« PreviousContinue »
This thing, then so astonishing, became quite customary in later years.
Notwithstanding the fact that Jackson had a plurality of the popular, as well as of the electoral votes, he was, as has been stated, defeated by the House of Representatives. His admirers and supporters determined that their desire to honor "the hero of New Orleans" should not be thwarted a second time. And at the next election Jackson's majority was overwhelming.
The election of Jackson was a departure from the traditions and precedents which had hitherto prevailed. The other Presidents had been of the educated and polished school of statesmen. But Jackson inaugurated a régime of pure democracy. Reared in simple and rustic habits, he was emphatically of the people; and the acquisition of neither fame, station, nor power caused a departure from the homely ways of border life. He smoked his cob pipe in the White House with the same indifference to environment as, when a log cabin was his home.
Jackson was plain, sturdy, courageous, self-reliant, and patriotic. He was unflinchingly honest and sincere; affected neither by prospect of personal gain nor dread of personal loss; not swerved a hair's breadth by cajolery or intimidation. His sobriquet, "Old Hickory,' fitly typified his mental and physical make-up. He had spells of violent passion, which was not always restrained by his judgment. His sympathies were always and entirely with the common people." This basic element of his character may account for his instinctive and violent hostility to every form of class assumption, or claim for class or special consideration; and hence to the growth of monopolies and of corporate power.
With his backwoods soldiers he had won a decisive victory over the veteran troops of Great Britain. This was the second deliverance from England's domination; and its appeal to the grateful homage of the nation was
less potent than in the case of Washington, in so far as the differences of their surroundings and temperaments made the one calm, imperturbable, profoundly wise, and just; while the other was implacable, fiery, and resolute, whose policy was rather to crush than persuade.
When Jackson was inaugurated, the Senate stood 38 Democrats, 10 Whigs; the House, 142 Democrats, 71 Whigs.
As has been shown, the Whig party was an offshoot from the Democratic party. Naturally, whatever remained of the Federalists united with the new party in opposition to their long-time enemy. Some of the other elements which added to its strength have been indicated. Jackson's aggressive disposition drove still others to the new flag. He soon indicated his purpose to put a curb upon the internal improvement system, as well as upon the protective tariff policy. And he promptly announced his determination to throttle the National Bank.
During the first session of Congress after his inauguration, a bill was passed authorizing the United States to subscribe to the stock of the Maysville Turnpike Road Company. Jackson, swinging his party back to a strict construction of the Constitution, denied the power of the general government to engage in such enterprises, and vetoed the bill. Two other bills of a similar nature were passed at the close of the session. These the President refused to sign, and smothered by a“ pocket veto." (If the President does not approve of a bill within ten days after its passage, it becomes a law without his signature, provided Congress is in session. Should Congress adjourn before the ten days expire, the bill dies. This withholding of his approval is called a " pocket veto.") In the next session large appropriations for improvements of harbors, rivers, and roads were passed by large majorities, and were approved by the President. The President, perhaps, did not wish to take issue with Congress
upon this matter, as he was husbanding his strength for a greater struggle.
When Congress assembled on December 6, 1830, the Senate was composed of 35 Democrats and 13 Whigs; the House had 130 Democrats and 83 Whigs. The President sent in his message, in which he violently attacked the National Bank. It will be remembered that this institution was incorporated in 1816, with a twenty-year lease of life. It must soon have its charter extended, or prepare to close its doors and wind up its affairs. As another election was approaching, the friends of the bank, marshalled by Mr. Clay, believed that Jackson would not venture to force the fight at that juncture. But they did not know their adversary. Jackson threw himself into the contest with as much dash and vigor as he had displayed at New Orleans. He believed that the immense power which the bank had acquired had been grossly abused, and was a great and growing menace to the Republic. Philadelphia was its headquarters; but it had twenty-five branches scattered through the country. It had $7,000,000 of government money on deposit, in addition to $6,000,000 of other depositors; with a note circulation of $12,000,000, and a line of discounts amounting to $40,000,000 which, in a few months was run up to $70,000,000. Inasmuch as this bank received and disbursed all of the government's moneys, it was certainly incumbent upon the government officials to be absolutely certain of its solvency, as well as of its prudent and honest management; and this without reference to the validity of its charter. Jackson was adversely convinced upon all points, and recommended that Congress should direct the removal from the bank of the government's deposits. This Congress refused to do. He repeated this recommendation at the next session, with the further one that the stock in the bank belonging to the United States should be sold. Both propositions were voted down.
Instead, a bill to renew the bank's charter was passed, which the President vetoed July 10, 1832. The fall elections showed that the people were with the President. In the spring of 1833 Jackson instructed his Secretary of the Treasury to direct that no more government money should be deposited in the bank. The Secretary refused, and off went his official head. Roger B. Taney was appointed, and the President's order was obeyed. This has been designated as a "removal of the deposits "; but in point of fact there was no removal; merely a cessation of making any further deposits, and leaving the government balance in the bank to be withdrawn to pay current expenses as they should arise. It is scarcely fair to claim that Jackson's judgment was vindicated by the subsequent history of the bank, but that history is entirely suggestive. Failing to get a renewal of its charter from the Federal Government, the bank applied to and was granted a charter by the Pennsylvania Legislature in 1836. In 1837 it suspended; then resumed for a short time; and closed finally in 1839, having sunk its entire capital.
Calhoun and Jackson had quarrelled; and in 1833 Calhoun's forces, united with the already Anti-Jackson men in the Senate, gave a majority. A vote of censure of the President for his action towards the bank was passed. Clay, Calhoun, Webster, Frelinghuysen, and Preston were some of the giants arrayed against the President. Unfaltering in his reliance upon the support of the people, he would have stood alone, unwavering and undismayed. But a valiant cohort in the Senate rallied around him Benton, Forsyth of Georgia, King of Alabama, Rives of Virginia, Silas Wright, were some of them. An artificial panic was started by the brokers and agents of the bank and hostile politicians to frighten Jackson into a reversal of his policy.
stood unmoved amidst the storm.
But like a rock he
The resolution of
censure was passed by a vote of 26 to 20.
sent a protest against this action, which the Senate declared was a breach of privilege, and talked of impeachment. So the fight went on. The House - the immediate representatives of the people - tabled the resolution of censure. Benton, with his characteristic earnestness, ability, and persistency, determined that the resolution of censure ought to be, and should be, expunged from the Journal of the Senate. From time to time he introduced several resolutions on the subject. In the meantime, the State legislatures were acting, instructing their Senators, and superseding those who were fixed in their hostility. Finally, on January 14, 1837, by a vote of 24 to 19 the resolution was ordered to be expunged; and it was done in the presence of the Senate and crowded galleries, amidst intense but suppressed excitement.
It was not until 1843, long after Jackson had retired to the Hermitage, that a further vindication of his course was enacted by Congress. While in command at New Orleans he had suspended the writ of habeas corpus; and for refusing to obey such writ he was fined $1000 by Judge Hall. Jackson promptly paid the fine, but under protest, refusing to let friends pay it for him. After the passions of party had waned by his withdrawal from public life, this fine, with interest, was refunded by a vote of Congress.