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Democracy in America- Alexis de Tocqueville’s study. He described America “brings the notion of political rights to the level of the humblest citizens, just as the dissemination of wealth brings the notion of property within the reach of all the members of the community.”
Tocqueville feared that industrialism would create a large class of dependant workers. Fears of rapid growth with consequences of social unrest plagued the nation.
Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in 1820: delegates complained the rich were better represented than the poor, voting and office holding were restricted to property owners, and had a peculiar system in which members of the state senate represented property rather than simply people
New York convention of 1821: James Kent argued that society "is an association for the protection of property as well as life" and that "individuals who contribute only one cent to the common stock ought not to have the same power and influence in directing the property concerns of thousands" - property qualification was still abolished
Martin Van Buren (“Bucktails” or “Albany Regency”) formed a political faction designed to challenge the leadership of the aristocratic Governor De Witt Clinton, they argued that an institutionalized party would produce democracy, preservation of the party as an institution through the use of favors, rewards, and patronage would the principle goal of the party leadership, they would form a permanent opposition, competing parties would have to be in tune with the will of the people in order to survive and would check and balance each other
Democrats had no clear or uniform ideological position, democracy should offer "equal protection and equal benefits" to all its white male citizens, believed that no region or class should be favored over another
In reality, assaulted the citadels of eastern aristocracy and made an effort to extend opportunities to the rising classes of the West and South, a firm effort was made to continue the subjugation of African Americans and Indians so that by keeping these “dangerous” elements from the body politic could white-male democracy be preserved
Jackson first went after the entrenched office holders in the federal government- he believed that government jobs were “so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance.” Offices belonged to the people.
Spoils system: the right of elected officials to appoint their own followers to public office, to the victors belong the spoils – in reality Jackson removed less than 20% of permanent office holders and many of those were for corruption charges not partisan motives
The right of elected officials to appoint their own followers to public office became an established feature of American politics – offices belong to the people not entrenched officeholders
Jackson believed power would arise directly from the people, not from aristocratic political institutions such as the caucus, which restricted access to the office to those favored by the entrenched elite
Jackson avoids the caucus system in 1828, and the Democrats staged a national party convention to nominate Jackson in 1832
The Spoils System and the Political Convention served to limit the power of two entrenched elites – permanent officeholders and the exclusive party caucus – yet neither really transferred political power to the people
Argument: since the government was the creation of the states, the states not the courts should be the final arbiters of the constitutionality of federal laws - if the state found congress passed an unconstitutional law they could hold a special convention and declare it null and void within the state (VA & KY Resolutions, Jefferson and Madison, 10th Amendment), Nullification Doctrine - gained support in South Carolina to be used against the Tariff of Abominations
Martin Van Buren: secretary of state, member of both the official cabinet and the “Kitchen Cabinet” (Jackson's unofficial circle of political allies) that also included Democratic newspaper editors (Hill, Kendall, and Blair)
Peggy Eaton Affair: Peggy became a cabinet wife after her marriage with Eaton (secretary of war), were rumored to have had an affair together before the marriage, therefore not accepted by Calhoun's wife into the social circle- Van Buren befriended the Eaton's and thus Jackson chose him to succeed him in the presidency, ending Calhoun’s dreams of the presidency
South Carolina voted to nullify the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 at a state convention after the tariff bill of 1832 offered them no relief from the Tariff of Abominations, also forbade the collection of duties within the state
South Carolina elected Hayne to serve as governor and Calhoun replaced Hayne as Senator after he resigned the Vice Presidency
Results: Jackson signed both the Force Bill and Clay’s Compromise, South Carolina convention repealed its nullification of the tariffs, but also nullified the Force Bill in a purely symbolic gesture, claimed a victory for nullification which they insisted forced the revision of the tariffs
Jackson's attitude towards Indians: wanted them to move west beyond Mississippi, out of the way of expanding white settlement. Special intensity due to his past campaigns against Native American tribes.
Jackson represented a view that savages were uncivilized and uncivilizable.
People of the west: saw Indians as savages, uncivilizable, the Indians possessed valuable land in the path of expanding white settlement, whites should not be expected to live near savages, did not want continual violence between natives and whites
Supreme Court: established tribes as "nations within a nation", Marshall declared the tribes sovereign nations and dependent ones for whom the federal government must take considerable responsibility for.
The Black Hawk War: 1831-1832 between the Sauk and Fox Indians and white settlers in Illinois, an earlier treaty ceded tribal lands in Illinois but Black Hawk and his followers refused to recognize the legality of the agreement and re-crossed the Mississippi into Illinois, militia vowed to exterminate the "bandit collection of Indians", the conflict was notable for the brutality the white officers showed and attacked them even when they attempted to surrender, Black Hawk was captured and sent on a tour of the East
Southern impatience about Indian removal. Made an example out of trying to dislodge the Creeks under J.Q. Adams.
1830 Removal Act: appropriated money to finance federal negotiation with the southern tribes aimed at relocating them to the West, Jackson dispatched federal officials to negotiate new treaties with the tribes
Jackson's Reaction: eager to retain the support of white southerners and westerners he encouraged white settlers to go against Marshall's ruling, saw it as an attempt by the Justices to express hostility to the larger aims of his presidency.
"John Marshall has made his decision - now let him enforce it"
In 1835 a minority faction of the Cherokees signed a treaty with the federal government ceding the tribes’ land to Georgia for $5 million and a reservation west of the Mississippi
The great majority of the 17,000 Cherokees did not recognize the treaty as legitimate and refused to leave their homes, Jackson sent an army of 7,000 under General Winfield Scott to round them up and drive them westward at bayonet point
1,000 fled to North Carolina, established a small reservation in the Smokey Mountains which survives today, the rest were forced to march west to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) 1/8 or more are said to have died on the journey westward.
Indian territory consisted of land that most whites considered undesirable, The Great American Desert, land unfit for habitation, seemed unlikely that whites would ever seek to settle along the western borders of the Indian Territory, prospect of whites surrounding the reservation and producing further conflict seemed remote
Seminole War (1835 – 1842): consisted of a substantial minority of Seminoles and escaped blacks using guerrilla warfare in the Everglades under the leadership of Osceola, U.S. troops engaged in a systematic campaign of extermination against the Seminoles, 1,500 troops died and cost the federal government $20 million, eventually the federal government abandoned the battle, most Indians died or moved westward but the Seminole relocation was never fully complete
By the end of the 1830’s the tribes had ceded over 100 million acres of eastern land to the national government in return for $68 million dollars and 32 million acres west of the Mississippi between the Missouri and Red Rivers on defined reservations surrounded by U.S. forts designed to keep them in and whites out
Jackson was willing to use federal power against rebellious states and against the tribes, but on economic issues he was consistently opposed to concentrating power either in the federal government or in the powerful (aristocratic) institutions associated with it
Maysville Road Veto (1830): Jackson vetoed a bill that funded construction of a road based entirely in Kentucky, argued it was not part of interstate commerce and unwise because it committed the government to extravagant expenditures
The Bank of the US had its headquarters in Philadelphia and 29 branches spread throughout the U.S. making it the most powerful and far-flung financial institution in the nation, by law it was the only place the national government could deposit its own funds, the national government owned 1/5th of the bank’s stock.
Nicholas Biddle: (Czar Nicholas) president of the bank since 1823 had done much to put the bank on a sound and prosperous basis
Role of the Bank: federal government deposited all their funds there, it did a tremendous business in general banking, it provided credit for growing enterprises, it issued bank notes which served as a dependable medium of exchange throughout the country, and it exercised a restraining effect on the less well-managed state banks
Soft Money: people who wanted more currency in circulation and believed issuing bank notes unsupported by gold or silver was the best way to circulate currency (state bankers), objected to the Bank of the US restraining state banks from issuing bank notes
Hard money: believed gold and silver were the only basis for money, condemned all banks that issued bank notes, including Bank of US, embraced "public virtue" looked with suspicion on expansion and speculation
Jackson's view: supported hard money, suspicious of all banks and all paper currency (he himself had fallen deeply into debt after his business failed during the Panic of 1797), as President he was sensitive to the complaints of his soft-money supporters in the South and the West, but he made it clear that he did not favor renewing the bank charter in 1836
Biddle was a Philadelphia aristocrat who was unaccustomed to politics, so he began granting financial favors to influential men who he thought might help him preserve the bank, in particular he turned to Daniel Webster who he named the Bank's legal counsel and director of its Boston branch, Webster the helped Biddle win the support of Clay
Clay ran as the unanimous choice of the National Republicans against Jackson for the Democrats, Jackson won by a margin of 219 – 49 in the Electoral College with 55% of the popular vote, resulting in a defeat for not only Clay but also for Biddle and the Bank
Jackson could not legally abolish the Bank so he removed the government’s deposits from the Bank, when two treasury secretaries refused to give the order (fearing it would destabilize the economy) he found a third treasury secretary who would give the order, Roger B. Taney who was the Attorney General and a close ally of Jackson
Roger Taney began placing the government’s deposits in a number of state banks (“pet banks”)
“This worthy President thinks that because he has scalped Indians and imprisoned judges, he is to have his way with the Bank. He is mistaken.”
Biddle called in loans and raised interest rates, explaining that without the government deposits the Bank’s resources were stretched too thin, he realized that these actions might cause a recession and force Congress to re-charter the Bank
The Bank struggle became not just a conflict over policy and principle but a bitter and petulant battle between two proud men, each one acting recklessly to humiliate and defeat the other
Supporters of the Bank blamed Jackson and urged a re-chartering of the Bank, Jacksonians blamed the recession on Biddle and refused to budge, when distressed citizens appealed to Jackson for help he replied “Go to Biddle.”
Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge (1837) - dispute between two Massachusetts companies over the right to build a bridge across the Charles River, one company had a longstanding charter from the state to operate a toll bridge and claimed that this state charter guaranteed its monopoly of the bridge traffic, another company applied to the state legislature for the right to construct a second bridge that would be toll-free, Taney writing for a Democratic majority on the Supreme Court stated that a state had the right to amend or abrogate a contract if such action was necessary to advance the well being of the community
This was a clear repudiation of the Marshall Court especially its ruling in the Dartmouth case
The decision reflected a Jacksonian ideal: the key to democracy was an expansion of economic opportunity, which would not occur if the older corporations could maintain monopolies and choke off competition from newer companies
Whig’s Vision: a nation embracing the industrial future and rising to world greatness as a commercial and manufacturing power - favored the establishing of banks, corporations, and other modernizing institutions, encouraged industrial and commercial development
Democrats: envisioned a future of steadily expanding economic and political opportunities for white males, role of government limited but should attempt to remove obstacles to opportunity and to avoid creating new ones, believed in defending the Union, attacking centers of corrupt privilege
Both Whigs and Democrats were more interested in winning elections than in maintaining philosophical purity, both parties made frequent adjustments in their postures to attract the greatest number of voters
Whigs supported Anti-Masons: established themselves as opponents of aristocracy and exclusivity
Anti-Masonry Movement: launched in response to the widespread resentment against the secret, exclusive, and undemocratic Society of Freemasons, created harsh attacks on Jackson and Van Buren implying that the Democrats were part of the antidemocratic conspiracy
No single leader was ever able to command the loyalties of the Whig Party the way Jackson commanded the loyalties of the Democrats, the Whigs were split among the Great Triumvirate - Clay, Webster and Calhoun
Webster represented party, won broad support for his passionate speeches in defense of the Union, but his close connection with the Bank of the US and the protective tariff, his reliance on rich men for financial support prevented him from developing a national constituency to win, but he was strong in New England
In the 1836 Election the Democrats united behind Martin Van Buren (Jackson’s choice) and the Whigs splintered and ran several candidates based on the regional strengths of each, in the South the Whigs ran Hugh Lawson White, in the Middle States and the West the Whigs ran William Henry Harrison, and in New England the Whigs ran Daniel Webster
The Whigs hoped that by running sectional candidates they might be able to keep Van Buren from winning a majority and throw the election into the House of Representatives where they might be able to elect one of their leaders, the strategy did not work Van Buren won the Election of 1836
Van Buren’s success in the Election of 1836 was a result of a nationwide boom in canal and railroad building which were at a peak of activity, prices were rising, money was plentiful and credit was easy as banks increased their loans and notes with little regard to their reserves of cash, in particular the land business was booming
Between 1835 and 1837 the U.S. government sold nearly 40 million acres of public land, nearly ¾ of it to land speculators who bought large tracts of land hoping to resell the land for a profit, these land sales coupled with the revenues received from the Tariff of 1833 meant that for the only time in our nations history the United States was out of debt with a surplus in the Treasury
Distribution Act required the government to pay its surplus funds to the states each year in four quarterly installments as interest free unsecured loans, which the states could then use for internal improvements, this required state banks to call in their loans so that they could in turn make the quarterly payments to the state governments
Financial Panic of 1837 – hundreds of banks and businesses failed, unemployment grew, bread riots broke out in cities, the price of land plummeted, many railroad and canal projects failed, several state governments ceased paying interest on their bonds, and some even repudiated their debts temporarily
It was the worst depression in American history up to that point, it lasted for 5 years, and was a political catastrophe for Van Buren and the Democrats which strongly opposed government intervention and did little to fight the depression
The “Independent Treasury” or “subtreasury” system required the government to place its funds in an independent treasury in Washington and in subtreasuries in other cities, no private banks would have the government’s money or name to use as a basis for speculation, the government and the banks would be “divorced”, this plan was finally approved by Congress in 1840, Van Buren’s last year in office
The Whigs presented themselves as the party of the common people even though they opposed Jackson’s common man democracy and represented the affluent elements of the population; they also favored policies that would aid businesses
The Democrats also portrayed themselves as the party of the people with simple rustic values
The Whigs campaign portrayed Harrison (wealthy member of the frontier elite with a considerable estate) as a simple man of the people who loved log cabins and hard cider, and they accused Van Buren of being an aloof aristocrat who used cologne, drank champagne, and ate from gold plates
Tyler had weak ties with the Whig party, was a former Democrat who left the party in reaction to what he considered Jackson's excessively egalitarian program and imperious methods, Tyler agreed to ending the independent treasury system and raising tariff rates, but refused to re-charter the Bank of the US and vetoed several internal improvements
A conference of congressional Whigs, led by Henry Clay, read Tyler out of the party, every cabinet member but Webster resigned, and five former Democrats took their places, finally Webster too left the Cabinet and Tyler appointed Calhoun (who had rejoined the Democratic party) to replace him
A new political alignment was emerging, Tyler and a small band of conservative southern Whigs were preparing to rejoin the Democrats with decidedly aristocratic ideas who thought that the government had an obligation to protect and even expand the institution of slavery, and who strongly believed in states’ rights
The Caroline Affair - Residents of eastern provinces of Canada launched a rebellion against the British colonial government, they chartered the American steamship "Caroline" to ship supplies across the Niagara River, British authorities seized and burned it, killing 1 American, the British government refused to disavow the attack or provide compensation for it
Authorities in New York arrested a Canadian named Alexander McLeod and charged him for murder, British Lord Palmerston demanded McLeod's release stating he was simply following orders, Secretary of State Webster could do nothing about it since McLeod was under NY jurisdiction, the crisis was averted when a New York jury acquitted McLeod
The Creole Affair – In 1841 an American ship sailed from Virginia to New Orleans with over 100 slaves on board, the slaves mutinied en route and sailed the ship to the Bahamas, British officials there declared the slaves free and the government in London refused to overrule them
Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 established a firm northern boundary between the US and Canada along the Maine-New Brunswick border, it gave the US a little bit more than half of the previously disputed Territory, and improved Anglo-American relations
In 1842 Britain forced China to open certain ports to foreign trade, Caleb Cushing was sent as commissioner to China to negotiate a treaty giving the US some part in the China trade, secured the Treaty of Wang Hya which gave most favored nation provisions to the Americans giving the US the same privileges as the English, as well as "extraterritoriality" (Americans in China would be tried in American courts), for the next 10 years American trade with China steadily increased