The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1824-1840.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 13.
The Era of Good Feelings, with its Panic of 1819 and its Missouri Compromise of 1820, was whisked away for the era of Jacksonian Democracy. For the first time, politics became more about ass-kissing and less about backroom deals. The voting rate climbed to 50% in 1828, the year Jackson was first elected President.
In 1824, there were four candidates vying for the highest office in the land: Clay, Crawford, Jackson, and Adams. Jackson ended up with getting a wide majority of the popular vote, but didn’t get a majority of electoral votes. According to the Twelfth Amendment, the vote for President then went to the House of Reps, with each state getting one vote. Clay, the Speaker of the House, hated Jackson’s love of the West and Jackson also hated Clay, who criticized his Floridian foray. With Crawford nearly dead, Clay was only left with one option and swayed the House to vote for Adams. Clay was then rewarded with the position of Secretary of State.
There was much uproar from the Jacksonians over this backroom deal, whereas most people used to be apathetic about it. John Quincy Adams, though perhaps elected illegitimately, was a brilliant Secretary of State, but a horrible president. His enemies decried him for corruption, while his supporters insisted he create vacancies for them in his administration (he would not). Adams was an ardent nationalist while most of the country was sectioning and advocating states’ rights. Adams wanted to instate a national observatory, but the country wouldn’t have it. The South especially hated his actions, believing that he would eventually come to meddle in slavery policy.
Adams again lost many supporters with his land-policy. Most westerners wanted the Indians off of ‘their’ land, but Adams wanted to negotiate with them first. Georgia went again his orders and evacuated the Indians from their state.
Going into the election of 1828, the Democrat-Republicans split off into the National Republicans, led by Adams, and the Democrats, led by Jackson, who was seen as a frontier-man. Adams never mudslang, but his supporters sure did. The main claims against Jackson were his whore mother and his bigamist wife, while Adams was falsely accused of using public funds for his gambling vice. Jackson ended up smothering Adams, who could only hang on to sparse parts of the Northeast.
Though Andrew Jackson was a great writer, once he moved to Tennessee, he joined fight club after fight club and engaged in many duels. Jackson was the first political outsider to be elected President and the first to be nominated at a national convention.. He didn’t have a college election and after his inauguration, he opened the White House to the public, who almost burnt it to the ground. His opponents were afraid that a mob similar to the one in the White House would come to rule his Presidency.
A favorite of Jackson, the spoils system (also known as patronage) rewarded political supporters with jobs. Adams is claimed to have done this with Clay following the 1824 election. Jackson defended his system by saying that everyone was equally better (if that makes any sense) and that most office positions were simple because of their routine. Jackson’s system nearly ruined his Presidency as many people, namely Swartwout, who stole $1 million from the gov’t, were unfit to do the jobs they were appointed to. The system did, however, lead to more party loyalty.
Before Jackson was elected, the Democrats passed a high-tariff bill, which they expected not to be signed by Adams, in order to make the President look really bad and lose support. Adams, feeling a little backasswards, signed it and the responsibilities were passed onto Jackson when he won the election. Southerns hated the tariff, which protected the industries of the North from European competition. With the high tariff, Southerns were forced to pay for manufactured goods at high prices. Also, the South’s cash crops, cotton and farm produce, weren’t protected by a tariff and weren’t selling for much. The tariff was a great scapegoat.
As mentioned before, the South was also scared that the government was going to interfere with slavery, as had happened in Britain. South Carolinians took the lead with The South Carolina Exposition, secretly written by Vice President John C. Calhoun. The document insisted that states nullify the tariff. In 1832, after another tariff was passed in hopes of calming the South, two-thirds of the SC legislature voted to call a special convention to nullify the tariff. Jackson, unlike Adams, wouldn’t take this shit. He sent both the army and navy down and threatened to invade.
Henry Clay was the only man stopping a premature civil war. Though a foe of Jackson, he organized a compromise in 1832 to lower the tariff by 10% over eight years. At the same time, the Force Bill was also passed, which gave the President the power to use military force to collect tariff dues.
Washington wanted to negotiate with the Indians before taking their land, though most of these negotiations were useless and the Americans took what they wanted. Loads of Americans liked the Indians, so long as we Christianized them. The Cherokees, the Seminoles, and the Creeks were part of the Five Civilized Tribes who assimilated until it hurt. After Georgia ruled that it held dominion over the Cherokees, they took the case to the Supreme Court, where aging John Marshall upheld the rights of the Indians.
The Democrats were fervent believers in westward expansion and wanted all the Indians to GTFO, just like in Chapter 1. Jackson went right over Marshall’s head and marched the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. The Indian Removal Act then passed in Congress in 1830 and countless Indians were forced to move west. The Bureau of Indians Affairs was also set up in 1836 to monitor Oklahoma, which was supposed to be a permanent home for the Native Americans. But the joke’s on us! This ‘permanent home’ stood for fifteen years until the government decided it wanted that land as well.
Black Hawk led an unsuccessful rebellion around Chicago while the Seminoles fought brilliantly in Florida for seven years.
Another pressing problem for Jackson was the Bank of the US. Jackson hated that the Bank because it held onto most of the US’ silver and gold and lorded over big business. Most banks printed paper money, which was more stable than gold or silver, and gave a lot of power over the economy to private bankers. The president of the bank, Nick Biddle, had lots of unconstitutional power over the country. They routinely foreclosed on farms in the west. Henry Clay pushed for early bank renewal in 1832, four years before it was set to expire. He wanted to make it a hot-button issue going into the election.
Clay hoped that the bill would leave Jackson with few options. If he okay’d it, the west wouldn’t like him anymore. If he vetoed it, he would alienate the wealthy. But the rich and wealthy now held less power than ever before and Jackson’s veto had little effect. Jackson’s veto of the bill was accompanied by him proclaiming that the Bank was unconstitutional and that the executive branch was better than the judicial branch, which had ruled the Bank constitutional in Marbury v. Madison (1819). His claim made it seem like the President was more important than the other branches combined.
In the election of 1832, Clay ran against Jackson to no avail. The Anti-Masonic party also ran a candidate and barely got any votes. They would reorganize themselves and evolve into the Whig party, but more on that later.
Before Biddle got the chance to save his bank, Jackson removed the federal deposits in the Bank, which effectively killed it. The move by Jackson was both unnecessary and unconstitutional. His move caused a series of ups and downs in the economy. At first, many states experienced surpluses, but with the rise of wildcat banks and their unreliable paper money, the country was headed for hell. They tried to stop this from happening with the Specie Circular, which required all public lands be purchased only with metallic money, but nothing could stop it now.
Jackson’s decision would lead to the Panic of 1837, which was successfully blamed on President Van Buren.