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Current R., Williams T. H., Freidel F., Brinkley A. American History: a survey. 7th edition; New York, 1987.


 

Chapter 10. Democracy in America

When the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States in 1831, one feature of American society struck him as "fundamental": the "general equality of condition among the people." Unlike older societies, in which privilege and wealth were passed from generation to generation within an entrenched upper class, America had no rigid distinctions of rank. "The government of democracy," he wrote in his classic study Democracy in America (1835-1840), "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."

Yet Tocqueville also wondered how long the fluidity of American society could survive in the face of the growth of manufacturing and the rise of the factory system. Industrialism, he feared, would create a large class of dependent workers and a small group of new aristocrats. For, as he explained it, "at the very moment at which the science of manufactures lowers the class of workmen, it raises the class of masters."

Americans, too, pondered the future of their democracy in these years of economic and territorial expansion. Some feared that the nation's rapid growth would produce social chaos and insisted that the country's first priority must be to establish order and a clear system of authority. Others argued that the greatest danger facing the nation was privilege and that society's goal should be to eliminate the favored status of powerful elites and make opportunity more widely available. The advocates of this latter vision seized control of the federal government in 1829 with the inauguration of Andrew Jackson.

Jackson and his followers were not egalitarians. They did nothing to challenge the existence of slavery; they supervised one of the most vicious assaults on American Indians in the nation's history; and they accepted the necessity of economic inequality and social gradation. Jackson himself was a frontier aristocrat, and most of those who served him were themselves people of wealth and standing. They were not, however, usually aristocrats by birth. They had, they believed, risen to prominence on the basis of their own talents and energies; and their goal in public life was to ensure that others like themselves would have the opportunity to do the same.

The "democratization" of government over which Andrew Jackson presided was permeated with the rhetoric of equality and aroused the excitement of working people. To the national leaders who promoted that democratization, however, its purpose was less to aid the farmers and laborers who were Jackson's greatest champions than to challenge the power of Eastern elites for the sake of the rising entrepreneurs of the South and the West.

The Advent of Mass Politics

On March 4, 1829, an unprecedented throngthousands of Americans from all regions of the country, including farmers, laborers, and others of humble rankcrowded before the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration of Andrew Jackson. After the ceremonies, the boisterous crowd poured down Pennsylvania Avenue, following their hero to the White House. And there, at a public reception open to all, they filled the state rooms to overflowing, trampling one another, soiling the carpets, ruining the elegantly upholstered sofas and chairs in their eagerness to shake the new president's hand. "It was a proud day for the people," wrote Amos Kendall, one of Jackson's closest political associates. "General Jackson is their own President." To other observers, however, the scene was less appealing. Justice of the Supreme Court Joseph Story, a friend and colleague of John Marshall, looked on the inaugural levee, as it was called, and remarked with disgust: "The reign of King 'Mob' seems triumphant."

In a sense, both Kendall and Story were correct. For if what some have called the "age of Jackson" did not mark the elevation of all Americans to prosperity and equality, it did mark a transformation of American politics that extended power widely to new groups. Formerly the preserve of a relatively small group of property owners, politics now became the province of virtually all the nation's citizens (that is, all its white males; for few Jacksonians were willing to contemplate the participation of women or blacks in the electoral process). In a political sense at least, the era well earned its title "the age of the common man."

President of the Common Man

Unlike Thomas Jefferson, Jackson was no democratic philosopher. Nevertheless, in his own plain, straightforward way, he too expressed a distinct theory of democracy. Government, he insisted, should offer "equal protection and equal benefits" to all the people. It should provide special favors to no one. Once in office, he set about to dismantle those institutions and policies that he believed worked to protect special privileges and restrict opportunity.

His first target was the personnel procedures of the federal government. For a generation, ever since the downfall of the Federalists in 1800, there had been no change of party in the national administration. Officeholders in Washington, therefore, had stayed on year after year, many of them growing gray and some of them growing corrupt. "Office is considered as a species of property," Jackson told Congress in a bitter denunciation of the entrenched "class" of permanent officeholders, "and government rather as a means of promoting individual interests than as an instrument created solely for the service of the people." Official duties, he believed, could be made "so plain and simple that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance." Offices belonged to the people, he argued, not to the entrenched officeholders. Or, as one of his henchmen, William L. Marcy of New York, more cynically put it, "To the victors belong the spoils."

In actual practice, Jackson did not do nearly as much as his partisan critics claimed to remove existing government employees and replace them with appointees of his own. During the entire eight years of his presidency he removed a total of no more than one-fifth of the federal officeholders; and many of them he removed for cause, such as misuse of government funds. Proportionally, Jackson dismissed no more of the jobholders than Jefferson had done. Nevertheless, by embracing the philosophy of the "spoils system," a system already well entrenched in a number of state governments, the Jackson administration fixed it firmly upon American politics.

Eventually the Jacksonians adopted another instrument of democratic politics: the national nominating convention. Jackson supporters had long resented the process by which presidential candidates were selected by congressional caucus, a process that they believed was designed to restrict access to the office to those favored by entrenched elites. Jackson himself had achieved office without resort to the caucus; and in 1832, to renominate him for the presidency, his followers staged the first national convention of a major party. Although in later generations the party convention would be seen by many as the source of corruption and political exclusivity, in the 1830s it was viewed as a great triumph of the people. Power in the party would, through the convention, arise directly from the populace, circumventing established political institutions.

Despite the rhetoric, however, the acceptance of the spoils system and the creation of the political convention exposed not only the extent but the limits of Jacksonian political democracy. Both served to limit the power of entrenched elitespermanent officeholders and the exclusive party caucus. Yet neither really transferred power to the common people. Appointments to office almost always went to prominent political allies of the president and his associates. Delegates to national conventions were less often common men than members of local party elites. Political opportunity within the party was expanding, but within narrow limits.

The Expanding Electorate

In other ways, however, Jacksonian politics did indeed transfer power to the population at large. For it was in this era that a true mass electorate emerged. The expansion of the franchise began in Ohio and other new states of the West, which, on joining the Union, adopted constitutions that guaranteed all adult white males the right to vote and permitted all voters the right to hold public office. Older states, concerned about the loss of their population to the West, began slowly and haltingly to grant additional political rights to their people so as to encourage them to stay. Even before the War of 1812 a few of the Eastern states had permitted white men to vote whether or not they owned property or paid a tax. Eventually, all the states (although some of them not until after the Civil War) changed their constitutions in the direction of increased democracy.

Change provoked resistance, and at times the democratic trend fell short of the aims of the more radical reformers, as when Massachusetts held its constitutional convention in 1820. Reform-minded delegates complained that in the Massachusetts government the rich were better represented than the poor, both because of the restrictions on voting and officeholding and because of the peculiar system of property representation in the state senate. But Daniel Webster, one of the conservative delegates, opposed democratic changes on the grounds that "power naturally   and necessarily   follows property" and that "property as such should have its weight and influence in political arrangement." Webster and the rest of the conservatives could not prevent the reform of senate representation, nor could they prevent elimination of the property requirement for voting. But, to the dismay of the radicals, the new constitution required that every voter be a taxpayer and that the governor be the owner of considerable real estate.

More often, however, it was the forces of democratization that prevailed in the states. In the New York convention of 1821, for example, conservatives led by Chancellor James Kent insisted that a taxpay-ing requirement for suffrage was not enough and that, at least in the election of state senators, the property qualification should be retained. Kent argued that society "is an association for the protection of property as well as of life" and that "the individual who contributes only one cent to the common stock ought not to have the same power and influence in directing the property concerns of the partnership as he who contributes his thousands." But reformers, citing the Declaration of Independence, maintained that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not property, were the main concerns of society and government. The property qualification was abolished.

The wave of state reforms was generally peaceful, but in Rhode Island democratization efforts created considerable instability. The Rhode Island constitution in the 1830s was still the old colonial charter, little changed; and under its terms, more than half the adult males of the state were disqualified as voters. The conservative legislature, representing this restricted electorate, consistently blocked all efforts at reform. In 1840, the lawyer and activist Thomas L. Dorr and a group of his followers formed a "People's party," held a convention, drafted a new constitution, and submitted it to a popular vote. It was overwhelmingly approved. The existing legislature, however, refused to accept the Dorr constitution and submitted one of its own to the voters; it was narrowly voted down. The Dorrites, in the meantime, had begun to set up a new government, under their own constitution, with Dorr as governor; and so, in 1842, two governments were laying claims to legitimacy in Rhode Island. The old state government proclaimed that Dorr and his followers were rebels and began to imprison them. The Dorrites, in the meantime, made a brief and ineffectual effort to capture the state arsenal. The Dorr Rebellion, as it was known, quickly failed, and Dorr himself surrendered and was briefly imprisoned. But the episode helped spur the old guard finally to draft a new constitution, which greatly expanded the suffrage.

In the South, democratization moved more slowly. Reformers in several states criticized the overrepresentation of the tidewater areas and the underrepresentation of the back country in the legislatures. The Virginia constitutional convention, which met in 1829, granted some slight concessions to the western counties, but not enough to satisfy the residents of the area. Elsewhere in the Southeast the planters and politicians of the older counties continued to dominate the state governments.

Other limitations on democratization survived as well. With few exceptions, free blacks could not vote anywhere in the South and hardly anywhere in the North. Pennsylvania at one time allowed black suffrage, but in 1838 it amended the state constitution to prohibit it. Women could vote in neither the North nor the South, regardless of the amount of property they might own. Everywhere the ballot was open, not secret, and often it was cast as a spoken vote rather than a written one. The lack of secrecy meant that voters could be, and often were, bribed or intimidated.

Despite the persisting limitations, however, the number of voters increased far more rapidly than did the population as a whole. And the result was a significant increase in political participation in both state and national elections. Indeed, one of the most striking political trends of the early nineteenth century was the change in the method of choosing presidential electors and the dramatic increase in popular participation in the process. In 1800, the legislature had chosen the presidential electors in ten of the states, and the people in only six. By 1828, electors were chosen by popular vote in every state but South Carolina, which had no popular presidential elections until after the Civil War. In the presidential election of 1824, fewer than 27 percent of adult white males had voted. In the election of 1828, the figure rose to about 58 percentmore than twice that in the preceding election. In 1832 and 1836, the proportion remained approximately the same as in 1828. But then, in 1840, people flocked to the polls as never before, 80 percent of white men casting their ballots. The multiplication of voters was only in part the result of a widening of the electorate. It was in greater measure the result of a heightening of interest in politics and a strengthening of party organization.

The Legitimation of Party

At the same time that the electorate was expanding and the number of elective offices was increasing, another, equally profound political development was in progress: the establishment of the idea of party as a legitimate part of American public life. Even at the peak of the first party system in 1800, virtually no one had been willing to accept the idea  of a party system. There was wide agreement that parties were evils to be avoided, that the nation should strive for a broad consensus in which permanent factional lines would not exist. But in the 1820s and 1830s, those assumptions gave way to a new view: that permanent, institutionalized parties were a desirable part of the political process, that indeed they were essential to democracy.

Like so many other American political developments, the elevation of the idea of party occurred first at the state level, most prominently in New York. There a dissident political faction under the leadership of Martin Van Buren (known as the "Bucktails" or the "Albany Regency") began in the years after the War of 1812 to challenge the political oligarchy led by the aristocratic governor, De Witt Clinton that had been dominating the state for years. In itself, the challenge was nothing new; factional rivalries occurred in virtually every state. What was new was the way in which Van Buren and his followers posed their challenge. Refuting the traditional view of a political party as undemocratic, they argued that only an institutionalized party, based in the populace at large, could ensure genuine democracy. The alternative was the sort of oligarchy that Clinton had created. In this new kind of party, ideological commitments would be less important than loyalty to the party itself. Preservation of the party as an institutionthrough the use of favors, rewards, and patronagewould be the principal goal of the leadership. Above all, for a party to survive, it must have a permanent opposition. The existence of two competing parties would give each political faction a sense of purpose and would force politicians to remain continually attuned to the will of the people. The opposing parties would check and balance each other in much the same way that the different branches of government checked and balanced one another.

By the late 1820s, this new idea of party was emerging in other states beyond New Yorkin Pennsylvania, for example, where the spoils system was introduced well before it was transplanted to the federal government. The election of Jackson in 1828, the result of a popular movement apparently removed from the usual political elites, seemed further to legitimize the idea of party. And finally, in the 1830s, a fully formed two-party system began to operate at the national level, with each party committed to its own existence as an institution and willing to accept the legitimacy of its opposition. "Parties of some sort must exist," said a New York newspaper. "'Tis in the nature and genius of our government."

"Our Federal Union"

True to the new concept of party, Andrew Jackson had won election on the basis of no clearly articulated program. His followerswho soon began to call themselves Democrats (no longer Democratic Republicans), thus giving a permanent name to what would become the nation's oldest political partyhad interests so diverse that a statement of precise aims would have alienated many of them at the outset. Yet Jackson entered office with certain strong convictions about the purposes of government and about the nature of the presidency. He believed that the federal government should work on behalf of the common man, eliminating the privileges of established elites. In general, that meant reducing the functions of government, since a concentration of power in Washington would, he believed, almost inevitably produce a restriction of opportunity to those favored few with political connections. But Jackson believed, too, in forceful presidential leadership. And although he spoke frequently of the importance of states' rights, he was strongly committed to the preservation of the Union. Thus at the same time that Jackson was contemplating an economic program to reduce the power of the national government, he was forced to assert the supremacy of the Union in the face of a potent challenge. For he had no sooner entered office than his own vice president-John Calhounbegan to assert a dangerous new constitutional theory: what became known as nullification.

Calhoun and Nullification

Calhoun was forty-six years old in 1828, a man with a distinguished past and what seemed to be a promising future. He had been a congressional leader during the War of 1812; he had served for eight years as head of the War Department (compiling a record as one of the few truly great secretaries of war); he had been vice president in John Quincy Adams's administration. And now, he was running for another term as vice president, this time with Andrew Jackson. Presumably he could look forward to the presidency itself.

But the tariffquestion confronted Calhoun with a dilemma. Once he had been a forthright protectionist, coming out strongly for the tariff of 1816. But since that time many South Carolinians had changed their minds on the subject. Carolina cotton planters were disturbed because their plantations were less profitable than they thought they should be. The whole state appeared to be stagnating, its population remaining almost stationary, its countryside showing signs of ruin and decay. One reason was the exhaustion of the South Carolina soil, which could not compete effectively with the newly opened fertile lands of the Southwest. But the Carolinians blamed their trouble on another causethe "tariff of abominations" of 1828. They argued that protective duties raised the prices of the things they had to buy, whether they bought them at home or from abroad. Some exasperated Carolinians were ready to seek escape from the hated law through revolutionthat is, through secession. This was a challenge Calhoun had to meet in order to maintain his leadership in the state and make a future for himself in national politics.

Quietly he worked out a theory to justify state action in resisting the tariff lawaction that would be effective yet that would stop short of secession. Because he wanted any such plan to be legal and constitutional, not revolutionary, he had to find a basis for it in the Constitution itself. And he did so by following the lines laid down by Madison and Jefferson in their Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798-1799.

Calhoun began with the assumption that sovereignty, the ultimate source of power, lay in the states, which were separate political communities. These separate peoples had created the federal government through their conventions that had ratified the Constitution in the 1780s. In the American political system, therefore, the states were the "principals," and the federal government was their "agent." The Constitution was a "compact" containing instructions within which the agent was to operate.

From these assumptions, the rest of his theory followed more or less logically. The Supreme Court was not competent to judge whether acts of Congress were constitutional, since the Court, like the Congress, was only a branch of an agency created by the states. The principals must decide, each for itself, whether their instructions had been violated. If Congress enacted a law of doubtful constitutionality say, a protective tariffa state could "interpose" to frustrate the law. That is, the people of the state could hold a convention, and if (through their elected delegates) they decided that Congress had gone too far, they could declare the federal law null and void within their state. In that state, the law would remain inoperative until three-fourths of the whole number of states should ratify an amendment to the Constitution specifically assigning Congress the power in question. The nullifying state would then submit to the will of the nation; or, if unwilling to do that, it could secede from the Union. The legislature of South Carolina published Calhoun's first statement of his theory in 1828, anonymously, in a document entitled The South Carolina Exposition and Protest. This paper condemned the "tariff of abominations" as unconstitutional, unfair, and unendurablea law fit to be nullified.

Calhoun's real hope, however, was that the theory of nullification would never be put to the test, that it would simply serve to pressure the federal government to respond to South Carolina's grievances. He hoped in particular that Jackson as president would persuade Congress to make drastic reductions in tariff rates. But Calhoun did not, he soon discovered, have as much influence in the new administration as he had hoped. He had a powerful rival for Jackson's favor in the person of Martin Van Buren.

The Rise of Van Buren

Van Buren was about the same age as Calhoun and equally ambitious. But he was very different in background and personality. Born of Dutch ancestry in the village of Kinderhook, near Albany, New York, he advanced himself through skillful maneuvering to the position of United States senator, a position he held from 1820 to 1828. He also made himself the party boss of his state by organizing and leading the Albany Regency, the Democratic machine of New York. Though he supported Crawford for president in 1824, he afterward became one of the most ardent of Jacksonians, doing much to carry his state for Jackson in 1828 while getting himself elected governor. By this time he had a reputation as a political wizard. Short and slight, with reddish-gold sideburns and a quiet manner, he gained a variety of revealing nicknames, such as "the Sage of Kinderhook," "the Little Magician/' and "the Red Fox." Never giving or taking offense, he was in temperament just the opposite of the choleric Jackson. But the two were soon to become the closest of friends. Van Buren promptly resigned the governorship and went to Washington in 1829 when Jackson called him to head the new cabinet as secretary of state.

Except for Van Buren, Jackson's cabinet contained no one of more than ordinary talent. It was assembled largely to represent and harmonize the sectional and factional interests within the party. The cabinet was not intended to form a council of advisers, and Jackson did not even call cabinet meetings. Instead, he relied on an unofficial circle of political allies who came to be known as the "Kitchen Cabinet." Noteworthy in this group were several newspaper editors, among them Isaac Hill, from New Hampshire, and Amos Kendall and Francis P. Blair, from Kentucky. After 1830, Blair edited the administration's official organ, the Washington Globe. Also influential was Jackson's old Tennessee friend and political manager William B. Lewis, who lived at the White House and had ready access to the president. But the most important of all was Van Buren, a member of both the official and the unofficial cabinets.

Vice President Calhoun, to his dismay, saw signs of Van Buren's growing influence when he viewed the division of the spoils. Not only did Van Buren get cabinet places for himself and his friends; he also secured the appointment of his followers to most of the lesser offices. Already, beneath the surface, there was the beginning of a rift between the vice president and the president. Then Calhoun and Jackson were further estranged, and Jackson and Van Buren were brought closer together, through a curious quarrel over a woman and etiquette.

Margaret O'Neale (generally known as Peggy) was the attractive and vivacious daughter of a Washington tavern keeper with whom both Andrew Jackson and his friend John H. Eaton had taken lodgings while serving as senators from Tennessee. Peggy was married at a young age to a navy purser and was the mother of two children; but rumors began to circulate in Washington in the mid-1820s that she and Senator Eaton had become "familiar." In 1828, Peggy's husband died, and she and Eaton were soon married, with Jackson's blessing. Only weeks after the wedding, Jackson named his friend Eaton to be his secretary of war and thus made the new Mrs. Eaton a cabinet wife. The rest of the administration wives, led by Mrs. Calhoun, were incensed and refused to receive her. Jackson was furious. His own wife, Rachel, now dead, had been slandered by his political enemies; and he was confident that Peggy Eaton too was an innocent victim of dirty politics. He not only defended her virtue; he demanded that his secretaries and associates treat her with respect and accept her into their social world. Calhoun, however, bowed to his wife's adamant demands and refused, thus taking sides against the president. Van Buren, who was a widower, befriended the Eatons and thus ingratiated himself with Jackson.

By 1831, partly as a result of the repercussions of the Peggy Eaton affair, Jackson had settled on Van Buren as his choice to succeed him in the White House. Calhoun's dreams of the presidency had all but vanished.

The Webster-Hayne Debate

If there had been only personal differences between Jackson and Calhoun, their parting would have been less significant. But there were also differences of principle. At the height of the Eaton affair, a great debate emerged on the nature of the Constitution that dramatically revealed the gulf between them.

The debate received its most dramatic and public expression in the United States Senate in January 1830. The controversy grew out of a seemingly routine Senate discussion of federal policy toward the public lands in the West. In the midst of the discussion, a senator from Connecticut suggested that all land sales and surveys be temporarily discontinued. Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, the Jacksonian leader in the Senate and a sturdy defender of the West, charged that the proposal to stop land sales was intended to keep New England workers from going West and would serve to choke off the growth and prosperity of the frontier.

Robert Y. Hayne, a young and eloquent senator from South Carolina, took up the argument after Benton. Hayne and other Southerners had no direct interest in the Western lands . But they hoped to win Western support for their drive to lower the tariff, and so they were willing to back the Westerners on this issue. Hayne suggested in his speech before the Senate that the South and the West were both victims of the tyranny of the Northeast, and he hinted that the two regions might well combine in self-defense against that tyranny.

Daniel Webster, now a senator from Massachusetts, had once been an advocate of states' rights and himself an opponent of tariffsin the waning days of the Federalist party. But like Calhoun, he had changed his position with the changing interests of his section. The day after Hayne's speech, Webster took the floor. Ignoring Benton, he directed his remarks to Hayne and, through him, to Calhoun in the vice president's chair. He reviewed much of the history of the republic, with occasional disregard for historical facts, to prove that New England always had been the friend of the West. Referring to the tariff of 1816, he said that New England was not responsible for the protectionist policy but had accepted it after other sections had fixed it upon the nation. Then, changing the subject, he spoke gravely of disunionists and disunionism in South Carolina.

Webster was, in effect, challenging Hayne to a debate not on the original grounds of the public lands and the tariff but on the issue of states' rights versus national power. Hayne, coached by Calhoun, responded with a defense of the theory of nullification. Webster listened and then spent two full afternoons delivering his remarkable second reply to Hayne, a speech that Northerners quoted and revered for years to come. "I go for the Constitution as it is, and for the Union as it is," he proclaimed, in a description of the "true principles" of the Constitution. "It is, Sir, the people's Constitution, the people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people." He concluded with the ringing appeal: "Liberty and Union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!"

Calhoun's followers were sure that Hayne had the better of the argument. The important question at the moment, however, was what President Jackson thought and what side, if any, he would take. The answer soon became clear at the annual banquet in honor of Thomas Jefferson, whom the Democrats considered the founder of their party. As was customary at such affairs, the guests settled down after dinner to hear a series of toasts. The president, urged on by Van Buren, had arrived with a prepared toast, which he had written down, underscoring certain words. When his turn came to speak, he stood up and proclaimed: "Our Federal   UnionIt must be preserved." While he spoke he looked sternly and directly at Calhoun. The diminutive Van Buren, who stood on his chair to see better from the far end of the table, thought he saw Calhoun's hand shake and a trickle of wine run down the outside of his glass. Calhoun responded to the president's toast with his own: "The Unionnext to our liberty most dear. May we always remember that it can only be preserved by distributing evenly the benefits and the burthens of the Union." Both in the Congress and in the executive branch, sharp lines had been drawn.

The Nullification Crisis

For more than two years, the sectional tensions aroused by the Webster-Hayne debate and the nullification doctrine continued without producing a direct confrontation between the federal government and the South. In 1832, however, the state of South Carolina precipitated a crisis. Having waited four years for Congress to repeal the "tariff of abominations," South Carolinians watched with anger as Congress enacted a new tariff that year which offered them virtually no relief. Some of the more militant South Carolinians were now ready for revolt. Had it not been for Calhoun, they might have attempted to withdraw the state from the Union. Having lost the confidence of Jackson, Calhoun was now an open advocate of nullification; and in the aftermath of the 1832 tariff, he persuaded extremists in South Carolina to adopt that doctrinenot secessionas their remedy. The question of whether to nullify the tariff act was the leading issue in the state elections of 1832, and the result was a ringing victory for the nullifies (although opponents of nullificationthe Unionistsconstituted a sizable minority; a referendum question on the issue passed 23,000 to 17,000).

Without delay, the newly elected legislature called for the election of delegates to a state convention. And the convention, once assembled, voted to declare null and void the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and to forbid the collection of duties within the state. The legislature then passed laws to enforce the ordinance and make preparations for military defense. The nul-lifiers needed strong leaders, they believed, to take command at home and to present the South Carolina case in Washington. They elected Hayne governor of the state; and they chose Calhoun to replace Hayne as senator. Calhoun resigned the vice presidency to defend his state's position in the Senate.

Andrew Jackson was outraged. Privately, he threatened to hang Calhoun. Publicly, he insisted that nullification was treason and that its adherents were traitors. Cooperating closely with the Unionists of South Carolina, he took steps to strengthen the federal forts in the state, ordering General Winfield Scott and a warship and several revenue cutters to Charleston.

When Congress convened early in 1833, the president asked for new and specific authority with which to handle the crisis. His followers introduced a "force bill" authorizing him to use the army and navy to see that acts of Congress were obeyed. Violence seemed a real possibility early in 1833, as Calhoun took his place in the Senate. He introduced a set of resolutions on the "constitutional compact" and then spoke out in opposition to the force bill.

Webster's reply to Calhoun on February 16, 1833, was less colorful and dramatic than his reply to Hayne three years earlier. But it dealt more fully and cogently with the constitutional issues at stake. The Constitution, Webster argued, was no mere compact among sovereign states. It was an "executed contract," an agreement to set up a permanent government, supreme within its allotted sphere and acting directly upon the people as a whole. Webster dismissed secession as a revolutionary but not a constitutional right, then denounced nullification as no right at all. The nullifiers, he said, rejected "the first great principle of all republican liberty; that is, that the majority must govern." They pretended to be concerned about minority rights, but they did not practice what they preached. "Look to South Carolina, at the present moment. How far are the rights of minorities there respected?" Obviously the nullification-ist majority was proceeding with a "relentless disregard" for the rights of the Unionist minority "a minority embracing, as the gentleman himself will admit, a large portion of the worth and respectability of the state."

At the moment Calhoun was in a predicament. South Carolina was standing alone. Not a single state had come to its support. It was itself divided, and it could not hope to prevail if a showdown with the federal government should come. If the nullifiers meekly yielded, however, they would lose face and their leader would be politically ruined. Calhoun was saved by the timely intervention of the "Great Pacificator," Henry Clay, who had been newly elected to the Senate. Clay consulted with Calhoun to devise a compromise by which the tariff would be lowered year after year, until in 1842 it would reach approximately the same level as in 1816. The compromise and the force bill were passed on the same day, March 1, 1833. Webster consistently opposed any concessions to the nullifiers, but Jackson was satisfied. He signed the new tariff measure as well as the force bill. In South Carolina, the convention reassembled and repealed its ordinance of nullification as applied to the tariffs of 1828 and 1832. But unwilling to allow Congress to have the last word, the convention adopted a new ordinance nullifying the force act. Both the force act itself and the nullification of it were, however, purely symbolic. The original tariff, against which the force act was directed, had already been repealed. Calhoun and his followers claimed a victory for nullification, which had, they insisted, forced the revision of the tariff. But the episode taught Calhoun and his allies an important lesson: No state could assert and maintain its rights by independent action. Calhoun continued in the following years to talk of states' rights and nullification. But he devoted himself primarily to building up a sense of Southern solidarity so that when another trial should come, the whole section might be prepared to act as a unit in resisting federal authority.

Jackson and States' Rights

Despite his ringing defense of the authority of the federal government in the nullification crisis, Andrew Jackson was not an opponent of the rights of the states. On the contrary, some of his most important decisions as president reflected his view that, as he had declared in his inaugural address, none but "constitutional" undertakings should be pursued by the federal government. Thus throughout his administration, he frequently vetoed laws that he considered to exceed the powers originally granted to Congress by the states.

The Maysville Road Bill of 1830 prompted the most significant of Jackson's vetoes. The bill authorized the government to buy stock in a private company so as to provide a federal subsidy for the construction of a turnpike from Maysville to Lexington, within the state of Kentucky. The Maysville pike was a segment of a projected highway that was to form a great southwestern branch of the National Road. Nevertheless, since the pike itself was an intrastate and not an interstate project, Jackson doubted whether Congress constitutionally could give aid to it. Earlier (in 1822) President Monroe had declared in a veto message that the federal government should support only those improvements that were of general rather than local importance. Now, with Van Buren's assistance, Jackson prepared a veto message based on similar grounds. He also urged economy, denounced the selfish "scramble for appropriations," and stressed the desirability of paying off the national debt. Although Jackson also refused to sign other appropriation bills, he did not object to every proposal for federal spending to build roads or improve rivers and harbors. During his two terms such expenditures continued to mount, far exceeding even those of the John Quincy Adams administration.

The Maysville veto was not popular in the West, where better transportation was a never-ending demand. Others of Jackson's policies, however, met with wholehearted approval in both the South and the Westmost prominently, his use of federal powers to remove all Indian tribes from the areas of white settlement.

The Removal of the Indians

There had never been any doubt about Andrew Jackson's attitude toward the Indian tribes that continued to live in the Eastern states and territories of the United States. He wanted them to move west, beyond the Mississippi, out of the way of expanding white settlement. Jackson's antipathy toward the Indians had a special intensity because of his own earlier experiences leading military campaigns against tribes along the Southern border. But in most respects, his views were little different from those of the majority of white Americans. They considered the Indians uncivilized (and probably uncivilizable) savages, who could not coexist with whites and whose cultures and societies were unworthy of respect. They feared that continued contact between the expanding white settlements and the Indian tribes would produce endless conflict and violence; and so they wanted the Indians to be separated from" the whites to avoid future clashes. Most of all, however, white Americans favored Indian removal because of their own insatiable desire for land. The tribes possessed valuable acreage in the path of expanding white settlement; whites wanted that territory.

The federal government had already taken significant strides toward removing the Indians from the East by the time Jackson entered the White House. But substantial tribal enclaves remained. In the Old Northwest, the long process of expelling the woodland Indians culminated in a last battle, in 1831-1832, between an alliance of Sac and Fox Indians under the fabled warrior Black Hawk and white settlers in Illij nois. The Indians had previously been resettled west of the Mississippi but had found life there difficult. Hungry and resentful, 1,000 of them crossed the Mississippi and reoccupied vacant lands in Illinois that another tribe had earlier ceded. White settlers in the region feared that the resettlement was the beginning of a sizable invasion; and they employed the Illinois state militia and regular army troops to repel the "invaders/' The Black Hawk War, as it became known, drove the tribes back across the Mississippi into Wisconsin. But unsatisfied with that, white troops pursued the Indians as they fled and slaughtered most of them. (Abraham Lincoln served as a captain of the militia but saw no action in the Black Hawk War; Jefferson Davis was a lieutenant in the regular army.)

More troubling to the government in the 1830s were the remaining Indian tribes in the South: in western Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. There lived what were known as the "Five Civilized Tribes"the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctawmost of whom had established settled agricultural societies with successful economies. The Cherokee in Georgia had formed a particularly stable and sophisticated culture, with its own written language and a formal constitution (adopted in 1827), which created an independent Cherokee Nation. They were, therefore, more reluctant to abandon their lands than many of the more nomadic tribes to the north. Even some whites argued that the Cherokee, unlike other tribes, should be allowed to retain their Eastern lands, since they had become such a successful and civilized society.

The federal government, to which the Constitution had delegated the power to negotiate with the Indian tribes, had worked steadily through the first decades of the nineteenth century to make treaties with the Southern Indians that would remove them to the West and open their lands for white settlement. But the negotiating process often did not proceed fast enough to satisfy the region's whites. The state of Georgia's independent effort to dislodge the Creek Indians, over the objection of President Adams, was one example of this impatience. (See p. 265.) That same impatience became evident early in Jackson's administration, when the legislatures in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi began extending their laws over the tribes remaining in their states. They received assistance in these efforts from Congress, which in 1830 passed the Removal Act (withjackson's approval), a measure that appropriated funds for negotiating treaties with the Southern tribes and relocating them to the west. The president quickly dispatched federal officials to negotiate nearly 100 new treaties with the remaining tribes. Thus the Southern tribes faced a combination of pressures from both the state and federal governments. Most tribes were too weak to resist such pressures, and they ceded their lands in return for only token payments. Some, however, resisted.

In Georgia, the Cherokee realized that they had no chance to stop these white encroachments militarily, and so they sought to stop them legally. They hired a prominent lawyer and appealed to the Supreme Court. In the case of Cherokee Nation   v. Georgia   (1831), Chief Justice Marshall refused to recognize the Cherokee as a truly independent nation; they were, he said in his majority opinion, "domestic dependents," "wards" of the federal government, which served as their "guardian." Nevertheless, Marshall also ruled that the Cherokee had a right to the land they occupied until they voluntarily ceded it to the United States. In another case, Worcester   v. Georgia   (1832), Marshall and the Court declared that the Cherokee Nation was a political community over which the laws of Georgia had no authority and into which Georgians could not enter without permission.

Jackson did not sympathize with the Cherokee as Adams had done with the Creek. By now, moreover, the debate over Indian removal had become entwined with the larger partisan battles over the direction of his administration's policies. Congressional opponents of the Removal Act of 1830 and subsequent Indian legislation had been motivated as much by a desire to frustrate and embarrass the president as by any real concern about the fate of the tribes. (The 1830 act had passed Congress by a perilously slim margin.) Jackson's support of the removal demands had been motivated in part by his desire to retain the allegiance of Southerners and Westerners on other issues. Thus the president had vigorously supported (and even actively encouraged) Georgia's efforts to remove the Cherokee prior to the Court decision. And his reaction to Marshall's rulings reflected his belief that the justices, too, were using the issue to express their own hostility to the larger aims of his presidency. When the chief justice announced the decision in Worcester   v. Georgia, Jackson reportedly responded with contempt: "John Marshall has made his decision," he is said to have stated. "Now let him enforce it." The decision was not enforced.

In 1835, the government extracted a treaty from a minority faction of the Cherokee, none of whose members was a chosen representative of the Cherokee Nation. The treaty ceded to Georgia the tribe's land in that state in return for $5 million and a reservation west of the Mississippi. The great majority of the 17,000 Cherokee did not recognize the treaty as legitimate and refused to leave their homes. But Jackson was not to be thwarted. He sent an army of 7,000 under General Winfield Scott to round them up and drive them westward at bayonet point.

About 1,000 Cherokee fled across the state line to North Carolina, where eventually the federal government provided a reservation for them in the Smoky Mountains, which survives today. But most of the rest made the long, forced trek to Oklahoma, beginning in the winter of 1838. Along the way a Kentuckian observed: "Even aged females, apparently nearly ready to drop in the grave, were travelling with heavy burdens attached to their backs, sometimes on frozen ground and sometimes on muddy streets, with no covering for their feet." Thousands, perhaps a quarter or more of the emigres, perished before reaching their unwanted destination. In the new reservations in which they were now forced to live, the survivors were never to forget the hard journey. They called their route "The Trail Where They Cried," the Trail of Tears.

The Cherokee were not alone in experiencing the hardships of the Trail of Tears. Between 1830 and 1838, virtually all the Five Civilized Tribes were expelled from the Southern states and forced to relocate in the "Indian Territory" (formally created by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834) in what later became Oklahoma. The new territory seemed safely removed from existing white settlements and embraced land that most whites considered undesirable. It had the additional advantage, the government believed, of being bordered on the west by what explorers such as Lewis and Clark and Stephen H.Long had christened the "Great American Desert," land deemed unfit for white habitation. It seemed unlikely that whites would ever seek to settle along the western borders of the Indian Territory; thus the danger of whites surrounding the reservation and producing further conflict could be avoided.

The Choctaw of Mississippi and western Alabama were the first to make the trek, beginning in 1830. The Creek of eastern Alabama and western Georgia were moved out by the army in 1836. The Chickasaw in northern Mississippi began the long march westward a year later.

Only the Seminole in Florida managed effectively to resist the pressures, and even their success was limited. Like other tribes, the Seminole had agreed under pressure to a settlement (the 1832-1833 treaties of Payne's Landing and Fort Gibson) by which they ceded their lands and agreed to move to the Indian Territory within three years. Most did move west, but a substantial minorityunder the leadership of the chieftain Osceolarefused to leave and staged an uprising beginning in 1835 to defend their lands. (Joining the Indians in their struggle was a group of runaway black slaves who had been living with the tribe.) The Seminole War dragged on for years. Jackson sent troops to Florida, but the Seminole with their black associates were masters of guerrilla warfare in the jungly Everglades. Even after Osceola had been treacherously captured under a flag of truce and had died in prison; even after white troops had engaged in a systematic campaign of extermination against the resisting Indians and their black allies; even after 1,500 white soldiers had died and the federal government had spent $20 million on the struggle: even then, followers of Osceola remained in Florida. Finally, in 1842, the government abandoned the war. By then, many of the Seminole had been either killed or forced westward. But the relocation of the Seminole, unlike the relocation of most of the other tribes, was never complete.

By the end of the 1830s, virtually all the important Indian societies east of the Mississippi (with a few exceptions such as the Seminole) had been removed to the West. The tribes had ceded over 100 million acres of Eastern land to the federal government; they had received in return about $68 million and 32 million acres in the far less hospitable lands west of the Mississippi between the Missouri and Red rivers. There they lived, divided by tribe into a series of sharply defined reservations, in a territory surrounded by a string of United States forts to keep them in (and to keep most whites out), in a region whose climate and topography bore little relation to anything they had known before. Eventually, even this forlorn enclave would face encroachments from white civilization. But by then, the once-proud tribes would be reduced to such poverty and desolation that they would have little strength to resist.

Jackson and the Bank War

How far Jackson was willing to go to destroy the power of what he considered institutions of centralized elite power was clearly revealed in one of the most celebrated episodes of his presidency: the war against the Bank of the United States. His opponents in this case, he believed, were the same Eastern aristocrats he had battled throughout his political career. So he approached his battle with them with special fervor.

The Bank of the United States was a private corporation chartered by the federal government, which owned one-fifth of the Bank's stock. The Bank was a monopoly, with the exclusive right to hold the government's own deposits. With its headquarters in Philadelphia and its branches in twenty-nine other cities, it also did a tremendous business in general banking, totaling about $70 million a year. Its services were important to the national economy because of the credit it provided for profit-making enterprises; because of its bank notes, which circulated throughout the country as a dependable medium of exchange; and because of the restraining effect that its policies had on the less well managed banks chartered by the various states. Nevertheless, Andrew Jackson was determined to destroy it.

Biddle's Institution

Nicholas Biddle, president of the Bank from 1823 on, had done much to put the institution on a sound and prosperous basis. A member of an aristocratic Philadelphia family, Biddle was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and pursued, in addition to his financial interests, a number of intellectual activities, including poetry. He personally owned a large proportion of the Bank's stock, so much of it that together with two other large stockholders he controlled the Bank. He could and did choose the officials of the branches, decide what loans were to be made, and set the interest rates. For several years after he took charge, he made these decisions according to financial considerations. A banker, not a politician, he had no desire to mix in politics. But he finally concluded it was necessary to do so in self-defense when, with the encouragement of Jackson, popular opposition to the Bank rose to a threatening pitch.

Opposition came from two very different groups: "soft money" people and "hard money" people. Advocates of soft money consisted largely of state bankers and their allies. They objected to the Bank of the United States because it restrained the state banks from issuing notes as freely as some of them would have liked. The Philadelphia bank inhibited the issue of such notes by collecting them and presenting them for payment in cash, thus forcing the local banks to retain sufficient reserves to redeem the paper. The other set of critics, the hard-money people, had the opposite complaint. They believed that coin was the only safe currency, and they condemned all banks of issuethat is, all banks issuing bank noteswhether chartered by the states or (as in the case of the Bank of the United States) by the federal government. The soft-money advocates were believers in rapid economic growth, speculation, the "main chance." The hard-money forces tended to cling to older ideas of "public virtue" and to look with suspicion on reckless expansion and speculation.

Jackson himself supported the hard-money position. Many years before, he had been involved in grandiose land and mercantile speculations based on paper credit. His business had been ruined and he himself had fallen deeply into debt as a result of the Panic of 1797. Thereafter he was suspicious of all banks. Once he became president, he expressed that suspicion by suggesting that the charter of the Bank of the United States should not be renewed. Unless renewed, it would expire in 1836.

To preserve the institution, Biddle began to grant banking favors to influential men in the hope of winning them to his side. At first he sought to cultivate Jackson's supporters, with some success in a few instances. Then he turned more and more to Jackson's opponents. He extended loans on easy terms to several prominent newspaper editors, to a number of important state politicians, and to more than fifty congressmen and senators. In particular, he relied on Senators Clay and Webster, the latter of whom was connected with the Bank in various waysas legal counsel, director of the Boston branch, frequent and heavy borrower, and Biddle's personal friend.

Clay, Webster, and other advisers persuaded Biddle to apply to Congress for a recharter bill in 1832, four years ahead of the expiration date. After investigating the Bank and its business, Congress passed the recharter bill. Jackson at once vetoed it, sending it back to Congress with a stirring message in which he denounced the Bank as unconstitutional, undemocratic, and un-American. The Bank's friends in Congress failed to obtain the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto. And the Bank question emerged as the paramount issue of the coming election, just as Clay had hoped.

In 1832, Clay ran as the unanimous choice of the National Republicans, who had held a nominating convention in Baltimore late in the previous year. Jackson, with Van Buren as his running mate, sought reelection as the candidate of the Democrats). Still another candidate was in the field, representing a third party for the first time in American history. He was William Wirt, a prominent Baltimore lawyer and man of letters, the nominee of the Anti-Mason party. (See pp. 290-291.) Wirt drew more votes from Clay than from Jackson (although he opposed the president far more bitterly than he did Clay). But he was not a major factor in the election; he carried only the state of Vermont. The legislature of South Carolina gave that state's electoral vote in protest to a man who was not even a candidate, John Floyd, one of Calhoun's Virginia followers. Despite this varied opposition, Jackson won reelection overwhelmingly. He received 55 percent of the popular vote and 219 electoral votes (more than four times as many as Clay). If the Bank was the issue, Jackson's stance had received a ringing public endorsement.

The "Monster" Destroyed

Jackson, at least, interpreted his reelection as a mandate to continue his war on the bank. As soon as the nullification crisis was resolved, he determined to strike a decisive blow at the "monster." He could not abolish the institution before the expiration of its charter, but he could lessen its power in the meantime. He resolved to remove the government's deposits from the Bank. Under the law establishing the Bank, the secretary of the treasury had to give the actual order to remove them. The incumbent secretary, who believed that such an action would destabilize the financial system, refused to give the order. Jackson removed him and appointed a replacement. When the new secretary similarly procrastinated, Jackson named a third: Roger B. Taney, the attorney general, a close friend and ally of the president. Taney was more than willing to cooperate.

With Taney at the head of the Treasury Department, the process of removing the government's deposits began immediately. The government stopped putting new funds in the Bank but continued paying its bills by drawing on its existing deposits, which steadily dwindled. Meanwhile the government opened accounts with a number of state banks, depositing its incoming receipts with them. These banks, including one in Baltimore with which Taney himself was associated, were chosen presumably on the basis of their financial soundness but not always without consideration of their political leanings. Jackson's enemies called them his "pet banks." By 1836 there were eighty-nine of them.

The proud and poetic Biddle, "Czar Nicholas" to Jacksonians, was not a man to give in without a fight. "This worthy President," he wrote sarcastically, "thinks that because he has scalped Indians and imprisoned Judges, he is to have his way with the Bank. He is mistaken." When the administration began to transfer funds directly from the Bank of the United States to the pet banks (as opposed to the earlier practice of simply depositing new funds in those banks), Biddle struck back. The loss of these government deposits, amounting to several millions, made it necessary, he claimed, to call in loans and raise interest rates, since the government deposits had served as the basis for much of the Bank's credit. He realized that by making borrowing more difficult, he was bound to hurt business and cause unemployment; but he consoled himself with the belief that a short depression would help to bring about a recharter of the Bank. "Nothing but the evidence of suffering," he told the head of the Boston branch, would "produce any effect in Congress."

During the winter of 1833-1834, with interest high and money scarce, there was suffering indeed, as many businesses failed and thousands of workers lost their jobs. All over the country, friends of the Bank organized meetings to adopt petitions begging for relief from Congress, petitions that delegates then brought in person to Washington and that pro-Bank senators or representatives introduced with appropriately gloomy speeches. But Jackson and the Jacksonians denied responsibility. When distressed citizens appealed to the president he answered, "Go to Biddle."

The banker finally carried his contraction of credit too far to suit his own friends among the anti-Jackson business interests of the Northeast, and some of them did go to Biddle. A group of New York and Boston merchants protested (as one of them reported) that the business community "ought not and would not sustain him in further pressure, which he very well knew was not necessary for the safety of the bank, and in which his whole object was to coerce a charter." To appease the business community, Biddle at last reversed himself and began to grant credit in abundance and on reasonable terms. His hopes of winning a recharter of the Bank died in the process. The "Bank War" was over, and Jackson had won it. But with the passing of the Bank of the United States, on the expiration of its charter in 1836, the country lost an indispensable financial institution. Economic troubles lay ahead.

The Taney Court

The discouraging aftermath of the Bank War did not weaken Jackson's commitment to "democratizing" the nation's political and economic life. On the contrary, he continued to move forcefully against what he perceived to be institutions of aristocratic privilege and excessive federal power. And in 1835, he moved against the most powerful institution of economic nationalism of all: the Supreme Court. When John Marshall died in 1835, the president appointed as the new chief justice his trusted ally in the Bank War, Roger B. Taneya man fervently committed to Jacksonian democracy.

Taney never dominated the Court in the way Marshall had managed to do, nor did he preside over a sharp break in constitutional interpretation. But he did help produce a marked change in emphasis. Taney and the majority of his colleagues were moderate agrarian liberals; in general, they tended to support the right of the people, acting through state legislatures, to regulate private property rights and the activities of corporations. Although they stopped far short of accepting Calhoun's extreme states' rights philosophy, the justices were modifying Marshall's vigorous nationalism.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the new judicial mood was the celebrated case of Charles River Bridge v. Warren Bridge of 1837. The case involved a dispute between two Massachusetts companies over the right to build a bridge across the Charles River between Boston and Cambridge. One company had a longstanding charter from the state to operate a toll bridge for a specified number of years, a charter that guaranteed it, the firm claimed, a monopoly of the bridge traffic. The second company had applied to the legislature for authorization to construct a second, competing bridge that wouldsince it would be toll-freegreatly reduce the value of the first company's charter. The first company contended that in granting the second charter the legislature was engaging in a breach of contract.

The Marshall Court, in the Dartmouth College case and other decisions, had ruled clearly that states had no right to abrogate contracts. But now Taney, speaking for the Democratic majority on the Court, supported the right of Massachusetts to award the second charter. Although he advanced elaborate legal precedents to support the decision, the ruling reflected less the influence of the law than the influence of Jacksonian social theory. The object of government, Taney maintained, was to promote the general happiness, an object that took precedence over the rights of property. A state, therefore, had the right to amend or abrogate a contract if such action was necessary to advance the well-being of the community.

In the Charles River Bridge case, he maintained, such abrogation had been clearly necessary. The original bridge company, by exercising a monopoly, was benefiting from unjustifiable privilege. (It did not help the first company that its members were largely Boston aristocrats and that it was closely associated with elite Harvard College; the challenging company, by contrast, was composed largely of newer, aspiring entrepreneursthe sort of people with whom Jackson and his allies instinctively identified.) The decision was another indication of one of the cornerstones of Jacksonian philosophy. The key to democracy was an expansion of economic opportunity, which would not occur if older corporations could maintain monopolies and choke off competition from newer companies.

The Emergence of the Second Party System

Jackson's forcefulsome claimed tyrannicaltactics in crushing first the nullification movement and then the Bank of the United States helped galvanize a growing opposition coalition that by the mid-1830s was ready to assert itself in national politics. It began as a gathering of national political leaders opposed to Jackson's use of power. Denouncing the president as "King Andrew I," they began to refer to themselves as Whigs, after the party in England that traditionally worked to limit the power of the king. As the new party began to develop as a national organization with constituencies in every state, its appeal became more diffuse. Nevertheless, both in philosophy and in the character of its adherents, the Whig party offered a discernible contrast to the party of Jackson.

The partisan competition of the 1820s and 1830s produced what has come to be known as the "second party system." The first party systemthe system that began in the 1790s between the Federalists and the Republicanshad begun to collapse early in the nineteenth century. By 1816, the Federalist party was virtually extinct, and nothing had emerged to replace it. Political battles revolved for a time not around parties, but around shifting and usually temporary factional alignments. But in the 1820s, divisions began to emerge that seemed more lastingdivisions that ultimately produced a new two-party system consisting of the Whigs and the Democrats. And also in the 1820s, Americans began to admit for the first time that parties had a legitimate role to play in national politics.

Party Philosophies

Even before the election of Jackson in 1828, those who would ultimately form the Democratic party had stood for a certain general approach to government and society; and during the years of the Jackson administration, that approach began to take the form of something similar to a philosophy. To the Democrats, America's future was to be one of steadily expanding opportunities. To that end, the federal government should be limited in power, the rights of states should be protected, and the nation should work to eliminate all social and economic arrangements that served to entrench privilege and stifle the common man. Jacksonians tended to romanticize the "honest workers," the "simple farmers," and the "forthright businessmen" who stood, they believed, in sharp contrast to the corrupt, monopolistic, aristocratic forces of established wealth. As Jackson himself said in his farewell address, the society of America should be one in which "the planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer, all know that their success depends on their own industry and economy," in which no man's opportunity would be stifled by artificial privilege.

There was no necessary connection between this philosophy of a fluid, open society and opposition to economic development; and indeed, many Jacksonians believed wholeheartedly in the necessity of material progress. Yet in practice, Democrats were far more likely than others to look with suspicion on proposals for stimulating modern commercial and industrial growth. They tended to associate such growth with the creation of menacing institutions of powerthe Bank of the United States, for example; and they often spoke yearningly of a simpler era in which no such concentrations of privilege had existed. Both in Washington and in state governments, Democratic legislators, much more often than their Whig counterparts, opposed such modernizing institutions as chartered banks and corporations, state-supported internal improvements, even public schools. Rather than economic development and consolidation, Democrats favored territorial expansion, which would, they believed, widen opportunities for aspiring Americans. And among the most radical members of the partythe so-called Locofocos, mainly workingmen and small businessmen and professionals in the Northeastsentiment was strong for a vigorous, ultimately perhaps even violent, assault on monopoly and privilege far in advance of anything Jackson himself ever contemplated.

The political philosophy that became known as Whiggery, by contrast, looked far more favorably on expanding the power of the federal government, encouraging industrial and commercial development, and knitting the country together into a consolidated economic system. While Democrats often looked with suspicion on such technological advances as railroads, telegraphs, and manufacturing machinery, Whigs embraced such material progress enthusiastically. And where Democrats advocated rapid geographic expansion, Whigs urged a more prudent, cautious movement into the West, fearful that too rapid territorial growth would produce instability.

Their vision of America was of a nation embracing the industrial future, of a nation rising to world greatness as a commercial and manufacturing power. And although Whigs insisted that their vision would result in increasing opportunities for all Americans, they tended to attribute particular value to the enterprising, modernizing forces in their societythe entrepreneurs and institutions that most effectively promoted economic growth. Thus while Democrats were inclined to oppose legislation establishing banks, corporations, and other modernizing institutions, Whigs generally favored such measures.

Party Constituencies

To some extent, the constituencies of the two major parties were reflections of these diffuse philosophies. The Whigs were strongest among the more substantial merchants and manufacturers of the Northeast; the wealthier planters of the South (those who favored commercial development and the strengthening of ties with the North); and the ambitious farmers and rising commercial class of the Westusually migrants from the Northeastwho advocated internal improvements, expanding trade, and rapid economic progress. The Democrats drew more support from the smaller merchants and the workingmen of the Northeast; from those Southern planters who looked with some suspicion on Northern industrial growth; and from those Westernersusually with Southern rootswho favored a predominantly agrarian economy and opposed the development of powerful economic institutions in their region. Whigs, in short, tended to be wealthier than Democrats, tended to have more aristocratic backgrounds, and tended to be more commercially ambitious.

But party divisions were not always so simple. For one thing, although Democrats tended to be people of more modest means than Whigs, they did not include those most conspicuously excluded from economic opportunity. Some of the poorest residents of the Northeastunskilled laborers, recent Protestant immigrants, and othersgravitated toward the Whigs. To them, the Democrats, often representatives of the lower middle class that stood one rung above them on the social ladder, seemed more menacing and hostile than the Whigs.

Furthermore, Whigs and Democrats alike were more interested in winning elections than in maintaining philosophical purity. And both parties made adjustments from region to region in order to attract the largest possible number of voters, so that often the original ideology of the party appeared to be almost lost. In New York, for example, the Whigs under the leadership of party boss Thurlow Weed-developed a large popular following by turning the Democrats' own tactics against their opponents. Their vehicle was a movement known as Anti-Masonry. The so-called Anti-Mason party had emerged in the 1820s in response to widespread resentment against the secret and exclusive, hence supposedly undemocratic, Society of Freemasons. Such resentments rose to new heights when, in 1826, a former Mason, William Morgan, mysteriously disappeared from his home in Batavia, New York, shortly before he was scheduled to publish a book purporting to expose the secrets of Freemasonry. The assumption was widespread that Morgan had been abducted and murdered by the vengeful Masons. Weed and other opponents of Jackson seized on the Anti-Mason frenzy to launch spirited attacks on Jackson and Van Buren (both Freemasons), implying that the Democrats were connected with the antidemocratic conspiracy. The excitement soon spread to other statesmost notably Pennsylvania; and in 1831, some Anti-Masons broke with the Whigs and held their own national convention in Harrisburg to nominate a presidential candidateWilliam Wirtfor the next year's campaign. (Their campaign, ironically, benefited Andrew Jackson above all).

By embracing Anti-Masonry, Whigs discovered a vehicle that permitted them to portray themselves to the public as opponents of aristocracy and exclusivity. They were, in other words, attacking the Democrats with the Democrats' own issues. Both parties, therefore, were adopting the rhetoric of democracy and equality; and the specific issues that divided them in their legislative battles were often obscured in actual campaigns.

Religious and ethnic divisions also played an important role in determining the constituencies of the two parties. Irish Catholics, one of the largest of the recent immigrant groups, tended to support the Democrats, who appeared to reflect their own vague aversion to commercial development and entrepreneurial progress. And not only Irish but German Catholics found the Democrats far more willing than the Whigs to respect and protect their cultural values and habits. Catholics resented such Whiggish reform movements as temperance, public education, and enforced Sabbath observance, seeing them as attempts to impose Protestant moral standards on them.

Evangelical Protestants gravitated toward the Whigs for the same reasons that Catholics opposed the new party. Such Protestants embraced a religious and cultural outlook that encouraged constant development and improvement. They envisioned a society progressing steadily toward unity and order, and they looked on the new immigrant communities as a threat to that progressas groups that needed to be disciplined and taught "American" ways. They liked to claim that immigrants supported the Democratic party because the Democrats engaged in shameless vote buying and other frauds. But their own cultural outlook was far more to blame for their failure to attract support from such groups. In many communities, these and other local ethnic, religious, and cultural tensions were far more influential in determining party alignments than any concrete political or economic proposals.

Party Leadership

If presidential politics were indicative of popular favor, it would be fair to say that the Whigs, in the more than twenty years of their existence as a party, enjoyed relatively little public support. Only in 1840 and 1848 were Whig candidates able to capture the White House, and in each of those elections the winning contestant was a popular military hero. Yet when elections at every levelcongressional, state, and local, as well as presidentialare considered, the balance between the two parties appears much more even.

The Democrats maintained their edge over the Whigs at the level of national leadership largely because of the popularity of a single man. Throughout the 1830s, the Democratic party was the party of Andrew Jacksonbeloved war hero, champion of the people, a political figure of such magnetism that no opponent could hope to match him. The Whigs, on the other hand, rallied behind three national leaderseach a powerful and charismatic figure in his own right, but each, too, a man with significant political limitations. Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun all brought their own formidable constituencies into the Whig coalition. (All also brought their own intense ambitions for the presidency.) But none was ever able to forge a truly national constituency capable of winning a presidential election.

The glamorous Clay, "Harry of the West," won many supporters throughout the country through his support for internal improvements and economic developmentthe American System. But his image as a devious political operator and his regional identification with the West proved an insuperable liability. He ran for president three times and never won. Daniel Webster, the greatest orator of his era, gained fame and respect for his passionate speeches in defense of the Constitution and the Union. Some of his admirers, of whom a large number were wealthy businessmen, considered him a greater man than any president. But Webster's close connection with the Bank of the United States and the protective tariff, his reliance on rich men for financial support, and his unfortunate and often embarrassing fondness for brandyall prevented him from developing enough of a national constituency to win him the office he so desperately wanted.

John C. Calhoun, the third member of what became known as the Great Triumvirate, was equally controversial. He never considered himself a true Whig, and his identification with the nullification controversy in effect disqualified him from national leadership in any case. Yet he sided with Clay and Webster on the issue of the national bank. And he shared with them a strong animosity toward Andrew Jackson. Calhoun did not embrace the belief of most Southern Whigs in the importance of commercial development. He did, however, produce reasons of his own for advocating an alliance between the upper classes of the two regions. In his South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828 and in later writings, he presented a critique of modern capitalism that in its frank predictions of class struggle resembled much of what Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would say in later decadesalthough Calhoun drew from those predictions very different prescriptions for social action than Marx and Engels would produce. Capitalist society would, Calhoun predicted, inevitably become divided into two classes: "capitalists" and "operatives." The former, he argued, would expropriate and impoverish the latter; and unless steps were taken to prevent it, a revolutionary struggle would ensue. "There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization," he insisted in 1837, "a conflict between labor and capital." Northern businessmen had a common interest with Southern planters, therefore, in working to prevent the revolutionary danger by protecting their position against threats from below. Such views found scant sympathy among Northern Whigs. Webster, for example, admitted that "in the old countries of Europe there is a clear and well-defined line between capital and labor"; but he declared that there was no line so "broad, marked, and visible" in the United States.

The Whigs, in other words, were able to marshal an imposing array of national leaders, each with his own powerful constituency. Yet for many years they were unable to find a way to merge those constituencies into a single winning combination. The result was that the Democrats for a time, as in the election of 1836, appeared far more dominant than they actually were.

The Crowded Campaign of 1836

The importance of incumbency in the age of party politics became abundantly clear in 1836. Despite the growing power of the Whigs, Jackson and the Democrats continued to control federal appointments and contracts; and they made liberal use of their patronage powers to bolster the fortunes of their candidates. The party also benefited from Jackson's continuing popularity and from its elaborate party organization. With little debate, the party convention nominated Jackson's personal favorite, Martin Van Buren, as its candidate for president.

The Whigs in 1836 could boast no such unity and discipline. Indeed, they could not even agree on a single candidate. Their strategy, masterminded by Biddle, was to run several candidates, each of them supposedly strong in one part of the country, Webster would represent them in New England; Hugh Lawson White of Tennessee would seek the votes of the South; and the former Indian fighter and hero of the War of 1812 from Ohio, William Henry Harrison, would attract support in the middle states and in the West. As Biddle advised: "This disease is to be treated as a local disorderapply local remediesif General Harrison will run better than anybody else in Penn sylvania, by all means unite upon him." None of the three candidates could expect to get a majority in the electoral college, but separately they might draw enough votes from Van Buren to prevent his getting a majority. The decision would then rest, as in 1824-1825, with the House of Representatives, where the Whigs might be better able to elect one of their candidates. But the three Whigs proved to be no match for the one Democrat. When the returns were in, Van Buren had 170 electoral votes to 124 for all his opponents.

Post-Jacksonian Politics

Andrew Jackson retired from public life in 1837, the most beloved political figure of his age. He left the presidency in the hands of a friend and ally dedicated to continuing his policies and sustaining the political party he had helped to create. But Martin Van Buren was a different man from his predecessor, and also far less fortunate. Never was he able to establish the great

personal popularity that had sustained Jackson during the bleaker moments of his presidency. And unlike Jackson, Van Buren was plagued throughout his administration with economic difficulties that contributed to the strengthening of the Whigs. For the next eight years, party politics would be highly competitive and often deeply embittered.

Economic Dilemmas

Van Buren's success in the 1836 election was a result in part of a nationwide economic boom that was reaching its height in that year. Canal and railroad builders were at a peak of activity. Prices were rising as people indulged in an orgy of spending and speculating. Money was plentifulmost of it manufactured by the banks, which multiplied their loans and notes with little regard to their reserves of cash. By 1837, bank loans outstanding amounted to five times as much as in 1830. Never had the nation seemed so prosperous.

Land as usual was a favorite target of speculation, especially the land sold by the federal government. After congressional legislation in 1821 had abolished installment buying and set the minimum price at $1.25 an acre, sales of public lands had slowed. They averaged 300,000 to 400,000 acres a year in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Then the business suddenly boomed. Between 1835 and 1837 nearly 40 million acres were disposed of, and the expression "doing a land-office business" came into use to describe fast selling of any kind. Nearly three-fourths of the land being sold went to speculators, who acquired large tracts in the hope of reselling at a profit, and only about one-fourth of it to actual settlers. Speculators generally borrowed from the banks to make payment at the land offices.

For the moment, the government enjoyed great profits from the booming business. Receipts from land sales, which had averaged less than $2.4 million annually for the ten years preceding 1835, rose to more than $24 million in 1836. These land sales, when combined with the revenues the government received from the compromise tariff of 1833, created a series of substantial federal budget surpluses and made possible a steady reduction of the national debt (something Jackson had always advocated). Finally, from 1835 to 1837, the government for the first and only time in its history was out of debt, with a substantial surplus in the Treasury.

The question for Congress and the administration was how to get rid of the Treasury surplus. Tampering with the tariff was out of the question; few people wanted to reopen that touchy subject so soon after the compromise that had put it to rest. Instead, support began to build for returning the federal surplus to the states. In 1836, Congress passed and Jackson signed a distribution act, which required the federal government to pay whatever surplus had accumulated by the end of the year (estimated at $40 million) to the states in four quarterly installments as a loan without security or interest. Each state would receive a share proportional to its representation in Congress. No one seriously expected the "loan" to be repaid. As the states began to receive their shares, they promptly spent the money, mainly to encourage the construction of highways, railroads, and canals. The distribution of the surplus thus gave further stimulus to the economic boom. At the same time the withdrawal of federal funds strained the pet banks, for they had to call in a large part of their own loans in order to make the transfer of funds to the state governments.

Congress did nothing to check the speculative fever, with which many congressmen themselves were badly infected. Webster, for one, was buying up thousands of acres in the West. But Jackson was concerned. Although money continued to pour into the Treasury from the land offices, most of it was paper of dubious value. The government was selling good land and was receiving in return a miscellaneous collection of state bank notes, none of them worth any more than the credit of the issuing bank. Jackson finally decided to act. In 1836, he issued the "specie circular," which announced that in the future only hard money or the notes of specie-paying banks (that is, notes backed by gold or silver) would be accepted in payment for public lands.

Jackson had been correct in fearing that the speculative fever was reaching dangerous proportions and that the banking system was seriously unstable. He was wrong, however, in thinking his specie circular would forestall further difficulties. Van Buren had been president less than three months when panic struck. The banks of New York, followed by those of the rest of the country, suddenly suspended specie payments (that is, they stopped paying gold and silver on demand for their bank notes and other obligations). During the next few years, hundreds of banks failed, and so did hundreds of other business firms. As unemployment grew, bread riots occurred in some of the larger cities. Prices fell, especially the price of land. Webster was only one of a great many who all at once found themselves "land poor." Many railroad and canal schemes were abandoned; several of the debt-burdened state governments ceased to pay interest on their bonds, and a few repudiated their debts, at least temporarily. The depression, the worst the American people had ever experienced, lasted for five years and proved catastrophic for Van Buren and the Democrats.

The Whigs blamed Jackson for the depression. It had come, they said, because of his destruction of the national bank and his mismanagement of public finance. But the whigs were also in part to blame. The distribution of the Treasury surplus had been a Whig measure, although Jackson had signed it. (With the onset of the panic, the distribution was halted before the entire surplus had been transferred to the states.) Distribution, by weakening the pet banks, helped to bring on the crash. So did Jackson's specie circular, which started a general run on the banks as land buyers rushed to trade in their bank notes for specie with which to make land-office payments. Distribution of the surplus and the specie circular only precipitated the depression, however; they did not cause it.

While the Bank of the United States, if continued, could have lessened the overexpansion of credit, a period of financial stringency doubtless would have come sooner or later. For this was an international depression, affecting England and Western Europe as well. English investors faced a financial crisis at home, and they began to withdraw funds from America; that accounted for part of the strain on American banks. Then a succession of crop failures on American farms not only reduced the purchasing power of farmers but also necessitated the import of foodstuffs; and payment for these imports drew additional money out of the country.

The Panic of 1837 had significant consequences beyond its immediate financial impact. Hard times increased social, sectional, and economic tensions. In the economically troubled cities, fears were rising that a real and dangerous class conflict was taking shape in America. Southern planters suffered heavy losses and became confirmed in their conviction that national policies worked to their disadvantage. The decline of business profits in the North intensified the belief of manufacturers that the compromise of 1833 must be undone and the tariff raised. Defaults on interest payments and outright repudiation of state bonds, many of them held by the English, added to difficulties in relations between the United States and Great Britain. And these accumulated grievances soon translated into dissatisfaction with the administration. Thus in 1840, the predominance of the Democrats came temporarily to an end.

The Van Buren Program

The modern concept that government can successfully fight depressions, and that it has an obligation to do so, did not exist in Van Buren's time. The only tradition of government intervention in economic matters was the Federalist-National Republican-Whig program of aid to business, to which Democrats were fiercely opposed. Consequently, Van Buren recommended but few direct antidepression measures. He advised Congress to authorize the borrowing of $10 million to meet expenses during the emergency, and Congress did so. He also urged that the government accept only specie for taxes and other payments.

In formulating a program of permanent legislation, the administration clearly reflected the wishes of the dominant farmer-labor segment of the party. The president urged Congress to reduce the price of public lands, and he recommended passage of a general "preemption'* bill giving settlers already in an area the right to buy 160 acres at a set minimum price before land in that area was opened for public sale. A bill graduating land prices downward passed the Senate three times but was blocked in the House. A similar fate befell the preemption bill.

Stymied by legislative opposition, Van Buren resorted to executive action to please his urban followers. By presidential order he established a ten-hour workday on all federal projects. For the first time in the nation's history, the government thus took direct action to aid the rising labor class.

The most important measure in the president's program, and the most controversial, was his proposal for a new fiscal system. With the Bank of the United States destroyed and with Jackson's expedient of pet banks discredited, some kind of new system was urgently needed. Van Buren's fiscal ideas demonstrated both his ingenuity and his commitment to Democratic principles. The plan he suggested, known as the "independent treasury" or "subtreasury" system, was simplicity itself. Government funds would be placed in an independent treasury at Washington and in subtreasuries in specified cities throughout the country. Whenever the government had to pay out money, its own agents would handle the funds. No bank or banks would have the government's money or name to use as a basis for speculation. The government and the banks would be "divorced."

Van Buren placed the independent treasury proposal before Congress in a special session he called in 1837. It encountered the immediate and bitter opposition of most Whigs and of many conservative Democrats. Twice a bill to establish an independent treasury passed the Senate only to fail in the House. Not until 1840, the last year of Van Buren's presidency, did the administration succeed in driving the measure through both houses of Congress.

The Log Cabin Campaign

As the campaign of 1840 approached, the Whigs scented victory. The effects of the depression still gripped thecountry, and the Democrats, the party in power, were thus vulnerable to attack. The Whigs now realized that a party representing the upper-income groups must, if it expected to win, pose as a party of the people.

The Whigs also realized that they would have to achieve more unity and a stronger organization than they had demonstrated in 1836. They would have to settle on one candidate who could appeal to all segments of the party and to all sections of the country.

Obviously, the easiest way to coordinate the party was through the new mechanism of. the national nominating convention, already used by the Democrats. Accordingly, the Whigs held their first convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in December 1839. Their veteran leader, Henry Clay, expected the nomination; but the party bosses decided otherwise. Clay had too definite a record; he had been defeated too many times; he had too many enemies. Passing him over, the convention nominated William Henry Harrison of Ohio, and for vice president, John Tyler of Virginia.

William Henry Harrison was a descendant of the Virginia aristocracy, but he had spent all his adult life in the Northwest, where he first went as a young army officer in General Wayne's campaign against the Indians. (See pp. 217.) Although he had little experience in government, he was a renowned Indian fighter (like Jackson) and a popular national figure.

The Democrats, meeting in national convention at Baltimore, nominated Van Buren, pointed proudly to their record (especially the independent treasury), and condemned all the works of the Whigs (especially the Bank of the United States). Demonstrating that their party was, in some respects, no more united than the Whigs, the Democrats failed to nominate a vice-presidential candidate, declaring vaguely that they would leave the choice of that office to the wisdom of the voters.

The campaign of 1840 displayed in full the effects of an established party system on American politics and, in so doing, established a new pattern for presidential contests. The Whigswho had emerged as a party largely because of their opposition to Andrew Jackson's common-man democracy, who in most regions represented the more affluent elements of the population, who stood for government policies that would aid businesswere in the 1840 campaign almost indistinguishable from their opponents. Democrats and Whigs used the same techniques of mass voter appeal; the same evocation of simple, rustic values; the same identification with the common people. What mattered now was not the philosophical purity of the party but its ability to win votes.

Thus it was that the eager Whigs depicted themselves as the party of the people, the party able to save the nation from depression; and thus it was that they used against Martin Van Buren the same tactics that the Democrats had so often used against them. They accused the president of being an aloof aristocrat who used cologne, drank champagne, ate off gold plates, and otherwise engaged in undemocratic and un-American practices. In retaliation, a Democratic newspaper unwisely sneered that Harrison was a simple soul who would be glad to retire to a log cabin if provided with a pension and plenty of hard cider. In a country where many people lived or had lived in log cabins, this was an unwise line of attack; and the Whigs took full advantage. Yes, their candidate was a simple man of the people, they proclaimed, and he loved log cabins and cider. (Actually he was a man of substance and lived in a large and well-appointed house.)

Thereafter, the log cabin was an established symbol at every Whig meeting, and hard cider an established beverage. Against such techniques and the lingering effects of the depression the Democrats could not win. When the votes were counted in November, Harrison had 234 electoral votes to 60 for Van Buren. But the Whig victory was not as sweeping as it seemed; of the popular vote, Harrison had 1,275,000 to Van Buren's 1,128,000, a majority of less than 150,000.

The Frustration of the Whigs

Despite their decisive victory, the Whigs were to find the next four years frustrating and divisive ones. In large part, that was because their appealing new president, "Old Tippecanoe," William Henry Harrison, never had a chance to demonstrate what sort of leader he might become. Sixty-eight years old in 1841, he had appeared to be in good health. But the strain of the campaign, of the inauguration (after which he rode bareheaded through the streets of Washington to the White House in bitter cold), and of the pressing demands of grasping job seekers apparently became too much for him. Shortly after taking office, he contracted a cold. It soon turned into pneumonia; and Harrison died on April 4,1841, exactly one month after he had been inaugurated.

Harrison was the first president to die in office, and there was momentary uncertainty as to what should happen next. The Constitution clearly stated that the "Powers and Duties" of the highest office would "devolve on the Vice President" in the event of a president's death. But there were some who believed that the "Powers and Duties" were not the same thing as the office, that the vice president could become only an "acting president," that his authority might in some way be compromised. This potentially critical constitutional problem was resolved by Vice President Tyler, who calmly took the oath of office as president and left no doubt that he considered himself a legitimate chief executive. The question of the legal status of a vice president who succeeded to the presidency was never raised again.

More troubling to the leaders of the Whig party than such constitutional questions was that with Harrison gone, control of government had fallen to a man with whom they had much weaker ties. Harrison in his brief weeks in office had generally deferred to Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, confirming the predictions of those who had foretold that the Whig chieftains would be the real powers in government. Webster had become secretary of state; four of Clay's allies had taken other positions in the cabinet. Under Tyler, things were to change.

Tyler was a member of an aristocratic Virginian family. Originally a Democrat, he had left the party in reaction to what he considered Jackson's excessively egalitarian program and his imperious methods. One reason the Whigs had included him on their ticket was to attract the votes of similarly disenchanted conservative Democrats. But while Tyler had certain attitudes in common with the Whig leadership, there were still signs of his Democratic past in his approach to public policy. Clay apparently had the impression that the new president would support the restoration of a national bank and other Whig projects, but Tyler soon indicated otherwise. A break occurred between the president and Clay that was never to heal.

There were, to be sure, some elements of Clay's ambitious program that Tyler was willing to accept. The president signed a bill abolishing the independent treasury system. He agreed to a bill raising tariff rates to nearly the same level as 1832 (although he displayed little enthusiasm for the proposal). And he approved a measurethe Preemption Act of 1841 to increase the appeal of the Whigs to Western settlers and farmers. The bill was virtually identical to the one the Whigs had defeated when Van Buren proposed it. This "log cabin bill," as the Whigs called it, was promoted as a measure to relieve the suffering caused by the depression and to prove the party's devotion to the welfare of the common man.

Although Tyler supported Whig measures designed to appeal to Democratic voters, he was less willing to cooperate with the party leadership in pursuing the heart of the Whig programthe creation of a national financial system similar to the Bank of the United States. Tyler favored a national bank, but one very different from that proposed by Clay. His was to be a "states' rights national bank," one that would confine its operations to the District of Columbia and establish branches in the states only with the consent of those states. Twice he vetoed bills that would have set up what the Whigs tried to disguise as a "fiscal corporation."

Lacking a sufficient majority to override the veto, the Whigs fumed with rage at the president, who added to their anger by vetoing a number of internal improvement bills. In an unprecedented action, a conference of congressional Whigs read Tyler out of the party. All the cabinet members resigned except Webster. To fill their places, the president appointed five men of his own stripeformer Democrats. When the office of secretary of state became vacant in 1844, Tyler appointed John C. Calhoun, who had now rejoined the Democratic party that he had left in the 1830s.

A portentous new political alignment was taking shape. Tyler and a small band of conservative Southern Whigs who followed him were preparing to rejoin the Democrats. Into the common man's party of Jackson and Van Buren was arriving a group of men with decidedly aristocratic political ideas, who thought that government had an obligation to protect and even expand the institution of slavery, and who believed in states' rights with a single-minded, almost fanatical devotion.

Whig Diplomacy

In the midst of these domestic controversies, a series of incidents brought Great Britain and the United States to the brink of war in the late 1830s.

One such incident occurred in upstate New York. In 1837, a rebellion against the British colonial government broke out in the eastern provinces of Canada; many Americans applauded the rebels and furnished them with material aid. The rebels chartered a small American steamship, the Caroline, to carry supplies across the Niagara River from New York. One night while the ship was moored at a wharf on the American side, Canadian authorities sent over a force that took possession of the Caroline and burned it. In the melee one American was killed. Excitement flared on both sides of the border. President Van Buren issued a proclamation asking Americans to abide by the neutrality laws, and he sent General Winfield Scott to the border to act as a pacifier. The State Department demanded an apology and reparations from Great Britain, but the British government neither disavowed the attack nor offered compensation for it.

While the Caroline affair simmered, another troublesome issue began to plague Anglo-American relations: the issue of the boundary between Canada and Maine. The Treaty of 1783 had left the boundary ill defined, and all subsequent attempts to fix it by mutual agreement and by arbitration had failed. In 1838, groups of Americans and Canadians, mostly lumberjacks, began to move into the Aroostook River region in the disputed area. A head-smashing brawl between the two groupsthe "Aroostook War" threatened more trouble between England and America.

Eventually a Canadian named Alexander McLeod was arrested in New York and charged with the murder of the American who had died in the Caroline incident. The British government reacted with majestic rage, contending that McLeod could not be accused of murder because he had acted under official orders. The foreign secretary, the bellicose Lord Palmerston, demanded McLeod's release and threatened that his execution would bring "immediate and frightful" war. Webster as secretary of state did not think McLeod was worth a war but could do nothing to release him. The prisoner was under New York jurisdiction and had to be tried in the state courts, a peculiarity of American jurisprudence that the British did not seem to understand. Fortunately for the cause of peaceand for himselfMcLeod was acquitted. Festering points of disagreement still remained. In an attempt to stamp out the African slave trade, Great Britain had long sought the right to search American merchant ships suspected of carrying black cargoes. This was a sensitive subject to the American government, which remembered well the events that had precipitated the War of 1812, The United States had steadfastly refused the British request. As a result, slavers of other nations frequently sought to avoid capture by hoisting the American flag. Complicating the issue was the domestic slave trade, in which slaves were carried by sea from one American port to another. Sometimes the ships in this trade were blown off their course to the British West Indies, where the authorities, acting under English law, freed the slaves. In 1841, an American brig, the Creole, sailed from Virginia for New Orleans with more than 100 slaves aboard. En route the slaves mutinied, took possession of the ship, and took it to the Bahamas. Here British officials declared the bondsmen free. Although Webster protested, England refused to return the slaves. Many Americans, especially Southerners, were infuriated.

At this critical juncture a new government came to power in Great Britain, one that was more disposed to conciliate the United States and to settle the outstanding differences between the two countries. The new ministry sent to America an emissary, Lord Ashburton, to negotiate an agreement on the Maine boundary and other matters. Ashburton liked Americans, and Webster admired the English. To avoid war, both were willing to compromise. The result of their deliberations was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of August 9, 1842.

By the terms of this arrangement, the United States received about seven-twelfths of the disputed area. Minor rectifications were made in other areas, and the boundary was now established as far west as the Rocky Mountains. It was agreed that both Great Britain and the United States would maintain naval squadrons off the African coast, the American ships being charged with chasing slavers using the American flag.

Through the exchange of notes that were not part of the treaty, Webster and Ashburton also eased the memory of the Caroline   and Creole   affairs. Ashburton expressed "regret" for the raid on the Caroline, and he pledged that in the future there would be no " officious interference" with American ships forced by "violence or accident" to enter British ports. Webster used secret funds to inspire newspaper propaganda favorable to his arrangements with Ashburton, and the treaty proved quite popular. War talk faded, and Anglo-American relations suddenly looked better than they had for many years.

During the Tyler administration, the United States established diplomatic relations with China. In 1842, Britain forced China to open certain ports to foreign trade. Eager to share the new privileges, American mercantile interests persuaded Tyler and Congress to send a commissionerCaleb Cushing to China to negotiate a treaty giving the United States some part in the China trade. In the Treaty of Wang Hya, concluded in 1844, Cushing secured most-favored-nation provisions giving Americans the same privileges as the English. He also won for Americans the right of "extraterritoriality"the right of Americans accused of crimes in China to be tried by American, not Chinese, officials. In the next ten years, American trade with China steadily increased.

In their diplomatic efforts, at least, the Whigs were able to secure some important successes. But by the end of the Tyler administration, the party could look back on few other victories. Having elected a president in 1840, they had watched as the policies of the administration (and the political allegiances of its principal figures, including the president himself) became steadily more Democratic. And in the election of 1844, the Whigs lost even nominal control of the White House. They were to win only one more national election in their historyin 1848before a great sectional crisis arose that would shatter their party and, for a time, the Union.

WHERE HISTORIANS DISAGREE

Jacksonian Democracy

Andrew Jackson was not only one of the most powerful political figures of the nineteenth century; he also became the symbol of a political philosophy and a social spirit that seemed to be gaining strength in America in the 1820s and 1830s. Historians have taken a particular interest, therefore, both in Jackson and in the set of social and political ideas he has come to represent. And they have disagreed markedly both about the man himself and about the social and ideological movement that has come to be known as "Jacksonian Democracy." As with many other issues on which historians differ, their views of Jackson have often reflected the political climate of their own day.

In the late nineteenth century, when the historical profession was dominated by aristocratic Easterners with Whiggish political views, studies of Jackson were largely hostile. Conservative biographers such as James Parton {Life of Andrew Jackson, 1860) denounced the Jacksonians as "barbarians" who had turned government over to the "rabble." By embracing the spoils system, such historians argued, Jackson had paved the way for the rampant corruption in government of later years. By destroying the Bank of the United States, he had struck a heavy blow against American financial stability.

By the early twentieth century, the writing of history, and with it the historical view of the Jacksonians, had begun to experience an important transformation. Under the influence of Frederick Jackson Turner, historians began to emphasize the role of the West in American life and to see in the frontier a healthy, democratic influence on the nation. Turner and his disciples, most of them Westerners or Southerners themselves, rejected the view of Whiggish historians that the Jacksonians had been ill-bred rabble. Instead, they argued, the Democrats of Jackson's time had been the freedom-loving frontiersmen of the West, challenging the conservative aristocracy of the East, which was attempting to restrict opportunity. Jackson himself, they claimed, was much like the progressives of their own time: a true democrat who strove to make government responsive to the will of the people rather than to the desires of special interests. Dissenters such as Thomas P. Abernethy {From Frontier to Plantation in Tennessee, 1932) argued that Jackson had himself been a frontier aristocrat and had opposed the democratic trend in his own state. For the most part, however, the view of Jacksonianism as "frontier democracy" (as Turner had argued in his famous essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History,** 1893) prevailed through the first half of the twentieth century.

A new era in Jacksonian scholarship began in 1945 with the publication of the celebrated study by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson. Like Turner and others, Schlesinger admired Jackson for bringing a healthy democratic influence to American politics and saw the Jacksonian era as one of steadily expanding political opportunity. He did not, however, share the view of earlier historians that the roots of Jacksonianism lay in the West. Instead, Schlesinger claimed, the conflict between Democrats and Whigs was a conflict "not of sections, but of classes." Jacksonian Democracy was an effort "to control the power of the capitalist groups, mainly Eastern, for the benefit of noncapitalist groups, farmers and laboring men, East, West, and South." Emphasizing the role of the urban working classes in the Jacksonian coalition, he saw in the 1830s an early version of modern reform efforts to "restrain the power of the business community."

Other historians have accepted Schlesinger's view that classes were more important than sections, but they have disagreed with him about which classjackson represented. Richard Hofstadt-er's influential essay in The American Political Tradition (1948) portrayed Jackson as the spokesman of rising entrepreneursaspiring businessmen who saw the road to opportunity blocked by the monopolistic power of the Eastern aristocracy. Thus the Jacksonians were opposed to special privileges only to the extent that those privileges blocked their own road to success. They were less sympathetic to the aspirations of those below themworkers and small farmers. Bray Hammond, in Banks and Politics in America from the Revolution to the Civil War (1957), argued similarly that the Jacksonian cause was "one of enterpriser against capitalist, of banker against regulation, and of Wall Street against Chestnut"that is, of the rising bankers of New York City against the established bankers of the Philadelphia-based Bank of the United States.

Still another view of Jacksonianism emerged in the 1950s from historians concerned with the ideological origins of the movement. Marvin Meyers, in The Jacksonian Persuasion (1957), emphasized the appeal of the Jeffersonian heritage to the Jackson-ians. Jackson and his followers looked with mistrust on the new industrial society emerging around them and yearned instead for a restoration of the agrarian, republican virtues of an earlier time. In destroying the Bank, limiting federal economic activities, and emphasizing states' rights, they were attempting to restore a simpler, more decentralized world. Ironically, their actions contributed instead to the expansion of unregulated capitalism.

Lee Benson, in The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy (1961), a study of political parties in New York, used new quantitative techniques to challenge virtually all previous interpretations of Jacksonianism. There was no consistent differencein class, occupation, or regionbetween the Jacksonians and anti-Jacksonians, Benson argued. Both parties contained big as well as small businessmen, farmers, and city workers. Nor were there any significant ideological differences. Both parties used the same "agrarian" rhetoric; both were in favor of greater equality of opportunity and greater political democracy. Local and cultural factorsreligion and ethnicity, for examplewere the crucial determinants of party divisions, not economic interests or ideology. Because the movement toward democracy was much broader than the Democratic party, he suggested, the "age of Jackson" should be renamed the "age of egalitarianism."

Other historians have continued Benson's de-emphasis of party divisions in the Jacksonian period and have cited instead social and economic developments that transcended partisan concerns. Edward Pcsscn, in Jacksonian America   (1969), portrayed the mid-nineteenth century as a time of widespread and increasing social and economic inequality but suggested that party divisions did not reflect the broader stratification of American society. Richard McCormick (1966) and Glyndon Van Deusen (1963) similarly emphasized the pragmatism of Jackson and the Democrats and dc-empha-sized clear ideological or social party divisions.

More recent historians have begun to turn the discussion of early nineteenth-century politics back to the question of class. Among the new studies is Sean Wilentz's Chants Democratic   (1984), which traces the emergence in New York City of an industrial work force with an increasingly powerful class identity. The grievances of such people, he argues, were important in reshaping the way Americans defined the concept of republicanism. "Republicanism" is a concept that has attracted the interest of many scholars in recent years. It describes an ideology, stretching back to the eighteenth century and forward into the twentieth, that many historians believe has been central to American history: the belief that citizens in a republic should have unobstructed opportunities to advance toward ownership of their own land or their own enterprises. Workers in New York, Wilentz argues, waged an attack on the emerging system of laissez-faire capitalism and the wage system, which together threatened to choke off their chances for advancement. The degree to which the new industrial system threatened republican ideals helped create a radical tradition in American public life that found reflection, for a time, in at least some parts of the Jacksonian constituency.


 

 



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