America, the Virgin of the
New World, the Government which is especially charged by wholesome
legislation to prevent all extreme inequalities of fortune, has
surpassed every country in Europe in the lavish concession of
influence and privileges to a moneyed corporation.
Political influence is steadily
tending to the summit level of property....When a life and trust
company ask for privileges, which enable capital to consume the
moderate profits of the farmer by tempting him to incur the hazards
of debt, it is the clamor of capital, deafening the voice of
benevolence and legislative wisdom.
When the creditor demands that
the debtor may once more be allowed to pledge his body and his
personal freedom, it is the clamor of capital.
When "vested rights"
claim a veto on legislation, and assert themselves as the law
paramount in defiance of the constitution which makes the common
good the supreme rule, it is the clamor of capital, desiring
to renew one of the abuses of feudal institutions.
When the usurer invokes the
aid of society to enforce the contracts, which he has wrung without
mercy from the feverish hopes of pressing necessity, it is the
clamor of capital, which like the grave never says, It is enough.
When employers combine to reduce
the wages of labor, and at the same time threaten an indictment
for conspiracy against the combinations of workmen, it is the
clamor of capital
The feud between the capitalist and the laborer, the house of
Have and the house of Want, is as old as social union, and can
never be entirely quieted; but he who will act with moderation,
prefer facts to theories, and remember that every thing in this
world is relative and not absolute, will see that the violence
of the contest may be stilled, if the unreasonable demands of
personal interests are subjected to the decisions of even-handed
George Bancroft, 1834
The national bank, though not
properly a political institution, is one of the most important
and valuable instruments that are used in the practical administration
of the government.... As the fiscal agent of the executive, it
has exhibited a remarkable intelligence, efficiency, energy,
and above all, INDEPENDENCE. This...has been its real crime.
As the regulator of the currency, it has furnished the country
with a safe, convenient and copious circulating medium, and prevented
the mischiefs that would otherwise result from the insecurity
of local banks. As a mere institution for loaning money, it has
been...the Providence of the less wealthy sections of the Union....Through
its dealings in exchange at home and abroad, the bank has materially
facilitated the operations of our foreign and domestic trade.
The important advantages which have thus been derived from this
institution have been unattended by any countervailing evil.
The Boston Daily Advertiser
defends the second Bank of the United States, 1832
1. Why does
Andrew Jackson oppose recharter of the second Bank of the United
positive functions were served by the bank? What were some of
the bank's negative consequences?
should be the proper relationship between finance, business,
And, sir, let it be remembered
that a revenue system, grossly and palpably unequal in itself--a
system which, under the most favorable modification, would levy
the entire amount of the federal taxes from one-fifth part of
the productions of the Union, while the other four-fifths are
entirely exempted...that this is the substratum upon which has
been reared this monstrous and iniquitous superstructure--the
protecting system....Let me, then, beseech the advocates of that
system...relieve a high-minded and patriotic people from an unconstitutional
and oppressive burden, which they cannot longer bear.
George McDuffie, attacking
the Tariff of 1824
The bill may be postponed,
thwarted, defeated. But the cause is the cause of the country,
and it must and will prevail. It is founded in the interests
and affections of the people....I would pray God, in His infinite
mercy, to avert from our country the evils which are impending
over it, and , by enlightening our councils, to conduct us into
that path which leads to riches, to greatness, to glory.
Henry Clay, defending the Tariff
The great and leading principal
is, that the General Government emanated from the people of the
United States, forming distinct political communities, and acting
in their separate and sovereign capacity, and not from all the
people forming one aggregate political community; that the
Constitution of the United States is, in fact, a compact, to
which each State is a party.
Stripped of all its covering, the naked question is, whether
ours is a federal or a consolidated government; a constitutional
or absolute one; a government resting ultimately on the solid
basis of the sovereignty of the States or on the unrestrained
will of a majority; a form of government, as
in all other unlimited one, in which injustice, and violence,
and force must finally prevail.
John C. Calhoun defends the
doctrine of nullification, 1831
The proposition that, in case
of a supposed violation of the Constitution by Congress, the
states have a constitutional right to interfere and annul the
law of Congress is the position of the gentleman. I do not admit
it. If the gentleman had intended no more than to assert the
right of revolution for justifiable cause, he would have said
only what all agree to. But I cannot conceive that there can
be a middle course, between submission to the laws, when regularly
pronounced constitutional, on the one hand, and open resistance,
which is revolution or rebellion, on the other.
argument do protectionists make in favor of a protective tariff?
How do opponents of a protective tariff respond?
in your view, is correct--that the Union is a creation of the
states or of the people?
states have the power to nullify federal law?
of eligible voters casting ballots
|| 27 percent
|| 58 percent
|| 55 percent
|| 58 percent
|| 80 percent
1. What factors
contributed to increased voter participation?
2. How does
voter participation in 1840 compare to voter participation today?
What in your view accounts for the difference?