Andrew Jackson (1829 – 1837): The Seventh Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Politics was personal for Andrew Jackson. In fact, you could consider his entire presidency a war against individuals. Unlike John Quincy Adams who refused to play the patronage game, once elected, Jackson cleaned house, firing his enemies and hiring his friends creating a spoils system.
In a letter to President James Monroe in September of 1819, Andrew Jackson referred to the international slave trade as “inhuman and illegal traffic.” Yet, Jackson at one point owned hundreds slaves as the operator of a mercantile business that engaged in the domestic slave trade, at times accepting slaves in exchange for dry goods, using them to pay off debts, or mortgaging them for loans.
Here are sample excerpts from letters sent to Jackson by his slave buyers:
Jan. 30, 1820:
Since my arrival here I have purchased five fellows for you … Ned at $450, Tom $455, Argyle $450, Titus $460, and Ned $475. Some of them are better bargains than others: but I dont consider any of them bad ones.
Apr. 4, 1831:
I have not been able to purchase to my satisfaction the two boys and Negroe girls for your son …. The Negroes of Irby’s estate sold at enormous prices, 36 sold for $10,114 00/100 and were mostly the inferior Negroes.
In perhaps his most shocking action on behalf of slavery, Jackson wrote a letter to the Postmaster General on August 9, 1835, suggesting that antislavery tracts “be delivered to none but who will demand them as subscribers; and in every instance the Postmaster ought to take the names down, and have them exposed thro the publik journals as subscribers to this wicked plan of exciting the negroes.”
Cincinnati Riots of 1829
The Cincinnati riots of 1829 were triggered by competition for jobs between Irish immigrants and native blacks and former slaves, in Cincinnati, Ohio, but also were related to white fears given the rapid increases of free and fugitive blacks in the city during this decade, particularly in the preceding three years. Merchants complained about the poor neighborhoods along the river as having ill effects on their waterfront shops and trade with southern planters. Artisans excluded blacks from apprenticeships and jobs in the skilled trades.
In June 1829 overseers of the poor announced that blacks would be required to post surety bonds of $500 (equivalent to $12,005 in 2019), within 30 days or face expulsion from the city and state. This was in accord with an 1807 Black Law, which was intended to discourage black settlement in the state, which was not being enforced.
Some blacks had already considered relocating to Canada, which they believed had a more accepting environment. They generally opposed the American Colonization Society’s desire to export free people of color “back to Africa”. Native-born black indigenous Americans had been in the United States for generations and as a result, they wanted to make their homes there as free people with full rights.
Proposed enforcement of the Black Law, which the American Colonization Society pushed for so as to stimulate black emigration, convinced some black leaders to leave the United States. Added to the mob violence and destruction of their densely populated neighborhood in the First Ward, an estimated 1100-1500 people of color decided to leave Cincinnati altogether.
Free blacks, former slaves and sympathetic whites donated money to help the refugees and survivors. Some settled elsewhere in the United States, while a smaller group moved to Canada. Most settled in existing towns in Ontario, where numerous refugee blacks lived after escaping from slavery. A group with more resources founded the Wilberforce Colony as a place of their own.
Native black Americans who remained in Cincinnati, and black migrants who joined them, were attacked again by ethnic white rioters in 1836 and 1841. By the latter date, they had strengthened their position in the city and used the political process to gain improvements in treatment.
It would be a mistake to see the Cincinnati riots as an aberration. Anti-Black violence in the North was common.
Nat Turner’s Rebellion
Nat Turner’s Rebellion (also known as the Southampton Insurrection) was a rebellion of enslaved Virginians that took place in Southampton County, Virginia, in August 1831, led by Nat Turner, killing between 55 and 65 people, at least 51 of whom were white. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. The rebellion was effectively suppressed at Belmont Plantation on the morning of August 23, 1831.
There was widespread fear in the aftermath, and militias organized in retaliation to the rebels. The state executed 56 enslaved people accused of being part of the rebellion, and many non-participant enslaved individuals were punished in the frenzy. Approximately 120 enslaved people and free blacks were killed by militias and mobs in the area. State legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of enslaved people and free black people, restricting rights of assembly and other civil liberties for free black people, and requiring white ministers to be present at all worship services.
The Ursuline Convent Riots
The Ursuline Convent riots occurred August 11 and 12, 1834, in Charlestown, Massachusetts, near Boston, in what is now Somerville, Massachusetts. During the riot, a convent of Roman Catholic Ursuline nuns was burned down by a Protestant mob. The event was triggered by reported abuse of a member of the order, and was fueled by the rebirth of extreme anti-Catholic sentiment in antebellum New England.
New York Anti-Abolitionist Riots of 1834
Beginning July 7, 1834, New York City was torn by a huge antiabolitionist riot (also called Farren Riot or Tappan Riot) that lasted for nearly a week until it was put down by military force. “At times the rioters controlled whole sections of the city while they attacked the homes, businesses, and churches of abolitionist leaders and ransacked black neighborhoods.
The Snow Riot was a riot and lynch mob in Washington, D.C. in August 1835. An attack on free blacks in the city by whites, the Snow Riot wreaked havoc on anything affiliated with free blacks for days, destroying or damaging many of their establishments.
The name of the riot comes from one of the first destinations the mob attacked, the restaurant owned by a free black man, Beverly Snow’s Epicurean Eating House. After attacking the restaurant, the mob destroyed the school Arthur Bowen went to, because he was suspected of being taught the abolition of slavery there.
The larger context of the attack on the school was the white working-class men’s frustration over free blacks’ ability to work, and their resentment of black competition for jobs. The clear result was the unleashing of white terror against blacks. The riot began on August 12, 1835 and continued for days in the nation’s capital until President Andrew Jackson intervened.
Cincinnati Riots of 1836
The Cincinnati Riots of 1836 were caused by racial tensions at a time when African Americans, some of whom had escaped from slavery in the southern states of the United States, were competing with whites for jobs. The racial riots occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio, in April and July 1836 by a mob of whites against black residents. These were part of a pattern of violence at that time.
A severe riot had occurred in 1829, led by ethnic Irish, and another riot against blacks broke out in 1841. After the Cincinnati riots of 1829, in which many African Americans lost their homes and property, a growing number of whites, such as the “Lane rebels” who withdrew from the Cincinnati Lane Theological Seminary en masse in 1834, over the issue of abolition, became sympathetic to their plight. The anti-abolitionist rioters of 1836, worried about their jobs if they had to compete with more blacks, attacked both black and white abolitionists.
States Admitted Into The Union
- Arkansas became the 25th state on June 15, 1836 from the Arkansas Territory
- Michigan became the 26th state on January 26, 1837 from the Michigan Territory
Battle of the Petticoats
The Petticoat Affair (also known as the Eaton Affair) was a political scandal involving members of President Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet and their wives, from 1829 to 1831. Led by Floride Calhoun, wife of Vice President John C. Calhoun, these women, dubbed the “Petticoats”, socially ostracized Secretary of War John Eaton and his wife, Peggy Eaton, over disapproval of the circumstances surrounding the Eatons’ marriage and what they deemed her failure to meet the “moral standards of a Cabinet Wife”.
The Petticoat Affair rattled the entire Jackson Administration and eventually led to the resignation of all but one Cabinet member. The ordeal facilitated Martin Van Buren’s rise to the presidency and was in part responsible for Vice President Calhoun’s transformation from a nationwide political figure with presidential aspirations into a sectional leader of the southern states.
President Andrew Jackson placed no trust in his cabinet, whom he regularly hired and fired. He went through four secretaries of state and five secretary of treasuries. Jackson preferred to work through a group of informal advisers, friends and confidantes known as his “kitchen cabinet“. They were composed of newspaper people and politicians from the west, who got their name because they came through the kitchen door. This angered Jackson’s critics, but he didn’t care. He was determined to change both Washington and America.
Indian Removal Act of 1830
The Indian Removal Act was signed into law on May 28, 1830, by United States President Andrew Jackson. The law authorized the president to negotiate with southern Native American tribes for their removal to federal territory west of the Mississippi River in exchange for white settlement of their ancestral lands.
The act has been referred to as a unitary act of systematic genocide, because it discriminated against an ethnic group in so far as to make certain the death of vast numbers of its population.The Act was signed by Andrew Jackson and it was strongly enforced under his administration and that of Martin Van Buren, which extended until 1841.
The Act was strongly supported by southern and northwestern populations, but was opposed by native tribes and the Whig Party. The Cherokee worked together to stop this relocation, but were unsuccessful; they were eventually forcibly removed by the United States government in a march to the west that later became known as the Trail of Tears.
South Carolina Nullification Crisis
The nullification crisis was a United States sectional political crisis in 1832–33, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, which involved a confrontation between the state of South Carolina and the federal government. It ensued after South Carolina declared the federal Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and therefore null and void within the sovereign boundaries of the state.
The controversial and highly protective Tariff of 1828 was enacted into law during the presidency of John Quincy Adams. The tariff was strongly opposed in the South, since it was perceived to put an unfair tax burden on the Southern agrarian states that imported most manufactured goods. The tariff’s opponents expected that Jackson’s election as President would result in a significant reduction of it.
When the Jackson administration failed to take any action to address their concerns, the state’s most radical faction began to advocate that the state declare the tariff null and void within South Carolina. In Washington, an open split on the issue occurred between Jackson and Vice President John C. Calhoun, a native South Carolinian and the most effective proponent of the constitutional theory of state nullification, the legal theory that if a state believed a federal law unconstitutional, it could declare the law null and void in the state.
On July 1, 1832, before Calhoun resigned the vice presidency to run for the Senate, where he could more effectively defend nullification, Jackson signed into law the Tariff of 1832. This compromise tariff received the support of most Northerners and half the Southerners in Congress, but it did not satisfy South Carolina.
On November 24, 1832, a state convention adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, which declared that the Tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and unenforceable in South Carolina after February 1, 1833. South Carolina initiated military preparations to resist anticipated federal enforcement, but on March 1, 1833, Congress passed both the Force Bill—authorizing the President to use military forces against South Carolina—and a new negotiated tariff, the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which was satisfactory to South Carolina. The South Carolina convention reconvened and repealed its Nullification Ordinance on March 15, 1833, but three days later, nullified the Force Bill as a symbolic gesture of principle.
The crisis was over, and both sides found reasons to claim victory. The tariff rates were reduced and stayed low to the satisfaction of the South, but the states’ rights doctrine of nullification remained controversial. By the 1850s, the issues of the expansion of slavery into the western territories and the threat of the Slave Power became the central issues in the nation
The Bank War was a political struggle that developed over the issue of rechartering the Second Bank of the United States during the presidency of Andrew Jackson (1829–1837). The affair resulted in the shutdown of the Bank and its replacement by state banks.
The Second Bank of the United States was established as a private organization with a 20-year charter, having the exclusive right to conduct banking on a national scale. The goal was to stabilize the American economy by establishing a uniform currency and strengthening the federal government. Supporters of the Bank regarded it as a stabilizing force in the economy due to its ability to smooth out variations in prices and trade, extend credit, supply the nation with a sound and uniform currency, provide fiscal services for the treasury department, facilitate long-distance trade, and prevent inflation by regulating the lending practices of state banks.
Jacksonian Democrats cited instances of corruption and alleged that the bank favored merchants and speculators at the expense of farmers and artisans, appropriated public money for risky private investments and interference in politics, and conferred economic privileges on a small group of stockholders and financial elites, thereby violating the principle of equal opportunity. Some found the Bank’s public–private organization to be unconstitutional, and argued that the institution’s charter violated state sovereignty. To them, the Bank symbolized corruption while threatening liberty.
In early 1832, the president of the Bank, Nicholas Biddle, in alliance with the National Republicans under Senators Henry Clay (Kentucky) and Daniel Webster (Massachusetts), submitted an application for a renewal of the Bank’s twenty-year charter four years before the charter was set to expire, intending to pressure Jackson into making a decision prior to the 1832 presidential election, in which Jackson would face Clay. When Congress voted to reauthorize the Bank, Jackson vetoed the bill with a message that was a polemical declaration of the social philosophy of the Jacksonian movement pitting “the planters, the farmers, the mechanic and the laborer” against the “monied interest”.
The Bank became the central issue that divided the Jacksonians from the National Republicans. Although the Bank provided significant financial assistance to Clay and pro-Bank U.S. newspaper editors, Jackson secured an overwhelming election victory.
Fearing economic reprisals from Biddle, Jackson swiftly removed the Bank’s federal deposits. In 1833, he arranged to distribute the funds to dozens of state banks. The new Whig Party emerged in opposition to his perceived abuse of executive power, officially censuring Jackson in the Senate. In an effort to promote sympathy for the institution’s survival, Biddle retaliated by contracting Bank credit, inducing a mild financial downturn. A reaction set in throughout America’s financial and business centers against Biddle’s maneuvers, compelling the Bank to reverse its tight money policies, but its chances of being rechartered were all but finished. The economy did extremely well during Jackson’s time as president, but his economic policies, including his war against the Bank, are sometimes blamed for contributing to the Panic of 1837.
Jackson leaves a complicated legacy. He changed the presidency as he gave it more power by imposing his will on the economy, government, landscape and people. He forged the future of the nation in what has become known as the “Age of Jackson”. Under Jackson, the U.S. government was debt free for the first and only time in our history.
Bitching during Jackson’s time started because he was a man “unlike his predecessors” as he was the first president born in a log cabin. He relied upon “his people” to advise him contrary the Washington establishment. He openly defied the U.S. Supreme Court, making a mockery of our system of checks and balances which people bitched about tremendously. He flexed the military power of the federal government against its own citizens. Finally, he was hands on with the economy. Those bitching about eliminating the central bank would have loved Jackson. Those who asked how it would be replaced bitched as the elimination of the bank would hurt us economically in the long-term, in exchange for a short-term balancing of the books.
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Martin Van Buren (1837 – 1841) would follow Andrew Jackson
John Quincy Adams (1825 – 1829) preceded Andrew Jackson
It all started with George Washington (1789 – 1797).
Zachary Taylor (1849 – 1850) would assume the presidency after the Mexican War
Woodrow Wilson (1913 – 1921) would guide the United States through World War I.
Jimmy Carter (1977 – 1981) would be the only Democratic President for 25 years post Civil Rights.
George W. Bush (2000 – 2008) is the final President in our series.