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03/15/2002

Andrew Jackson: Part Two - Debate

Well, this started out as an article about Andrew Jackson and the
Bank of the United States, but once you realize how crucial his
presidency was for the Union in general, let alone last week’s
delicious tale, I find myself having to set things up with some
other stories before we get to the bank issue.

Jackson’s presidency (1829-37) encompassed the guts of the
“states’ rights” debate, which was the central argument in the
years running up to the Civil War. The doctrine of states’ rights
simply implied that the individual states had authority in matters
not relegated to the federal government. One giant of a man,
South Carolina’s John Calhoun, was the central figure in the
issue, as well as the corollary, “nullification,” the latter having to
do with the assumption that states may not choose to enforce
federal law.

For his part, John Calhoun was vice president in the
administration of John Quincy Adams as well as under Quincy’s
successor, Andrew Jackson. Last week you learned how
Calhoun’s role (and that of his wife) in the whole Peggy Eaton
affair would lead to his downfall and, in turn, elevate Martin Van
Buren as Jackson’s running mate in the election of 1832.

What we didn’t get into before was more of a description of
Calhoun, “a man of towering intellect and humorless outlook,”
according to historians George Brown Tindall and David Shi. A
friend once said, “There is no relaxation with him,” while
another described, after a 3-hour visit with Calhoun, “I hate a
man who makes me think so much and I hate a man who
makes me feel my own inferiority.” [Tindall and Shi]

You have to picture that in the late 1820s, the advance of
northern industrialization and abolitionism were more than a bit
worrisome to southern leaders. Aside from slavery, the battle
lines were initially drawn over two other issues, the Tariff of
1828 and federal land policy as it pertained to the development
of the western territories.

During the 1820s, South Carolina lost almost 70,000 to
emigration due to a depression in the agricultural sector. Aside
from the industrialization of the north, which attracted some
workers from the south, you also had a prohibitive tariff policy,
which not only led to higher prices for manufactured goods, but
also discouraged the sale of imports from overseas, meaning that,
in the case of South Carolina, the British and the French couldn’t
accumulate the U.S. currency required to purchase cotton, for
example. [I recognize this is a gross generalization.]

On the land issue, squatting rules were being amended in the late
1820s which, bottom line, worried both the north and south
because a mass migration to the west could lead to higher labor
costs for both. The federal government had been having trouble
selling large tracts of unusable land at the minimum price of
$1.25 per acre (oh, if I only knew of the opportunities back then),
so it was losing out on tax revenues, thus the adoption of a new
policy which allowed squatters to claim the land and purchase it
whenever the government chose to formally offer it.

With this as background, Calhoun sought to broker some sort of
compromise, while protecting the core southern beliefs. He was
aware, however, that if southern extremists prevailed, secession
was a distinct possibility.

In December 1829, Senator Foot of Connecticut proposed that
Congress put a brake on the sale of public lands and suddenly the
Senate was in an uproar. Would the West side with the North or
South? This was the debate that would directly lead to the Civil
War, as it ranged from land, to tariffs to slavery and the meaning
of the Constitution itself.

Throughout his first year in office, President Jackson, as we
learned last week, was swept up in the “Eaton Malaria,” but he
did recognize the importance of the coming debate. Jackson was
a states’ rights man, but he never doubted the sovereignty of the
nation. The states could disagree with laws of the Union, but
that didn’t give them the right to disobey them.

So as 1829 rolled into 1830, the debate raged on, climaxing in a
contest between South Carolina’s Robert Haynie and the nation’s
greatest orator, Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster. Picture
how all of the participants had been delivering speeches, which
lasted for hours on end, with nothing but a scrap of paper in their
hands, while each word was often recorded in the newspapers.

It was said that Webster, as you’ll recall from your history books,
could outargue the devil. Physically, he had the “torso of a bull,
and his huge head, with its craggy brows overhanging deep-set,
lustrous black eyes, commanded attention.” [Tindall and Shi]

Haynie was a good orator in his own right and under his
interpretation of the states’ rights argument, he believed the
states were free to judge when the federal government had
overstepped its constitutional authority. Haynie had taken the
Senate floor twice to combat Webster. It was during Webster’s
second oration, however, that he uttered words that every
schoolchild of the day soon learned by heart. They also had a
profound impact on a future president, Abraham Lincoln.

In order to get the full flavor of the times, I need to quote quite
extensively from the classic history book, “Growth of the
American Republic,” which describes the scene on January 26,
1830 as follows:

“Imagine, then, the small semicircular Senate chamber in the
Capitol; gallery and every bit of floor space behind the desks of
the forty-eight senators packed with visitors; Vice-President
Calhoun in the chair, his handsome, mobile face gazing into that
of the orator and reflecting every point; Daniel Webster, in blue-
tailed coat with brass buttons and buff waistcoat, getting under
way slowly and deliberately like a man of war, then clapping on
sail until he moved with the seemingly effortless speed of a
clipper ship. Hour after hour the speech flowed on, always in
good taste and temper, relieving the high tone and tension with a
happy allusion or turn of phrase that provoked laughter, thrilling
his audience with rich imagery, crushing his opponents with a
barrage of facts, passing from defense of his state to criticism of
the ‘South Carolina doctrine,’ and concluding with an immortal
peroration on the Union.”

Daniel Webster:

“It is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our
consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are
chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our
country. That Union we reached only by the discipline of our
virtues in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the
necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined
credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests
immediately awoke as from the dead, and sprang forth with
newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh
proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory
has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread
farther and farther, they have not outrun its protection or its
benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national,
social, and personal happiness.

“I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see
what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not cooly
weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that
unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed
myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether,
with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below;
nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this
government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on
considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how
tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be
broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts we have high,
exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our
children. Beyond that I see not to penetrate the veil. God grant
that in my day at least that curtain may not rise! God grant that
on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my
eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven,
may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored
fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered,
discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or
drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and
lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the
republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full
high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original
lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured,
bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as ‘What is
all this worth?’ nor those other words of delusion and folly,
‘Liberty first and Union afterwards’; but everywhere, spread all
over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds,
as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind
under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true
American heart, - Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and
inseparable!”

Some ten weeks later, at the Jefferson Day Dinner held in
Washington to honor the former president, Andrew Jackson gave
his toast, following 24(!) prior ones, which had mostly extolled
states’ rights. Jackson turned to Calhoun, his vice president, and
declared: “Our Union – It must be preserved!” Calhoun, clearly
upset, let loose with: “The Union, next to our liberty most dear!
May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting
the rights of the States and distributing equally the benefit and
the burden of the Union!” But Jackson was president, not
Calhoun. It was another blow for the states’ rights crowd.

Believe it or not, we’ll get around to the Bank of the United
States clash, though I no longer offer any guarantees as to when.

Sources:

“America: A Narrative History,” George Brown Tindall
“The Growth of the American Republic,” Morison, Commager,
Leuchtenburg
“American Heritage: The Presidents,” Michael Beschloss

Brian Trumbore



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-03/15/2002-      
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Wall Street History

03/15/2002

Andrew Jackson: Part Two - Debate

Well, this started out as an article about Andrew Jackson and the
Bank of the United States, but once you realize how crucial his
presidency was for the Union in general, let alone last week’s
delicious tale, I find myself having to set things up with some
other stories before we get to the bank issue.

Jackson’s presidency (1829-37) encompassed the guts of the
“states’ rights” debate, which was the central argument in the
years running up to the Civil War. The doctrine of states’ rights
simply implied that the individual states had authority in matters
not relegated to the federal government. One giant of a man,
South Carolina’s John Calhoun, was the central figure in the
issue, as well as the corollary, “nullification,” the latter having to
do with the assumption that states may not choose to enforce
federal law.

For his part, John Calhoun was vice president in the
administration of John Quincy Adams as well as under Quincy’s
successor, Andrew Jackson. Last week you learned how
Calhoun’s role (and that of his wife) in the whole Peggy Eaton
affair would lead to his downfall and, in turn, elevate Martin Van
Buren as Jackson’s running mate in the election of 1832.

What we didn’t get into before was more of a description of
Calhoun, “a man of towering intellect and humorless outlook,”
according to historians George Brown Tindall and David Shi. A
friend once said, “There is no relaxation with him,” while
another described, after a 3-hour visit with Calhoun, “I hate a
man who makes me think so much and I hate a man who
makes me feel my own inferiority.” [Tindall and Shi]

You have to picture that in the late 1820s, the advance of
northern industrialization and abolitionism were more than a bit
worrisome to southern leaders. Aside from slavery, the battle
lines were initially drawn over two other issues, the Tariff of
1828 and federal land policy as it pertained to the development
of the western territories.

During the 1820s, South Carolina lost almost 70,000 to
emigration due to a depression in the agricultural sector. Aside
from the industrialization of the north, which attracted some
workers from the south, you also had a prohibitive tariff policy,
which not only led to higher prices for manufactured goods, but
also discouraged the sale of imports from overseas, meaning that,
in the case of South Carolina, the British and the French couldn’t
accumulate the U.S. currency required to purchase cotton, for
example. [I recognize this is a gross generalization.]

On the land issue, squatting rules were being amended in the late
1820s which, bottom line, worried both the north and south
because a mass migration to the west could lead to higher labor
costs for both. The federal government had been having trouble
selling large tracts of unusable land at the minimum price of
$1.25 per acre (oh, if I only knew of the opportunities back then),
so it was losing out on tax revenues, thus the adoption of a new
policy which allowed squatters to claim the land and purchase it
whenever the government chose to formally offer it.

With this as background, Calhoun sought to broker some sort of
compromise, while protecting the core southern beliefs. He was
aware, however, that if southern extremists prevailed, secession
was a distinct possibility.

In December 1829, Senator Foot of Connecticut proposed that
Congress put a brake on the sale of public lands and suddenly the
Senate was in an uproar. Would the West side with the North or
South? This was the debate that would directly lead to the Civil
War, as it ranged from land, to tariffs to slavery and the meaning
of the Constitution itself.

Throughout his first year in office, President Jackson, as we
learned last week, was swept up in the “Eaton Malaria,” but he
did recognize the importance of the coming debate. Jackson was
a states’ rights man, but he never doubted the sovereignty of the
nation. The states could disagree with laws of the Union, but
that didn’t give them the right to disobey them.

So as 1829 rolled into 1830, the debate raged on, climaxing in a
contest between South Carolina’s Robert Haynie and the nation’s
greatest orator, Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster. Picture
how all of the participants had been delivering speeches, which
lasted for hours on end, with nothing but a scrap of paper in their
hands, while each word was often recorded in the newspapers.

It was said that Webster, as you’ll recall from your history books,
could outargue the devil. Physically, he had the “torso of a bull,
and his huge head, with its craggy brows overhanging deep-set,
lustrous black eyes, commanded attention.” [Tindall and Shi]

Haynie was a good orator in his own right and under his
interpretation of the states’ rights argument, he believed the
states were free to judge when the federal government had
overstepped its constitutional authority. Haynie had taken the
Senate floor twice to combat Webster. It was during Webster’s
second oration, however, that he uttered words that every
schoolchild of the day soon learned by heart. They also had a
profound impact on a future president, Abraham Lincoln.

In order to get the full flavor of the times, I need to quote quite
extensively from the classic history book, “Growth of the
American Republic,” which describes the scene on January 26,
1830 as follows:

“Imagine, then, the small semicircular Senate chamber in the
Capitol; gallery and every bit of floor space behind the desks of
the forty-eight senators packed with visitors; Vice-President
Calhoun in the chair, his handsome, mobile face gazing into that
of the orator and reflecting every point; Daniel Webster, in blue-
tailed coat with brass buttons and buff waistcoat, getting under
way slowly and deliberately like a man of war, then clapping on
sail until he moved with the seemingly effortless speed of a
clipper ship. Hour after hour the speech flowed on, always in
good taste and temper, relieving the high tone and tension with a
happy allusion or turn of phrase that provoked laughter, thrilling
his audience with rich imagery, crushing his opponents with a
barrage of facts, passing from defense of his state to criticism of
the ‘South Carolina doctrine,’ and concluding with an immortal
peroration on the Union.”

Daniel Webster:

“It is to that Union we owe our safety at home, and our
consideration and dignity abroad. It is to that Union that we are
chiefly indebted for whatever makes us most proud of our
country. That Union we reached only by the discipline of our
virtues in the severe school of adversity. It had its origin in the
necessities of disordered finance, prostrate commerce, and ruined
credit. Under its benign influences, these great interests
immediately awoke as from the dead, and sprang forth with
newness of life. Every year of its duration has teemed with fresh
proofs of its utility and its blessings; and although our territory
has stretched out wider and wider, and our population spread
farther and farther, they have not outrun its protection or its
benefits. It has been to us all a copious fountain of national,
social, and personal happiness.

“I have not allowed myself, Sir, to look beyond the Union, to see
what might lie hidden in the dark recess behind. I have not cooly
weighed the chances of preserving liberty when the bonds that
unite us together shall be broken asunder. I have not accustomed
myself to hang over the precipice of disunion, to see whether,
with my short sight, I can fathom the depth of the abyss below;
nor could I regard him as a safe counsellor in the affairs of this
government, whose thoughts should be mainly bent on
considering, not how the Union may be best preserved, but how
tolerable might be the condition of the people when it should be
broken up and destroyed. While the Union lasts we have high,
exciting, gratifying prospects spread out before us, for us and our
children. Beyond that I see not to penetrate the veil. God grant
that in my day at least that curtain may not rise! God grant that
on my vision never may be opened what lies behind! When my
eyes shall be turned to behold for the last time the sun in heaven,
may I not see him shining on the broken and dishonored
fragments of a once glorious Union; on States dissevered,
discordant, belligerent; on a land rent with civil feuds, or
drenched, it may be, in fraternal blood! Let their last feeble and
lingering glance rather behold the gorgeous ensign of the
republic, now known and honored throughout the earth, still full
high advanced, its arms and trophies streaming in their original
lustre, not a stripe erased or polluted, not a single star obscured,
bearing for its motto, no such miserable interrogatory as ‘What is
all this worth?’ nor those other words of delusion and folly,
‘Liberty first and Union afterwards’; but everywhere, spread all
over in characters of living light, blazing on all its ample folds,
as they float over the sea and over the land, and in every wind
under the whole heavens, that other sentiment, dear to every true
American heart, - Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and
inseparable!”

Some ten weeks later, at the Jefferson Day Dinner held in
Washington to honor the former president, Andrew Jackson gave
his toast, following 24(!) prior ones, which had mostly extolled
states’ rights. Jackson turned to Calhoun, his vice president, and
declared: “Our Union – It must be preserved!” Calhoun, clearly
upset, let loose with: “The Union, next to our liberty most dear!
May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting
the rights of the States and distributing equally the benefit and
the burden of the Union!” But Jackson was president, not
Calhoun. It was another blow for the states’ rights crowd.

Believe it or not, we’ll get around to the Bank of the United
States clash, though I no longer offer any guarantees as to when.

Sources:

“America: A Narrative History,” George Brown Tindall
“The Growth of the American Republic,” Morison, Commager,
Leuchtenburg
“American Heritage: The Presidents,” Michael Beschloss

Brian Trumbore