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Andrew Jackson is the only president in US history to pay off the national debt. Sounds great, but what was the debt-to-GDP then, as he may have been helped by the president who came before him?
(Don't get me wrong, it was a huge accomplishment for his team considering that they were the ONLY presidential team to pull this off.)
According to The Atlantic, it was nearly 0 when he was elected in 1829, and on a downward trajectory. It had been under 10% since about 1800, and had been trending steadily downward since about 1820.
So if any credit is due for this accomplishment, it should probably go at least equally to his predecessors from the other party (Monroe and then John Q. Adams). Of course it is the US House of Representatives that passes all financial legislation, so technically any deficit is their doing. However, there's a legitimate case that the President's role is to provide leadership in such matters.
Digging deeper, a lot of that level seems to correlate strongly with outside factors. The upward spikes they show either correspond to major wars, or one of the two great recessions. The only serious exception to this rule appears to be the steady rise (not a spike) under the Reagan administration's implementation of supply-side economics.
US GDP by Year Compared to Recessions and Events
U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) by year is a good overview of economic growth in the United States. The table below presents the nation's GDP for each year since 1929 compared to major economic events.
The table begins with the stock market crash of 1929 and goes through the subsequent Great Depression. It includes five wars and several serious recessions. These extreme swings in the business cycle put today's economic climate in perspective. You can compare the GDP by year to fiscal and monetary policies to get a complete picture of what works and what doesn't in the U.S. economy.
- The GDP growth rate shows whether the country’s economy is flourishing or taking a dive.
- A negative growth rate indicates contraction.
- Real GDP takes into account inflation, so you can compare the GDP of different years.
- Nominal GDP reflects the prices for the year in which the goods were produced.
Andrew Jackson: Life Before the Presidency
Andrew Jackson was born on March 15, 1767, in the Waxhaw settlement, a community of Scotch-Irish immigrants along the border between North and South Carolina. Though his birthplace is in dispute, he considered himself a South Carolina native. His father died before his birth and Andrew's mother and her three small boys moved in with her Crawford relatives. Jackson attended local schools, receiving an elementary education and perhaps a smattering of higher learning.
Soldier, Prisoner and Orphan
The Revolutionary War ended Jackson's childhood and wiped out his remaining immediate family. Fighting in the Carolina backcountry was especially savage, a brutish conflict of ambushes, massacres, and sharp skirmishes. Jackson's oldest brother Hugh enlisted in a patriot regiment and died at Stono Ferry, apparently from heatstroke. Too young for formal soldiering, Andrew and his brother Robert fought with American irregulars. In 1781, they were captured and contracted smallpox, of which Robert died shortly after their release. While trying to retrieve some nephews from a British prison ship, Andrew's mother also fell ill and died. An orphan and a hardened veteran at the age of fifteen, Jackson drifted, taught school a little, and then read law in North Carolina. After admission to the bar in 1787, he accepted an offer to serve as public prosecutor in the new Mero District of North Carolina, west of the mountains, with its seat at Nashville on the Cumberland River. Arriving in 1788, Jackson thrived in the new frontier town. He built a legal practice, entered into trading ventures, and began to acquire land and slaves.
Marriage and Political Rise
He also took up with Rachel Donelson Robards, the vivacious daughter of the late John Donelson, one of Nashville's founders. The Donelsons were a prominent Nashville clan. Rachel was married but separated from her husband, Lewis Robards of Kentucky. In 1791, she and Jackson began living as man and wife. They married formally in 1794 after Robards procured a divorce in Kentucky. These circumstances came back to haunt Jackson in his presidential campaigns, when opponents charged him with bigamy and wife-stealing. Jackson's defenders then claimed that he and Rachel had believed she was already divorced and free to remarry in 1791, but this seems unlikely. Whatever the technicalities, frontier Nashville saw nothing wrong in their liaison at the time. Rachel's marriage to Robards was already irretrievably broken, and Jackson was a man of prospects. From the beginning, Andrew and Rachel's marriage was a perfect love match. The couple were deeply devoted to each other and remained so throughout their lives.
Jackson's rise in Tennessee politics was meteoric, attesting to his strength of character. In quick succession, he was a delegate to the state constitutional convention in 1795, then Tennessee's first congressman, then a senator. He resigned his Senate post after one year to take a job closer to home, as judge of Tennessee's superior court. In 1802 he challenged Governor John Sevier for election as major general in command of the state militia. Jackson's senior by more than twenty years, Sevier was a veteran of the Revolution and of many Indian campaigns, and the state's leading politician. Jackson beat him for the generalship, but the aftermath brought the two men to a showdown in the streets of Knoxville, followed by preparations for a duel.
A Volatile Temper
The Sevier feud was only one of many explosive quarrels involving Jackson. Jackson's hot temper, prickly sense of honor, and sensitivity to insult embroiled him in a series of fights and brawls. The most notorious of these affairs, in 1806, began with a minor misunderstanding over a horse race and ended in a duel with pistols between Jackson and Charles Dickinson. Dickinson, a crack shot, fired first and hit Jackson in the chest. Jackson gave no sign of being hurt but coolly stood his ground, aimed carefully, and killed his foe. Jackson carried Dickinson's bullet for the rest of his life. Later, in 1813, during a hiatus in his military service during the War of 1812, Jackson fought in a Nashville street brawl against the Benton brothers, Jesse and Thomas Hart. There he took a bullet that nearly cost him an arm.
Jackson was brave in a fight and steadfast to his friends. Still, these affrays marked him as a violent and dangerous man, and helped block his further political advance. Jackson resigned his judgeship in 1804 and devoted his efforts thereafter to his militia command and his business ventures. He speculated in land, acquired slaves, bred and raced horses, and engaged in merchandising. In 1804, he bought a cotton plantation outside Nashville—The Hermitage—where he and Rachel lived the rest of their lives.
The Road to War
At mid-life, Jackson's political career had apparently reached an end. He thirsted not for higher office but for military action. Potential foes were everywhere: the Indian tribes who still hovered near Tennessee's borders, their Spanish abettors in Florida and Mexico, and above all Jackson's old enemy, the British. Jackson's yearning for activity led him to befriend Aaron Burr when the latter came through Tennessee in 1805, seeking recruits for his shadowy schemes of conquest. Jackson cut loose from Burr in time to avoid imputations of treason, but he was still eager for the field. With mounting outrage he watched the inept efforts of Presidents Jefferson and Madison to win redress from Great Britain for its violations of American sovereignty and interests.
In June of 1812, the United States finally declared war on Great Britain. That November, a Tennessee force was ordered to the defense of New Orleans. Jackson led two thousand men as far as Natchez, where he received a curt War Department communication dismissing his troops without pay or provisions. On his own authority, Jackson held the command together for the return home. His willingness to share his men's privations on this march earned him the nickname "Old Hickory."
In the fall of 1813, Indian hostilities finally brought an end to Jackson's inactivity. At Fort Mims in Mississippi Territory (now southern Alabama), warlike Creeks known as "Red Sticks" had overwhelmed and slaughtered more than four hundred whites. Jackson led a force of Tennesseans and allied Indians deep into the Creek homeland, where he fought a series of engagements. At the culminating battle of Horseshoe Bend in March 1814, Jackson annihilated the main Creek force. The campaign broke the Creeks' power of resistance and overawed the other Southwestern tribes, including those that had fought as Jackson's allies. Over the next few years, Jackson negotiated treaties by which the Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Cherokees surrendered millions of acres of land in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and west Tennessee.
A Hero Emerges
After this striking success as a militia commander, Jackson was commissioned a United States major general in May 1814 and given command of the southern frontier. The British were planning an attack on New Orleans, strategic gateway to the American interior. To block them, Jackson assembled a motley force of regulars, volunteers, militia, free blacks, and pirates. The British made landfall and advanced to near the city, where Jackson had fortified a line straddling the Mississippi River. On January 8, 1815, British General Sir Edward Pakenham led a frontal assault on Jackson's position. Some inexperienced Americans on the west bank broke and ran but in the main attack on the east bank, Jackson's men mowed down the advancing enemy with artillery and rifle fire. British casualties exceeded two thousand Jackson lost thirteen dead, fifty-eight wounded and missing.
Unbeknownst to both sides, the Treaty of Ghent ending the war had been signed two weeks earlier, so the battle had no effect on the outcome. Still, this epic victory, with its incredible casualty ratio and its stirring image of American frontiersmen defeating hardened British veterans, passed immediately into patriotic legend. Jackson became a hero, second in the national pantheon only to George Washington.
Jackson remained in the regular army after the war. Late in 1817, he received orders to subdue the Seminole Indians, who were raiding across the border from Spanish Florida. Liberally interpreting his vague instructions, Jackson effected a lightning conquest of Florida itself. He captured its bastions at St. Marks and Pensacola and arrested, tried, and executed two British nationals whom he charged with abetting the Indians. Foreign diplomats and some congressmen demanded that Jackson be repudiated and punished for his unauthorized invasion, but at the urging of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, President James Monroe stood firm. Whether anticipated by the administration or not, Jackson's action served American ends of nudging Spain to cede Florida in an 1819 treaty. A private controversy smoldered for years between Jackson, Monroe, and Secretary of War John C. Calhoun over whether Jackson had in fact exceeded orders. It finally broke open in 1831, contributing to a political rupture between then-President Jackson and his vice-president Calhoun.
Jackson resigned his army commission and was appointed governor of the new Florida Territory in 1821. He presided over the transfer of authority from the Spanish, then resigned and came home to Tennessee, where his friends were planning to promote him for the presidency in 1824.
Clinton was the second president to face impeachment proceedings. In early 1994, he was dealing with scandals, beginning with a financial investigation known as "Whitewater."
That same year, Paula Jones sued him, accusing the president of sexual harassment. Clinton argued he had presidential immunity from civil cases, but in 1997 the Supreme Court rejected his argument.
In January 1998, during Jones' case, Clinton denied under oath that he'd ever had an affair with the White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But news of Clinton's affair with Lewinsky got out.
In July 1998, Clinton testified about the allegations that he'd committed perjury by lying about his affair with Lewinsky. And by August, he'd acknowledged having an affair with Lewinsky.
Lewinsky had also recorded conversations of her talking about the affair, and the transcripts of the conversation went public in October 1998.
On October 8, 1998, just days after the tapes were released, the House of Representatives voted for impeachment proceedings to begin against Clinton. In a report released in September by the independent counsel Ken Starr, there were 11 grounds for impeachment.
On December 11, 1998, the House approved three articles of impeachment along party lines — alleging Clinton had lied to a grand jury, committed perjury by denying his relationship with Lewinsky, and obstructed justice. The next day, a fourth article was approved, which accused Clinton of abusing his power.
On December 19, 1998, the House impeached Clinton for two of the articles — perjury and obstruction of justice. The votes were 228-206 and 221-212, respectively, also largely along party lines. Despite being impeached, Clinton refused to step down.
Clinton was tried by the Senate and acquitted on February 12, 1999.
His perjury charge had a vote of 55 not guilty to 45 guilty, and his obstruction-of-justice charge was 50 not guilty to 50 guilty. They didn't meet the two-thirds majority necessary to convict.
Andrew Jackson and the Elimination of the National Debt
After having peaked at $127 million after the War of 1812, the national debt stood at $58.4 million when Andrew Jackson became president in 1829. Jackson was determined to pay off the debt in full. With a combination of personal motivation, political desire, and financial discipline, the debt became a temporary victim of Old Hickorys resolve to protect the American people.
Why was Jackson so intent on eliminating the national debt? Personal experience may have been involved. Jackson grew to fear and hate debt, according to author Jon Meacham, from his dealings with a speculator in Philadelphia in 1795. The 28-year-old Jackson was nearly ruined and from then on distrusted financial speculation and manuevering. Historian H.W. Brands points out that Jackson believed debt was a “moral failing.”
Additionally, Jackson and his fellow Democrats were greatly influenced by the tenets of Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans of a generation earlier. Jeffersonians and Jacksonians alike decried the formation of a speculating class, “paper men” as Jefferson called them, investing in the national debt and therefore assuming a position of influence to corrupt the federal government. The peoples liberties were threatened by the debt.
So, in his first annual message in December 1829, President Jackson promoted the benefits of paying off the debt. The people would be “relieved from a considerable portion of its present burdens” and be able to “display individual enterprise.” He also mentioned that the states financial power would improve which would allow them to fund education and public projects. With its debt paid, the federal government would still be able to “promote the general weal in all modes permitted to its authority.”
Maysville Road Bill Veto
The next year, Jackson grew alarmed with the increasing number of bills proposed in Congress that would, in Jacksons words, “far exceed by many millions the amount available in the Treasury for the year 1830.” Although he had constitutional concerns when he vetoed the Maysville (Kentucky) Road bill and other similar internal improvement measures that were entirely aimed at one state, Jackson was committed to paying down the debt. “This pledge I am determined to redeem,” he said to Kentucky congressman and Maysville supporter Richard Johnson.
Along with controlling expenditures, the Jackson administration channeled increasing revenues toward the debt. The government benefitted from booming federal land sales, thanks in part to Jacksons removal of federal deposits from the Bank of the United States to state banks. This resulted in more loans to farmers and speculators to buy western lands. Government land sales rose from $6 million in 1834 to $25 million in 1836. However, Jackson abhorred the unintended consequence of a rising speculative land market.
Also, growing revenues from the tariff were applied to the debt. The Tariff of 1828 (the “Tariff of Abominations” to southerners), which increased rates for protection and revenue purposes, had money pouring into federal coffers thanks to a robust economy. According to historian Daniel Walker Howe, there was pressure to lower the tariff, in part, due to the federal windfall. The government expected to quickly pay off the debt in 1833.
Panic of 1837
It took a little longer than that. The Treasury department eventually announced that the debt would be paid off on January 1, 1835. In conjunction with the 20th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, Jacksons supporters held a dazzling celebration in Washington to honor Jacksons defeat of the debt and the British. Jacksons former Attorney General, Roger Taney, believed it was the only time a major nation succeeded in paying off its debt. It is still true today.
However, the surplus would only last two years. The panic of 1837 unleashed a severe depression that depleted federal revenues. The debt reemerged and has not been extinguished since. Ironically, Jacksons other economic policies, such as the Specie Circular, which required public land to be purchased with hard money only (gold and silver) in order to curb speculation, contributed to a credit crunch that caused the panic.
It was an inglorious end to Jacksons campaign to eliminate the debt, but he was successful. His personal and political hatred for debt gave him the will to control spending and apply expanding revenues from the booming economy to the debt. But booming economies go bust eventually and so did Jacksons surplus.
Did the United States Have Two Presidents at the Same Time?
1876 election disputed: The presidential election of 1876 was hotly contested. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden won a majority of the popular vote against Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. However, neither candidate had a clear majority in the Electoral College with the votes from three southern states in dispute.
|Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden|
Electoral Commission rules for Hayes: An electoral commission was appointed to resolve the electoral votes. It wasn’t until March 2, 1877 that the commission ruled in Hayes’ favor giving him the exact 185 electoral votes he needed for the presidency.
Early oath of office: On Saturday, March 3, 1877, Hayes took the oath of office in a private ceremony in the Red Room of the White House. He did this for a couple of reasons.
- March 4 was a Sunday: March 4, the prescribed inauguration day in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, fell on a Sunday and so the formal oath of office and inaugural address were postponed until Monday, March 5. It had fallen on a Sunday just twice before. See my earlier blog posting on this subject.
- Transfer of power: Rather than taking the oath of office on Sunday at the expiration of Grant’s term, Hayes took the oath early because of concerns over the contested election and what Tilden’s supporters might do to disrupt the transfer of power.
- Threats against Hayes: There were reports of assassination threats against Hayes. After that after driving back with the Presidential party to the White House for a lunch with the Grant and Hayes families, Representative James Garfield wrote that “there were many indications of relief and joy that no accident had occurred on the route for there were apprehensions of assassination.” See Garfield’s diary entry for March 5, 1877.
Two presidents in one day? When Hayes took the oath of office on Saturday, March 3, it raised the thorny constitutional issue (although there is no record of it being discussed then) of whether the United States, in fact, had two presidents from March 3 (when Hayes took the oath) until March 4. President Ulysses Grant’s term of office did not expire until March 4 in accordance with the Constitution which states in Article 2, Section 1 that “he shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years.”
|Ulysses Grant and Rutherford Hayes|
What if? Who was president from March 3 until March 4, Grant or Hayes? Who was in charge if something had come up needing presidential action? It wasn’t until the passage of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution in 1933 that the Constitution was made more specific about the exact time when the president’s term ended. It states that “the terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.”
List of the United States Presidents By Date
George Washington (1789-97): George Washington is a well-known historical figure and was the first president of the United States of America after leading the Continental army in a victory for independence. Read more about George Washington.
John Adams (1797-1801): John Adams served as the vice president to George Washington before going on to become the second president of the United States of America. Later his son, John Quincy Adams was also president. Read more about John Adams.
Thomas Jefferson (1801-09): Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States of America and was responsible for the purchase of Louisiana and American Western Expansion. He served as president for two terms. Read more about Thomas Jefferson.
James Madison (1809-17): James Madison was the fourth president of the United States of America. He is often touted as the father of the Constitution. Read more about James Madison.
John Quincy Adams (1825-29): John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams who served as Washington’s vice president and as President. He was the sixth president of the United States. Read more about John Quincy Adams.
Andrew Jackson (1829-37): He was known as Old Hickory for his strength of character. Despite modern criticisms over his handling of the North American Indians and his pro-slavery stance, he is otherwise regarded as a great defender of democracy who kept America united over as difficult period of time. Read more about Andrew Jackson.
William Henry Harrison (1841)
Abraham Lincoln (1861-65): Abraham Lincoln led the nation through its most trying time, the Civil War. A notable statesman and orator, he is one of the most popular presidents in history. He was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Read more about Abraham Lincoln.
Andrew Johnson (1865-69): Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the United States of America and born in 1808. He took over the presidency after Lincoln was shot and killed. Read more about Andrew Johnson.
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881)
William McKinley (1897-1901)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09): Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th president of the United States of America. He is known for his work on the Square Deal, on environmental projects and for leading the progressive movement through the creation of the Progressive Party, a third political body. Read more about Theodore Roosevelt.
William Howard Taft (1909-13)
Woodrow Wilson (1913-21): Woodrow Wilson led the country through World War I and was pivotal in the creation of the League of Nations, the foundation to today’s United Nations. Read more about Woodrow Wilson.
Herbert Hoover (1929-33): Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the United States of America. Before becoming president he was head of the Food Administration. He was president during the Great Stock Market crash of 1929. Read more about Herbert Hoover.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45): After graduating from Harvard, Roosevelt went on to marry Eleanor and have 6 children. He served as Secretary of the Navy and Governor of New York before becoming President of the USA. Read more about Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Harry S. Truman (1945-53): Harry S. Truman became the President of the US after Roosevelt died in office and was re-elected for a second term. He made the decision to release the atomic bomb over Japan. Read more about Harry S. Truman.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61): Eisenhower became the Chief Military in aid to General MacArthur and was elevated by Roosevelt to Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. He was successful with many strategies against Germany in WWII. Read more about Dwight D Eisenhower.
John F. Kennedy (1961-63): John F. Kennedy could perhaps be one of the most famous presidents the United States has had. On 11/22/1963, he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Read more about John F. Kennedy.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69): Lyndon Johnson or LBJ was the 36th president of the United States of America and started his term after JFK was assassinated in 1963. He helped with Medicare and Medicaid. Read more about Lyndon B. Johnson.
Richard Nixon (1969-74): Richard Nixon was the 37th president of the United States of America. Though he passed many important and necessary changes he is most known for the Watergate Scandal. Read more about Richard Nixon.
Ronald Reagan (1981-89): Ronald Reagan was a fairly well-known actor before he ran and was elected for the President of the United States of America two terms in a row. Read more about Ronald Reagan.
George H.W. Bush (1989-93): George H. W. Bush was the 41st president of the United States and a Republican. During his presidency the Soviet Union dissolved, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and Noriega lost dictatorship of Panama. Read more about George H.W. Bush.
William J. Clinton (1993-2001): Bill Clinton was the 42nd president of the United States of America and then served two terms. His wife, Hillary Clinton also serves as very important political figure. Read more about Bill Clinton.
14 Presidents of the United States Before George Washington
If the United States Declaration of Independence was adopted in 1776 and the Constitution in 1789, and if George Washington was not inaugurated until April 30, 1789, who were the presidents for those first thirteen years?
The truth is, the United States had 14 presidents who ran the country through the first government, the Continental Congress, which started in 1774.
Below are the first 14 presidents of the United States.
1. Peyton Randolph (Sept. 5, 1774 – Oct. 22, 1774), (May 10, 1775 – May 24, 1775)When delegates voted in Philadelphia for the first Continental Congress, they elected Peyton Randolph as the first president of the territory known as the United States. Randolph was a planter and public official from the colony of Virginia. He also served as speaker of the Virginia House of Burgesses and chairman of the Virginia Conventions.
2. Henry Middleton (October 1774)The second president of the United States was one of the wealthiest planters in the South from one of the most powerful families in the nation. Henry Middleton was also a plantation owner and public official from South Carolina. He served as president for a few days in 1774.
Even our lesser-known presidents had nicknames: "Young Hickory," "Handsome Frank," "Old Rough 'n Ready," "Big Steve." James Buchanan, and I am not making this up, was "Old Public Functionary." "Who you gonna vote for?" "Oh, I think the Old Public Functionary. He seems competent."
As it happens, he wasn't.
So, by now you're probably wondering, 'Where does Andrew Jackson fit into all of this?' When we last caught up with Jackson, he was winning the Battle of New Orleans shortly after the end of the War of 1812. He continued his bellicose ways, fighting Indians in Florida, although he was not actually authorized to do so, and became so popular from all of his Indian killing that he decided to run for president in 1824.
The election of 1824 was very close and it went to the House, where John Quincy Adams was eventually declared the winner, and Jackson denounced this as a corrupt bargain. So, in 1828, Jackson ran a much more negative campaign. One of his campaign slogans was, "Vote for Andrew Jackson, who can fight, not John Quincy Adams, who can write."
Adams's supporters responded by arguing that having a literate president wasn't such a bad thing, and also by accusing Jackson of being a murderer, which, given his frequent habit of dueling and massacring, he sort of was. So, as you can see, the quality of discourse in American political campaigns has come a long way. (Really! I don't think so: this was written before the Donald-Hillary debate!!)
Anyway, Jackson won. Jackson ran as the champion of the common man, and in a way he was. I mean, he had little formal schooling and, in some ways, he was the archetypal self-made man.
Jackson's policies defined the new Democratic Party, which had formerly been known as the Jeffersonian Democratic-Republican. So who were these new Democrats? Well, generally, they tended be lower- to middle-class men, usually farmers, who were suspicious of the widening gap between the rich and the poor that was one of the results of the Market Revolution. And they were particularly worried about bankers, merchants, and speculators, who seemed to be getting rich without actually producing anything. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.
This vision probably would have carried the day, except a new party rose in response to Jackson's election: the Whigs. Yes. The American Whigs took their name from the English Whigs, who were opposed to absolute monarchy. And the American Whigs felt that Andrew Jackson was grabbing so much power for the executive branch that he was turning himself into King Andrew.
The Whigs were big supporters of the American System and its active federal government. You know, tariffs, infrastructure, etc. The greatest support was in the northeast, especially from businessmen and bankers, who benefited from those tariffs and the stability provided by a national bank. And they also thought the government should promote moral character, because that was necessary for a person to act as a truly independent citizen.
So Jackson's policies must have been pretty egregious for them to spawn an entirely new political party. What did he actually do as president?
Let's start with nullification. So, in 1828, Congress passed the Tariff of 1828, because they were not yet in the habit of marketing their bills via naming them with funny acronyms.
Jackson supported this, in spite of the fact that it benefited manufacturers. The tariff raised prices on imported manufactured goods made of wool and iron, which enraged South Carolina, because they'd put all their money into slavery, and none into industry.
So, unlike northerners, who could avoid the higher prices by manufacturing sweaters and pants and such at home, South Carolinians would have to pay more. They were so angry at this "Tariff of Abominations" that the South Carolina legislature threatened to nullify it.
Jackson didn't take kindly to this affront to federal power, but South Carolina persisted, and when Congress passed a new tariff in 1832, one that actually lowered the duties, the Palmetto State's government nullified it. Jackson responded by getting Congress to pass the Force Act, which authorized him to use the Army and Navy to collect taxes.
A full-blown crisis was averted when Congress passed a new tariff in 1833 and South Carolina relented. This smelled a bit of dictatorship, armed tax collectors and all, and helped to cement Jackson's reputation as a tyrant, at least among the Whigs.
And then we have the Native Americans. Much of Jackson's reputation there was based on killing them, so it's no surprise that he supported Southern states' efforts to appropriate Indian lands and make the Indians move. This support was formalized in the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which Jackson supported.
The law provided funds to relocate Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creek, and Seminole Indians from their homes in Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. In response, these tribes adopted a novel approach and sued the government.
And then, the Supreme Court ruled that Georgia's actions in removing the Cherokees violated their treaties with the federal government, and that they had a right to their land. To which Jackson supposedly responded by saying, "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it."
So, Jackson set the stage for the forced removal of the Cherokees from Georgia to Oklahoma, but it actually took place in the winter of 1838-1839 under Jackson's successor Van Buren. At least one quarter of the 18,000 Indians died on the forced march that came to be known the Trail of Tears.
But Andrew Jackson also changed our banking system. Just as today, banks were very important to the industrial and mercantile development of the U.S.
And at the beginning of Jackson's presidency, American banking was dominated by the Second National Bank, which you'll remember, had been established by Congress as part of the American System.
So in 1832, bank leader Nicholas Biddle persuaded Congress to pass a bill extending the life of the Second U.S. Bank for 20 years. Jackson thought that the Bank would use its money to oppose his re-election in 1836, so he vetoed that bill.
In fact, the reason I knew that was from the Veto message is because it talks about the bank as an instrument to subvert democracy. Jackson set himself up as a defender of the lower classes by vetoing the Bank's charter.
Now, Whigs took exception to the idea that the president was somehow a more democratic representative of the people than the legislature, but in the end, Jackson's view won out. He used the veto power more than any prior president, turning it into a powerful tool of policy. Which it remains to this day, by the way.
So, the Second Bank of the U.S. expired in 1836, which meant that suddenly, we had no central institution with which to control federal funds. Jackson ordered that money should be dispersed into local banks, unsurprisingly preferencing ones that were friendly to him.
These so-called "pet banks" were another version of rewarding political supporters that Jackson liked to call "rotation in office." Opponents called this tactic of awarding government offices to political favorites "the spoils system."
Anyway, these smaller banks proceeded to print more and more paper money, because, you know, free money. Like, between 1833 and 1837, the face value of bank notes in circulation rose from $10 million to $149 million, and that meant inflation. Initially, states loved all this new money that they could use to finance internal improvements, but inflation is really bad for wage workers. And also, eventually, everyone.
All of this out-of-control inflation, coupled with rampant land speculation, eventually led to an economic collapse, the Panic of 1837. The subsequent depression lasted until 1843, and Jackson's bank policy proved to be arguably the most disastrous fiscal policy in American history, which is really saying something.
It also had a major effect on American politics because business-oriented Democrats became Whigs, and the remaining Democrats further aligned with agrarian interests, which meant slavery.
So, the age of Jackson was more democratic than anything that came before, and it gave us the beginnings of modern American politics. I mean, Jackson was the first president to really expand executive power, and argue that the president is the most important democratically elected official in the country.
One of the things that makes Andrew Jackson's presidency so interesting, and also so problematic, is that he was elected via a more democratic process, but he concentrated more power in the executive in a thoroughly undemocratic way.
In the end, Andrew Jackson probably was the worst American president to end up on currency, particularly given his disastrous fiscal policies, but the age of Jackson is still important. And it's worth remembering that all that stuff in American politics started out with the expansion of Democracy.
Other Presidents also faced impeachment threats
Given that only three presidents have ever been impeached, more of them have faced Congressional calls for impeachment than one might expect.
The first President the House of Representatives moved to impeach was John Tyler. After succeeding President William Henry Harrison, who died after just one month in office, Tyler vetoed legislation backed by his own Whig Party and that Harrison had promised to support. The Whigs kicked Tyler out of their party, and the House received a petition for a resolution asking him to resign or else face the possibility of impeachment. Yet Congress ultimately didn&rsquot pursue an impeachment.
The President best known for coming to the brink of impeachment &mdash but not actually getting impeached &mdash was Richard Nixon. During the Watergate scandal, the House Judiciary Committee filed three articles of impeachment against the President for &ldquohigh crimes and misdemeanors.&rdquo However, Nixon resigned his office on Aug. 9, 1974, before the impeachment could move forward.
In recent American history, Presidents from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama have faced discussion, ranging from credible to dubious and politically charged, of their impeachment. And even at moments of great popularity, all Presidents will know, in the back of their minds, that impeachments are, however rare, a possibility &mdash which is just what the Constitution’s framers intended.
“A good magistrate will not fear them,” said Elbridge Gerry of impeachments, at the Constitutional Convention. “A bad one ought to be kept in fear of them.”