Andrew Jackson and the Bank War: A Study in the Growth of Presidential Power. By Robert V. Remini. The Norton Essays in American History. Edited by Harold M. Hyman. (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967. Pp. 192. Notes, bibliographical review, index. $4.50.)
This is a volume in the promising Norton series now being published for a general audience but based upon extensive firsthand research by specialists. Such series are commendable for their compactness, substantial scholarship, and attractive literary qualities. Hopefully, there will be more publications of this kind and fewer collected documents and readings that have saturated the market. Certainly this book on the national bank during the Jacksonian era is a model to be imitated. Robert Remini, an expert on Van Buren and Jackson, has got to the heart of the bank controversy, has methodically explored a wide variety of primary materials, and has told his story with a flair that is bound to keep his readers awake and wondering what will happen next.
Remini's thesis is that the main element in the bank war of the 1830's was Andrew Jackson himself rather than forces emphasized by other authors— the western farmer, the eastern working man, the rising entrepreneur, or a particular social group. Two stubborn, powerful men faced each other: Jackson and President Nicholas Biddle of the Bank of the United States. At many points in the conflict, Remini believes, a compromise which would have preserved a badly needed central banking system and still have introduced a necessary degree of governmental regulation was entirely possible; but owing to pride or prejudice, neither stubborn man would consent to it.
So the focus is on Jackson the politician, instead of financial, constitutional, sociological, or ideological aspects. It was Jackson who finally turned public opinion against the bank by 1834, though the President had run against the current earlier. Remini thinks that a majority of the people favored the bank at the outset and even through the election of 1832 (when Jackson probably lost rather than gained votes because of his recharter veto). This assessment of opinion corresponds with the findings of Jean Wilburn in another recent book on the subject but rests upon soft, incomplete evidence. In any case, the dynamic ingredient was Jackson's conviction that this monopolistic corporation wielded too much power over the nation's economy and government. And Jackson's victory was a tribute to his considerable skills as a politician and to his capacity of democratic leadership.
The long-run consequences were important. Jackson materially built up the office of the presidency to a position of much greater strength than it had ever had previously. The President developed the veto as a valuable instrument in policy making, he actively participated in the legislative process, he prevailed in his insistence upon complete control over his cabinet, he stimulated the resurgence of the two-party system, and he became the only national official representing the American people as a whole.
In terms of what the author proposes to do, perhaps beyond that as well, the book is both informative and interesting. No doubt it will be received quite favorably indeed.
Maurice G. Baxter
Andrew Jackson may or may not have been a good president, this depends upon one’s opinion. Perhaps he was right on some issues and perhaps he was wrong, but either way he was definitely effective as a president. He knew how to manipulate and persuade to get whatever it was that he wanted. After all, he managed to get elected into office for both terms.
Probably the biggest crisis of Jackson’s presidency started when South Carolina announced that they opposed the tariffs leveled in 1828 and 1832 by Jackson supporters. "Nullifiers" thought that a state could nullify a federal law within its own borders if it so desired. When South Carolina, led by John C. Calhoun, announced its intention to nullify the tariffs in the fall of 1832, it touched off what almost developed into a civil war, as Jackson massed military resources on the state's borders. Finally resolved in the spring of 1833 when South Carolina agreed to a new, more fair, tariff passed by Congress. And so, President Jackson has his way.
Early in the 19th century, while the rapidly-growing United States expanded into the lower South, white settlers faced what they considered an obstacle. This area was home to the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chicasaw and Seminole nations. These Indian nations, in the view of the settlers and many other white Americans, were standing in the way of progress. Eager to steal the Indian’s land to raise cotton, the settlers pressured the federal government to “acquire” Indian territory.
Andrew Jackson was a forceful proponent of Indian removal. In 1814 he commanded the U.S. military forces that defeated a faction of the Creek nation. In their defeat, the Creeks lost 22 million acres of land in southern Georgia and central Alabama. The U.S. stole more land in 1818 when, spurred in part by the motivation to punish the Seminoles for their practice of harboring fugitive slaves, Jackson's troops invaded Spanish Florida.
A small number of Indians in the different tribes “willfully” decided to move, in hopes of being aloud to keep some of their land and in order to get away from white harassment.
Later the Supreme Court handed down a decision which stated that the different tribes could occupy lands within the United States, but could not hold title to those lands. This was because their "right of occupancy" was subordinate to the United States' "right of discovery." In response to the great threat this posed, the Creeks, Cherokee, and Chicasaw instituted policies of restricting land sales to the government. They wanted to protect what little remained of their land before it was too late. Most of these attempts at resistance were non violent, though some tribes absolutely refused to lose their land, and were willing to go to war for it. The Cherokee tried to follow in the United State’s own policy and declare themselves sovereign and wrote a constitution so that they could keep their land, but Georgia didn’t see things their way. The Cherokee brought their case to the supreme court, which of course ruled against them.
In 1830, just a year after taking office, Jackson pushed a new piece of legislation called the "Indian Removal Act" through both houses of Congress. It gave the president power to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi. Under these treaties, the Indians were to give up their lands east of the Mississippi in exchange for lands to the west. Those wishing to remain in the east would become citizens of their home state. This act affected not only the southeastern nations, but many others further north. The removal was supposed to be voluntary and peaceful, and it was that way for the tribes that agreed to the conditions. But the southeastern nations resisted, and Jackson forced them to leave. Jackson described the Indians as being children in need of guidance, and supposedly believed that the removal policy was going to be beneficial to them.
Again, President Jackson, stubborn as he is, has his way.
The Bank War was another of Jackson’s accomplishments. Jackson disliked the United States bank, and wanted to bring it down. He took federal money out of this bank, and distributed it into other, smaller banks. As a result, the bank crashed. It no longer had enough money to support itself. This may not have been right, but it was pretty ingenious. Andrew was smart enough, and low enough, to do anything to get what he wanted. He used whatever resources he could come up with in order to come out on top of everything.
It is amazing that this man served two terms as president. The way that he ran the country was ridiculous, but he was manipulative. He was good at what he did, especially considering the time period that he was president. In some instances, I believe that Jackson sucked up in order to be well-liked enough to gain votes. For example, the Indian Removal Act really had no benefit for him other than pleasing his racist voters. Yes, the country would gain land, but it would also lose land because the Indians would be moving elsewhere.
Stubborn and sly as he was, Andrew Jackson used intelligence and manipulation to get what he wanted. As president, his power only helped him that much more to achieve whatever goal he set out for.