Andrew Jackson paid off our entire national debt.
"I have always been afraid of banks." — Andrew Jackson
"If congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given them to use themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations." — Andrew Jackson
"You are a den of vipers. I intend to rout you out and by the Eternal God I will rout you out. If the people only understood the rank injustice of our money and banking system, there would be a revolution before morning."
— President Andrew Jackson (addressing the international bankers asking him to renew the central bank charter for the U.S. Bank - predecessor of the Federal Reserve System that Jackson abolished after he paid off the entire national debt)
"Mischief springs from the power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with exclusive privileges... which are employed altogether for their benefit."
— Andrew Jackson
"Money is power, and in that government which pays all the public officers of the states will all political power be substantially concentrated."
— Andrew Jackson
"Unless you become more watchful in your states and check the spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that... the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations."
— Andrew Jackson
"It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to ENLARGE the powers of the General Government, and experience would seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. Its legitimate authority is abundantly sufficient for all the purposes for which it was created, and its powers being expressly enumerated, there can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them. Every attempt to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly opposed, for one evil example will lead to other measures still more mischievous; and if the principle of constructive powers or supposed advantages or temporary circumstances (9/11) shall ever be permitted to justify the assumption of a power not given by the Constitution, the General Government will before long absorb all the powers of legislation, and you will have in effect but one consolidated government." — Andrew Jackson
"I feel in the depths of my soul that it is the highest, most sacred, and most irreversible part of my obligation to preserve the union of these states, although it may cost me my life." — Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the seventh President of the United States (1829–1837). Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (1814), and the British at the Battle of New Orleans (1815). A polarizing figure who dominated the Second Party System in the 1820s and 1830s, as president he destroyed the national bank and relocated most Indian tribes from the Southeast to west of the Mississippi River. His enthusiastic followers created the modern Democratic Party. The 1830-1850 period later became known as the era of Jacksonian democracy.
Jackson was nicknamed "Old Hickory" because of his toughness and aggressive personality; he fought in duels, some fatal to his opponents. He was a rich slaveholder, who appealed to the common men of the United States, and fought politically against what he denounced as a closed, undemocratic aristocracy. He expanded the spoils system during his presidency to strengthen his political base.
Elected president in 1828, Jackson supported a small and limited federal government. He strengthened the power of the presidency, which he saw as spokesman for the entire population, as opposed to Congressmen from a specific small district. He was supportive of states' rights, but during the Nullification Crisis, declared that states do not have the right to nullify federal laws. Strongly against the national bank, he vetoed the renewal of its charter and ensured its collapse. Whigs and moralists denounced his aggressive enforcement of the Indian Removal Act, which resulted in the forced relocation of thousands of Native American tribes to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Historians acknowledge his protection of popular democracy and individual liberty for United States citizens, and sometimes criticize him for his support for slavery and for his role in Indian removal.
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See also: Panic of 1837
In January 1835, Jackson paid off the entire national debt, the only time in U.S. history that has been accomplished. The accomplishment was short lived. A severe depression from 1837 to 1844 caused a tenfold increase in national debt within its first year.
Opposition to the National Bank
The Second Bank of the United States was authorized for a 20-year period during James Madison's tenure in 1816. As President, Jackson worked to rescind the bank's federal charter. In Jackson's veto message, the bank needed to be abolished because:
- It concentrated the nation's financial strength in a single institution,
- It exposed the government to control by foreign interests,
- It served mainly to make the rich richer,
- It exercised too much control over members of Congress,
- It favored northeastern states over southern and western states,
- Banks are controlled by a few select families.
Following Jefferson, Jackson supported an "agricultural republic" and felt the Bank improved the fortunes of an "elite circle" of commercial and industrial entrepreneurs at the expense of farmers and laborers. After a titanic struggle, Jackson succeeded in destroying the Bank by vetoing its 1832 re-charter by Congress and by withdrawing U.S. funds in 1833. (Jacksonian Era)
The bank's money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that sprang up. This increased credit and speculation. At first, as Jackson withdrew money from the Bank to invest it in other banks, land sales, canal construction, cotton production, and manufacturing boomed. Then, in 1836, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which required buyers of government lands to pay in "specie" (gold or silver coins). The result was a great demand for specie, which many banks did not have enough of to exchange for their notes. These banks collapsed. This was a direct cause of the Panic of 1837, which threw the national economy into a deep depression. It took years for the economy to recover from the damage.
The U.S. Senate censured Jackson on March 28, 1834, for his action in removing U.S. funds from the Bank of the United States. When the Jacksonians had a majority in the Senate, the censure was expunged.
Attack & Assassination Attempt
The first presidential attack was against Jackson. Jackson ordered the dismissal of Robert B. Randolph from the Navy for embezzlement. On May 6, 1833, Jackson sailed on USS Cygnet to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was to lay the cornerstone on a monument near the grave of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington's mother. During a stopover near Alexandria, Randolph appeared and struck the President. He fled the scene chased by several members of Jackson's party, including the well-known writer Washington Irving. Jackson decided not to press charges.
On January 30, 1835, what is believed to be the first attempt to kill a sitting President of the United States occurred just outside the United States Capitol. When Jackson was leaving through the East Portico after the funeral of South Carolina Representative Warren R. Davis, Richard Lawrence, an unemployed housepainter from England, aimed a pistol at Jackson, which misfired. Lawrence pulled out a second pistol, which also misfired. Historians believe the humid weather contributed to the double misfiring. Lawrence was restrained, and legend says that Jackson attacked Lawrence with his cane. Others present, including David Crockett, restrained and disarmed Lawrence.
Lawrence told doctors later his reasons for the shooting. He blamed Jackson for the loss of his job. He claimed that with the President dead, "money would be more plenty" (a reference to Jackson's struggle with the Bank of the United States) and that he "could not rise until the President fell." Finally, he told his interrogators that he was a deposed English King—specifically, Richard III, dead since 1485—and that Jackson was his clerk. He was deemed insane and institutionalized.
Afterward, due to public curiosity concerning the double misfires, the pistols were tested and retested. Each time they performed perfectly. Many believed that Jackson had been protected by the same Providence that protected the young nation. This national pride was a large part of the Jacksonian cultural myth fueling American expansion in the 1830s.