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]

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. [13]

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. [14]

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. [15]

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 [16] 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. [17]

THE NEW NATIONAL DEBT. - With business at a standstill, the national revenues fell off; and the desperate financial state of the country forced Van Buren to call Congress together in September. By that time the third installment of the surplus had been paid to the states, and times were harder than ever. To mend matters Congress suspended payment of the fourth installment, and authorized the debts of the government to be paid in treasury notes. This put our country again in debt, and it has ever since remained so.

POLITICAL DISCONTENT. - As always happens in periods of financial distress, hard times bred political discontent. The Whigs laid all the blame on the Democrats, who, they said, had destroyed the United States Bank, and by their reckless financial policy had caused the panic and the hard times. Whether this was true or not, the people believed it, and various state elections showed signs of a Whig victory in 1840. [18]

THE LOG-CABIN CAMPAIGN. - The Whigs in their national convention nominated William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. The Democrats renominated Van Buren, but named no one for the vice presidency. The antislavery people, in hopes of drawing off from the Whig and Democratic parties those who were opposed to slavery, and so making a new party, nominated James G. Birney.

The Whig convention did not adopt a platform, but an ill-timed sneer at Harrison furnished just what they needed. He would, a Democratic newspaper said, be more at home in a log cabin drinking cider than living in the White House as President. The Whigs hailed this sneer as an insult to the millions of Americans who then lived, or had once lived, or whose parents had dwelt in log cabins, and made the cabin the emblem of their party. Log cabins were erected in every city, town, and village as Whig headquarters; were mounted on wheels, were drawn from place to place, and lived in by Whig stump speakers. Great mass meetings were held, and the whole campaign became one of frolic, song, and torchlight processions. [19] The people wanted a change. Harrison was an ideal popular candidate, and "Tippecanoe [20] and Tyler too" and a Whig Congress were elected.

DEATH OF HARRISON; TYLER PRESIDENT (1841). - As soon as Harrison was inaugurated, a special session of Congress was called to undo the work of the Democrats. But one month after inauguration day Harrison died, and when Congress assembled, Tyler [21] was President.


1. The inauguration of Jackson was followed by the introduction of the "spoils system" into national politics.

2. The question of nullification was debated in the Senate by Webster and Hayne. Under Calhoun's leadership, South Carolina nullified the tariff of 1832. Jackson asked for a Force Act; but the dispute was settled by the Compromise of 1833.

3. Jackson vigorously opposed the Bank of the United States, and after his reëlection he ordered the removal of the government deposits.

4. This period is notable in the history of political parties for (1) the introduction of the national nominating convention, (2) the rise of the Whig party, (3) the formation of the antislavery party.

5. Slavery was now a national issue. An attempt was made to shut antislavery documents out of the mails, and antislavery petitions were shut out of the House of Representatives.

6. Financially, Jackson's second term is notable for (1) the payment of the national debt, (2) the growth of a great surplus in the treasury, (3) the distribution of the surplus among the states.

7. The manner of distributing the surplus revenue among the states interrupted a period of wild speculation and brought on the panic of 1837.

8. Van Buren, who succeeded Jackson as President, called a special session of Congress; and the fourth installment of the surplus was withheld.

9. Financial distress, hard times, and general discontent led to a demand for a change; and the log-cabin, hard-cider campaign that followed ended with the election of Harrison (1840).


[1] Andrew Jackson was born in Waxhaw, North Carolina, 1767, but always considered himself a native of South Carolina, for the place of his birth was on the border of the two states. During the Revolution a party of British came to the settlement where Jackson lived. An officer ordered the boy to clean his boots, and when Jackson refused, struck him with a sword, inflicting wounds on his head and arm. Andrew and his brothers were taken prisoners to Camden. His mother obtained his release and shortly after died while on her way to nurse the sick prisoners in Charleston. Left an orphan, Jackson worked at saddlery, taught school, studied law, and went to Tennessee in 1788; was appointed a district attorney, in 1796 was the first representative to Congress from the state of Tennessee, and in 1797 became one of its senators. In 1798-1804 he was one of the judges of the Tennessee supreme court. His military career began in 1813-14, when he beat the Indians in the Creek War. In 1814 he was made a major general, in 1815 won the battle of New Orleans, and in 1818 beat the Seminoles in Florida. He was the first governor of the territory of Florida. He died in June, 1845. Read the account of Jackson's action in the Seminole War and the execution of Arbuthnot and Ambrister, in McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. IV, pp. 439-456.

[2] The inauguration was of the simplest kind. Uncovered, on foot, escorted by the committee in charge, and surrounded on both sides by gigs, wood wagons, hacks full of women and children, and followed by thousands of men from all parts of the country, Jackson walked from his hotel to the Capitol and on the east portico took the oath of office. A wild rush was then made by the people to shake his hand. With difficulty the President reached a horse and started for the White House, "pursued by a motley concourse of people, riding, running helter-skelter, striving who should first gain admittance." So great was the crowd at the White House that Jackson was pushed through the drawing room and would have been crushed against the wall had not his friends linked arms and made a barrier about him. The windows had to be opened to enable the crowd to leave the room.

[3] Editors of newspapers that supported Jackson were given office or were rewarded with public printing, and a party press devoted to the President was thus established. To keep both workers and newspapers posted as to the policy of the administration, there was set up at Washington a partisan journal for which all officeholders were expected to subscribe. The President, ignoring his secretaries, turned for advice to a few party leaders whom the Adams men nicknamed the "Kitchen Cabinet."

[4] Calhoun maintained (1) that the Constitution is a compact or contract between the states; (2) that Congress can only exercise such power as this compact gives it; (3) that when Congress assumes power not given it, and enacts a law it has no authority to enact, any state may veto, or nullify, that law, that is, declare it not a law within her boundary; (4) that Congress has no authority to lay a tariff for any other purpose than to pay the debts of the United States; (5) that the tariff to protect manufactures was therefore an exercise of power not granted by the Constitution. This view of the Constitution was held by the Southern states generally. But as the two most ardent expounders of it were Hayne and Calhoun, both of South Carolina, it was called the South Carolina doctrine.

[5] On the anniversary of Jefferson's birthday, April 13, 1830, a great dinner was given in Washington at which nullification speeches were made in response to toasts. Jackson was present, and when called on for a toast offered this: "Our Federal Union, it must be preserved."

[6] Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 153-163.

[7] Daniel Webster was born in New Hampshire in 1782, graduated from Dartmouth, studied law, wrote some pamphlets, and made several Fourth of July orations, praising the Federal Constitution and denouncing the embargo. In 1813 he entered Congress as a representative from New Hampshire, but lost his seat by removing to Boston in 1816. In 1823 Webster returned to Congress as a representative from one of the Massachusetts districts, rose at once to a place of leadership, and in 1827 entered the United States Senate. By this time he was famous as an orator. Passages from his speeches were recited by schoolboys, and such phrases as "Our country, our whole country, and nothing but our country," "Thank God, I, I also, am an American," "Independence now, and Independence forever!" passed into everyday speech. In his second reply to Hayne of South Carolina, defending and explaining the Constitution (p. 290), he closed with the words "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable." In 1836 he received the electoral vote of Massachusetts for the presidency. He was a senator for many years, was twice Secretary of State, and died in October, 1852.

[9] Read the speeches of Calhoun in Johnston's American Orations, Vol. I, pp. 303-319.

[10] Shortly before February 1, 1833, the day on which nullification was to go into effect, the South Carolina leaders met and suspended the Ordinance of Nullification till March 3, the last day of the session of Congress. This, of course, they had no power to do. The state authorities did not think it wise to put the ordinance in force till they saw what Congress would do with the tariff.

[11] In 1826 a Mason named William Morgan, living at Batavia, in western New York, threatened to reveal the secrets of masonry. But about the time his book was to appear, he suddenly disappeared. The Masons were accused of having killed him, and the people of western New York denounced them at public meetings as members of a society dangerous to the state. A party pledged to exclude Masons from public office was quickly formed and soon spread into Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New England, where it became very strong.

[12] This so-called removal consisted in depositing the revenue, as it was collected, in a few state banks, the "pet banks," - instead of in the United States Bank as before, - and gradually drawing out the money on deposit with the United States Bank. Read an account of the interviews of Jackson with committees from public meetings in McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 200-204.

[13] The principles of this new society, formulated by William Lloyd Garrison, were: (1) that each state had a right to regulate slavery within its boundaries; (2) that Congress should stop the interstate slave trade; (3) that Congress should abolish slavery in the territories and in the District of Columbia; (4) that Congress should admit no more slave states into the Union.

[14] Read Whittier's poem A Summons - "Lines written on the adoption of Pinckney's Resolutions."

[15] The surplus on January 1, 1837, was $42,468,000. The amount to be distributed therefore was $37,468,000. Only three installments (a little over $28,000,000) were paid. For the use the states made of the money, read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 351- 358.

[16] Martin Van Buren was born in New York state in 1782, studied law, began his political career at eighteen, and held several offices before he was sent to the state senate in 1812. From 1815 to 1819 he was attorney general of New York, became United States senator in 1821, and was reflected in 1827; but resigned in 1828 to become governor of New York. Jackson appointed him Secretary of State in 1829; but he resigned in 1831 and was sent as minister to Great Britain. The appointment was made during a recess of the Senate, which later refused to confirm the appointment, and Van Buren was forced to come home. Because of this "party persecution" the Democrats nominated him for Vice President in 1832, and from 1833 to 1837 he had the pleasure of presiding over the body that had rejected him. He died in 1862.

[17] Specie payment was resumed in the autumn of 1838; but most of the banks again suspended in 1839, and again in 1841. Read the account of the panic in McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 398-405.

[18] Financial distress was not the only thing that troubled Van Buren's administration. During 1837 many Canadians rebelled against misrule, and began the "Patriot War" in their country. One of their leaders enlisted aid in Buffalo, and seized a Canadian island in the Niagara River. The steamer Caroline was then run between this island and the New York shore, carrying over visitors, and, it was claimed, guns and supplies. This was unlawful, and one night in December, 1837, a force of Canadian government troops rowed over to the New York shore, boarded the Caroline, and destroyed her; it was a disputed question whether she was burned and sunk, or whether she was set afire and sent over the Falls. The whole border from Vermont to Michigan became greatly excited over this invasion of our territory. Men volunteered in the "Patriot" cause, supplies and money were contributed, guns were taken from government arsenals, and raids were made into Canada. Van Buren sent General Scott to the frontier, did what he could to preserve peace and neutrality, and thus made himself unpopular in the border states. There was also danger of war over the disputed northern boundary of Maine. State troops were sent to the territory in dispute, along the Aroostook River (1839; map, p. 316); but Van Buren made an unpopular agreement with the British minister, whereby the troops were withdrawn and both sides agreed not to use force.

[19] In the West, men came to these meetings in huge canoes and wagons of all sorts, and camped on the ground. At one meeting the ground covered by the people was measured, and allowing four to the square yard it was estimated about 80,000 attended. Dayton, in Ohio, claimed 100,000 at her meeting. At Bunker Hill there were 60,000. In the processions, huge balls were rolled along to the cry, "Keep the ball a-rolling." Every log cabin had a barrel of hard cider and a gourd drinking cup near it. On the walls were coon skins, and the latch-string was always hanging out. More than a hundred campaign songs were written and sung to popular airs. Every Whig wore a log-cabin medal, or breastpin, or badge, or carried a log-cabin cane. Read McMaster's History of the People of the U. S., Vol. VI, pp. 550-588.

[20] The battle fought in 1811, meaning Harrison, the victor in that battle. See note on p. 254.

[21] John Tyler was born in Virginia in 1790 and died in 1862. At twenty- one he was elected to the legislature of Virginia, was elected to the House of Representatives in 1821, and favored the admission of Missouri as a slave state. In 1825 he became governor of Virginia, and in 1827 was elected to the United States Senate. There he opposed the tariff and internal improvements, supported Jackson, but condemned his proclamation to the milliners, voted for the censure of Jackson, and when instructed by Virginia to vote for expunging, refused and resigned from the Senate in 1836.