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and the President had the credit of it. He had already been re-elected by an overwhelming majority in November, 1832, receiving 219 electoral votes, and Clay 49; while Floyd had the 11 votes of South Carolina (which still chose electors by its legislature-a practice now abandoned), and Wirt the 7 of Vermont. Van Buren was chosen Vice-president, being nominated in place of Calhoun by the Democratic National Convention, which now for the first time came into operation. The President was thus at his highwater mark of popularity—always a dangerous time for a public man. His vehement nature accepted his re-election as a proof that he was right in everything, and he grew more self-confident than ever. More imperiously than ever he ordered about friends and opponents; and his friends repaid it by guiding his affairs, unconsciously to himself. Meantime he was encountering another enemy of greater power, because more silent, than southern nullification, and he was drifting on to his final contest with the United States Bank.
Sydney Smith says that every Englishman feels himself able, without instruction, to drive a ponychaise, conduct a small farm, and edit a newspaper. The average American assumes, in addition to all this, that he is competent to manage a bank. President Jackson claimed for himself in this respect no more than his fellows; the difference was in strength of will and in possession of power. A man so ignorant that a member of his own family, according to Mr. Trist, used to say that the general did not believe the world was round, might easily convince himself that he knew all about banking. As he had, besides all this, very keen observation and great intuitive
judgment of character, he was probably right in his point of attack. There is little doubt that the bank of the United States, under Nicholas Biddle, concentrated in itself an enormous power; and it spent in four years, by confession of its directors, $58,000 in what they called “self-defence" against "politicians.” When, on July 10, 1832, General Jackson, in a long message, vetoed the bill renewing the charter of the bank, he performed an act of courage, taking counsel with his instincts. But when in the year following he performed the act known as the “removal of the deposits,” or, in other words, caused the public money to be no longer deposited in the National Bank and its twenty-five branches, but in a variety of State banks instead, then he took counsel of his ignorance.
The act originally creating the bank had, indeed, given the Secretary of the Treasury authority to remove these deposits at any time, he afterwards giving to Congress his reasons. The President had in vain urged Congress to order the change; that body declined. He had in vain urged the Secretary of the Treasury to remove them, and on his refusing, had displaced the official himself. The President at last found a Secretary of the Treasury (Roger B. Taney) to order the removal, or rather cessation, of deposits. The consequence, immediate or remote, was an immense galvanizing into existence of State banks, and ultimately a vast increase of paper-money. The Sub-Treasury system had not then been thought of; there was no proper place of deposit for the public funds; their possession was a direct stimulus to speculation; and the President's cure was worse than the disease. All the vast inflation of 1835 and 1836 and the business collapse of 1837 were due to the fact not merely that Andrew Jackson brought all his violent and persistent will to bear against the United States Bank, but that when he got the power into his own hands he did not know what to do with it. Not one of his biographers-hardly even a bigoted admirer, so far as I know-now claims that his course in this respect was anything but a mistake. “No monster bank,” says Professor W. G. Sumner, "under the most malicious management, could have produced as much havoc, either political or financial, as this system produced while it lasted.” If the bank was, as is now generally admitted, a dangerous institution, Jackson was in the right to resist it; he was right even in disregarding the enormous flood of petitions that poured in to its support. But to oppose a dangerous bank does not necessarily make one an expert in banking. The utmost that can be said in favor of his action is that the calamitous results showed the great power of the institution he overthrew, and that if he had let it alone the final result might have been as bad.
Two new States were added to the Union in President Jackson's time-Arkansas (1836) and Michigan (1837). The population of the United States in 1830 had risen to nearly thirteen millions (12,866,020). There was no foreign war during his administration, although one with France was barely averted, and no domestic contest except the second Seminole war against the Florida Indians--a contest in which these combatants held their ground so well, under the halfbreed chief Osceola, that he himself was only captured by the violation of a flag of truce. The war being equally carried on against fugitive slaves called Maroons, who had intermarried with the Indians, did something to prepare the public mind for a new agitation which was to remould American political parties and to modify the Constitution of the nation.
It must be remembered that the very air began to be filled in Jackson's time with rumors of insurrections and uprisings in different parts of the world. The French revolution of the Three Days had roused all the American people to sympathy, and called forth especial enthusiasm in such cities as Baltimore, Richmond, and Charleston. The Polish revolution had excited universal interest, and John Randolph had said, "The Greeks are at your doors." At home the antislavery contest, destined to be for more than thirty years the great issue of American politics, was opening. In Garrison, Jackson for once met a will firmer than his own, because more steadfast and moved by a loftier purpose. Abolition was to draw new lines, establish new standards, and create new reputations; and it is to be remembered that the Democratic President did not abhor it more, on the one side, than did his fiercest Federalist critics on the other. One of the ablest of them, William Sullivan, at the close of his Familiar Letters on Public Characters, after exhausting language to depict the outrages committed by President Jackson, points out as equally objectionable the rising antislavery movement, and predicts that, if it has its full course, “even an Andrew Jackson may be a blessing." But of the wholly new series of events which were to date from this agitation neither Sullivan nor Jackson had so much as a glimpse. The story of that great movement must now be told.
ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
T has more than once been observed that slavery,
notwithstanding the flood of writing about it, still remains not only the most interesting but also the most perplexing institution in American history. On no subject, save perhaps the causes of the Revolution, have we been offered more generalization and less fact. The trouble has usually come either from exclusive attention to some one phase of the subjectits territorial aspect, for example—or else from the assumption that slavery itself was as an institution always and everywhere the same. It may well be for most students the beginning of wisdom to remember that slavery, much as we may rejoice at the abolition of it, was, nevertheless, like all social institutions, a growth; that it had many forms and turned to mankind many sides; and that it was a distinct and formative element in American life for more than two hundred years before it came to an end. And through all the many variations—social, economic, political, legal, international-on the theme there sounds the note of conscience, not always clear or strong, but growing mightily in volume and dominance towards the end, until at last the great transformation occurred, and those who were before reckoned as property were at last reckoned as men.