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 posterity."
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 execute.
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 secession.
THE WAR ON THE UNITED STATES BANK
"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 coveted.
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 financier."
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 Bank.
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 strength.
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 life.
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 pass.
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 State.
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 Administration.
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 nominations.
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.
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 democracy.
For more than a decade after the Bank was destroyed the United States had a troubled financial history. The payment of the last dollar of the national debt in 1834 gave point to a suggestion which Clay had repeatedly offered that, as a means of avoiding an embarrassing surplus, the proceeds of the sales of public lands should be distributed according to population among the States. One bill on this subject was killed by a veto in 1832, but another was finally approved in 1836. Before distribution could be carried far, however, the country was overtaken by the panic of 1837; and never again was there a surplus to distribute. For seven years the funds of the Government continued to be kept in state banks, until, in 1840, President Van Buren prevailed upon Congress to pass a measure setting up an independent treasury system, thereby realizing the ultimate purpose of the Jacksonians to divorce the Government from banks of every sort. When the Whigs came into power in 1841, they promptly abolished the independent Treasury with a view to resurrecting the United States Bank. Tyler's vetoes, however, frustrated their designs, and it remained for the Democrats in 1846 to revive the independent Treasury and to organize it substantially as it operates today.
THE REMOVAL OF THE SOUTHERN INDIANS
It was not by chance that the Jacksonian period made large contribution to the working out of the ultimate relations of the red man with his white rival and conqueror. Jackson was himself an old frontier soldier, who never doubted that it was part of the natural order of things that conflict between the two peoples should go on until the weaker was dispossessed or exterminated. The era was one in which the West guided public policy; and it was the West that was chiefly interested in further circumscribing Indian lands, trade, and influence. In Jackson's day, too, the people ruled; and it was the adventurous, pushing, land-hungry common folk who decreed that the red man had lingered long enough in the Middle West and must now move on.
The pressure of the white population upon the Indian lands was felt both in the Northwest and in the Southwest; but the pressure was unevenly applied in the two sections. North of the Ohio there was simply one great glacier-like advance of the white settlers, driving westward before it practically all of the natives who did not perish in the successive attempts to roll back the wave of conquest upon the Alleghanies. The redskins were pushed from Ohio into Indiana, from Indiana into Illinois, from Illinois and Wisconsin into Iowa and Minnesota; the few tribal fragments which by treaty arrangement remained behind formed only insignificant "islands" in the midst of the fast-growing flood of white population.
In the South the great streams of migration were those that flowed down the Ohio, filling the back lands on each side, and thence down the Mississippi to its mouth. Hence, instead of pressing the natives steadily backward from a single direction, as in the North, the whites hemmed them in on east, west, and north; while to the southward the Gulf presented a relentless barrier. Powerful and populous tribes were left high and dry in Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama—peoples who in their day of necessity could hope to find new homes only by long migrations past the settled river districts that lay upon their western frontiers.
Of these encircled tribes, four were of chief importance: the Creeks, the Cherokees, the Choctaws, and the Chickasaws. In 1825 the Creeks numbered twenty thousand, and held between five and six million acres of land in western Georgia and eastern Alabama. The Cherokees numbered about nine thousand and had even greater areas, mainly in northwestern Georgia, but to some extent also in northeastern Alabama and southeastern Tennessee. The Choctaws, numbering twenty-one thousand, and the Chickasaws, numbering thirty-six hundred, together held upwards of sixteen million acres in Mississippi—approximately the northern half of the State—and a million and a quarter acres in western Alabama. The four peoples thus numbered fifty-three thousand souls, and held ancestral lands aggregating over thirty-three million acres, or nearly the combined area of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Furthermore, they were no longer savages. The Creeks were the lowest in civilization; but even they had become more settled and less warlike since their chastisement by Jackson in 1814. The Choctaws and Chickasaws lived in frame houses, cultivated large stretches of land, operated workshops and mills, maintained crude but orderly governments, and were gradually accepting Christianity. Most advanced of all were the Cherokees. As one writer has described them, they "had horses and cattle, goats, sheep, and swine. They raised maize, cotton, tobacco, wheat, oats, and potatoes, and traded with their products to New Orleans. They had gardens, and apple and peach orchards. They had built roads, and they kept inns for travelers. They manufactured cotton and wool.... One of their number had invented an alphabet for their language. They had a civil government, imitated from that of the United States." Under these improved conditions all of the tribes were growing in numbers and acquiring vested rights which it would be increasingly difficult to deny or to disregard.
A good while before Jackson entered the White House the future of these large, settled, and prosperous groups of red men began to trouble the people of Georgia, Alabama, and other Southern States. The Indians made but little use of the major part of their land; vast tracts lay untrodden save by hunters. Naturally, as the white population grew and the lands open for settlement became scarcer and poorer, the rich tribal holdings were looked upon with covetous eyes. In the decade following the War of 1812, when cotton cultivation was spreading rapidly over the southern interior, the demand that they be thrown open for occupation to white settlers became almost irresistible.
Three things, obviously, could happen. The tribes could be allowed to retain permanently their great domains, while the white population flowed in around them; or the lands could be opened to the whites under terms looking to a peaceful intermingling of the two peoples; or the tribes could be induced or compelled to move en masse to new homes beyond the Mississippi. The third plan was the only one ever considered by most people to be feasible, although it offered great difficulties and was carried out only after many delays.
The State which felt the situation most keenly was Georgia, partly because there an older and denser population pressed more eagerly for new lands, partly—it must be admitted—because lands obtained by cession were, under the practice of that State, distributed among the people by lottery. The first move in this direction was to dispossess the Creeks. As far back as 1802, when Georgia made her final cession of western lands to United States, the latter agreed to extinguish the Indian title to lands within the State whenever it could be done "peaceably and on reasonable terms." This pledge the Georgians never allowed the federal authorities to forget. After 1815 several large tracts were liberated. But by that date the State wanted unbroken jurisdiction over all of the territory within her limits, and her complaints of laxness on the part of the Federal Government in bringing this about became no less frequent than vigorous.
Near the close of his Administration President Monroe sent two commissioners to procure a general cession; and at Indian Spring a treaty was concluded in which the Creeks ceded practically all of their lands between the Flint and the Chattahoochee rivers. The Senate ratified the treaty, and the Georgians were elated. But investigation showed that the Creeks who stood behind the agreement represented only an insignificant fraction of the nation, and President Adams refused to allow Troup, the irate Georgian Governor, to proceed with the intended occupation until further negotiations should have taken place. Stormy exchanges of views followed, in the course of which the Governor more than once reminded Adams that Georgia was "sovereign on her own soil." But in 1826 and 1827 treaties were obtained finally extinguishing Creek titles in the State. Land west of the Mississippi was promised to all Creeks who would go there.
The problem of the Cherokees was more difficult. By a series of treaties beginning in 1785 the United States had recognized this people as a nation, capable of making peace and war, of owning the lands within its boundaries, and of governing and punishing its own citizens by its own laws. At the close of Jefferson's second Administration the tribe seriously considered moving west of the Mississippi, and shortly after the War of 1812 most of the northern members resident in Tennessee took the long-deferred step. The refusal of the Georgia members to go with the Tenneseeans disappointed the land-hungry whites, and from that time the authorities of the State labored incessantly both to break down the notion that the Cherokees were a "nation" to be dealt with through diplomatic channels, and to extend over them, in effect, the full sovereignty of the State. In December, 1828, the Legislature took the bold step of enacting that all white persons in the Cherokee territory should be subject to the laws of Georgia; that after June 1, 1830, all Indians resident in this territory should be subject to such laws as might be prescribed for them by the State; and that after this date all laws made by the Cherokee Government should be null and void.
When Jackson became President he found on his desk a vigorous protest against this drastic piece of legislation. But appeal to him was useless. He was on record as believing, in common with most southwesterners, that Georgia had a rightful jurisdiction over her Indian lands; and his Secretary of War, Eaton, was instructed to say to the Cherokee representatives that their people would be expected either to yield to Georgia's authority or to remove beyond the Mississippi. In his first annual message, on December 8, 1829, the President set forth the principles that guided him from first to last in dealing with the Indian problem. It would be greatly to the interest of the Indians themselves, he said, to remove to the ample lands that would be set apart for them permanently in the West, where each tribe could have its own home and its own government, subject to no control by the United States except for the maintenance of peace on the frontier and among the tribes. Forcible removal was not to be contemplated; that would be cruel and unjust. But every effort was to be made to bring about a voluntary migration. One thing was to be clearly understood: any tribe or group that chose to remain in Georgia must submit to the laws of the State and yield its claim to all land which had not been improved. The President was not indifferent to the well-being of the red men; but he refused to recognize the Cherokees as a "nation" having "rights" as against either Georgia or the United States. A few weeks after the message was received Congress passed a bill creating an Indian reservation beyond the Mississippi and appropriating five hundred thousand dollars to aid in the removal of such Indians as should choose to accept the offer of the Government.
The outlook for the Cherokees was now dark. Both the executive and legislative branches of the Federal Government were committed to a policy which offered only the alternatives of removal or subjection; and, thus encouraged, the Georgia Legislature voted to proceed with the extension of the full authority of the State over both the Cherokees and the Creeks after June 1, 1830. To make matters worse, the discovery of gold in the northeastern corner of the State in 1829 brought down upon the Cherokee lands a horde of scrambling, lawless fortune seekers, numbered already in 1830 by the thousand. None the less, the Cherokee opposition stiffened. The Indian legislative council voted that all who accepted lands beyond the Mississippi and settled on them should forfeit their tribal membership, that those who sold their individual property to emigrate should be flogged, and that those who voted to sell a part or all of the tribal possessions should be put to death.
One resource remained to be exhausted in defense of the Indian claims; this was the courts. But here again things went unfavorably. After many delays a test case, Cherokee Nation vs. State of Georgia, was placed upon the docket of the Supreme Court. The bill set forth the plaintiff to be "the Cherokee Nation of Indians, a foreign State, not owning allegiance to the United States, nor to any State of this union, nor to any prince, potentate, or State other than their own," and it asked that the Court declare null the Georgia Acts of 1828 and 1829 and enjoin the Georgia officials from interfering with Cherokee lands, mines, and other property, or with the persons of Cherokees on account of anything done by them within the Cherokee territory. The Indians were represented before the Court by two attorneys, one of them being William Wirt; Georgia employed no counsel. The opinion of the Court as announced at the January term, 1831, by Chief Justice Marshall was that while the Cherokee nation was a State and had uniformly been dealt with as such by the Federal Government since 1789, it was not a "foreign State" within the meaning of the Constitution, and therefore was not entitled to sue in that character in the courts of the United States. "If it be true," the decision concluded, "that wrongs have been inflicted and that still greater are to be apprehended, this is not the tribunal which can redress the past or prevent the future. The motion for an injunction is denied."
The case was thus thrown out of court. Yet the Cherokees were recognized as a "domestic, dependent" nation, and there was nothing in the decision to indicate that the extension of the laws of Georgia over them was valid and constitutional. Indeed, in a second case that came up shortly, Worcester vs. State of Georgia, the Court strongly backed up the Indians' contention. Worcester was a Presbyterian missionary who was imprisoned for violation of a Georgia statute forbidding white persons to reside in the Cherokee territory without a license. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and in the decision of March 10, 1832, Marshall affirmed the status of the Cherokees as a "nation" within whose territory "the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress." The statute was accordingly declared to be unconstitutional and Worcester was ordered to be discharged.
This ought to have been enough to protect the Cherokees in their rights. But it was not, and for two reasons: the contempt of Georgia for the Court's opinions, and the refusal of Jackson to restrain the State in its headstrong course. Already the state authorities had refused to take notice of a writ of error to the Supreme Court sued out in December, 1830, in behalf of a condemned Cherokee, Corn Tassel, and had permitted the execution of the unfortunate redskin. The state court now refused to issue a writ of habeas corpus in behalf of Worcester, and the prisoner was held—precisely as if the law under which he was convicted had been pronounced constitutional—until he was pardoned by the Governor a year later.
This action on the part of the State was, of course, nothing less than nullification. Yet Jackson did not lift a finger. "John Marshall has made his decision," he is reported to have said; "now let him enforce it." The South Carolinians were quick to seize upon the inconsistencies of the situation. Nullification in their State was apparently one thing; in Georgia, quite another. The very fact, however, that the Georgians had successfully defied the federal Supreme Court did much to encourage their neighbors in a course of similar boldness. Jackson's leniency toward Georgia has never been wholly explained. He was undoubtedly influenced by his sympathy with the purpose of the State to establish its jurisdiction over all lands within its borders. Furthermore he cherished an antipathy for Marshall which even led him to refuse in 1835 to attend a memorial meeting in the great jurist's honor. But these considerations do not wholly cover the case. All that the historian can say is that the President chose to take notice of the threats and acts of South Carolina and to ignore the threats and acts of Georgia, without ever being troubled by the inconsistency of his course. His political career affords many such illustrations of the arbitrary and even erratic character of his mind.
Meanwhile the great Indian migration was setting in. Emulating the example of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi extended their laws over all of the Indian lands within their boundaries; and in all parts of the South the red folk—some of them joyously, but most of them sorrowfully—prepared to take up their long journey. In 1832 the Creeks yielded to the United States all of their remaining lands east of the Mississippi. By the spring of 1833 the Choctaws and Chickasaws had done the same thing and were on their way westward. Only the Cherokees remained, and in his message of December 3, 1833, Jackson reiterated his earlier arguments for their removal. Realizing that further resistance was useless, a portion of the tribe signified its readiness to go. The remainder, however, held out, and it was only at the close of 1835 that the long-desired treaty of cession could be secured. All Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi were now relinquished to the United States, which agreed to pay five million dollars for them, to provide an adequate home in the new Indian Territory created by Congress during the preceding year, and to bear all the costs of removing the tribe thither.
It was not alone the South, however, that witnessed widespread displacements of Indian populations in the Jacksonian period. How the Black Hawk War of 1832 grew out of, and in turn led to, removals in the remoter Northwest has been related in another volume in this series. And, in almost every western State, surviving Indian titles were rapidly extinguished. Between 1829 and 1837 ninety-four Indian treaties, most of them providing for transfers of territory, were concluded; and before Jackson went out of office he was able to report to Congress that, "with the exception of two small bands living in Ohio and Indiana, not exceeding fifteen hundred persons, and of the Cherokees, all of the tribes on the east side of the Mississippi, and extending from Lake Michigan to Florida, have entered into engagements which will lead to their transplantation." With little delay the Cherokees, too, were added to this list, although a group of irreconcilables resisted until 1838, when they were forcibly ejected by a contingent of United States troops under General Winfield Scott.
All of this was done not without strong protest from other people besides the Indians. Some who objected did so for political effect. When Clay and Calhoun, for example, thundered in the Senate against the removal treaties, they were merely seeking to discredit the Administration; both held views on Indian policy which were substantially the same as Jackson's. But there was also objection on humanitarian grounds; and the Society of Friends and other religious bodies engaged in converting and educating the southern tribes used all possible influence to defeat the plan of removal. On the whole, however, the country approved what was being done. People felt that the further presence of large, organized bodies of natives in the midst of a rapidly growing white population, and of tribes setting themselves up as quasi-independent nations within the bounds of the States, was an anomaly that could not last; and they considered that, distressing as were many features of the removals, both white man and red man would ultimately be better off.
THE JACKSONIAN SUCCESSION
"Oh, hang General Jackson," exclaimed Fanny Kemble one day, after dinner, in the cabin of the ship that brought her, in the summer of 1832, to the United States. Even before she set foot on our shores, the brilliant English actress was tired of the din of politics and bored by the incessant repetition of the President's name. Subsequently she was presented at the White House and had an opportunity to form her own opinion of the "monarch" whose name and deeds were on everybody's lips; and the impression was by no means unfavorable. "Very tall and thin he was," says her journal, "but erect and dignified; a good specimen of a fine old, well-battered soldier; his manners perfectly simple and quiet, and, therefore, very good."
Small wonder that the name of Jackson was heard wherever men and women congregated in 1832! Something more than half of the people of the country were at the moment trying to elect the General to a second term as President, and something less than half were putting forth their best efforts to prevent such a "calamity." Three years of Jacksonian rule had seen the civil service revolutionized, the Cabinet banished from its traditional place in the governmental system, and the conduct of the executive branch given a wholly new character and bent. Internal improvements had been checked by the Maysville Road veto. The United States Bank had been given a blow, through another veto, which sent it staggering. Political fortunes had been made and unmade by a wave of the President's hand. The first attempt of a State to put the stability of the Union to the test had brought the Chief Executive dramatically into the role of defender of the nation's dignity and perpetuity. No previous President had so frequently challenged the attention of the public; none had kept himself more continuously in the forefront of political controversy.
Frail health and close application to official duties prevented Jackson from traveling extensively during his eight years in the White House. He saw the Hermitage but once in this time, and on but one occasion did he venture far from the capital. This was in the summer of 1833, when he toured the Middle States and New England northward as far as Concord, New Hampshire. Accompanied by Van Buren, Lewis Cass, Levi Woodbury, and other men of prominence, the President set off from Washington in early June. At Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and intervening cities the party was received with all possible demonstrations of regard. Processions moved through crowded streets; artillery thundered salutes; banquet followed banquet; the enthusiasm of the masses was unrestrained. At New York the furnishings of the hotel suite occupied by the President were eventually auctioned off as mementoes of the occasion.
New England was, in the main, enemy country. None the less, the President was received there with unstinted goodwill. Edward Everett said that only two other men had ever been welcomed in Boston as Jackson was. They were Washington and La Fayette. The President's determined stand against nullification was fresh in mind, and the people, regardless of party, were not slow to express their appreciation. Their cordiality was fully reciprocated. "He is amazingly tickled with the Yankees," reports a fellow traveler more noted for veracity than for elegance of speech, "and the more he sees on 'em, the better he likes 'em. 'No nullification here,' says he. 'No,' says I, 'General; Mr. Calhoun would stand no more chance down east than a stumped-tail bull in fly time.'"
To the infinite disgust of John Quincy Adams, Harvard University conferred upon the distinguished visitor the honorary degree of doctor of laws. In the course of the ceremony one of the seniors delivered, in Latin, a salutatory concluding with the words: "Harvard welcomes Jackson the President. She embraces Jackson the Patriot." "A splendid compliment, sir, a splendid compliment," declared the honored guest after Woodbury had translated the phrases for his benefit; "but why talk about so live a thing as patriotism in a dead language?" At the close of the exercises the students filed past the President and were introduced to him, each greeting him, "to the infinite edification and amusement of the grizzly old warrior," by his new title Doctor Jackson. The wits of the opposition lost no opportunity to poke fun at the President's accession to the brotherhood of scholars. As he was closing a speech some days later an auditor called out, "You must give them a little Latin, Doctor." In nowise abashed, the President solemnly doffed his hat again, stepped to the front of the platform, and resumed: "E pluribus unum, my friends, sine qua non!"
Life at the White House, as one writer has remarked, lost under Jackson something of the good form of the Virginia regime, but it lost nothing of the air of domesticity. Throughout the two Administrations the mistress of the mansion was Mrs. Andrew Jackson Donelson, wife of the President's secretary and in every respect a very capable woman. Of formality there was little or none. Major Lewis was a member of the presidential household, and other intimates—Van Buren, Kendall, Blair, Hill—dropped in at anytime, "before breakfast, or in the evening, as inclination prompted." The President was always accessible to callers, whether or not their business was important. Yet he found much time, especially in the evenings, for the enjoyment of his long reed pipe with red clay bowl, in the intimacy of the White House living room, with perhaps a Cabinet officer to read dispatches or other state papers to him in a corner, while the ladies sewed and chatted and half a dozen children played about the room.
Social affairs there were, of course. But they were simple enough to please the most ardent Jeffersonian—much too simple to please people accustomed to somewhat rigorous etiquette. Thus George Bancroft, who had the reputation of being one of Washington's most punctilious gentlemen, thought well of Jackson's character but very poorly of his levees. In describing a White House reception which he attended in 1831, he wrote:
"The old man stood in the center of a little circle, about large enough for a cotillion, and shook hands with everybody that offered. The number of ladies who attended was small; nor were they brilliant. But to compensate for it there was a throng of apprentices, boys of all ages, men not civilized enough to walk about the room with their hats off; the vilest promiscuous medley that ever was congregated in a decent house; many of the lowest gathering round the doors, pouncing with avidity upon the wine and refreshments, tearing the cake with the ravenous keenness of intense hunger; starvelings, and fellows with dirty faces and dirty manners; all the refuse that Washington could turn forth from its workshops and stables."
The "people" still ruled. Yet it was only the public receptions that presented such scenes of disorder. The dinners which the President occasionally gave were well appointed. A Philadelphia gentleman who was once invited to the White House with two or three friends testifies that "the dinner was very neat and served in excellent taste, while the wines were of the choicest qualities. The President himself dined on the simplest fare: bread, milk, and vegetables."
Jackson was never a rich man, and throughout his stay in the White House he found it no easy matter to make ends meet. He entertained his personal friends and official guests royally. He lavished hospitality upon the general public, sometimes spending as much as a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars on a single levee. He drew a sharp line between personal and public expenditures, and met out of his own pocket outlays that under administrations both before and after were charged to the public account. He loaned many thousands of dollars, in small amounts, to needy friends, to old comrades in arms, and especially to widows and orphans of his soldiery and of his political supporters; and a large proportion of these debts he not only never collected but actually forgot. Receipts from the Hermitage farm during his years of absence were small, and fire in 1834 made necessary a rebuilding of the family residence at considerable cost. The upshot was that when, in 1837, the General was preparing to leave Washington, he had to scrape together every available dollar in cash, and in addition pledge the cotton crop of his plantation six months ahead for a loan of six thousand dollars, in order to pay the bills outstanding against him in the capital.
Meanwhile the country came to the election of 1836. From the time of Van Buren's withdrawal from the Cabinet in 1831 to become, with Jackson's full approval, a candidate for the vice presidency, there never was doubt that the New Yorker would be the Democratic presidential nominee in 1836, or that his election would mean a continuation, in most respects, of the Jacksonian regime. Never did a President more clearly pick his successor. There was, of course, some protest within the party. Van Buren was not popular, and it required all of the personal and official influence that the President could bring to bear, backed up by judicious use of the patronage, to carry his program through. At that, his own State rebelled and, through a resolution of the Legislature, put itself behind the candidacy of Senator Hugh L. White. The bold actions of his second Administration, defiant alike of precedent and opposition, had alienated many of the President's more intelligent and conservative followers. Yet the allegiance of the masses was unshaken; and when the Democratic convention assembled at Baltimore in May, 1835,—a year and a half before the election—the nomination of Van Buren was secured without a dissenting vote. There was no need to adopt a platform; everybody understood that Jackson's policies were the platform, and that Jackson himself was as truly before the electorate as if he had been a candidate for a third term. In his letter of acceptance Van Buren met all expectations by declaring his purpose "to tread generally in the footsteps of President Jackson."
The anti-Administration forces entered the campaign with no flattering prospects. Since 1832 their opposition to "executive usurpation" had won for them a new party name, "Whig." But neither their opposition nor any other circumstance had given them party solidarity. National Republicans, anti-Masons, converted Jacksonians, state rights men—upon what broad and constructive platform could they hope to unite? They had no lack of able presidential aspirants. There was Clay, the National Republican candidate in 1832; there was Webster, of whom Jackson once said that he would never be President because he was "too far east, knows too much, and is too honest"; and there were lesser lights, such as Judge John McLean. But, again, how could the many discordant groups be rallied to the support of any single leader?
Jackson predicted in 1834 that his opponents would nominate William Henry Harrison, because "they have got to take up a soldier; they have tried orators enough." The prophecy was a shrewd one, and in 1840 it was fulfilled to the letter. Upon the present occasion, however, the leaders decided to place no single nominee in the field, but rather to bring forward a number of candidates who could be expected to develop local strength and so to split the vote as to throw the final choice into the House of Representatives. This seemed the only hope of circumventing Van Buren's election. Four sectional candidates entered the race: Webster was backed by New England; the Northwest united on Harrison; the Southwest joined the Tennessee revolters in support of White; Ohio had her own candidate in the person of McLean.
The plan was ingenious, but it did not work. Van Buren received 170 electoral votes against 124 in spite of his opponents. He carried fifteen of the twenty-six States, including four in New England. Harrison received 73 votes, White 26 (including those of Tennessee), and Webster 14. South Carolina refused to support any of the candidates on either side and threw away her votes on W.P. Mangum of North Carolina. The Democrats kept control of both branches of Congress.
Victory, therefore, rested with the Jacksonians—which means with Jackson himself. The Democrats would have control of both the executive and legislative branches of the Government for some years to come; the Bank would not soon be re-chartered; the veto power would remain intact; federal expenditure upon internal improvements had been curbed, and the "American system" had been checked; the national debt was discharged and revenue was superabundant; Jackson could look back over the record of his Administrations with pride and forward to the rule of "Little Van" with satisfaction. "When I review the arduous administration through which I have passed," declared the President soon after the results of the election were made known, "the formidable opposition, to its very close, of the combined talents, wealth, and power of the whole aristocracy of the United States, aided as it is by the moneyed monopolies of the whole country with their corrupting influence, with which we had to contend, I am truly thankful to my God for this happy result."
Congress met on the 5th of December for the closing session of the Administration. The note of victory pervaded the President's message. Yet there was one more triumph to be won: the resolution of censure voted by the Senate in 1834 was still officially on the record book. Now it was that Benton finally procured the passage of his expunging resolution, although not until both branches of Congress had been dragged into controversy more personal and acrid, if possible, than any in the past eight years. The action taken was probably unconstitutional. But Jackson's "honor" was vindicated, and that was all that he and his friends saw, or cared to see, in the proceeding. As early as 1831 the President conceived the idea of issuing a farewell address to the people upon the eve of his retirement; and a few weeks before the election of Van Buren he sent to Taney a list of subjects which he proposed to touch upon in the document, requesting him to "throw on paper" his ideas concerning them. The address was issued on March 4, 1837, and followed closely the copy subsequently found in Taney's hand writing in the Jackson manuscripts. Its contents were thoroughly commonplace, being indeed hardly more than a resume of the eight annual messages; and it might well have been dismissed as the amiable musings of a garrulous old man. But nothing associated with the name of Jackson ever failed to stir controversy. The Whigs ridiculed the egotism which underlay the palpable imitation of Washington. "Happily," said the New York American, "it is the last humbug which the mischievous popularity of this illiterate, violent, vain, and iron-willed soldier can impose upon a confiding and credulous people." The Democrats, however, lauded the address, praised the wisdom and sincerity of its author, and laid away among their most valued mementoes the white satin copies which admiring friends scattered broadcast over the country.