Andrew Jackson

Presidential term: March 4, 1829 – March 4, 1837

Jackson was President two terms. About this time, Congress passed a law laying a high tariff, or duty, on goods brought from abroad, for the purpose of giving an advantage to home manufacturers. This law pleased the people in the North, because they manufactured many things, and wanted the Americans to buy from them rather than from European merchants. But in the South, where there were no manufactories then, people were angry, because they said that Northern goods were not so fine as the European, and that they already paid enough for all that came from abroad.

The result was that, in 1832, South Carolina said the law should be null, or of no force, in her limits. She claimed that, according to the Constitution, Congress had no right to make it, and announced that she would rather leave the Union than pay the tariff. Now, some members of Congress said that this question ought to be decided by the Supreme Court, and not by the states, and that a state, having once joined the Union, could not leave it without the consent of the rest of the states; but others, and among them the eloquent Southerners, Calhoun and Hayne, insisted that each state had the right to annul any law it considered unconstitutional, and even to leave the Union.

South Carolina was of the latter opinion, but Jackson was not, and we are told that when he heard the “Nullification Act” had been passed by South Carolina, he flew into a great rage, dashed his corncob pipe on the floor, and cried: “By the Eternal! I’ll fix ’em! Send for General Scott.”

General Scott was then promptly sent to Charleston to see that the tariff law should be obeyed. Still, the two opinions on state rights were so strongly rooted that neither party could convince the other. It was therefore finally agreed that while the tariff should be collected at all the ports of the country to please the North, it should be lowered little by little so as to please the South.

In settling this question, however, several famous speeches were made, among them one by Daniel Webster, who said that the Constitution was greater than any state, being “made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.” On that occasion also he spoke of “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable,” a phrase which became the watchword of a great part of the country. This was Jackson’s feeling also, so at a dinner party he once gave the toast: “Our Federal Union: it must be preserved.”

President Jackson, or “Old Hickory,” as his soldiers called him, was very fond of having his own way; and while he had many devoted friends, he also had some bitter enemies. As he did not call meetings of his regular Cabinet, but instead listened to the advice of a few other men, these were scornfully called, by his enemies, the “kitchen cabinet.”

It was probably by advice of the “kitchen cabinet” that Jackson decided not to continue the United States Bank, but to send the money to different states, to be placed in what were called “pet banks.” This change caused some trouble, for people borrowed that money and used it in rash ways, hoping to get rich very fast.

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