Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Reign of Andrew Jackson by Frederic Austin Ogg

Part 2 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

numbered, had inclined strongly toward a liberal construction of the
Constitution, but none had gone to the limits marked out in this
program. Besides, a strong reaction was now setting in. The
President's recommendations were received in some quarters with
astonishment, in some rather with amusement. Nowhere were they
regarded, in their entirety, with favor. Even Clay--spokesman of
nationalism though he was--could not follow his chief in his
untrammeled flights. Men still widely believed that, the National
Government ought to spend money freely on highways, canals, and other
improvements. But by his bold avowals Adams characteristically threw
away support for both himself and his cause; and the era of federal
initiative and management was thus hastened toward its close.

No one who knew Jackson and his political managers expected them to
accept the anomalous electoral results of 1825 as expressing the real
will of the nation, and it was a foregone conclusion not only that the
General would again be a candidate, but that the campaign of 1828
would at once begin. The defeated Senator remained in Washington long
enough to present himself at the White House on Inauguration Day and
felicitate his successful rival. Then he set out on the long journey
homeward. Every town through Pennsylvania and along the Ohio turned
out _en masse_ to greet him, and at Nashville he was given a
prodigious reception. To friends and traveling companions he talked
constantly about the election, leaving no doubt of his conviction that
he had been defeated by intrigue. To a sympathetic group of passengers
traveling down the Ohio with him on board the _General Neville_ he
declared emphatically that, if he had been willing to make the same
promises and offers to Clay that Adams had made, he would that minute
be in the presidential chair. If he should yet attain that dignity, he
added significantly, he would do it "with clean hands." It is reported
that as he spoke there was in his eye the fire of determination, such
as his soldiers had seen there as he strode up and down the
breastworks at New Orleans.

To this point Jackson had sought the presidency rather at the
instigation of his friends than because of personal desire for the
office. Now all was changed. The people had expressed their preference
for him, and their will had been thwarted. Henceforth he was moved by
an inflexible purpose to vindicate both his own right to the position
and the right of his fellow citizens to choose their chief executive
without hindrance. In this determination he was warmly backed up by
his neighbors and advisers, and the machinery for a long, systematic,
and resistless campaign was speedily put into running order. One group
of managers took charge in Washington. Another set to work in New
York. A third undertook to keep Pennsylvania in line. A fourth began
to consolidate support in the South. At the capital the _United States
Telegraph_, edited by Duff Green of Missouri, was established as a
Jackson organ, and throughout the country friendly journals were set
the task of keeping up an incessant fire upon the Administration and
of holding the Jackson men together. Local committees were organized;
pamphlets and handbills were put into circulation; receptions and
public dinners were exploited, whenever possible, in the interest of
the cause. First, last, and always, Jackson's candidacy was put
forward as the hope and opportunity of the plain people as against the

In October the Tennessee Legislature again placed its favorite
formally in nomination, and a few days later the candidate resigned
his seat in the Senate in order to be more advantageously situated for
carrying on his campaign. For more than a year he remained quietly at
the Hermitage, dividing his attention between his blooded horses and
dogs and his political interests. Lewis stayed at his side, partly to
restrain him from outbreaks of temper or other acts that might injure
his interests, partly to serve as an intermediary between him and the
Washington manipulators.

Before Adams had been in the White House six months the country was
divided substantially into Jackson men and anti-Jackson or
administration men. The elements from which Jackson drew support were
many and discordant. The backbone of his strength was the
self-assertive, ambitious western Democracy, which recognized in him
its truest and most eminent representative. The alliance with the
Calhoun forces was kept up, although it was already jeopardized by the
feeling of the South Carolinian's friends that they, and not Jackson's
friends, should lead in the coming campaign. After a good deal of
hesitation the supporters of Crawford came over also. Van Buren
coquetted with the Adams forces for a year, and the old-line
Republicans, strong in the Jeffersonian faith, brought themselves to
the support of the Tenneseean with difficulty; but eventually both
northern and southern wings of the Crawford contingent alined
themselves against the Administration. The decision of Van Buren
brought into the Jackson ranks a past master in party management, "the
cleverest politician in a State in which the sort of politics that is
concerned with the securing of elections rather than fighting for
principles had grown into a science and an art." By 1826 the Jackson
forces were welded into a substantial party, although for a long time
their principles involved little more than hostility to Adams and
enthusiasm for Jackson, and they bore no other designation than
Jackson men.

The elements that were left to support the Administration were the
followers of Adams and Clay. These eventually drew together under the
name of National Republicans. Their strength, however, was limited,
for Adams could make no appeal to the masses, even in New England;
while Clay, by contributing to Jackson's defeat, had forfeited much of
the popularity that would otherwise have been his.

If the story of Adams's Administration could be told in detail, it
would be one long record of rancorous warfare between the President
and the Jacksonian opposition in Congress. Adams, on the one hand,
held inflexibly to his course, advocating policies and recommending
measures which he knew had not the remotest chance of adoption; and,
on the other hand, the opposition--which in the last two years of the
Administration controlled the Senate as well as the House of
Representatives--balked at no act that would humiliate the President
and make capital for its western idol. At the outset the Jacksonians
tried to hold up the confirmation of Clay. It fell furiously, and
quite without discrimination, upon the President's great scheme of
national improvements, professing to see in it evidence of an
insatiable desire for "concentration." In the discussion of a proposed
amendment to the Constitution providing for direct election of the
President by the people it was constantly assumed and frequently
stated that Adams had no moral right to the position which he
occupied. The President's decision to send delegates to the Panama
Congress of 1826 raised a storm of acrimonious debate and brought the
Administration's enemies into closer unison. To cap the climax, Adams
was solemnly charged with abuse of the federal patronage, and in the
Senate six bills for the remedy of the President's pernicious
practices were brought in by Benton in a single batch! Adams was able
and honest, but he got no credit from his opponents for these
qualities. He, in turn, displayed little magnanimity; and in refusing
to shape his policies and methods to meet the conditions under which
he had to work, he fell short of the highest statesmanship.

As election year approached, it became clear that the people would at
last have an opportunity to make a direct choice between Adams and
Jackson. Each candidate was formally nominated by sundry legislatures
and other bodies; no one so much as suggested nomination by
congressional caucus. In the early months of 1828 the campaign rapidly
rose to an extraordinary level of vigor and public interest. Each
party group became bitter and personal in its attacks upon the other;
in our entire political history there have been not more than two or
three campaigns so smirched with vituperation and abuse. The Jackson
papers and stump speakers laid great stress on Adams's aristocratic
temperament, denounced his policies as President, and exploited the
"corrupt bargain" charge with all possible ingenuity.

On the other hand, the Adams-Clay forces dragged forth in long array
Jackson's quarrels, duels, and rough-and-tumble encounters to prove
that he was not fit to be President; they distributed handbills
decorated with coffins bearing the names of the candidate's victims;
they cited scores of actions, from the execution of mutinous
militiamen in the Creek War to the quarrel with Callava, to show his
arbitrary disposition; and they strove in a most malicious manner to
undermine his popularity by breaking down his personal reputation, and
even that of his wife and of his mother. It has been said that "the
reader of old newspaper files and pamphlet collections of the Adamsite
persuasion, in the absence of other knowledge, would gather that
Jackson was a usurper, an adulterer, a gambler, a cock-fighter, a
brawler, a drunkard, and withal a murderer of the most cruel and
blood-thirsty description." Issues--tariff, internal improvements,
foreign policy, slavery--receded into the background; the campaign
became for all practical purposes a personal contest between the
Tennessee soldier and the two statesmen whom he accused of bargain and
corruption. "Hurrah for Jackson!" was the beginning and end of the
creed of the masses bent on the Tenneseean's election.

Jackson never wearied of saying that he was "no politician." He was,
none the less, one of the most forceful and successful politicians
that the country has known. He was fortunate in being able to
personify a cause which was grounded deeply in the feelings and
opinions of the people, and also in being able to command the services
of a large group of tireless and skillful national and local managers.
He was willing to leave to these managers the infinite details of his
campaign. But he kept in close touch with them and their subordinates,
and upon occasion he did not hesitate to take personal command. In
politics, as in war, he was imperious; persons not willing to support
him with all their might, and without question or quibble, he
preferred to see on the other side. Throughout the campaign his
opponents hoped, and his friends feared, that he would commit some
deed of anger that would ruin his chances of election. The temptation
was strong, especially when the circumstances of his marriage were
dragged into the controversy. But while he chafed inwardly, and
sometimes expressed himself with more force than elegance in the
presence of his friends, he maintained an outward calm and dignity.
His bitterest feeling was reserved for Clay, who was known to be the
chief inspirer of the National Republicans' mud-slinging campaign. But
he felt that Adams had it in his power to put a stop to the slanders
that were set in circulation, had he cared to do so.

As the campaign drew to a close, circumstances pointed with increasing
sureness to the triumph of the Jackson forces. Adams, foreseeing the
end, found solace in harsh and sometimes picturesque entries in his
diary. A group of opposition Congressmen he pronounced "skunks of
party slander." Calhoun he described as "stimulated to frenzy by
success, flattery, and premature advancement; governed by no steady
principle, but sagacious to seize upon every prevailing popular breeze
to swell his own sails." Clay, likewise, became petulant and gloomy.
In the last two months of the canvass Jackson ordered a general
onslaught upon Kentucky, and when finally it was affirmed that the
State had been "carried out from under" its accustomed master, Clay
knew only too well that the boast was true. To Adams's assurances that
after four years of Jackson the country would gladly turn to the
Kentuckian, the latter could only reply that there would, indeed, be a
reaction, but that before another President would be taken from the
West he would be too old; and it was with difficulty that Adams
persuaded him not to retire immediately from the Cabinet.

The results of the contest fully bore out the apprehensions of the
Administration. Jackson received nearly 140,000 more popular votes
than Adams and carried every State south of the Potomac and west of
the Alleghanies. He carried Pennsylvania also by a vote of two to one
and divided about equally with his opponent the votes of New York and
Maryland. Only New England held fast for Adams. As one writer has
facetiously remarked, "It took a New England conscience to hold a
follower in line for the New England candidate." The total electoral
vote was 178 for Jackson and 83 for Adams. Calhoun was easily
reelected to the vice presidency. Both branches of Congress remained
under the control of Jackson's partizans.

Months before the election, congratulatory messages began to pour into
the Hermitage. Some came from old friends and disinterested
well-wishers, many from prospective seekers of office or of other
favors. Influential people in the East, and especially at the capital,
hastened to express their desire to be of service to the Jacksons in
the new life to which they were about to be called. In the list one
notes with interest the names of General Thomas Cadwalader of
Philadelphia, salaried lobbyist for the United States Bank, and
Senator Robert Y. Hayne, the future South Carolina nullifier.

Returns sufficiently complete to leave no doubt of Jackson's election
reached the Hermitage on the 9th of December. That afternoon, Lewis,
Carroll, and a few other members of the "general headquarters staff"
gathered at the Jackson home to review the situation and look over the
bulky correspondence that had come in. "General Jackson," reports
Lewis, "showed no elation. In fact, he had for some time considered
his election certain, the only question in his mind being the extent
of the majority. When he finished looking over the summary by States,
his only remark was that Isaac Hill, considering the odds against him,
had done wonders in New Hampshire!"

When, two weeks later, the final returns were received, leading
Tenneseeans decided to give a reception, banquet, and ball which would
outshine any social occasion in the annals of the Southwest. Just as
arrangements were completed, however, Mrs. Jackson, who had long been
in failing health, suffered an attack of heart trouble; and at the
very hour when the General was to have been received, amid all the
trappings of civil and military splendor, with the huzzas of his
neighbors, friends, and admirers, he was sitting tearless, speechless,
and almost expressionless by the corpse of his life companion. Long
after the beloved one had been laid to rest in the Hermitage garden
amid the rosebushes she had planted, the President-elect continued as
one benumbed. He never gave up the idea that his wife had been killed
by worry over the attacks made upon him and upon her by the Adams
newspapers--that, as he expressed it, she was "murdered by slanders
that pierced her heart." Only under continued prodding from Lewis and
other friends did he recall himself to his great task and set about
preparing for the arduous winter journey to Washington, composing his
inaugural address, selecting his Cabinet, and laying plans for the
reorganization of the federal Civil Service on lines already
definitely in his mind.



Jackson's election to the presidency in 1828 was correctly described
by Senator Benton as "a triumph of democratic principle, and an
assertion of the people's right to govern themselves." Jefferson in
his day was a candidate of the masses, and his triumph over John Adams
in 1800 was received with great public acclaim. Yet the Virginian was
at best an aristocratic sort of democrat; he was never in the fullest
sense a man of the people. Neither Madison nor Monroe inspired
enthusiasm, and for John Quincy Adams even New Englanders voted, as
Ezekiel Webster confessed, from a cold sense of duty. Jackson was, as
no President before him, the choice of the masses. His popular vote in
1824 revealed not only his personal popularity but the growing power
of the democratic elements in the nation, and his defeat in the House
of Representatives only strengthened his own and the people's
determination to be finally victorious. The untrained, self-willed,
passionate frontier soldier came to power in 1828 as the standard
bearer of a mighty democratic uprising which was destined before it
ran its course to break down oligarchical party organizations, to
liberalize state and local governments, and to turn the stream of
national politics into wholly new channels. It was futile for men of
the old school to protest and to prophesy misfortune for the country
under its new rulers. The people had spoken, and this time the
people's will was not to be denied.

Still haggard from his recent personal loss, the President-elect set
out for Washington, at the middle of January, 1829. With him went his
nephew, Andrew Jackson Donelson, who was to be his private secretary;
Mrs. Donelson, who was to preside over the executive mansion; an
accomplished niece of Mrs. Jackson, who was to be of social
assistance; an artist by the name of Earl, who resided at the White
House throughout Jackson's two Administrations, engaged continually in
painting portraits of the General; and, finally, the faithful Major
Lewis, whose intention was merely to attend the inauguration and then
return to his plantation. The puffing little steamboat on which the
party traveled down the Cumberland and up the Ohio was saluted and
cheered a hundred times a day; at Louisville, Cincinnati, and
Pittsburgh there were great outpourings of demonstrative citizens.
Duff Green, one of the party managers, proposed that a great cavalcade
should meet the victor at Pittsburgh and escort him by relays to the
capital. On Van Buren's advice the plan was abandoned. But as the
party passed along the National Road toward its destination it was
accorded an ovation which left nothing to be desired as an evidence of
the public favor.

Arrived in Washington, on the 11th of February--the day on which the
electoral votes were counted in the Senate--Jackson and his friends
found temporary lodgings at the Indian Queen Tavern, commonly known as
"the Wigwam." During the next three weeks the old inn was the scene of
unwonted activity. Office seekers besieged it morning, noon, and
night; politicians came to ask favors or give advice; exponents of
every sort of cause watched for opportunities to obtain promises of
presidential support; scores of the curious came with no other purpose
than to see what a backwoods President looked like. "The city is full
of speculation and speculators," wrote Daniel Webster to his
sister-in-law a few days after Jackson's arrival; "a great multitude,
too many to be fed without a miracle, are already in the city, hungry
for office. Especially, I learn that the typographical corps is
assembled in great force. From New Hampshire, our friend Hill; from
Boston, Mr. Greene ... and from everywhere else somebody else. So many
friends ready to advise, and whose advice is so disinterested, make
somewhat of a numerous council about the President-elect; and, if
report be true, it is a council which only makes that darker which was
dark enough before."

To all, Jackson was accessible. But he was not communicative, and up
to Inauguration Day people were left to speculate not only upon the
truth of the rumor that there was to be a "full sweep" in the offices
but upon the new Administration's attitude on public questions in
general. Even Isaac Hill, a warm friend and supporter, was obliged to
write to an acquaintance four days before the inauguration that
Jackson had little to say about the future, "except in a general way."
The men with whom the Executive-elect was daily closeted were Major
Lewis and Senators Eaton and White. Van Buren would have been of the
number, had not his recently assumed duties as Governor kept him at
Albany. He was ably represented, however, by James A. Hamilton, a son
of Alexander Hamilton, to whose correspondence we owe most of what we
know about the laying of the plans for the new Administration.

The most pressing question was the personnel of the Cabinet. Upon only
one appointment was Jackson fully determined when he reached
Washington: Van Buren was to be Secretary of State. The "little
magician" had been influential in turning New York from Crawford to
Jackson; he had resigned his seat in the Senate and run for the
governorship with a view to uniting the party for Jackson's benefit;
he was the cleverest politician and, next to Calhoun, the ablest man,
in the Democratic ranks. When offered the chief place in the Cabinet
he promptly accepted. Edward Livingston was given his choice of the
remaining positions, but preferred to accept an election to the
Senate. With due regard for personal susceptibilities and sectional
interests, the list was then completed. A Pennsylvania Congressman
Samuel D. Ingham, became Secretary of the Treasury; Senator John H.
Eaton was made Secretary of War; a Calhoun supporter from North
Carolina, John Branch, was given the Navy portfolio; Senator John M.
Berrien of Georgia became Attorney-General; and William T. Barry of
Kentucky was appointed Postmaster-General, after the incumbent, John
McLean, refused to accept the policy of a clean slate in the
department. The appointments were kept secret until one week before
the inauguration, when they were announced in the party organ at the
capital, Duff Green's _United States Telegraph_.

Everywhere the list caused consternation. Van Buren's was the only
name of distinction in it; and only one of the appointees had had
experience in the administration of national affairs. Hamilton
pronounced the group "the most unintellectual Cabinet we ever had."
Van Buren doubted whether he ought to have accepted a seat in such
company. A crowning expression of dissatisfaction came from the
Tennessee delegation in Congress, which formally protested against the
appointment of Eaton. But the President-elect was not to be swayed.
His ideas of administrative efficiency were not highly developed, and
he believed that his Cabinet would prove equal to all demands made
upon it. Not the least of its virtues in his eyes was the fact that,
although nearly evenly divided between his own followers and the
friends of Calhoun, it contained not one person who was not an
uncompromising anti-Clay man.

Meanwhile a motley army of office seekers, personal friends, and
sightseers--to the number of ten or fifteen thousand--poured into
Washington to see the old regime of Virginia, New York, and
Massachusetts go out and the new regime of the people come in. "A
monstrous crowd of people," wrote Webster on Inauguration Day, "is in
the city. I never saw anything like it before. Persons have come five
hundred miles to see General Jackson, and they really seem to think
that the country is rescued from some dreadful danger." Another
observer, who was also not a Jacksonian, wrote[7]:

"No one who was in Washington at the time of General Jackson's
inauguration is likely to forget that period to the day of his death.
To us, who had witnessed the quiet and orderly period of the Adams
Administration, it seemed as if half the nation had rushed at once
into the capital. It was like the inundation of the northern
barbarians into Rome, save that the tumultuous tide came in from a
different point of the compass. The West and the South seemed to have
precipitated themselves upon the North and overwhelmed it....

"Strange faces filled every public place, and every face seemed to bear
defiance on its brow. It appeared to me that every Jackson editor in
the country was on the spot. They swarmed, especially in the lobbies
of the House, an expectant host, a sort of Praetorian band, which,
having borne in upon their shields their idolized leader, claimed the
reward of the hard-fought contest."

The 4th of March dawned clear and balmy. "By ten o'clock," says an
eye-witness, "the Avenue was crowded with carriages of every
description, from the splendid baronet and coach, down to wagons and
carts, filled with women and children, some in finery and some in
rags, for it was the People's president." The great square which now
separates the Capitol and the Library of Congress was in Jackson's day
shut in by a picket fence. This enclosure was filled with people--"a
vast agitated sea"--while in all directions the slopes of Capitol Hill
were thickly occupied. At noon watchers on the west portico, looking
down Pennsylvania Avenue, saw a group of gentlemen issue from the
Indian Queen and thread its way slowly up the hill. All wore their
hats except one tall, dignified, white-haired figure in the middle,
who was quickly recognized as Jackson. Passing through the building,
the party, reinforced by Chief Justice Marshall and certain other
dignitaries, emerged upon the east portico, amid the deafening cheers
of the spectators. The President-elect bowed gravely, and, stepping
forward to a small cloth-covered table, read in a low voice the
inaugural address; the aged Chief Justice, "whose life was a protest
against the political views of the Jackson party," administered the
oath of office; and the ceremony was brought to a close in the
customary manner by the new Executive kissing the Bible. Francis Scott
Key, watching the scene from one of the gates, was moved to exclaim:
"It is beautiful, it is sublime."

Thus far the people had been sufficiently impressed by the dignity of
the occasion to keep their places and preserve a reasonable silence.
But when the executive party started to withdraw, men, women, and
children rushed past the police and scrambled up the steps in a wild
effort to reach their adored leader and grasp his hand. Disheveled and
panting, the President finally reached a gate at which his horse was
in waiting; and, mounting with difficulty, he set off for the White
House, followed by a promiscuous multitude, "countrymen, farmers,
gentlemen, mounted and unmounted, boys, women, and children, black and

The late President had no part in the day's proceedings. On arriving
in Washington, Jackson had refused to make the usual call of the
incoming upon the outgoing Executive, mainly because he held Adams
responsible for the news paper virulence which had caused Mrs. Jackson
such distress and had possibly shortened her life. Deserted by all
save his most intimate friends, the New Englander faced the last hours
of his Administration in bitterness. His diary bears ample evidence of
his ill-humor and chagrin. On the 3d of March he took up his residence
on Meridian Hill, near the western limits of the city; and thence he
did not venture until the festivities of the ensuing day were ended.
No amount of effort on the part of mediators ever availed to bring
about a reconciliation between him and his successor.

According to custom, the inaugural program came to an end with a
reception at the White House; and arrangements were made to entertain
a large number of guests. Police control, however, proved wholly
inadequate, and when the throng that followed the President up the
Avenue reached the executive grounds it engulfed the mansion and
poured in by windows as well as doors, until the reception rooms were
packed to suffocation. Other guests, bidden and unbidden--"statesmen
and stable-boys, fine ladies and washerwomen, white people and
blacks"--continued for hours to besiege the doors. "I never saw such a
mixture," records Judge Story; "the reign of King Mob seemed
triumphant. I was glad to escape from the scene as soon as possible."
The President, too, after being jostled for an hour, very willingly
made his way by a side entrance to the street and thence to his hotel.

A profusion of refreshments, including barrels of orange punch, had
been provided; and an attempt to serve the guests led to a veritable
saturnalia. Waiters emerging from doors with loaded trays were borne
to the floor by the crush; china and glassware were smashed; gallons
of punch were spilled on the carpets; in their eagerness to be served
men in muddy boots leaped upon damask-covered chairs, overturned
tables, and brushed bric-a-brac from mantles and walls. "It would have
done Mr. Wilberforce's heart good," writes a cynical observer, "to
have seen a stout black wench eating in this free country a jelly with
a gold spoon at the President's House." Only when some thoughtful
person directed that tubs of punch be placed here and there on the
lawn was the congestion indoors relieved. When it was all over, the
White House resembled a pigsty. "Several thousand dollars' worth of
broken china and cut glass and many bleeding noses attested the
fierceness of the struggle." It was the people's day, and it was of no
avail for fastidious Adamsites to lift their eyebrows in ridicule or

Those in whom the establishment of the new order aroused keenest
apprehension were the officeholders. A favorite theme of the Jackson
forces during the late campaign was the abuses of the patronage, and
the General came into office fully convinced that an overhauling of
the civil service would be one of the greatest contributions that he
could make to his country's welfare. Even if he had been less sure of
this than he was, the pressure which office seekers and their friends
brought to bear upon him would have been irresistible. Four-fifths of
the people who flocked to Washington at inauguration time were seekers
after office for themselves or their friends, and from every county
and town the country over came pleas of service rendered and claims
for reward. But Jackson needed little urging. He thought, and rightly,
that many of the incumbents had grown lax in the performance of their
duties, if indeed they had ever been anything else, and that fresh
blood was needed in the government employ. He believed that short
terms and rapid rotation made for alertness and efficiency. He felt
that one man had as much right to public office as another, and he was
so unacquainted with the tasks of administration as to suppose all
honest citizens equally capable of serving their fellowmen in public
station. As for the grievances of persons removed, his view was that
"no individual wrong is done by removal, since neither appointment to
nor continuance in office is a matter of right."

Shortly after the election Major Lewis wrote to a friend that the
General was "resolved on making a pretty clean sweep of the
departments." It is expected, he added, that "he will cleanse the
Augean stables, and I feel pretty confident that he will not
disappoint the popular expectation in this particular." If a complete
overturn was ever really contemplated, the plan was not followed up;
and it is more than possible that it was Van Buren who marked off the
limits beyond which it would not be expedient to go. None the less,
Jackson's removals far exceeded those made by his predecessors.
Speaking broadly, the power of removal had never yet been exercised in
the Federal Government with offensive partizanship. Even under
Jefferson, when the holders of half of the offices were changed in the
space of four years, there were few removals for political reasons.

No sooner was Jackson in office, however, than wholesale proscription
began. The ax fell in every department and bureau, and cut off chiefs
and clerks with equal lack of mercy. Age and experience counted rather
against a man than in his favor, and rarely was any reason given for
removal other than that some one else wanted the place. When Congress
met, in December, it was estimated that a thousand persons had been
ousted; and during the first year of the Administration the number is
said to have reached two thousand. The Post-Office Department and the
Customs Service were purged with special severity. The sole principle
on which the new appointees were selected was loyalty to Jackson.
Practically all were inexperienced, most were incompetent, and several
proved dishonest.

"There has been," wrote the President in his journal a few weeks after
the inauguration, "a great noise made about removals." Protest arose
not only from the proscribed and their friends, but from the
Adams-Clay forces generally, and even from some of the more moderate
Jacksonians. "Were it not for the outdoor popularity of General
Jackson," wrote Webster, "the Senate would have negatived more than
half his nominations." As it was, many were rejected; and some of the
worst were, under pressure, withdrawn. On the general principle the
President held his ground. "It is rotation in office," he again and
again asserted in all honesty, "that will perpetuate our liberty," and
from this conviction no amount of argument or painful experience could
shake him. After 1830 one hears less about the subject, but only
because the novelty and glamor of the new regime had worn off.

Jackson was not the author of the spoils system. The device of using
the offices as rewards for political service had long been familiar in
the state and local governments, notably in New York. What Jackson and
his friends did was simply to carry over the spoils principle into the
National Government. No more unfortunate step was ever taken by an
American President; the task of undoing the mischief has been long and
laborious. Yet the spoils system was probably an inevitable feature of
the new rule of the people; at all events, it was accepted by all
parties and sanctioned by public sentiment for more than half a

Like Philip II of Spain, who worked twelve hours a day at the business
of being a King, Jackson took the duties of his exalted post very
seriously. No man had ever accused him of laxness in public office,
civil or military; on the contrary, his superiors commonly considered
themselves fortunate if they could induce or compel him to keep his
energies within reasonable bounds. As President he was not without
distressing shortcomings. He was self-willed, prejudiced, credulous,
petulant. But he was honest, and he was industrious. No President ever
kept a closer watch upon Congress to see that the rights of the
executive were not invaded or the will of the people thwarted; and his
vigilance was rewarded, not only by his success in vindicating the
independence of the executive in a conflict whose effects are felt to
this day, but by the very respectable amount of legislation which he
contrived to obtain in the furtherance of what he believed to be the
public welfare. When a rebellious Congress took the bit in its teeth,
he never hesitated to crack the whip over its head. Sometimes the
pressure was applied indirectly, but with none the less effect. One of
the first acts of the Senate to arouse strong feelings in the White
House was the rejection of the nomination of Isaac Hill to be Second
Comptroller of the Treasury. A New Hampshire senatorship soon falling
vacant, the President deftly brought about the election of Hill to the
position; and many a gala hour he had in later days as Lewis and other
witnesses described the chagrin of the senators at being obliged to
accept as one of their colleagues a man whom they had adjudged unfit
for a less important office.

Much thought had been bestowed upon the composition of the Cabinet,
and some of the President's warmest supporters urged that he should
make use of the group as a council of state, after the manner of his
predecessors. Jackson's purposes, however, ran in a different
direction. He had been on intimate terms with fewer than half of the
members, and he saw no reason why these men, some of whom were
primarily the friends of Calhoun, should be allowed to supplant old
confidants like Lewis. Let them, he reasoned, go about their appointed
tasks as heads of the administrative departments, while he looked for
counsel whithersoever he desired. Hence the official Cabinet fell into
the background, and after a few weeks the practice of holding meetings
was dropped.

As advisers on party affairs and on matters of general policy the
President drew about himself a heterogeneous group of men which the
public-labeled the "Kitchen Cabinet." Included in the number were the
two members of the regular Cabinet in whom Jackson had implicit
confidence, Van Buren and Eaton. Isaac Hill was a member. Amos
Kendall, a New Englander who had lately edited a Jackson paper in
Kentucky, and who now found his reward in the fourth auditorship of
the Treasury, was another. William B. Lewis, prevailed upon by Jackson
to accept another auditorship along with Kendall, rather than to
follow out his original intention to return to his Tennessee
plantation, was not only in the Kitchen Cabinet but was also a member
of the President's household. Duff Green, editor of the _Telegraph_,
and A. J. Donelson, the President's nephew and secretary, were
included in the group; as was also Francis P. Blair after, in 1830, he
became editor of the new administration organ, the _Globe_. It was the
popular impression that the influence of these men, especially of
Lewis and Kendall, was very great--that, indeed, they virtually ruled
the country. There was some truth in the supposition. In matters upon
which his mind was not fully made up, Jackson was easily swayed; and
his most intimate "Kitchen" advisers were adepts at playing upon his
likes and dislikes. He, however, always resented the insinuation that
he was not his own master, and all testimony goes to show that when he
was once resolved upon a given course his friends were just as
powerless to stop him as were his enemies.

The Jacksonians were carried into office on a great wave of popular
enthusiasm, an for the time being all the powers of government were
theirs. None the less, their position was imperiled almost from the
beginning by a breach within the administration ranks. Calhoun had
contented himself with reelection to the vice presidency in 1828 on
the understanding that, after Jackson should have had one term, the
road to the White House would be left clear for himself. Probably
Jackson, when elected, fully expected Calhoun to be his successor.
Before long, however, the South Carolinian was given ground for
apprehension. Men began to talk about a second term for Jackson, and
the White House gave no indication of disapproval. Even more
disconcerting was the large place taken in the new regime by Van
Buren. The "little magician" held the chief post in the Cabinet; he
was in the confidence of the President as Calhoun was not; there were
multiplying indications that he was aiming at the presidency; and if
he were to enter the race he would be hard to beat, for by general
admission he was the country's most astute politician. With every
month that passed the Vice President's star was in graver danger of

Several curious circumstances worked together to widen the breach
between the Calhoun and Van Buren elements and at the same time to
bring the President definitely into the ranks of the New Yorker's
supporters. One was the controversy over the social status of "Peggy"
Eaton. Peggy was the daughter of a tavern keeper, William O'Neil, at
whose hostelry both Jackson and Eaton had lived when they were
senators. Her first husband, a purser in the navy, committed suicide
at sea; and Washington gossips said that he was driven to the act by
chagrin caused by his wife's misconduct, both before and after her
marriage. On the eve of Jackson's inauguration the widow became Mrs.
Eaton, and certain disagreeable rumors connecting the names of the two
were confirmed in the public mind. When Eaton was made Secretary of
War, society shrugged its shoulders and wondered what sort of figure
"Peg O'Neil" would cut in Cabinet circles. The question was soon
answered. At the first official functions Mrs. Eaton was received with
studied neglect by the wives of the other Cabinet officers; and all
refused either to call on her or to receive her in their homes.

Jackson was furious. It was enough for him that Mrs. Jackson had
thought well of the suspected woman, and all his gallantry rose in her
defense. Professing to regard the attitude of the protesters as
nothing less than an affront to his Administration, he called upon the
men of the Cabinet, and upon the Vice President, to remonstrate with
their wives in Mrs. Eaton's behalf. But if any such remonstrances were
made, nothing came of them. "For once in his life, Andrew Jackson was
defeated. Creeks and Spaniards and Redcoats he could conquer, but the
ladies of Washington never surrendered, and Peggy Eaton though her
affairs became a national question, never got into Washington
society."[8] The political effect of the episode was considerable. Van
Buren was a widower, and, having no family to object, he showed Mrs.
Eaton all possible courtesy. On the other hand, Mrs. Calhoun was the
leader of those who refused Mrs. Eaton recognition. Jackson was not
slow to note these facts, and his opinion of Van Buren steadily rose,
while he set down Calhoun as an obdurate member of the "conspiracy."

Throughout the winter of 1829-30 the Calhoun and Van Buren factions
kept up a contest which daily became more acrimonious and open.
Already the clique around the President had secretly decided that in
1832 he must run again, with Van Buren as a mate, and that the New
Yorker should be the presidential candidate in 1836. Though irritated
by the Vice President's conduct in the Eaton affair and in other
matters, Jackson threw over the understanding of 1828 with reluctance.
Even when, on the last day of 1829, his friends, alarmed by the state
of his health, persuaded him to write a letter to a Tennessee judge
warmly commending Van Buren and expressing grave doubts about the
South Carolinian--a statement which, in the event of worst fears being
realized, would be of the utmost value to the Van Buren men--he was
unwilling to go the full length of an open break.

But Lewis and his coworkers were craftily laying the train of powder
that would lead to an explosion, and in the spring of 1830 they were
ready to apply the match. When the President had been worked up to the
right stage of suspicion, it was suddenly made known to him that it
was Calhoun, not Crawford, who in Monroe's Cabinet circle in 1818 had
urged that the conqueror of Florida be censured for his bold deeds.
This had the full effect desired. Jackson made a peremptory demand
upon the Vice President for an explanation of his perfidy. Calhoun
responded in a letter which explained and explained, yet got nowhere.
Whereupon Jackson replied in a haughty communication, manifestly
prepared by the men who were engineering the whole business, declaring
the former Secretary guilty of the most reprehensible duplicity and
severing all relations with him. This meant the end of Calhoun's
hopes, at all events for the present. He could never be President
while Jackson's influence lasted. Van Buren had won; and the
embittered South Carolinian could only turn for solace to the
nullification movement, in which he was already deeply engulfed.

Pursuing their plans to the final stroke, the Administration managers
forced a reconstruction of the Cabinet, and all of Calhoun's
supporters were displaced. Louis McLane of Delaware became Secretary
of the Treasury; Lewis Cass of Michigan, Secretary of War; Levi
Woodbury of New Hampshire, Secretary of the Navy; and Roger B. Taney
of Maryland, Attorney-General. Van Buren also retired, in conformity
with Jackson's announced intention not to have any one in the Cabinet
who was a candidate for the succession; and Edward Livingston,
Jackson's old Louisiana friend, became Secretary of State.

It was decided that a fitting post for a successor while awaiting his
turn--particularly for one who was not popular--would be the
ministership to Great Britain; and Van Buren duly traveled to London
to take up the duties of this position. But when the appointment was
submitted to the Senate, Calhoun's friends adroitly managed matters so
that the Vice President should have the satisfaction of preventing
confirmation by his casting vote. "It will kill him, sir, kill him
dead," declared the vengeful South Carolinian to a doubting friend.
"He will never kick, sir, never kick." But no greater tactical error
could have been committed. Benton showed the keener insight when he
informed the jubilant Calhoun men that they had "broken a minister,"
only to elect a Vice President.



The United States came out of her second war with Great Britain a
proud and fearless nation, though her record was not, on its face,
glorious. She went to war shockingly unprepared; the people were of
divided opinion, and one great section was in open revolt; the
military leaders were without distinction; the soldiery was poorly
trained and equipped; finances were disordered; the operations on land
were mostly failures; and the privateers, which achieved wonders in
the early stages of the contest, were driven to cover long before the
close; for the restoration of peace the nation had to thank England's
war weariness far more than her own successes; and the Treaty of Ghent
did not so much as mention impressment, captures, or any of the other
matters mainly at issue when the war was begun. Peace, however,
brought gratitude, enthusiasm, optimism. Defeats were quickly
forgotten; and Jackson's victory at New Orleans atoned for the
humiliations of years. After all, the contest had been victorious in
its larger outcome, for the new world conditions were such as to
insure that the claims and practices which had troubled the relations
of the United States and Great Britain would never be revived. The
carpings of critics were drowned in the public rejoicings. The
Hartford Convention dissolved unwept and unsung. Flushed with pride
and confidence, the country entered upon a new and richer epoch.

The dominant tone of this dawning period was nationalism. The nation
was to be made great and rich and free; sectional interests and
ambitions were to be merged in the greater national purpose. Congress
voiced the sentiment of the day by freely laying tariffs to protect
newly risen manufactures, by appropriating money for "internal
improvements," by establishing a second United States Bank, and by
giving full support to the annexation of territory for the adjustment
of border difficulties and the extension of the country to its natural

Under the leadership of John Marshall, the Supreme Court handed down
an imposing series of decisions restricting the powers of the States
and throwing open the floodgates for the expansion of national
functions and activities. Statesmen of all sections put the nation
first in their plans and policies as they had not always done in
earlier days. John C. Calhoun was destined shortly to take rank as the
greatest of sectionalists. Nevertheless, between 1815 and 1820 he
voted for protective tariffs, brought in a great bill for internal
improvements, and won from John Quincy Adams praise for being "above
all sectional...prejudices more than any other statesman of this
union" with whom he "had ever acted."

The differences between the nationalist and state rights schools were,
however, deep-rooted--altogether too fundamental to be obliterated by
even the nationalizing swing of the war period; and in a brief time
the old controversy of Hamilton and Jefferson was renewed on the
former lines. The pull of political tradition and of sectional
interest was too strong to be resisted. In the commercial and
industrial East tradition and interest supported, in general, the
doctrine of broad national powers; and the same was true of the West
and Northwest. The South, however, inclined to limited national
powers, large functions for the States, and such a construction of the
Constitution as would give the benefit of the doubt in all cases to
the States.

The political theory current south of the Potomac and the Ohio made of
state rights a fetish. Yet the powerful sectional reaction which set
in after 1820 against the nationalizing tendency had as its main
impetus the injustice which the Southern people felt had been done to
them through the use of the nation's larger powers. They objected to
the protective tariff as a device which not only brought the South no
benefit but interfered with its markets and raised the cost of certain
of its staple supplies. They opposed internal improvements at national
expense because of their consolidating tendency, and because few of
the projects carried out were of large advantage to the Southern
people. They regarded the National Bank as at best useless; and they
resisted federal legislation imposing restrictions on slavery as
prejudicial to vested rights in the "peculiar institution."

After 1820 the pendulum swung rapidly back toward particularism. State
rights sentiment was freely expressed by men, both Southern and
Northern, whose views commanded respect; and in more than one
State--notably in Ohio and Georgia--bold actions proclaimed this
sentiment to be no mere matter of academic opinion. Ohio in 1819
forcibly collected a tax on the United States Bank in defiance of the
Supreme Court's decision in the case of M'Culloch _vs._ Maryland; and
in 1821 her Legislature reaffirmed the doctrines of the Virginia and
Kentucky resolutions and persisted in resistance, even after the
Supreme Court had rendered a decision[9] specifically against the
position which the State had taken. Judge Roane of Virginia, in a
series of articles in the _Richmond Enquirer_, argued that the Federal
Union was a compact among the States and that the nationalistic
reasoning of his fellow Virginian, Marshall, in the foregoing
decisions was false; and Jefferson heartily endorsed his views. In
Cohens _vs._ Virginia, in 1821, the Supreme Court held that it had
appellate jurisdiction in a case decided by a state court where the
Constitution and laws of the United States were involved, even though
a State was a party; whereupon the Virginia House of Delegates
declared that the State's lawyers had been right in their contention
that final construction of the Constitution lay with the courts of the
States. Jefferson, also, gave this assertion his support, and
denounced the centralizing tendencies of the Judiciary, "which,
working like gravity without any intermission, is to press us at last
into one consolidated mass."

In 1825 Jefferson actually proposed that the Virginia Legislature
should pass a set of resolutions pronouncing null and void the whole
body of federal laws on the subject of internal improvements. The
Georgia Legislature, aroused by growing antislavery activities in the
North, declared in 1827 that the remedy lay in "a firm and determined
union of the people and the States of the South" against interference
with the institutions of that section of the country. Already Georgia
had placed herself in an attitude of resistance to the Federal
Government upon the rights of the Indians within her borders, and
within the next decade she repeatedly nullified decisions of the
federal courts on this subject. In 1828 the South Carolina Legislature
adopted a series of eight resolutions denouncing the lately enacted
"tariff of abominations," and a report, originally drafted by Calhoun
and commonly known as _The South Carolina Exposition_, in which were
to be found all of the essentials of the constitutional argument
underlying the nullification movement of 1832.

When Jackson went into the White House, the country was therefore
fairly buzzing with discussions of constitutional questions. What was
the true character of the Constitution and of the Union established
under it? Were the States sovereign? Who should determine the limits
of state and federal powers? What remedy had a State against
unconstitutional measures of the National Government? Who should say
when an act was unconstitutional?

The South, in particular, was in an irritable frame of mind.
Agriculture was in a state of depression; manufacturing was not
developing as had been expected; the steadily mounting tariffs were
working economic disadvantage; the triumph of members of Congress and
of the Supreme Court who favored a loose construction of the
Constitution indicated that there would be no end of acts and
decisions contrary to what the South regarded as her own interests.
Some apprehensive people looked to Jackson for reassurance. But his
first message to Congress assumed that the tariff would continue as it
was, and, indeed, gave no promise of relief in any direction.

It was at this juncture that the whole controversy flared up
unexpectedly in one of the greatest debates ever heard on the floor of
our Congress or in the legislative halls of any country. On December
29, 1829, Senator Samuel A. Foote of Connecticut offered an
innocent-looking resolution proposing a temporary restriction of the
sale of public lands to such lands as had already been placed on the
market. The suggestion was immediately resented by western members,
who professed to see in it a desire to check the drain of eastern
population to the West; and upon the reconvening of Congress following
the Christmas recess Senator Benton of Missouri voiced in no uncertain
terms the indignation of his State and section. The discussion might
easily have led to nothing more than the laying of the resolution on
the table; and in that event we should never have heard of it. But it
happened that one of the senators from South Carolina, Robert Y.
Hayne, saw in the situation what he took to be a chance to deliver a
telling blow for his own discontented section. On the 19th of January
he got the floor, and at the fag-end of a long day he held his
colleagues' attention for an hour.

The thing that Hayne had in mind to do primarily was to draw the West
to the side of the South, in common opposition to the East. He
therefore vigorously attacked the Foote resolution, agreeing with
Benton that it was an expression of Eastern jealousy and that its
adoption would greatly retard the development of the West. He laid
much stress upon the common interests of the Western and Southern
people and openly invited the one to an alliance with the other. He
deprecated the tendencies of the Federal Government to consolidation
and declared himself "opposed, in any shape, to all unnecessary
extension of the powers or the influence of the Legislature or
Executive of the Union over the States, or the people of the States."
Throughout the speech ran side by side the twin ideas of strict
construction and state rights; in every sentence breathed the protest
of South Carolina against the protective tariff.

Just as the South Carolinian began speaking, a shadow darkened the
doorway of the Senate chamber, and Daniel Webster stepped casually
inside. The Massachusetts member was at the time absorbed in the
preparation of certain cases that were coming up before the Supreme
Court, and he had given little attention either to Foote's resolution
or to the debate upon it. What he now heard, however, quickly drove
Carver's Lessee _vs._ John Jacob Astor quite out of his mind.
Aspersions were being cast upon his beloved New England; the
Constitution was under attack; the Union itself was being called in
question. Webster's decision was instantaneous: Hayne must be
answered--and answered while his arguments were still hot.

"Seeing the true grounds of the Constitution thus attacked," the New
Englander subsequently explained at a public dinner in New York, "I
raised my voice in its favor, I must confess, with no preparation or
previous intention. I can hardly say that I embarked in the contest
from a sense of duty. It was an instantaneous impulse of inclination,
not acting against duty, I trust, but hardly waiting for its
suggestions. I felt it to be a contest for the integrity of the
Constitution, and I was ready to enter into it, not thinking, or
caring, personally, how I came out." In a speech characterized by
Henry Cabot Lodge as "one of the most effective retorts, one of the
strongest pieces of destructive criticism, ever uttered in the
Senate," Webster now defended his section against the charges of
selfishness, jealousy, and snobbishness that had been brought against
it, and urged that the Senate and the people be made to hear no more
utterances, such as those of Hayne, tending "to bring the Union into
discussion, as a mere question of present and temporary expediency."

The debate was now fairly started, and the word quickly went round
that a battle of the giants was impending. Each foeman was worthy of
the other's steel. Hayne was representative of all that was proudest
and best in the South Carolina of his day. "Nature had lavished on
him," says Benton, "all the gifts which lead to eminence in public,
and to happiness in private, life." He was tall, well-proportioned,
graceful; his features were clean-cut and expressive of both
intelligence and amiability; his manner was cordial and unaffected;
his mind was vigorous and his industry unremitting. Furthermore, he
was an able lawyer, a fluent orator, a persuasive debater, an adroit
parliamentarian. Upon entering the Senate at the early age of
thirty-two, he had won prompt recognition by a powerful speech in
opposition to the tariff of 1824; and by 1828, when he was reelected,
he was known as the South's ablest and boldest spokesman in the upper

Webster was an equally fitting representative of rugged New England.
Born nine years earlier than Hayne, he struggled up from a boyhood of
physical frailty and poverty to an honored place at the Boston bar,
and in 1812, at the age of thirty, was elected to Congress. To the
Senate he brought, in 1827, qualities that gave him at once a
preeminent position. His massive head, beetling brow, flashing eye,
and stately carriage attracted instant attention wherever he went. His
physical impressiveness was matched by lofty traits of character and
by extraordinary powers of intellect; and by 1830 he had acquired a
reputation for forensic ability and legal acumen which were second to

When, therefore, on the 21st of January, Hayne rose to deliver his
_First Reply_, and Webster five days later took the floor to begin his
_Second Reply_--probably the greatest effort in the history of
American legislative oratory--the little chamber then used by the
Senate, but nowadays given over to the Supreme Court, presented a
spectacle fairly to be described as historic. Every senator who could
possibly be present answered at roll call. Here were Webster's more
notable fellow New Englanders--John Holmes of Maine, Levi Woodbury of
New Hampshire, Horatio Seymour of Vermont. There were Mahlon Dickerson
and Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, and John M. Clayton of
Delaware. Here, John Tyler of Virginia, John Forsyth of Georgia,
William R. King of Alabama; there, Hugh L. White and Felix Grundy of
Tennessee, and Thomas H. Benton of Missouri. From the President's
chair Hayne's distinguished fellow South Carolinian, Calhoun, looked
down upon the assemblage with emotions which he vainly strove to

During the later stages of the discussion people of prominence from
adjoining States filled the hotels of the city and bombarded the
senators with requests for tickets of admission to the senate
galleries. Lines were formed, and when the doors were thrown open in
the morning every available inch of space was instantly filled with
interested and excited spectators. So great was the pressure that all
rules governing the admission of the public were waived. On the day of
Webster's greatest effort ladies were admitted to the seats of the
members, and the throng overflowed through the lobbies and down the
long stairways, quite beyond hearing distance. In the House of
Representatives the Speaker remained at his post, but the attendance
was so scant that no business could be transacted.

Hayne's speech--begun on the 21st and continued on the 25th of
January--was the fullest and most forceful exposition of the doctrines
of strict construction, state rights, and nullification that had ever
fallen upon the ear of Congress. It was no mere piece of abstract
argumentation. Hayne was not the man to shrink from personalities, and
he boldly accused the New England Federalists of disloyalty and
Webster himself of complicity in "bargain and corruption." Thrusting
and parrying, he stirred his supporters to wild enthusiasm and moved
even the solemn-visaged Vice President to smiles of approval. The
nationalists winced and wondered whether their champion would be able
to measure up with so keen an antagonist. Webster sat staring into
space, breaking his reverie only now and then to make a few notes.

The debate reached a climax in Webster's powerful _Second Reply_, on
the 26th and 27th of January. Everything was favorable for a
magnificent effort: the hearing was brilliant, the theme was vital,
the speaker was in the prime of his matchless powers. On the desk
before the New Englander as he arose were only five small letter-paper
pages of notes. He spoke with such immediate preparation merely as the
labors of a single evening made possible. But it may be doubted
whether any forensic effort in our history was ever more thoroughly
prepared for, because Webster _lived_ his speech before he spoke it.
The origins of the Federal Union, the theories and applications of the
Constitution, the history and bearings of nullification--these were
matters with which years of study, observation, professional activity,
and association with men had made him absolutely familiar. If any
living American could answer Hayne and his fellow partizans, Webster
was the man to do it.

Forty-eight in the total of seventy-three pages of print filled by
this speech are taken up with a defense of New England against the
Southern charges of sectionalism and disloyalty. Few utterances of the
time are more familiar than the sentences bringing this part of the
oration to a close: "Mr. President, I shall enter on no encomium of
Massachusetts; she needs none. There she is. Behold her, and judge for
yourselves. There is her history; the world knows it by heart....
There is Boston, and Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill; and
there they will remain forever." If this had been all, the speech
would have been only a spirited defense of the good name of a section
and would hardly have gained immortality. It was the Union, however,
that most needed defense; and for that service the orator reserved his
grandest efforts.

From the opening of the discussion Webster's object had been to "force
from Hayne or his supporters a full, frank, clear-cut statement of
what nullification meant; and then, by opposing to this doctrine the
Constitution as he understood it, to show its utter inadequacy and
fallaciousness either as constitutional law or as a practical working
scheme."[10] In the Southerner's _First Reply_ Webster found the
statement that he wanted; he now proceeded to demolish it. Many pages
of print would be required to reproduce, even in substance, the
arguments which he employed. Yet the fundamentals are so simple that
they can be stated in a dozen lines. Sovereignty, under our form of
government, resides in the people of the United States. The exercise
of the powers of sovereignty is entrusted by the people partly to the
National Government and partly to the state Governments. This division
of functions is made in the federal Constitution. If differences
arise, as they must, as to the precise nature of the division, the
decision rests--not with the state legislatures, as Hayne had
said--but with the federal courts, which were established in part for
that very purpose. No State has a right to "nullify" a federal law; if
one State has this right, all must have it, and the result can only be
conflicts that would plunge the Government into chaos and the people
ultimately into war. If the Constitution is not what the people want,
they can amend it; but as long as it stands, the Constitution and all
lawful government under it must be obeyed.

The incomparably eloquent peroration penetrated to the heart of the
whole matter. The logic of nullification was disunion. Fine theories
might be spun and dazzling phrases made to convince men otherwise, but
the hard fact would remain. Hayne, Calhoun, and their like were
playing with fire. Already they were boldly weighing "the chances of
preserving liberty when the bonds that unite us together shall be
broken asunder"; already they were hanging over the precipice of
disunion, to see whether they could "fathom the depth of the abyss
below." The last powerful words of the speech were, therefore, a
glorification of the Union:

"While the Union lasts, we have high, exciting, gratifying prospects
spread out before us, for us and our children. Beyond that I seek not
to penetrate the veil. God grant that in my day, at least, that
curtain may not rise.... When my eyes shall be turned to behold for
the last time the sun in heaven, may I not see him shining on the
broken and dishonored fragments of a once glorious Union; on States
dissevered, discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds,
or drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and
lingering glance, rather, behold the gorgeous ensign of the Republic,
now known and honored throughout the earth, still full high advanced,
its arms and trophies streaming in their original lustre, not a stripe
erased or polluted, nor a single star obscured, bearing for its motto
no such miserable interrogatory as 'What is all this worth?' nor those
other words of delusion and folly 'Liberty first and Union afterward';
but everywhere, spread all over in characters of living light, blazing
on all its ample folds, as they float over the sea and over the land,
and in every wind under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear
to every American heart--'Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and

Undaunted by the flood of eloquence that for four hours held the
Senate spellbound, Hayne replied in a long speech that touched the
zenith of his own masterful powers of argumentation. He conceded
nothing. Each State, he still maintained, is "an independent
sovereignty"; the Union is based upon a compact; and every party to
the compact has a right to interpret for itself the terms of the
agreement by which all are bound together. In a short, crisp speech,
traversing the main ground which he had already gone over.

Webster exposed the inconsistencies and dangers involved in this
argument; and the debate was over. The Foote resolution, long since
forgotten, remained on the Senate calendar four months and was then
tabled. Webster went back to his cases; the politicians turned again
to their immediate concerns; the humdrum of congressional business was
resumed; and popular interest drifted to other things.

Both sides were well satisfied with the presentation of their views.
Certainly neither was converted to the position of the other. The
debate served, however, to set before the country with greater
clearness than ever before the two great systems of constitutional
interpretation that were struggling for mastery, and large numbers of
men whose ideas had been hazy were now led to adopt thoughtfully
either the one body of opinions or the other. The country was not yet
ready to follow the controversy to the end which Webster clearly
foresaw--civil war. But each side treasured its vitalized and enriched
arguments for use in a more strenuous day.

Advantage in the great discussion lay partly with Hayne and partly
with his brilliant antagonist. On the whole, the facts of history were
on the side of Hayne. Webster attempted to argue from the intent of
the framers of the Constitution and from early opinion concerning the
nature of the Union; but a careful appraisal of the evidence hardly
bears out his contentions. On economic matters also, notably the
operation of the protective tariff, he trod uncertain ground. He
realized this fact and as far as possible kept clear of economic
discussion. The South had real grievances, and Webster was well enough
aware that they could not be argued out of existence.

On the other hand, the Northerner was vastly superior to his opponent
in his handling of the theoretical issues of constitutional law; and
in his exposition of the practical difficulties that would attend the
operation of the principle of nullification he employed a fund of
argument that was simply unanswerable. The logic of the larger phases
of the situation lay, too, with him. If the Union for which he pleaded
was not the Union which the Fathers intended to establish or even that
which actually existed in the days of Washington and the elder Adams,
it was at all events the Union in which, by the close of the fourth
decade under the Constitution, a majority of the people of the United
States had come to believe. It was the Union of Henry Clay, of Andrew
Jackson, of Abraham Lincoln. And the largest significance of Webster's
arguments in 1830 arises from the definiteness and force which they
put into popular convictions that until then were vague and
inarticulate--convictions which, as has been well said, "went on
broadening and deepening until, thirty years afterward, they had a
force sufficient to sustain the North and enable her to triumph in the
terrible struggle which resulted in the preservation of national
life." It was the _Second Reply_ to Hayne which, more than any other
single event or utterance between 1789 and 1860, "compacted the States
into a nation."



It was more than brilliant oratory that had drawn to the Senate
chamber the distinguished audiences faced by Webster and Hayne in the
great debate of 1830. The issues discussed touched the vitality and
permanence of the nation itself. Nullification was no mere abstraction
of the senator from South Carolina. It was a principle which his
State--and, for aught one could tell, his section--was about to put
into action. Already, in 1830, the air was tense with the coming

South Carolina had traveled a long road, politically, since 1789. In
the days of Washington and the elder Adams the State was strongly
Federalist. In 1800 Jefferson secured its electoral vote. But the
Virginian's leadership was never fully accepted, and even before the
Republican party had elsewhere submitted to the inevitable
nationalization the South Carolina membership was openly arrayed on
the side of a protective tariff, the National Bank, and internal
improvements. Calhoun and Cheves were for years among the most ardent
exponents of broad constitutional construction; Hayne himself was
elected to the Senate in 1822 as a nationalist, and over another
candidate whose chief handicap was that he had proposed that his State
secede rather than submit to the Missouri Compromise.

After 1824 sentiment rapidly shifted. The cause appeared to be the
tariff; but in reality deeper forces were at work. South Carolina was
an agricultural State devoted almost exclusively to the raising of
cotton and rice. Soil and climate made her such, and the "peculiar
institution" confirmed what Nature already had decreed. But the
planters were now beginning to feel keenly the competition of the new
cotton lands of the Gulf plains. As production increased, the price of
cotton fell. "In 1816," writes Professor Turner, "the average price of
middling uplands...was nearly thirty cents, and South Carolina's
leaders favored the tariff; in 1820 it was seventeen cents, and the
South saw in the protective system a grievance; in 1824 it was
fourteen and three-quarters cents, and the South Carolinians denounced
the tariff as unconstitutional."[11]

Men of the Clay-Adams school argued that the tariff stimulated
industry, doubled the profits of agriculture, augmented wealth, and
hence promoted the well-being of the nation as a whole. The Southern
planter was never able to discover in the protective system any real
advantage for himself, but as long as the tariffs were moderate he was
influenced by nationalistic sentiment to accept them. The demand for
protection on the part of the Northern manufacturers seemed, however,
insatiable. An act of 1824 raised the duties on cotton and woolen
goods. A measure of 1827 which applied to woolens the ruinous
principle already applied to cottons was passed by the House and was
laid on the table in the Senate only by the casting vote of Vice
President Calhoun. The climax was reached in the Tariff Act of 1828,
which the Southerners themselves loaded with objectionable provisions
in the vain hope of making it so abominable that even New England
congressmen would vote against it.

A few years of such legislation sufficed to rouse the South to a deep
feeling of grievance. It was no longer a question of reasonable
concession to the general national good. A vast artificial economic
system had been set up, whose benefits accrued to the North and whose
burdens fell disproportionately upon the South. The tone and temper of
the manufacturing sections and of the agricultural West gave no
promise of a change of policy. The obvious conclusion was that the
planting interests must find some means of bringing pressure to bear
for their own relief.

The means which they found was nullification; and it fell to South
Carolina, whose people were most ardent in their resentment of
anything that looked like discrimination, to put the remedy to the
test. The Legislature of this State had made an early beginning by
denouncing the tariff of 1824 as unconstitutional. In 1827 Robert J.
Turnbull, one of the abler political leaders, published under the
title of _The Crisis_ a series of essays in which he boldly proclaimed
nullification as the remedy. In the following summer Calhoun put the
nullification doctrine into its first systematic form in a paper--the
so-called _Exposition_--which for some time was known to the public
only as the report of a committee of the Legislature.

By 1829 the State was sharply divided into two parties, the
nationalists and the nullifiers. All were agreed that the protective
system was iniquitous and that it must be broken down. The difference
was merely as to method. The nationalists favored working through the
customary channels of legislative reform; the nullifiers urged that
the State interpose its authority to prevent the enforcement of the
objectionable laws. For a time the leaders wavered. But the swing of
public sentiment in the direction of nullification was rapid and
overwhelming, and one by one the representatives in Congress and other
men of prominence fell into line. Hayne and McDuffie were among the
first to give it their support; and Calhoun, while he was for a time
held back by his political aspirations and by his obligations as Vice
President, came gradually to feel that his political future would be
worth little unless he had the support of his own State.

As the election of 1828 approached, the hope of the discontented
forces centered in Jackson. They did not overlook the fact that his
record was that of a moderate protectionist. But the same was true of
many South Carolinians and Georgians, and it seemed not at all
impossible that, as a Southern man and a cotton planter, he should
undergo a change of heart no less decisive than that which Hayne and
Calhoun had experienced. Efforts to draw him out, however, proved not
very successful. Lewis saw to it that Jackson's utterances while yet
he was a candidate were safely colorless; and the single mention of
the tariff contained in the inaugural address was susceptible of the
most varied interpretations. The annual message of 1829 indicated
opposition to protection; on the other hand, the presidential message
of the next year not only asserted the full power of Congress to levy
protective duties but declared the abandonment of protection "neither
to be expected or desired." Gradually the antiprotectionist leaders
were made to see that the tariff was not a subject upon which the
President felt keenly, and that therefore it was useless to look to
him for effective support.

Even the adroit efforts which were made to get from the incoming
executive expressions that could be interpreted as endorsements of
nullification were successfully fended off. For some months the
President gave no outward sign of his disapproval. With more than his
usual deliberateness, Jackson studied the situation, awaiting the
right moment to speak out with the maximum of effect.

The occasion finally came on April 13, 1830, at a banquet held in
Washington in celebration of Jefferson's birthday. The Virginia patron
of democracy had been dead four years, and Jackson had become, more
truly than any other man, his successor. Jacksonian democracy was,
however, something very different from Jeffersonian, and never was the
contrast more evident than on this fateful evening. During the earlier
part of the festivities a series of prearranged toasts, accompanied by
short speeches, put before the assemblage the Jeffersonian teachings
in a light highly favorable--doubtless unwarrantably so--to the ultra
state rights theory. Then followed a number of volunteer toasts. The
President was, of course, accorded the honor of proposing the
first--and this gave Jackson his chance. Rising in his place and
drawing himself up to his full height, he raised his right hand,
looked straight at Calhoun and, amid breathless silence, exclaimed in
that crisp, harsh tone that had so often been heard above the crashing
of many rifles: "Our Union! It must be preserved!"

An account of the scene which is given by Isaac Hill, a member of the
Kitchen Cabinet and an eyewitness, is interesting:

A proclamation of martial law in South Carolina and an order to arrest
Calhoun where he sat could not have come with more blinding,
staggering force. All hilarity ceased. The President, without adding
one word in the way of speech, lifted up his glass as a notice that
the toast was to be quaffed standing. Calhoun rose with the rest. His
glass so trembled in his hand that a little of the amber fluid
trickled down the side. Jackson stood silent and impassive. There was
no response to the toast. Calhoun waited until all sat down. Then he
slowly and with hesitating accent offered the second volunteer toast:
"The Union! Next to Our Liberty Most Dear!" Then, after a minute's
hesitation, and in a way that left doubt as to whether he intended it
for part of the toast or for the preface to a speech, he added: "May
we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights
of the States and by distributing equally the benefit and burden of
the Union."

The nullifiers had carefully planned the evening's proceedings with a
purpose to strengthen their cause with the country. They had not
reckoned on the President, and the dash of cold water which he had
administered caused them more anguish than any opposition that they
had yet encountered. The banquet broke up earlier than had been
expected, and the diners went off by twos and threes in eager
discussion of the scene that they had witnessed. Some were livid with
rage; some shook their heads in fear of civil war; but most rejoiced
in the splendid exhibition of executive dignity and patriotic fervor
which the President had given. Subsequently it transpired that Jackson
had acted on no mere impulse and that his course had been carefully
planned in consultation with Van Buren and other advisers.

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1830 both the State Rights and
Union parties in South Carolina worked feverishly to perfect their
organizations. The issue that both were making ready to meet was
nothing less than the election of a convention to nullify the tariff
laws. Those upholding nullification lost no opportunity to consolidate
their forces, and by the close of the year these were clearly in the
majority, although the unionist element contained many of the ablest
and most respected men in the State. Calhoun directed the nullifier
campaign, though he did not throw off all disguises until the summer
of the following year.

Though Jackson made no further public declarations, the views which he
expressed in private were usually not slow to reach the public ear. In
a letter to a committee of the Union party in response to an
invitation to attend a Fourth of July dinner the President intimated
that force might properly be employed if nullification should be
attempted. And to a South Carolina Congressman who was setting off on
a trip home he said: "Tell them [the nullifiers] from me that they can
talk and write resolutions and print threats to their hearts' content.
But if one drop of blood be shed there in defiance of the laws of the
United States, I will hang the first man of them I can get my hands on
to the first tree I can find." When Hayne heard of this threat he
expressed in Benton's hearing a doubt as to whether the President
would really hang anybody. "I tell you, Hayne," the Missourian
replied, "when Jackson begins to talk about hanging, they can begin to
look for the ropes."

Meanwhile actual nullification awaited the decision of the Vice
President to surrender himself completely to the cause and to become
its avowed leader. Calhoun did not find this an easy decision to make.
Above all things he wanted to be President. He was not the author of
nullification; and although he did not fully realize until too late
how much his state rights leanings would cost him in the North, he was
shrewd enough to know that his political fortunes would not be
bettered by his becoming involved in a great sectional controversy.
Circumstances worked together, however, to force Calhoun gradually
into the position of chief prominence in the dissenting movement. The
tide of public opinion in his State swept him along with it; the
breach with Jackson severed the last tie with the northern and western
democracy; and his resentment of Van Buren's rise to favor prompted
words and acts which completed the isolation of the South Carolinian.
His party's enthusiastic acceptance of Jackson as a candidate for
reelection in 1832 and of "Little Van" as a candidate for the vice
presidency--and, by all tokens, for the presidency four years
later--was the last straw. Broken and desperate, Calhoun sank back
into the role of an extremist, sectional leader. There was no need of
further concealment; and in midsummer, 1831, he issued his famous
_Address to the People of South Carolina_, and this restatement of the
_Exposition_ of 1828 now became the avowed platform of the
nullification party. The _Fort Hill Letter_ of August 28, 1832,
addressed to Governor Hamilton, was a simpler and clearer presentation
of the same body of doctrine.

Matters were at last brought to a head by a new piece of tariff
legislation which was passed in 1832 not to appease South Carolina but
to take advantage of a comfortable state of affairs that had arisen in
the national treasury. The public lands were again selling well, and
the late tariff laws were yielding lavishly. The national debt was
dwindling to the point of disappearance, and the country had more
money than it could use. Jackson therefore called upon Congress to
revise the tariff system so as to reduce the revenue, and in the
session of 1831-32 several bills to that end were brought forward. The
scale of duties finally embodied in the Act of July 14, 1832,
corrected many of the anomalies of the Act of 1828, but it cut off
some millions of revenue without making any substantial change in the
protective system. Virginia and North Carolina voted heavily for the
bill, but South Carolina and Georgia as vigorously opposed it; and the
nullifiers refused to see in it any concession to the tariff
principles for which they stood. "I no longer consider the question
one of free trade," wrote Calhoun when the passage of the bill was
assured, "but of consolidation." In an address to their constituents
the South Carolina delegation in Congress declared that "protection
must now be regarded as the settled policy of the country," that "all
hope from Congress is irrevocably gone," and that it was for the
people to decide "whether the rights and liberties which you received
as a precious inheritance from an illustrious ancestry shall be tamely
surrendered without a struggle, or transmitted undiminished to your

In the disaffected State events now moved rapidly. The elections of
the early autumn were carried by the nullifiers, and the new
Legislature, acting on the recommendation of Governor Hamilton,
promptly called a state convention to consider whether the "federal
compact" had been violated and what remedy should be adopted. The 162
delegates who gathered at Columbia on the 19th of November were,
socially and politically, the elite of the State: Hamiltons, Haynes,
Pinckneys, Butlers--almost all of the great families of a State of
great families were represented. From the outset the convention was
practically of one mind; and an ordinance of nullification drawn up by
a committee of twenty-one was adopted within five days by a vote of
136 to 26.

The tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 were declared "null, void, and no
law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens." None of
the duties in question were to be permitted to be collected in the
State after February 1, 1833. Appeals to the federal courts for
enforcement of the invalidated acts were forbidden, and all
officeholders, except members of the Legislature, were required to
take an oath to uphold the ordinance. Calhoun had laboriously argued
that nullification did not mean disunion. But his contention was not
sustained by the words of the ordinance, which stated unequivocally
that the people of the State would not "submit to the application
of force on the part of the federal Government to reduce this
State to obedience." Should force be used, the ordinance boldly
declared--indeed, should _any_ action contrary to the will of the
people be taken to execute the measures declared void--such efforts
would be regarded as "inconsistent with the longer continuance of
South Carolina in the Union," and "the people of this State" would
"thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to
maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the
other States, and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate
Government, and to do all other acts and things which sovereign and
independent States may of right do."

In accordance with the instructions of the convention, the Legislature
forthwith reassembled to pass the measures deemed necessary to enforce
the ordinance. A replevin act provided for the recovery of goods
seized or detained for payment of duty; the use of military force,
including volunteers, to "repel invasion" was authorized; and
provision was made for the purchase of arms and ammunition. Throughout
the State a martial tone resounded. Threats of secession and war were
heard on every side. Nightly meetings were held and demonstrations
were organized. Blue cockades with a palmetto button in the center
became the most popular of ornaments. Medals were struck bearing the
inscription: "John C. Calhoun, First President of the Southern
Confederacy." The Legislature, reassembling in December, elected Hayne
as Governor and chose Calhoun--who now resigned the vice
presidency--to take the vacant seat in the Senate. In his first
message to the Legislature Webster's former antagonist declared his
purpose to carry into full effect the nullification ordinance and the
legislation supplementary to it, and expressed confidence that, if the
sacred soil of the State should be "polluted by the footsteps of an
invader," no one of her sons would be found "raising a parricidal arm
against our common mother."

Thus the proud commonwealth was panoplied for a contest of wits, and
perchance of arms, with the nation. Could it hope to win? South
Carolina had a case which had been forcibly and plausibly presented.
It could count on a deep reluctance of men in every part of the
country to see the nation fall into actual domestic combat. There
were, however, a dozen reasons why victory could not reasonably be
looked for. One would have been enough--the presence of Andrew Jackson
in the White House.

Through federal officers and the leaders of the Union party Jackson
kept himself fully informed upon the situation, and six weeks before
the nullification convention was called he began preparations to meet
all eventualities. The naval authorities at Norfolk were directed to
be in readiness to dispatch a squadron to Charleston; the commanders
of the forts in Charleston Harbor were ordered to double their
vigilance and to defend their posts against any persons whatsoever;
troops were ordered from Fortress Monroe; and General Scott was sent
to take full command and to strengthen the defenses as he found
necessary. The South Carolinians were to be allowed to talk, and even
to adopt "ordinances," to their hearts' content. But the moment they
stepped across the line of disobedience to the laws of the United
States they were to be made to feel the weight of the nation's
restraining hand.

"The duty of the Executive is a plain one," wrote the President to
Joel R. Poinsett, a prominent South Carolina unionist; "the laws will
be executed and the United States preserved by all the constitutional
and legal means he is invested with." When the situation bore its most
serious aspect Jackson received a call from Sam Dale, who had been one
of his dispatch bearers at the Battle of New Orleans. "General Dale,"
exclaimed the President during the conversation, "if this thing goes
on, our country will be like a bag of meal with both ends open. Pick
it up in the middle or endwise, and it will run out. I must tie the
bag and save the country." "Dale," he exclaimed again later, "they are
trying me here; you will witness it; but, by the God of heaven, I will
uphold the laws." "I understood him to be referring to nullification
again," related Dale in his account of the interview, "and I expressed
the hope that things would go right." "They shall go right, sir," the
President fairly shouted, shattering his pipe on the table by way of
further emphasis.

When Jackson heard that the convention at Columbia had taken the step
expected of it, he made the following entry in his diary: "South
Carolina has passed her ordinance of nullification and secession. As
soon as it can be had in authentic form, meet it with a proclamation."
The proclamation was issued December 10, 1832. Parton relates that the
President wrote the first draft of this proclamation under such a glow
of feeling that he was obliged "to scatter the written pages all over
the table to let them dry," and that the document was afterwards
revised by his scholarly Secretary of State, Edward Livingston. With
Jackson supplying the ideas and spirit and Livingston the literary
form, the result was the ablest and most impressive state paper of the
period. It categorically denied the right of a State either to annul a
federal law or to secede from the Union. It admitted that the laws
complained of operated unequally but took the position that this must
be true of all revenue measures. It expressed the inflexible
determination of the Administration to repress and punish every form
of resistance to federal authority. Deep argument, solemn warning, and
fervent entreaty were skillfully combined. But the most powerful
effect was likely to be that produced by the President's flaming
denial--set in bold type in the contemporary prints--of the
Hayne-Calhoun creed: "I consider the power to annul a law of the
United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence
of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the
Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every
principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object
for which it was formed."

Throughout the North this vindication of national dignity and power
struck a responsive chord, and for once even the Adams and Clay men
found themselves in hearty agreement with the President. Bostonians
gathered in Faneuil Hall and New Yorkers in a great meeting in the
Park to shower encomiums upon the proclamation and upon its author.
The nullifiers did not at once recoil from the blow. The South
Carolina Legislature called upon Governor Hayne officially to warn
"the good people of this State against the attempt of the President of
the United States to seduce them from their allegiance"; and the
resulting counterblast, in the form of a proclamation made public on
the 20th of December, was as vigorous as the liveliest "fire-eater"
could have wished. The Governor declared that the State would maintain
its sovereignty or be "buried beneath its ruins."

The date of the expected crisis--February 1, 1833, when the
nullification ordinance was to take effect--was now near at hand, and
on both sides preparations were pushed. During the interval, however,
the tide turned decidedly against the nullifiers. A call for a general
convention of the States "to determine and consider ... questions of
disputed power" served only to draw out strong expressions of
disapproval of the South Carolina program, showing that it could not
expect even moral support from outside. On the 16th of January Jackson
asked Congress for authority to alter or abolish certain ports of
entry, to use force to execute the revenue laws, and to try in the
federal courts cases that might arise from the present emergency. Five
days later a bill on these lines--popularly denominated the "Force
Bill"--was introduced; and while many men who had no sympathy with
nullification drew back from a plan involving the coercion of a State,
it was soon settled that some sort of measure for strengthening the
President's hand would be passed.

Meanwhile a way of escape from the whole difficulty was unexpectedly
opened. The friends of Van Buren began to fear that the disagreement
of North and South upon the tariff question would cost their favorite
the united support of the party in 1836. Accordingly they set on foot
a movement in Congress to bring about a moderate reduction of the
prevailing rates; and it was of course their hope that the nullifiers
would be induced to recede altogether from the position which they had
taken. Through Verplanck of New York, the Ways and Means Committee of
the House brought in a measure reducing the duties, within two years,
to about half the existing rates. Jackson approved the plan, although
personally he had little to do with it.

But though the Verplanck Bill could not muster sufficient support to
become law, it revived tariff discussion on promising lines, and it
brought nullification proceedings to a halt in the very nick of time.
Shortly before February 1, 1833, the leading nullifiers came together
in Charleston and entered into an extralegal agreement to postpone the
enforcement of the nullification ordinance until the outcome of the
new tariff debates should be known. The failure of the Verplanck
measure, however, left matters where they were, and civil war in South
Carolina again loomed ominously.

In this juncture patriots of all parties turned to the one man whose
leadership seemed indispensable in tariff legislation--the "great
pacificator," Henry Clay, who after two years in private life had just
taken his seat in the Senate. Clay was no friend of Jackson or of Van
Buren, and it required much sacrifice of personal feeling to lend his
services to a program whose political benefits would almost certainly
accrue to his rivals. Finally, however, he yielded and on the 12th of
February he rose in the Senate and offered a compromise measure
proposing that on all articles which paid more than twenty per cent
the amount in excess of that rate should be reduced by stages until in
1842 it would entirely disappear.

Stormy debates followed on both the Compromise Tariff and the Force
Bill, but before the session closed on the 4th of March both were on
the statute book. When, therefore, the South Carolina convention, in
accordance with an earlier proclamation of Governor Hamilton,
reassembled on the 11th of March, the wind had been taken out of the
nullifiers' sails; the laws which they had "nullified" had been
repealed, and there was nothing for the convention to do but to
rescind the late ordinance and the legislative measures supplementary
to it. There was a chance, however, for one final fling. By a vote of
132 to 19 the convention soberly adopted an ordinance nullifying the
Force Bill and calling on the Legislature to pass laws to prevent the
execution of that measure--which, indeed, nobody was now proposing to

So the tempest passed. Both sides claimed victory, and with some show
of reason. So far as was possible without an actual test of strength,
the authority of the Federal Government had been vindicated and its
dignity maintained; the constitutional doctrines of Webster acquired a
new sanction; the fundamental point was enforced that a law--that
every law--enacted by Congress must be obeyed until repealed or until
set aside by the courts as unconstitutional. On the other hand, the
nullifiers had brought about the repeal of the laws to which they
objected and had been largely instrumental in turning the tariff
policy of the country for some decades into a new channel. Moreover
they expressed no regret for their acts and in no degree renounced the
views upon which those acts had been based. They submitted to the
authority of the United States, but on terms fixed by themselves. And,
what is more, they supplied practically every constitutional and
political argument to be used by their sons in 1860 to justify



"Nothing lacks now to complete the love-feast," wrote Isaac Hill
sardonically to Thomas H. Benton after the collapse of nullification,
"but for Jackson and Webster to solemnize the coalition [in support of
the Union] with a few mint-juleps! I think I could arrange it, if
assured of the cooeperation of yourself and Blair on our side, and
Jerry Mason and Nick Biddle on theirs. But never fear, my friend. This
mixing of oil and water is only the temporary shake-up of
Nullification. Wait till Jackson gets at the Bank again, and then the
scalping-knives will glisten once more."

The South Carolina controversy had indeed brought Jacksonians and
anti-Jacksonians together. But once the tension was relaxed, there
began the conflict of interests which the New Hampshire editor had
predicted. Men fell again into their customary political
relationships; issues that for the moment had been pushed into the
background--internal improvements, public land policy, distribution of
surplus revenue, and above all the Bank--were revived in full vigor.
Now, indeed, the President entered upon the greatest task to which he
had yet put his hand. To curb nullification was a worthy achievement.
But, after all, Congress and an essentially united nation had stood
firmly behind the Executive at every stage of that performance. To
destroy the United States Bank was a different matter, for this
institution had the full support of one of the two great parties in
which the people of the country were now grouped; Jackson's own party
was by no means a unit in opposing it; and the prestige and influence
of the Bank were such as to enable it to make a powerful fight against
any attempts to annihilate it.

The second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 for twenty
years, with a capital of thirty-five million dollars, one-fifth of
which had been subscribed by the Government. For some time it was not
notably successful, partly because of bad management but mainly
because of the disturbance of business which the panic of 1819 had
produced. Furthermore, its power over local banks and over the
currency system made it unpopular in the West and South, and certain
States sought to cripple it by taxing out of existence the several
branches which the board of directors voted to establish. In two
notable decisions--M'Culloch _vs._ Maryland in 1819 and Osborn _vs._
United States Bank in 1824--the Supreme Court saved the institution by
denying the power of a State to impose taxation of the sort and by
asserting unequivocally the right of Congress to enact the legislation
upon which the Bank rested. And after Nicholas Biddle, a Philadelphia
lawyer-diplomat, succeeded Langdon Cheves as president of the Bank in
1823 an era of great prosperity set in.

The forces of opposition were never reconciled; indeed, every evidence
of the increasing strength of the Bank roused them to fresh hostility.
The verdict of the Supreme Court in support of the constitutionality
of the Act of 1816 carried conviction to few people who were not
already convinced. The restraints which the Bank imposed upon the
dubious operations of the southern and western banks were vigorously
resented. The Bank was regarded as a great financial monopoly, an
"octopus," and Biddle as an autocrat bent only on dominating the
entire banking and currency system of the country.

On Jackson's attitude toward the Bank before he became President we
have little direct information. But it is sufficiently clear that
eventually he came to share the hostile views of his Tennessee friends
and neighbors. In 1817 he refused to sign a memorial "got up by the
aristocracy of Nashville" for the establishment of a branch in that
town. When, ten years later, such a branch was installed, General
Thomas Cadwalader of Philadelphia, agent of the Bank, visited the town
to supervise the arrangements and became very friendly with the "lord
of the Hermitage." But correspondence of succeeding years, though
filled with insinuating cordiality, failed to bring out any expression
of goodwill toward the institution such as the agent manifestly

Jackson seems to have carried to Washington in 1829 a deep distrust of
the Bank, and he was disposed to speak out boldly against it in his
inaugural address. But he was persuaded by his friends that this would
be ill-advised, and he therefore made no mention of the subject. Yet
he made no effort to conceal his attitude, for he wrote to Biddle a
few months after the inauguration that he did not believe that
Congress had power to charter a bank outside of the District of
Columbia, that he did not dislike the United States Bank more than
other banks, but that ever since he had read the history of the South
Sea Bubble he had been afraid of banks. After this confession the
writer hardly needed to confess that he was "no economist, no

Most of the officers of the "mother bank" at Philadelphia and of the
branches were anti-Jackson men, and Jackson's friends put the idea
into his mind that the Bank had used its influence against him in the
late campaign. Specific charges of partizanship were brought against
Jeremiah Mason, president of the branch at Portsmouth, New Hampshire;
and although an investigation showed the accusation to be groundless,
Biddle's heated defense of the branch had no effect save to rouse the
Jacksonians to a firmer determination to compass the downfall of the

Biddle labored manfully to stem the tide. He tried to improve his
personal relations with the President, and he even allowed Jackson men
to gain control of several of the western branches. The effort,
however, was in vain. When he thought the situation right, Biddle
brought forward a plan for a new charter which received the assent of
most of the members of the official Cabinet, as well as that of some
of the "Kitchen" group. But Jackson met the proposal with his
unshakable constitutional objections and, to Biddle's deep
disappointment, advanced in his first annual message to the formal,
public assault. The Bank's charter, he reminded Congress, would expire
in 1836; request for a new charter would probably soon be forthcoming;
the matter could not receive too early attention from the legislative
branch. "Both the constitutionality and the expediency of the law
creating this bank," declared the President, "are well questioned by a
large portion of our fellow-citizens; and it must be admitted by all
that it has failed in the great end of establishing a uniform and
sound currency." The first part of the statement was true, but the
second was distinctly unfair. The Bank, to be sure, had not
established "a uniform and sound" currency. But it had accomplished
much toward that end and was practically the only agency that was
wielding any influence in that direction. The truth is that the more
efficient the Bank proved in this task the less popular it became
among those elements of the people from which Jackson mainly drew his

Nothing came of the President's admonition except committee reports in
the two Houses, both favorable to the Bank; in fact, the Senate report
was copied almost verbatim from a statement supplied by Biddle. A year
later Jackson returned to the subject, this time with an alternative
plan for a national bank to be organized as a branch of the Treasury
and hence to have "no means to operate on the hopes, fears, or
interests of large masses of the community." In a set of autograph
notes from which the second message was prepared the existing Bank was
declared not only unconstitutional but dangerous to liberty, "because
through its officers, loans, and participation in politics it could
build up or pull down parties or men, because it created a monopoly of
the money power, because much of the stock was owned by foreigners,
because it would always support him who supported it, and because it
weakened the state and strengthened the general government." Congress
paid no attention to either criticisms or recommendations, and the
supporters of the Bank took fresh heart.

When Congress again met, in December, 1831, a presidential election
was impending and everybody was wondering what part the bank question
would play. Most Democrats were of the opinion that the subject should
be kept in the background. After all, the present bank charter had
more than four years to run, and there seemed to be no reason for
injecting so thorny an issue into the campaign. With a view to keeping
the bank authorities quiet, two members of the reconstructed Cabinet,
Livingston and McLane, entered into a _modus vivendi_ with Biddle
under which the Administration agreed not to push the issue until
after the election. In his annual report as Secretary of the Treasury,
McLane actually made an argument for rechartering the Bank; and in his
message of the 6th of December the President said that, while he still
held "the opinions heretofore expressed in relation to the Bank as at
present organized," he would "leave it for the present to the
investigation of an enlightened people and their representatives." He
had been persuaded that his own plan for a Bank, suggested a year
earlier, was not feasible.

Biddle now made a supreme mistake. Misled in some degree
unquestionably by the optimistic McLane, he got the idea that Jackson
was weakening, that the Democrats were afraid to take a stand on the
subject until after the election, and that now was the strategic time
to strike for a new charter. In this belief he was further encouraged
by Clay, Webster, and other leading anti-Administration men, as well
as by McDuffie, a Calhoun supporter and chairman of the Ways and Means
Committee of the House. There was small doubt that a bill for a new
charter could be carried in both branches of Congress. Jackson must
either sign it, argued Biddle's advisers, or run grave risk of losing
Pennsylvania and other commercial States whose support was necessary
to his election. On the other hand, Biddle was repeatedly warned that
an act for a new charter would be vetoed. He chose to press the issue
and on January 9, 1832, the formal application of the Bank for a
renewal of its charter was presented to Congress, and within a few
weeks bills to recharter were reported in both Houses.

Realizing that defeat or even a slender victory in Congress would be
fatal, the Bank flooded Washington with lobbyists, and Biddle himself
appeared upon the scene to lead the fight. The measure was carried by
safe majorities--in the Senate, on the 11th of June, by a vote of 28
to 20, and in the House on the 3d of July, by a vote of 107 to 86. To
the dismay of the bank forces, although it ought not to have been to
their surprise.

Jackson was as good as his word. On the 10th of July the bill was
vetoed. The veto message as transmitted to the Senate was probably
written by Taney, but the ideas were Jackson's--ideas which, so far as
they relate to finance and banking operations, have been properly
characterized as "in the main beneath contempt." The message, however,
was intended as a campaign document, and as such it showed great
ingenuity. It attacked the Bank as a monopoly, a "hydra of
corruption," and an instrumentality of federal encroachment on the
rights of the States, and in a score of ways appealed to the popular
distrust of capitalistic institutions. The message acquired
importance, too, from the President's extraordinary claim to the right
of judging both the constitutionality and the expediency of proposed
legislation, independently of Congress and the Courts.

The veto plunged the Senate into days of acrid debate. Clay pronounced
Jackson's construction of the veto power "irreconcilable with the
genius of representative government." Webster declared that
responsibility for the ruin of the Bank and for the disasters that
might follow would have to be borne by the President alone. Benton and
other prominent members, however, painted Jackson as the savior of his
country; and the second vote of 22 to 19 yielded a narrower majority
for the bill than the first had done. Thus the measure perished.

The bank men received the veto with equanimity. They professed to
believe that the balderdash in which the message abounded would make
converts for their side; they even printed thirty thousand copies of
the document for circulation. Events, however, did not sustain their
optimism. In the ensuing campaign the Bank became, by its own choice,
the leading issue. The National Republicans, whose nominee was Clay,
defended the institution and attacked the veto; the Jacksonians
reiterated on the stump every charge and argument that their leader
had taught them. The verdict was decisive. Jackson received 219 and
Clay 49 electoral votes.

The President was unquestionably right in interpreting his triumph as
an endorsement of the veto, and he naturally felt that the question
was settled. The officers and friends of the Bank still hoped,
however, to snatch victory from defeat. They had no expectation of
converting Jackson or of carrying a charter measure at an early date.
But they foresaw that to wind up the business of the Bank in 1836 it
would be necessary to call in loans and to withdraw a vast amount of
currency from circulation, with the result of a general disturbance,
if not a severe crippling, of business. This, they thought, would
bring about an eleventh-hour measure giving the Bank a new lease of

Jackson, too, realized that a sudden termination of the activities of
the Bank would derange business and produce distress, and that under
these circumstances a charter might be wrung from Congress in spite of
a veto. But he had no intention of allowing matters to come to such a

His plan was rather to cut off by degrees the activities of the Bank,
until at last they could be suspended altogether without a shock. The
most obvious means of doing this was to withdraw the heavy deposits
made by the Government; and to this course the President fully
committed himself as soon as the results of the election were known.
He was impelled, further, by the conviction--notwithstanding
unimpeachable evidence to the contrary--that the Bank was insolvent,
and by his indignation at the refusal of Biddle and his associates to
accept the electoral verdict as final. "Biddle shan't have the public
money to break down the public administration with. It's settled. My
mind's made up." So the President declared to Blair early in 1833. And
no one could have any reasonable doubt that decisive action would
follow threat.

It was not, however, all plain sailing. Under the terms of the charter
of 1816 public funds were to be deposited in the Bank and its branches
unless the Secretary of the Treasury should direct that they be placed
elsewhere; and such deposits elsewhere, together with actual
withdrawals, were to be reported to Congress, with reasons for such
action. McLane, the Secretary of the Treasury, was friendly toward the
Bank and could not be expected to give the necessary orders for
removal. This meant that the first step was to get a new head for the
Treasury. But McLane was too influential a man to be summarily
dismissed. Hence it was arranged that Livingston should become
Minister to France and that McLane should succeed him as Secretary of

The choice of the new Secretary of the Treasury would have been a
clever stroke if things had worked out as Jackson expected. The
appointee was William J. Duane, son of the editor of the Aurora, which
had long been the most popular and influential newspaper in
Pennsylvania. This State was the seat of the "mother bank" and,
although a Jackson stronghold, a cordial supporter of the proscribed
institution; so that it was well worth while to forestall criticism in
that quarter, so far as might be, by having the order for removal
issued by a Pennsylvanian. Duane, however, accepted the post rather
because he coveted office than because he supported the policy of
removal, and when the test came Jackson found to his chagrin that he
still had a Secretary who would not take the desired action. There was
nothing to do but procure another; and this time he made no mistake.
Duane, weakly protesting, was dismissed, and Roger B. Taney, the
Attorney-General, was appointed in his stead. "I am fully prepared to
go with you firmly through this business," Jackson was assured by the
new Secretary, "and to meet all its consequences."

The way was now clear, and an order was issued requiring all treasury
receipts after October 1, 1833, to be deposited in the Girard Bank of
Philadelphia and twenty-two other designated state banks. Deposits in
the United States Bank and its branches were not immediately
"removed"; they were left, rather, to be withdrawn as the money was
actually needed. Nevertheless there considerable disturbance of
business, and deputation after deputation came to the White House to
ask that Taney's order be rescinded. Jackson, however, was sure that
most of the trouble was caused by Biddle and his associates, and to
all these appeals he remained absolutely deaf. After a time he refused
so much as to see the petitioners. In his message of the 3d of
December he assumed full responsibility for the removals, defending
his course mainly on the ground that the Bank had been "actively
engaged in attempting to influence the elections of the public
officers by means of its money."

From this point the question became entirely one of politics. The Bank
itself was doomed. On the one side, the National Republicans united in
the position that the Administration had been entirely in the wrong,
and that the welfare of the country demanded a great fiscal
institution of the character of the Bank. On the other side, the
Democrats, deriving, indeed, a new degree of unity from the
controversy on this issue, upheld the President's every word and act.
"You may continue," said Benton to his fellow partizans in the Senate,
"to be for a bank and for Jackson, but you cannot be for this Bank and
Jackson." Firmly allied with the Bank interests, the National
Republicans resolved to bring all possible discomfiture upon the

The House of Representatives was controlled by the Democrats, and
little could be accomplished there. But the Senate contained not only
the three ablest anti-Jacksonians of the day--Clay, Webster,
Calhoun--but an absolute majority of anti-Administration men; and
there the attack was launched. On December 26, 1833, Clay introduced
two resolutions declaring that in the removal of the deposits the
President had "assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred
by the Constitution and laws but in derogation of both," and
pronouncing Taney's statement of reasons "unsatisfactory and
insufficient." After a stormy debate, both resolutions in slightly
amended form were carried by substantial majorities.

Jackson was not in the habit of meekly swallowing censure, and on the
15th of April he sent to the Senate a formal protest, characterizing
the action of the body as "unauthorized by the Constitution, contrary
to its spirit and to several of its express provisions," and
"subversive of that distribution of the powers of government which it
has ordained and established." Aside from a general defense of his
course, the chief point that the President made was that the
Constitution provided a procedure in cases of this kind, namely
impeachment, which alone could be properly resorted to if the
legislative branch desired to bring charges against the Executive. The
Senate was asked respectfully to spread the protest on its records.
This, however, it refused to do. On the contrary, it voted that the
right of protest could not be recognized; and it found additional
satisfaction in negativing an unusual number of the President's

Throughout the remainder of his second Administration Jackson
maintained his hold upon the country and kept firm control in the
lower branch of Congress. Until very near the end, the Senate,
however, continued hostile. During the debate on the protest Benton
served notice that he would introduce, at each succeeding session, a
motion to expunge the resolution of censure. Such a motion was made in
1835, and again in 1836, without result. But at last, in January,
1837, after a debate lasting thirteen hours, the Senate adopted, by a
vote of 24 to 19, a resolution meeting the Jacksonian demand.

The manuscript journal of the session of 1833-1834 was brought into
the Senate, and the secretary, in obedience to the resolution, drew
black lines around the resolution of censure, and wrote across the
face thereof, "in strong letters," the words: "Expunged by order of
the Senate, this sixteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord
1837." Many members withdrew rather than witness the proceeding; but a
crowded gallery looked on, while Benton strengthened his supporters by
providing "an ample supply of cold hams, turkeys, rounds of beef,
pickles, wines, and cups of hot coffee" in a near-by committee-room.
Jackson gave a dinner to the "ex-pungers" and their wives, and placed
Benton at the head of the table. That the action of the Senate was
unconstitutional interested no one save the lawyers, for the Bank was
dead. Jackson was vindicated, and the people were enthroned.[12]

The struggle thus brought to a triumphant close was one of the
severest in American political history. In 1836 the Bank obtained a
charter from Pennsylvania, under the name of the Bank of the United
States of Pennsylvania, and all connection between it and the Federal
Government ceased. The institution and the controversies centering
about it left, however, a deep impress upon the financial and
political history of our fifth and sixth decades. It was the bank
issue, more than anything else, that consolidated the new political
parties of the period. It was that issue that proved most conclusively
the hold of Jackson upon public opinion. And it was the destruction of
the Bank that capped the mid-century reaction against the rampant
nationalism of the decade succeeding the War of 1812. The Bank itself
had been well managed, sound, and of great service to the country. But
it had also showed strong monopolistic tendencies, and as a powerful
capitalistic organization it ran counter to the principles and
prejudices which formed the very warp and woof of Jacksonian

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest