Unit 13/14 a growing sense of nationhood/ andrew jackson and the growth of american democracy section 1 the era of good feelings


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SECTION 7 JACKSON BATTLES THE BANK OF THE UNITED STATES Andrew Jackson saw himself as the champion of the people, and never more so than in his war with the Bank of the United States. The bank was partly owned by the federal government, and it had a monopoly on federal deposits.

Jackson thought that the bank benefited rich eastern depositors at the expense of farmers and workers, as well as smaller state banks. He felt that the bank stood in the way of opportunity for capitalists in the West and other regions. He also distrusted the bank’s president, Nicholas Biddle, who was everything Jackson was not: wealthy, upper class, well educated, and widely traveled.

The bank’s charter, or contract, was due to come up for renewal in 1836. Jackson might have waited until after his reelection to “slay the monster.” But Henry Clay, who planned to run for president against Jackson in 1832, decided to force the issue. Clay pushed a bill through Congress that renewed the bank’s charter four years early. He thought that if Jackson signed the bill, the farmers who shared his dislike of banks would not reelect him. If Jackson vetoed the bill, he would lose votes from businesspeople who depended on the bank for loans. What Clay had forgotten was that there were many more poor farmers to cast votes than there were rich bankers and businesspeople.

Jackson vetoed the recharter bill. Even though the Supreme Court had held that the bank was constitutional, Jackson called the bank an unconstitutional monopoly that existed mainly to make the rich richer. The voters seemed to agree. In 1832, a large majority elected Jackson to a second term.

Rather than wait for the bank to die when its charter ran out, Jackson decided to starve it to death. In 1833, he ordered the secretary of the treasury to remove all federal deposits from the bank and put the money in state banks. Jackson’s enemies called these banks “pet banks” because the president’s supporters ran them.

Delegations of business owners begged Jackson not to kill the bank. Jackson refused. Abolishing the bank, he believed, was a victory for economic democracy.

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