Chapter 16 Summary

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Chapter 16 Summary

John C. Calhoun was passionate and willful. It was a triviality--an etiquette issue--and Jackson’s discovery of an opinion Calhoun had expressed ten years earlier that made enemies of the two men. When Peggy Eaton was ostracized, Jackson blamed Calhoun's wife. Martin Van Buren’s courtesy to Peggy Eaton won Jackson’s friendship where, previously, they had merely been political allies. Jackson also was shown some old papers revealing that, ten years earlier, Calhoun (then secretary of war) wanted Jackson punished for invading Florida. There was not much further communication between Jackson and Calhoun on any subject.

The Second Bank of the United States was a large and rich institution. BUS policy, though, was made by a board of directors chosen by and responsible to shareholders. Jackson did not trust banks, but he was not the bank’s only enemy. A variety of interests also wanted to see the BUS declawed. Hoping for an issue to defeat Jackson on in the presidential election, Henry Clay proposed to the bank president that the BUS apply for a new charter in 1832 rather than 1836. Clay was defeated; Jackson ceased depositing the government’s revenues in the Bank. Instead, he scattered the government’s deposits among state banks. The result was a speculative mania such as, before 1832, the BUS had prevented. The Specie Circular stopped the runaway speculation but caused further damage.

During Jackson’s presidency, Martin Van Buren and others mobilized Jackson’s supporters into a well-organized national party, the Democratic Party. The Whigs were a diverse group. Next to Henry Clay, the best-known Whig was Daniel Webster; his speech on liberty and the union transformed a political abstraction, the Union, into an object for which people were willing to die thirty years later. In 1836, the Whigs could not agree on a presidential candidate to run against Martin Van Buren. Therefore, the Whigs decided to run different candidates against him in states where each was popular. Van Buren still won by a comfortable electoral margin. In 1838, the depression worsened. It is difficult, though, for any administration to survive a serious depression. Victory-hungry Whigs chose William Henry Harrison in 1836 as their presidential candidate, and he won easily. On April 4, 1841, exactly one month after his inauguration, Harrison passed away. New president John Tyler had difficulty working with the Whigs in Congress. The major accomplishments of the Tyler administration were in the area of foreign affairs: resolving a series of potentially dangerous disputes with Great Britain, and paving the way for the annexation of the Republic of Texas.

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