CHAPTER XXIII. POLITICS FROM 1829 TO 1841

In many respects the election of Jackson [1] was an event of as much political importance as was the election of Jefferson. Men hailed it as another great uprising of the people, as another triumph of democracy. They acted as if the country had been delivered from impending evil, and hurried by thousands to Washington to see the hero inaugurated and the era of promised reform opened. [2]

THE NEW PARTY. - Jackson treated the public offices as the "spoils of victory," and within a few weeks hundreds of postmasters, collectors of revenue, and other officeholders were turned out, and their places given to active workers for Jackson. This "spoils system" was new in national politics and created immense excitement. But it was nothing more than an attempt to build up a new national party in the same way that parties had already been built up in some of the states. [3]

JACKSON AS PRESIDENT. - In many respects Jackson's administration was the most exciting the country had yet experienced. Never since the days of President John Adams had party feeling run so high. The vigorous personality of the President, his intense sincerity, his determination to do, at all hazards, just what he believed to be right, made him devoted friends and bitter enemies and led to his administration being often called the Reign of Andrew Jackson. The questions with which he had to deal were of serious importance, and on the solution of some of them hung the safety of the republic.

THE SOUTH CAROLINA DOCTRINE. - Such a one was the old issue of the tariff. The view of the South as set forth by the leaders, especially by Calhoun of South Carolina, was that the state ought to nullify the Tariff Act of 1828 because it was unconstitutional. [4] Daniel Webster attacked this South Carolina doctrine and (1830) argued the issue with Senator Hayne of South Carolina. The speeches of the two men in the Senate, the debate which followed, and the importance of the issue, make the occasion a famous one in our history. That South Carolina would go so far as actually to carry out the doctrine and nullify the tariff did not seem likely. But the seriousness of South Carolina alarmed the friends of the tariff, and in 1832 Congress amended the act of 1828 and reduced the duties.

SOUTH CAROLINA NULLIFIES THE TARIFF. - This did not satisfy South Carolina. The new tariff still protected manufactures, and it was protection that she opposed; and in November, 1832, she adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, which forbade any of her citizens to pay the tariff duties after February 1, 1833.

When Congress met in December, 1832, the great question was what to do with South Carolina. Jackson was determined the law should be obeyed, [5] sent vessels to Charleston harbor, and asked for a Force Act to enable him to collect the revenue by force if necessary. [6]

THE GREAT DEBATE. - In the course of the debate on the Force Act, Calhoun (who had resigned the vice presidency and had been elected a senator from South Carolina) explained and defended nullification and contended that it was a peaceable and lawful remedy and a proper exercise of state rights. Webster [7] denied that the Constitution was a mere compact, declared that nullification and secession were rebellion, and upheld the authority and sovereignty of the Union. [8]

THE COMPROMISE OF 1833. - Clay meantime came forward with a compromise. He proposed that the tariff of 1832 should be reduced gradually till 1842, when all duties should be twenty per cent on the value of the articles imported. As such duties would not be protective, Calhoun and the other Southern members accepted the plan, and the Compromise Tariff was passed in March, 1833. [10] To satisfy the North arid uphold the authority of the government, the Force Act also was passed. But as South Carolina repealed the Ordinance of Nullification there was never any need to use force.

FIRST NATIONAL NOMINATING CONVENTIONS. - In the midst of the excitement over the tariff, came the election of 1832. Since 1824, when the Republican party was breaking up, presidential candidates had been nominated by state legislatures and caucuses of members of state legislatures. But in 1831 the Antimasons [11] held a convention at Baltimore, nominated William Wirt and Amos Ellmaker for President and Vice President, and so introduced the national nominating convention.

The example thus set was quickly followed: in December, 1831, a national convention of National Republicans nominated Clay (then a senator) for President, and John Sergeant for Vice President. In May, 1832, a national convention of Jackson men, or Democrats as some called them, nominated Martin Van Buren for Vice President. There was no need to renominate Jackson, for in a letter to some friends he had already declared himself a candidate, and many state legislatures had made the nomination. He was still the idol of the people and was re-elected by a greater majority than in 1828.

THE BANK ATTACKED. - One of the issues in the campaign was the recharter of the Bank of the United States, whose charter was to expire in 1836. Jackson always hated that institution, had attacked it in his annual messages, and had vetoed (1832) a recharter bill passed (for political effect) by Clay and his friends in Congress.

REMOVAL OF THE DEPOSITS. - Jackson therefore looked upon his reflection as a popular approval of his treatment of the bank. He continued to attack it, and in 1833 requested the Secretary of the Treasury, William Duane, to remove the deposits of government money from the bank and its branches. When Duane refused, Jackson turned him out of office and put in Roger B. Taney, who made the removal. [12]