CHAPTER XXIII. POLITICS FROM 1829 TO 1841
The Senate passed resolutions, moved by Clay, censuring the President for this action; but Senator Benton of Missouri said that he would not rest till the censure was expunged. Expunging now became a party question; state after state instructed its senators to vote for it, and finally in 1837 the Senate ordered a black line to be drawn around the resolutions and the words "Expunged by order of the Senate" to be written across them.
RISE OF THE WHIG PARTY. - The hatred which the National Republicans felt for Jackson was intense. They accused him of trying to set up a despotic government, and, asserting that they were contending against the same kind of tyranny our forefathers fought against in the War of Independence, they called themselves Whigs. In the state elections of 1834 the new name came into general use, and thenceforth for many years there was a national Whig party.
THE ANTISLAVERY MOVEMENT. - The Missouri Compromise was supposed to have settled the issue of slavery. But its effect was just the reverse. Antislavery agitators were aroused. The antislavery newspapers grew more numerous and aggressive. New antislavery societies were formed and old ones were revived and became aggressive, and in 1833 delegates from many of them met at Philadelphia and formed the American Antislavery Society. 
ANTISLAVERY DOCUMENTS. - The field of work for the anti-slavery people was naturally the South. That section was flooded with newspapers, pamphlets, pictures, and handbills intended to stir up sentiment for instant abolition of slavery and liberation of the slaves.
Against this the South protested, declared such documents were likely to cause slaves to run away or rise in insurrection, and called on the North to suppress them.
PROSLAVERY MOBS. - To stop their circulation by legal means was not possible; so attempts were made to do it by illegal means. In many Northern cities, as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Utica, and elsewhere, mobs broke up the antislavery meetings. In Charleston, South Carolina, the postmaster seized some antislavery documents and the people burned them. At Cincinnati the newspaper office of James G. Birney was twice sacked and his presses destroyed (1836). Another at Alton, Illinois, was four times attacked, and the owner, Elijah Lovejoy, was at last killed by the mob while protecting his press.
THE RIGHT OF PETITION. - Not content with this, the pro-slavery people attempted to pass a bill through Congress (1836) to exclude antislavery documents from the mails, and even attacked the right of petition. The bill to close the mails to antislavery documents failed. But the attempt to exclude antislavery petitions from the House of Representatives succeeded: a "Gag Rule" was adopted which forbade any petition, resolution, or paper relating in any way to slavery or the abolition of slavery to be received, and this was in force down to 1844. 
OUR COUNTRY OUT OF DEBT. - Despite all this political commotion our country for years past had prospered greatly. In this prosperity the government had shared. Its income had far exceeded its expenses, and by using the surplus year by year to reduce the national debt it succeeded in paying the last dollar by 1835.
THE SURPLUS. - After the debt was extinguished a surplus still remained, and was greatly increased by a sudden speculation in public lands, so that by the middle of 1836 the government had more than $40,000,000 of surplus money in the banks.
What to do with the money was a serious question, and all sorts of uses were suggested. But Congress decided that from the surplus as it existed on January 1, 1837, $5,000,000 should be subtracted and the remainder distributed among the states in four installments. 
THE ELECTION OF VAN BUREN. - When the time came to choose a successor to Jackson, a Democratic national convention nominated Martin Van Buren, with Richard M. Johnson for Vice President. The Whigs were too disorganized to hold a national convention; but most of them favored William Henry Harrison for President. Van Buren was elected (1836); but no candidate for Vice President received a majority of the electoral vote. The duty of choosing that officer therefore passed to the United States Senate, which elected Richard M. Johnson.
THE ERA OF SPECULATION. - On March 4, 1837, Van Buren  entered on a term made memorable by one of the worst panics our country has experienced. From 1834 to 1836 was a period of wild speculation. Money was plentiful and easy to borrow, and was invested in all sorts of schemes by which people expected to make fortunes. Millions of acres of the public land were bought and held for a rise in price. Real estate in the cities sold for fabulous prices. Cotton, timber lands in Maine, railroad, canal, bank, and state stocks, and lots in Western towns which had no existence save on paper, all were objects of speculation.
PANIC OF 1837. - Money used for these purposes was borrowed largely from the state banks, and much of it was the surplus which the government had deposited in the banks. When, therefore, in January, 1837, the government drew out one quarter of its surplus to distribute among the states, the banks were forced to stop making loans and call in some of the money they had lent. This hurt business of every sort. Quite unexpectedly the price of cotton fell; this ruined many. Business men failed by scores, and the merchants of New York appealed to Van Buren to assemble Congress and stop the further distribution of the surplus. Van Buren refused, and the banks of New York city suspended specie payment, that is, no longer redeemed their notes in gold and silver. Those in every other state followed, and a panic swept over the country.