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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

And Jackson now nominated Taney


Biddle

and his associates believed that the Message would be fatal to the President. So did the leaders of the political opposition, and none more than Clay. Superlatively skilful in managing political assemblies, he was sometimes strangely at fault in judging the mind of the mass--a task in which Jackson hardly ever failed. He had not foreseen the anger which his acceptance of a place for Adams would provide; and he now evidently believed that the defence of the Bank would be a popular cry in the country. He forced the "Whig" Convention--for such was the name which the very composite party opposed to Jackson had chosen--to put it in the forefront of their programme, and he seems to have looked forward complacently to a complete victory on that issue.

His complacency could not last long. Seldom has a nation spoken so directly through the complex and often misleading machinery of elections as the American nation spoke in 1832 against the bank. North, south, east and west the Whigs were routed. Jackson was re-elected President by such an overwhelming expression of the popular choice as made the triumph of 1828 seem a little thing. Against all the politicians and all the interests he had dared to appeal to Caesar, and the people, his unseen ally, had in an instant made his enemies his footstool.

It was characteristic of the man that he at once proceeded to carry the war into Africa. Biddle, though bitterly disappointed,

was not yet resigned to despair. It was believed--and events in the main confirm the belief--that he contemplated a new expedient, the use of what still remained of the financial power of the Bank to produce deliberate scarcity and distress, in the hope that a reaction against the President's policy would result. Jackson resolved to strike the Bank a crippling blow before such juggling could be attempted. The Act of Congress which had established the Bank gave him power to remove the public deposits at will; and that power he determined to exercise.

A more timid man would have had difficulty with his Cabinet. Jackson overcame the difficulty by accepting full personal responsibility for what he was about to do. He did not dismiss the Ministers whose opinion differed from his, he brought no pressure to bear on their consciences; but neither did he yield his view an inch to theirs. He acted as he had resolved to act, and made a minute in the presence of his Cabinet that he did so on his own initiative. It was essential that the Secretary of the Treasury, through whom he must act, should be with him. McLane had already been transferred to the State Department, and Jackson now nominated Taney, a strong-minded lawyer, who was his one unwavering supporter in the struggle. Taney removed the public deposits from the United States Bank. They were placed for safe keeping in the banks of the various States. The President duly reported to Congress his reasons for taking this action.

In the new House of Representatives, elected at the same time as the President, the Democrats were now predominant; but the Senate changes its complexion more slowly, and there the "Whigs" had still a majority. This majority could do nothing but exhibit impotent anger, and that they most unwisely did. They refused to confirm Taney's nomination as Secretary to the Treasury, as a little later they refused to accept him as a Judge of the High Court. They passed a solemn vote of censure on the President, whose action they characterized, in defiance of the facts, as unconstitutional. But Jackson, strong in the support of the nation, could afford to disregard such natural ebullitions of bad temper. The charter of the Bank lapsed and was not renewed, and a few years later it wound up its affairs amid a reek of scandal, which sufficed to show what manner of men they were who had once captured Congress and attempted to dictate to the President. The Whigs were at last compelled to drink the cup of humiliation to the dregs. Another election gave Jackson a majority even in the Senate, and in spite of the protests of Clay, Webster and Calhoun the censure on the President was solemnly expunged from its records.


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