Jackson Part Two By Richard Sale


  Richard Sale headshot (2)

     I think Pat’s choice of the times of Andrew Jackson as mirroring our own age of discontent was brilliant. I would like to add a few comments.

     The rise of Andrew Jackson marked a new development in American political institutions. From 1812 to 1828, historians tell us that the two-party system had disappeared, replaced by personal, local, sectional conflicts that had come to predominate over broad policy discussions at the national level. The power of the presidency had declined, and the propertyless masses had begun to infiltrate politics.

     The world of Thomas Jefferson had begun to expire even before he retired as U.S. President. The Federalist Party was destroyed by the 1812 War. The 1820’s were a time of huge discontent, financial panics, threats of rebellion, and outbursts of violence. Much of the mood was due to the fact that thriving and vigorous classes felt that the central government was either hostile or indifferent to their needs and interests. Jefferson’s promise of equal rights for all had been betrayed, replaced a single class who kept most of the benefits to itself. The class responsible for their bondage was indifferent to its effects on the wider populace.

   For example, the new Western states felt their development was being thwarted or sidelined by the economic policies of the East. The impact of the new industrialism of the Northern and Middle states, especially the capitalist reorganization of what had been journeymen industries, spurred discontent to a fever pitch fed by several financial panics. The broadening of suffrage resulted in even more discontent, because the masses believed they were being denied the same advantages enjoyed by the East. Western famers or Eastern workingmen felt themselves suffocated by the existing order and were eager for change. They threw their effort at passing reforms that would vindicate their social status. They wanted security, but even more, they wanted respect. The depression of 1828-9 proved a tipping point.

Jackson Enters the scene.


   Americans have a tradition of electing war heroes to the U.S. Presidency, and Jackson was an authentic war hero. From the beginning of his career in Tennessee, Jackson was accepted as an aristocrat, and his manners, standards, and his style were shaped by this. Critics complained that he lacked education and culture and that he couldn’t spell, but he had an acute, extremely forceful mind. He was also well known for his integrity. He was sharp, arbitrary, and ruthless. He normally acted with the landowning aristocracy versus the financial aristocracy. When Jackson ran for President Jefferson said he was “the most unfit man for such a place” and called him a dangerous man. He was also a bit lawless. As a general, he framed plans and designs and carried them out and only after did he consider whether they are legal or not. He had a reputation for rude violence and uncontrolled irascibility. Like General Eisenhower or Gen. Patton, he dramatized his unbridled temper in order to intimate any opposition, but over time Jackson would emerge as a man of great urbanitywith great distinction of manner.

     Jackson was no uncouth, underbred blusterer. Rather, Jackson always exercised an uncanny charm over the old and the young. He was not particularly dogmatic. No man, Benton said, “better knew the difference between firmness and obstinacy.” He was ready to admit errors. He was decisive. Once he made up his mined, his mind expressed itself in judgment rather than analysis, said Schlesinger. Said Benton, Jackson manifested rigorous thought but “lacked the faulty of arranging them in regular composition.” The character of his mind was that of judgment, with a rapid and almost intuitive perception, followed by instant and decisive action. Louse McLane said, “Jackson is the rapid reasoner I have ever met with…He jumps to a conclusion before I start on my premises.” He had an intuitive grasp of necessary and imperative change.

     Technically, Jackson was a sick man, his head splitting with pains produced by incessant Tobago crewing, He had a harsh, hacking cough, but even as his face grew more and more sallow, his mind was always grim and decided. He went through life with a bullet from a duel lodged in his body.

Seeds of Rebellion and Reform


   In times of widespread discontent, a key fact that is usually ignored, is that the greedy, dubious behavior of some groups are always responsible for the mass of people losing faith in the system. The panic of 1819 was the first to set class against class. The panic was the result of speculation, wild cat banking, and rapid expansion, and the ensuing depression fell most heavily in the West and the South where men had recklessly thrown their resources into buying up land. The banks were pressing debtors to the wall and began to foreclose on anyone within reach, and people in the West felt “mortgaged to the banking power.” State legislatures, under pressure from local banks, waged tax wars against the National Bank, and there was a movement to pass laws against imprisonment for debt.

   John C. Calhoun said, the depression had produced “an immense reversal of fortunes in every part of the Union, an enormous multitudes in deep distress, a mass disaffection to the government (sic) not concentrated in any particular direction ready to seize on any event, and looking out everywhere for a leader.”

   The election of Monroe to the Presidency in 1820 was hardly the answer.

   Jackson was raised in North Carolina which was a stronghold of Jefferson principles. These included opposition to banks, paper money, federal internal improvements and high tariffs. Jackson grew disillusioned with Jefferson and became part of the Randolph-Macon school of “intransigent republicans.” Jackson was a member of the debtor class and endured financial misfortunes with bravery, moving to a different state and building a much smaller home, also pressing his debtors to repay.]However, it should be noted that Jackson’s idea of financial reform was not the centerpiece of his presidency. If it had been, he might never have been elected. In Jackson’s second presidential campaign, the national bank was hardly mentioned. The election was not a rebellion of the West against the forces of the East; The themes that got him elected were “militant nationalism and access to office.” But he was elected without a platform. He was a simple, emotional, unreflective man whose first loyalties rested with his closest friends and supporters.

I am stopping here. I hope to continue, showing how Jackson’s disliked of big banks and corporations, and the measures he took to counter them, actually, in the end, promoted their growth. Jackson’s election gave rise to liberal capitalism.

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17 Responses to Jackson Part Two By Richard Sale

  1. BabelFish says:

    Bravo, Richard! An excellent continuation of Pat’s essay and very illuminating of a history that, for many, has faded into fable and misinterpretation. I will look forward to additions to this chapter.

  2. kao_hsien_chih says:

    After reading both the colonel’s essay and Mr. Sales’, I’m pondering if the better comparison for Trump is Teddy Roosevelt.
    There are some obvious parallels: they were both born to considerable wealth in New York. They are both far abler, intellectual, and clear headed than people give them credit for. They are both shameless self promoters who wrap themselves in a quasi-populist aura and bombast (and perhaps seriously believe their talk without completely falling for it–a difficult achievement if true), and Trump is in process of breaking the Republican Party in much the same fashion as Roosevelt did in 1912 (and, in a sense, even when he was the president, years before 1912). And ultimately, they are, in a somewhat odd sense, genuinely believed to be men of the people–including possibly by themselves.

  3. Medicine Man says:

    Richard: Your description of the financial misery present in 1819 sounds a lot like the present day circumstances. The narrow greed of a certain set of people giving rise to reckless speculation, wild cat banking, and masses of people over invested in real estate. History really does rhyme, doesn’t it.

  4. As always Richard thanks for your insights. In particular I note your awareness that Jackson was a decider and before the Presidency had been at the heart of great decisions including military campaigns. In other words he had withstood the weight of events.
    If in fact it is at least arguable that America is in decline then tough choices face citizens and residents. It will be of interest to see which candidates are chosen by the American electorate to make those choices.

  5. Matthew says:

    Thank you Richard for a wonderful. Militant nationalist is the perfect phrase for Jackson. As our talking heads like to say about the ME, Jackson grew up a “very rough neighborhood.” Running for public office was a potential fatal choice. Your opponent might challenge you to duel if you beat him at the ballet box.
    An interesting counterfactual: Imagine President Jackson had died in 1855 instead of 1845. Would he have helped save the Union? Would he have gotten his wish of shooting Henry Clay and hanging John C. Calhoun?

  6. Richard Sale says:

    No it doesn’t, and it never goes away.

  7. scott s. says:

    James / Richard:
    So what was Jackson’s relationship to the Albany Regency?

  8. Thanks for this insightful comment. Time will tell!

  9. Did you know that professional historians have concluded Lincoln a “Clay” man?

  10. Not sure of your reference to the Alien & Sedition Act: “The Alien and Sedition Act was aimed at that constituency.”
    Enacted under President John Adams and repealed it was opposed by Madison [in secret] and others in the so-called Virginia Resolutions. A story that should be emphasized even now as the struggle to control the DEEEP STATE continues.

  11. Wiki Extract:
    Martin Van Buren (Dutch: Maarten van Buren -About this sound pronunciation (help·info); December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) was an American politician who served as the eighth President of the United States (1837–41). A member of the Democratic Party, he served in a number of senior roles, including eighth Vice President (1833–37) and tenth Secretary of State (1829–31), both under Andrew Jackson. Van Buren’s inability as president to deal with the economic chaos of the Panic of 1837 and with the surging Whig Party led to his defeat in the 1840 election.
    Of Dutch ancestry, Van Buren learned early to interact with people from multiple ethnic, income, and societal groups, which he used to his advantage as a political organizer. A meticulous dresser, he could mingle in upper class society as well as in saloon environments like the tavern his father ran. A delegate to a political convention at age 18, he quickly moved from local to state politics, gaining fame both as a political organizer and an accomplished lawyer. Elected to the Senate by the state legislature in 1821, Van Buren supported William H. Crawford for president in 1824, but by 1828 had come to support General Andrew Jackson. Van Buren was a major supporter and organizer for Jackson in the 1828 election. Jackson was elected, and made Van Buren Secretary of State.
    During Jackson’s eight years as president, Van Buren was a key advisor, and built the organizational structure for the coalescing Democratic Party, particularly in New York. In 1831, following his resignation as Secretary of State, Jackson gave Van Buren a recess appointment as American minister to Britain, but Van Buren’s nomination was rejected by the Senate, cutting short his service in London. He was successful in the jockeying to become Jackson’s picked successor, and was elected vice president in 1832. Van Buren defeated several Whig opponents in 1836, and was elected president. He was the third sitting Vice President to be elected directly to the presidency, following John Adams in 1796 and Thomas Jefferson in 1800, and the last for 152 years, until George H. W. Bush was elected in 1988.

  12. Matthew says:

    WRC: Clay, like Daniel Webster, is one of those great “almost made it” men.

  13. Matthew says:

    James: James: Cleburne’s family was part of the Protestant Anglo-Irish Ascendancy. These are the people who produced the Duke of Wellington and Gen. Pakenham (killed at Battle of New Orleans), and many, many other great soldiers.

  14. Tidewater says:

    Tidewater to Richard Sale and All,
    Thank you and also Col. Lang, for the two essays on Jackson and how that turbulent era might apply to the coming election. One thing that ought to be remarked on are current racial tensions between black and white, even the possibility of “something” happening, perhaps black rioting in the near future or police assassination; which was also a deadly serious concern in the white population around 1800, the fear of black slave rebellion–which led into the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina.
    There is a lot of historical focus on the Tariff designed to protect New England manufacturing after the War of 1812, which meant that southerners would pay a lot more for what they imported. Men like Thompas Cooper defined this action by the central government as a progressive transfer of power to the north, a steady debilitation of the agricultural South that would never end until the South was brought to servitude and ruin. It called into question the whole idea of the Union.
    Henry Savage, from Camden, S.C., in “Seeds of Time”, wrote a brilliant 312-page book (published in 1959) which discusses the “Background of Southern Thinking.”
    The agricultural system, Savage wrote, was “enormously productive of wealth, more for the North, however, than for the South. More than half of the nation’s exports were products of Southern soil–and in every instance, their production made the section poorer by diminishing the resources of forest and mine, or by depleting the soils and subjecting them to devastating erosion. Virtually all of the nation’s tobacco, sugar, rice, and cotton came out of the South. Cotton alone comprised forty per cent of the country’s exports. But out of every dollar received for it, forty cents stayed in the North, in the form of factors’ commissions, interest charges, freight, and insurance. The sixty cents remaining had to take care of the cost of growing the crop, its ginning and delivery to port, and, if anything were left over, the profit to the farmer…” And there was always the risk of bad years, crop failures.
    “Even greater were the North’s profits flowing from Southern commodities through their fabrications in the North: the spinning and weaving of cotton, fashioning of lumber into usable articles, the making of rum from molasses, and ropes from hemp.
    “Beyond that the North further profited from the South’s plantation economy…Corn and pork, the standard fare of its slaves, and to a large extent of the masters, too, were mostly imported instead of being raised…”
    The society was agricultural, it was rural, and in it there was “the all-pervading presence of the Negro in great numbers.” The Negro “was most numerous in what is known as the Black Belt, a strip beginning in Tidewater Virginia and extending with increasing width southwardly to Florida and westwardly along the Gulf coast to beyond the Mississippi, in most of which his numbers greatly exceeded the white population.”
    Savage notes that all the early Southern leadership came from out of the Black Belt. White leadership had always been anxiously concerned with the predicament that would become “the peculiar institution.” The black man was the hand that was dealt. What were you going to do about the slave-based society that you inherited from your great grandfather? What COULD you do about it? It was absolutely believed that the black man was racially inferior. Underneath it all was a kind of grim, mutual, cynical understanding that the overly emotional Caliban man-child brute was going to have to be permanently controlled. White fear evolved into a white society marching finally in lockstep: “Give me Slavery or Give me Death.” The black issue was non-negotiable, an existential threat. It was the South’s problem and the South had to be allowed to deal with it as it saw fit.
    There had always been black rebellions, as on the Stono River, in the Eighteenth century. Then came the black revolution in Haiti, from 1791 to 1804. Refugees into Norfolk and Charleston brought horror stories. There was a real and growing fear. In 1800 came the Gabriel insurrection around Richmond, that reached from Dinwiddie on the south side all the way north to the Rappahannock. In 1822 came the Denmark Vesey rebellion in Charleston. This uprising had sent organizers up to Georgetown by boat on the waterway behind the sea islands. That was surprising! In 1832 came the Southampton County (Nat Turner) rebellion, almost certainly influenced by slave knowledge of the so-called “Santo Domingo” insurrection picked up in Norfolk.
    And finally, the Abolition movement began.
    I think Andrew Jackson’s response to the Nullification crisis was brilliant, a textbook case of good leadership. Step by step he made the right moves. He prevailed in the end, in a struggle that lasted essentially from 1828-1832. This struggle was essentially a civil war within South Carolina between Unionist and Secessionist. Nevertheless, out of it came the larger war of 1861-1865.
    Bad things happened then. I think bad things are happening now. I think racial attitudes that were held by white men in Jacksonian times are still held by millions of American whites. There seems to be panic about this in the present American leadership that somehow the clock is going to be turned back. And as a result, somewhere a black community blows up. And that will not be the end of it.
    I also think that blacks will continue to be killed by police on a regular basis and that grand juries will not indict.
    I don’t think blacks can compete with Hispanics and I think that they know it. I was told by a black guy on a job, that I should just find Hispanics to get the job done. Recently I picked up a bad vibe from a black workmen. I thought I caught a whiff of class warfare. Something is going on and it is not exactly rational.
    I think overall black wealth has significiently diminished since 2008. (Also in South Africa.) I don’t think the economy will come back; not the economy by and large as it exists for blacks. Blacks are still on the bottom and they will stay on the bottom.
    Noone knows what to do about this.
    Something big and bad this way comes.

  15. Clay and Webster no Cruz and Rubio. I listened to many Senate debates as a teenager with a friend [later Station Chief in Rome] and still watch on C-Span from time to time. No lions in this Senate IMO!

  16. Thanks for your insights as always. The Census Bureau staffs up each time for the Decennial Census but are you aware of the politics of the Census? IMO certain US populations subject to dramatic under counts. Blacks, however defined, specifically. Perhaps the Constitution’s original expressed 2/3 of each non-citizen still valid.

  17. Wiki Extract:
    The Alien and Sedition Acts were four bills passed by the Federalist dominated 5th United States Congress, and signed into law by Federalist President John Adams in 1798. They made it harder for an immigrant to become a citizen (Naturalization Act), allowed the president to imprison and deport non-citizens who were deemed dangerous (Alien Friends Act) or who were from a hostile nation (Alien Enemies Act), and criminalized making false statements that were critical of the federal government (Sedition Act). The Federalists argued that they strengthened national security during an undeclared naval war with France. Critics argued that they were primarily an attempt to suppress voters who disagreed with the Federalist party, and violated the right of freedom of speech in the First Amendment.[2] Three of the acts were repealed after the Democratic-Republican party of Thomas Jefferson came to power. But the Alien Enemies Act remained in effect, was revised and codified in 1918 for use in World War I, and was used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to imprison Japanese, German, and Italian aliens during World War II. Following cessation of hostilities, the act was used by President Harry S. Truman to continue to imprison, then deport, aliens of the formerly hostile nations. In 1948 the Supreme Court determined that presidential powers under the acts continued after cessation of hostilities, until there was a peace treaty with the hostile nation. The revised Alien Enemies Act remains in effect today.
    The Naturalization Act increased the residency requirement for American citizenship from five to 14 years. At the time, the majority of immigrants supported Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans, the political opponents of the Federalists. The Alien Friends Act allowed the president to imprison or deport aliens considered “dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States” at any time, while the Alien Enemies Act authorized the president to do the same to any male citizen of a hostile nation above the age of 14 during times of war. Lastly, the controversial Sedition Act restricted speech which was critical of the federal government. Under the Sedition Act, the Federalists allowed people, who were accused of violating the sedition laws, to use truth as a defense. The Sedition Act resulted in the prosecution and conviction of many Jeffersonian newspaper owners who disagreed with the government.
    The acts were denounced by Democratic-Republicans and ultimately helped them to victory in the 1800 election, when Thomas Jefferson defeated the incumbent President Adams. The Sedition Act and the Alien Friends Act were allowed to expire in 1800 and 1801, respectively. The Alien Enemies Act, however, remains in effect as 50 USC Sections 21–24.

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