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🚀  Thematic Guides

🐎  Unit 4: 1800-1848

🌎  Unit 7: 1890-1945

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4.8 Jackson and Federal Power

#period4

#andrewjackson

#martinvanburen

#henryclay

#johnc.calhoun

⏱️  5 min read

written by

Robby May

robby may

sally kim


Spoils System

Andrew Jackson supported the spoils system, meaning he placed his supporters into office, whether or not they had the qualifications for that office. This is named after the phrase “to the victor, belongs the spoils.”  It gave him more advantage as more people within the government would be his supporters.

Jackson also opposed infrastructure building. He believed that the construction projects often only benefited people living within those areas and was a violation of the powers granted to the Congress in the Constitution.

🎥 Watch: AP US History - Age of Jackson

Tariffs of Abominations

Andrew Jackson and his vice president, John C. Calhoun, drifted apart due to a change within Calhoun’s beliefs. He turned from being a nationalist to supporting state’s rights. Calhoun saw the tariffs passed by the Adams administration as not beneficial in the short-term.

Many states were angered by the Tariff of 1828 (Tariff of Abominations), but especially those in the south, where it hurt plantation owners the most. Why?

  • Tariffs increased the prices that southern farmers paid for manufactured goods and threatened to undermine their foreign markets by inciting counter protection.

In what became known as the Nullification Crisis, Calhoun wrote the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, stating that states had the right to nullify any federal laws which they deemed unconstitutional. Jackson attempted to compromise by lowering tariffs, but South Carolina ended up nullifying the tariffs.

Angered, Jackson passed the Compromise Tariff of 1833 and Force Bill, which gave him the power to use federal arms against the state if needed. South Carolina nullified the Force Bill but accepted the Compromise Tariff and the crisis was over. 

The National Bank Battle 

Nicholas Biddle took over the presidency of the National Bank. In an era of rising white man's democracy, an obvious objection to the Bank was that it possessed great power and privilege without being under popular control. Many thought that the bank assisted the wealthy, including President Andrew Jackson. When the bank came up for recharter, Jackson vetoed it. 

Jackson was not content with preventing the Bank from getting a new charter. He then resolved to remove federal deposits from Biddle’s vaults. Jackson stated “The bank….is trying to kill me, but I will kill it.” He eventually declared war on it by giving deposits from the Bank of the US to “pet banks.”

Basically, Jackson ordered that federal money cease to be deposited in the National Bank and instead be placed in 23 different state banks. Since Jackson did not regulate the pet banks much, these banks printed a lot of paper money and caused an economic issue.

Jackson finally made a requirement that land had to be purchased by hard money through Specie Circular (It required that all future purchases of all federal lands be made in specie (gold and silver) rather than in paper banknotes). Banknotes lost their value and land sales plummeted. 

🎥 Watch: AP US History - Antebellum Politics

Panic of 1837

The causes of the Panic of 1837 included overprinting money and overvaluing resources. Wages dropped and many people lost their jobs. Most of the state banks also bankrupted, leading to their bank notes becoming worthless and people using them becoming bankrupt as well.

Peggy Eaton Affair

Peggy Eaton was the daughter of a Washington tavern owner and married Secretary of War John Eaton. Because of gossip about her moral character, the wives of other cabinet members refused to receive her socially. Jackson became her fervent champion because he found the charges against her as reminiscent of his late wife who had died just prior to his election. Jackson tried to force the cabinet wives to accept Peggy Eaton socially, most of the cabinet resigned. 

At the end of the day, this wasn’t too disastrous for Jackson as he utilized a group known as the “kitchen cabinet”. They did not belong to his official cabinet. Because of them, the appointed cabinet had less influence on policy than under earlier presidents.

Indian Removal

After the boost of the cotton economy, whites began to look for more land and started to pressure Indians as well as the government to prepare for land to grow crops. Many of these goals were accomplished, and the Native American tribes often found themselves getting kicked off their lands.

Andrew Jackson let the Indian Removal Act to pass in 1830. This allowed the federal government to exchange the Indian lands in the East for the lands in the West and pay money for any losses. It essentially forced many Indians to undergo this deal.

One of the tribes, the Cherokees, attempted to go against the Indian Removal Act through Supreme Court decisions. Both cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia, enabled the Cherokees to be labeled as a sort of ward to America. The Supreme Court decided that this status allowed the Cherokees to stay within their lands.

Jackson, not happy about the Supreme Court’s decision stated “Mr. Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it,” showing one of the weaknesses of the judiciary: the inability to enforce their decisions. Jackson refused to let the Cherokees stay and forced them to move to a new reservation in the Oklahoma Territory. The Cherokees’ trip to their new lands, called the Trail of Tears, resulted in more than a third of them dying.

Second Party System

The Whig Party developed as opposition to Andrew Jackson’s war on the Bank of the US. As nationalists, Whigs wanted a stronger federal government rather than state governments, opposite as Jackson. As a result of the development of a new political party, the Whigs and Democratic-Republicans created the Second Party System.

Presidency of Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren became president after Andrew Jackson, and his presidency was in midst of an economic crisis, the Panic of 1837. Although the main problem laid in the bank notes, Van Buren still kept to the policy of hard money, which did not help the economy too much.

During Van Buren’s presidency, America also had disputes with Canada about their borders. Congress allowed troops and money just in case a war broke out, but Van Buren prefered to avoid war and instead, find a solution.

Texas had been ready for annexation by America in Jackson’s presidency, but Van Buren opposed it.

Since Texas banned slavery, he feared that admitting Texas as a state would tip over the balance of free and slave states, similar to Missouri’s admission earlier on. Thus, Texas remained an independent nation for a few more years.

🎥 Watch: AP US History - Period 4 DBQ

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