Jackson rode on a wave of popularity that almost took him into the presidency in the election of 1824. The vote was split with Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams, and William H. Crawford, and when the election was decided in the House of Representatives, Clay threw his influence to Adams, and Adams became President.
By the time of the election of 1828, Jackson's cause was more assured. John C. Calhoun, who was the candidate for Vice President with Jackson, brought most of Crawford's former following to Jackson, while Martin Van Buren and the Albany Regency swung liberal-controlled New York state to him. The result was a sweeping victory; Jackson polled four times the popular vote that he had received in 1824. His inauguration brought the "rabble" into the White House, to the distaste of the established families.
There was a strong element of personalism in the rule of the hotheaded Jackson, and the Kitchen Cabinet—a small group of favorite advisers—was powerful. Vigorous publicity and violent journalistic attacks on anti-Jacksonians were ably handled by such men as the elder Francis P. Blair, Duff Green, and Amos Kendall. Party loyalty was intense, and party members were rewarded with government posts in what came to be known as the spoils system. Personal relationships were of utmost importance, and the social slights suffered by the wife of Secretary of War John H. Eaton (see O'Neill, Margaret) helped to break up the cabinet.
Calhoun's antagonism was more fundamental, however. Calhoun and the South generally felt threatened by the protective tariff that favored the industrial East, and Calhoun evolved the doctrine of nullification and resigned from the vice presidency. Jackson stood firmly for the Union and had the Force Bill of 1833 (see force bill) passed to coerce South Carolina into accepting the federal tariff, but a compromise tariff was rushed through and the affair ended. Jackson, on the other hand, took the part of Georgia in its insistence on states' rights and the privilege of ousting the Cherokee; he refused to aid in enforcing the Supreme Court's decision against Georgia, and the tribe was removed.
More important than the estrangement of Calhoun was Jackson's long fight against the Bank of the United States. Although its charter did not expire until 1836, Henry Clay succeeded in having a bill to recharter it passed in 1832, thus bringing the issue into the 1832 presidential election. Jackson vetoed the measure, and the powerful interests of the bank were joined with the other opponents of Jackson in a bitter struggle with the antibank Jacksonians.
Jackson in the election of 1832 triumphed over Clay. His second administration—more bitterly resented by his enemies than the first—was dominated by the bank issue. Jackson promptly removed the funds from the bank and put them in chosen state banks (the "pet banks"). Secretary of Treasury Louis McLane refused to make the transfer as did his successor W. J. Duane, but Roger B. Taney agreed with Jackson's views and made the transfer (see also Independent Treasury System).
Jackson was a firm believer in a specie basis for currency, and the Specie Circular in 1836, which stipulated that all public lands must be paid for in specie, broke the speculation boom in Western lands, cast suspicion on many of the bank notes in circulation, and hastened the Panic of 1837. The panic, which had some of its roots in earlier crop failures and in overextended speculation, was a factor in the administration of Martin Van Buren, who was Jackson's choice and a successful candidate for the presidency in 1836.
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