tv The Presidency Andrew Jackson the Bank War CSPAN December 16, 2017 12:05pm-1:11pm EST
he said i want to introduce you to the long and short of the new presidency. >> all weekend only on c-span3. presidency,n the daniel feller visits andrew jackson's bancorp of the 1830's, a struggle that challenged and crippled the powerful bank of the united states, the young country's only financial institution. he teaches at the university of tennessee and, and directs the papers of andrew jackson project. the white house historical project hosted this hour-long event. everybody,to delighted to have you here. i am dr. curtis sanborn, the director of the david rubenstein national center for white house history. i have this long title. i am concurrently the association senior vice president for educational resources.
i would like to contextually put this all into a nice picture. share background about the association and do the talking in a proper context. some of you may know already, but we are a private, nonprofit educational organization. the mission of the place is to enhance the understanding of the appreciation of the executive mansion. a long time means 56 years at this point, since 1961. this was during the kennedy administration, the first lady, jackie kennedy founded the administration to help the white house collect and exhibit the absolute best of american history and culture. but underscoring all of that, to inform and incite the public about the history of the mansion. fast forwarding all these years we are still doing this or it, preservation, research, education efforts continue through the sale of our
books, our products. the official white house ornament, which some of you may know as well. in recent years, from private and corporate donations. to strengthen our goal, the over arching goal, which is to widely share white house history with the public, last year we created this lecture series to bring well-known authors and historians to the association to share their knowledge and insight with the public. and to humanize the white house, its inhabitants and things that happen. we are delighted to have professor feller. he will speak about andrew jackson and the white house, but also the origins, the events and enduring legacy of andrew jackson bank war. taking that a step forward, the impact of that on the role of the president and later generations. we do anniversaries. 2017, this year is also a benchmark because jackson was
born in 1767. that makes it 250 years. that box is being checked as well. before turning the podium over it is important to share a few , salient elements about his really impressive and far-reaching background. he is a professor at the university of tennessee. he will tell you more about this momentarily. he is also the editor of the papers of andrew jackson. on the curriculum part, prior to joining the tennessee faculty, he was the university of new mexico albuquerque. , his connection with the papers of andrew jackson goes all the way back in time to that period. he has contributed to numerous historical publications. there are some good ones. the new oxford university press volume, which is a very cool title called "when life strikes the president." his critical essays and review
articles have appeared in many scholarly provocations. and he has been on television shows, including history detectives, who do you think you are and cnn's race for the white house. and among his pursuits, he continues to carry out research that contributes in terms of all of us to our understanding and appreciation of america's history. in closing, we will have a tiny moment of bookkeeping. i think some of you may have gotten these in the way in. we are offering a 10% discount on everything over there in the store. it will be open until 6:00. it encompasses the totality of the evening and event. there is a very wonderful andrew jackson ornament that comes in a box set. there are a couple of other set -- others that come with it. that is the thought among our many white house ornaments. on that note please all of you , join me in welcoming professor daniel feller. [applause]
prof. feller: thank you, curtis. thank you all for being here. for me this is a very timely visit. as curtis said, i am the editor of the papers of andrew jackson. at that project we are publishing all of andrew jackson's papers. at least all of the surviving ones in chronological order. are less volume covered the year 1832. i will draw on that in a few minutes. in 1833, which is the year we are working on now, just last week i was sitting at my desk, editing and preparing for publication the letters that susan decatur living in the decatur house said, we just auctioned off my furniture and i and still broke. would you buy for me out of charity all my tableware and ndlver endplate, -- a
plate, which jackson did. i am not sure where this stuff is now. anyway, my subject today is president andrew jackson's bank war. i will begin by asking a favor. you have perhaps heard or read something about jackson of late. he has been very much in the news. that something may have left an impression in your mind about his character and his presidency. please put it aside because it may very well be wrong. we seem to be engaged to date -- today in a kind of public war on many fronts. between loud fictions and quiet facts. at least in jackson's case the fictions seem to be winning. they come from all sides. everyone from the president to the united states and his acolytes at one side to his severest critics at the other, have joined in propounding an image of jackson as a bumptious cowboy in the white house. an image that lies between
tendentious lee misleading and plain false. as example, president trump at the hermitage laying a wreath on jackson's birthday for the 250th anniversary said that tough guy jackson laid tariffs on foreign imports. the truth of that is exactly the reverse. the national review called a highly nationalistic, even menacing presidential address on foreign relations a few weeks ago. in its words, a very jacksonian speech. there was nothing, whatsoever, jacksonian about it. on the other side of the political fence, a magazine cover story declared that jackson fought at least 14 duals. newsweek magazine, not to be outdone, upped that number to 100 duals. do know how many duals andrew jackson actually fought? one. count them, one.
the new york times declared that jackson "annihilated" the southeastern indians. not expelled, not deported, not evicted, but annihilated, which means he killed them all. and to top it off, a washington posting your national security writer in a article about political insults reported that jackson said to his vice president, "john c. calhoun, if uses feed from my nation, i will secede your head from your body." which is charming and completely false, fake. even jon meacham's recent time magazine special issue on jackson, which is otherwise very good, concludes with a page of old quotations, several of which are dubious or just plain made up. one of the made-up ones is the
first one on the page. "take time to deliberate, but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in." we are, in short, regrettably bombarded from all sides by fake history on andrew jackson. much of it going to suggest that andrew jackson as president was impulsive and uncontrollably violent. i am not here to defend jackson, but i will sell you a story which i think challenges that perception. one that is closely grounded in contemporary sources, the ones that i work with. especially in jackson's own surviving papers. in other words a story that is, , to the best of my knowledge, actually true. on july 5, 1832, martin van buren, who had been jackson's secretary of state, was now his running mate in the presidential election, arrived at the white house at midnight.
he had just the day before that, landed in new york city after almost a year abroad and rushed down to washington in one day at jackson's urgent summons. he found the president sprawled out on a sickbed and jackson took his head and said, and these are van buren's words, "with the clearest indications of a mind composed and in a tone entirely devoid of passion or bluster, he said, the bank is trying to kill me, but i will kill it." when van buren told this story later in his autobiography and explained he kept it secret until then for the fear that "casual hearers would misinterpret it to mean that jackson had acted against the bank and offended personal feelings." which van buren said was without the slightest foundation in truth.
van buren was right to worry because from his day to our own andrew jackson's distraction -- destruction of the bank of the united states has been denounced by critics as reckless and vindictive, and act of private peevish spleen on which the , nation had to pay dearly. calling from andrew jackson's eviction from the $20 bill. by the way i have no opinion on , that. [laughter] no opinion on that. they want to change the faces that is fine with me. , the new york times charged him ly andanting late --wanton outrageously destroying the bank. as the times pronounced, a predecessor of the federal reserve. i am not going to try to convince you that killing the bank was wise, i am not sure that it was. i will try to persuade you that it was no means hasty or impulsive, and that the concerns that motivated it were far from merely personal.
at the heart of jackson jackson'slled -- so-called bank war were serious and weighty then and perhaps the same today. let me begin by setting the stage. in 1816, congress had chartered or incorporated the second bank of the united states for 20 years, until 1836. remember that year. the bank was headquartered in philadelphia with powers to establish branches wherever it wanted to. by 1832, four years before the charter was going to run out, the bank had 25 branches in 20 different states and the district of columbia. the bank's capital stock was set at $35 million. at a time when the annual entire federal budget was about $20 million. the bank was neither simply a private concern, nor was it an arm of government, but it was a hybrid of both.
the united states owned 1/5 of its capital stock, $7 million, and the president of the united states with senate consent appointed five of the bank's member of the board of 25 directors. it was to be the federal government's own banker. it performed some of the functions of today's treasury department. it brokered federal loans, it receipt, stored, transported and paid out government funds. and it issued bank notes, which where the country's only paper currency. but the bank was also a commercial business. it loaned money in competition with other banks. it made profits, and it paid dividends. clothed by its charter with -- and these words are in the charter -- exclusive privileges and benefits. operating throughout the land when every other bank in the country was confined to a single
state and most to a single city. at a time when the treasury department itself consisted of a few dozen washington clerks on a scattering of land offices and customs offices throughout the country. the bank of the united states was literally the only national financial institution in the country. it held immense power over the functions of government, the solvency of other banks, the stability of the nation's economic system, and the welfare of the citizens. while this mix of private and public in the bank's organization was a deliberate feature of alexander hamilton's design for the second bank of the united states' predecessor, the first bank of the united states, which was also chartered for 20 years from 1791 and expired in 1811. hamilton deliberately mixed public and private interest in the bank because it but it was necessary to fortify confidence in the soundness of the new government's finances.
but by the time andrew jackson took the inaugural oath in 1829, the ability of the united states, and the willingness of the united states to pay its bills, which hamilton was no longer in question, was stood out. the origins of andrew jackson's hostility to the bank are of of skier. obscure. er --are they are sometimes attributed to my mind of the ferry him persuasively to a financial disaster of his own or he was burned by endorsing another man's bad notes. jackson purportedly said during his presidency that he had always opposed all banks. but as we have learned at the jackson papers, he had a notoriously pliant memory, and a pronounced habit of believing that he always believed whatever he happened to believe at the
current moment. they were at any rate plenty of good reasons to distrust banks. banking was not in the early republic as we hope it is today. current moment. a staid and upright profession operating on well-known principles and accepted standards. it was at best a half understood, half mysterious trade, and at worst banking was something close to a con game. bank charters were produced from state legislatures throughout the country for political influence. people seeking those charges were not men with money to lend, but ambitious men who wanted to create banks so they could borrow from them. the hard capital with which banks supposedly started was often fictitious. it consisted of ious that were paid into the bank with the idea that you would read deem the ious from the profits that the bank would make after you set it up. self-dealing among bank officers was routine.
corruption was not uncommon and failures were frequent. even the second bank of the united states chartered back in 1816, had begun its career with a spree of speculation, embezzlement and fraud, that by 1820 had brought it to the edge of insolvency and required a wholesale purge of its management. given what we know of saint thomas jefferson's politics, it would be no surprise to learn that he condemned all chartered thinking as, "a sacrifice of public and private interest to a few aristocratic friends and favorites." except jefferson did not say that. that was his federalist opponent and later friend federalist john , adams of massachusetts. the bank of the united states kept a low and confident profile through the 1820's under the
deft management of its president. and man named nicholas biddle. it was not an issue of the story presidential campaign when 1828 jackson defeated john quincy adams. and jackson said nothing about it in his inaugural address in 1829. the first inklings of trouble came afterward when reports reached jackson that certain branches of the bank had tried to wield their influence against him in the 1828 election. again he heard about this , afterward. given jackson sense of grievance over that election, in election in which jackson believed, "the the virtuous yeomanry of the united states and all the corruption wickedness could
event, circulated through subsidized presses in every way supported by the patronage of the government." if you look at the election that way, learning that the bank of the united states was part of that torrent of wickedness and abuse would be enough to set you off against it. already by june of 1829 when he was president of three-month, jackson was writing friends that the only thing that can prevent our liberties to be crushed by the bank and its influence would be to kill the bank itself. well, jackson challenged both the constitutionality and the financial efficacy of the bank of the united states and his for his annual message to congress in december of 1829. this attack came out of the blue. it startled his audience went against the advice of several members in his cabinet. he got backing from his
confidential inner circle, including a treasury auditor and presidential wordsmith named amos kendall. the district attorney, whom jackson appointed district attorney from the southern district of new york, a man named james a. hamilton who was martin van buren's political sidekick and a son of the former secretary treasury, alexander hamilton. the language of jackson's official criticism of the bank in his first annual message was somewhat restrained, but his private words were not. he wrote hamilton that he was being opposed by all the sordid and interested who prided self interest and more in the perpetuity of our liberty and the blessings of our free republican government. he was opposed again by this moneyed aristocracy with its corrupting influence, preparing
for renewal of its charter, which i view as the deathblow to our liberty. jackson asked hamilton for a plan for a government owned institution to take over the official functions of the bank, if he should kill the bank itself. hamilton gave him one, a plan for government substitute early in beginning with a bill 1830, of particulars against the existing bank of the united states. that bill of particulars was under two headings. one, it is unconstitutional, too, it is dangerous to liberty. the text under dangerous to liberty began with this. because, in the number wealth expanding, in its power to make loans or withhold them, to call oppressively upon its debtors or to indulge them.
to build houses, to rent lands, to make donations for political or other purposes, the bank embodies a fearful influence which may be pretty angry indictment -- favorite individual, a particular interest, or a separate party. two, because it concentrates in the hands of a few men, a power over the money of the country, which may be perceived -- may be perverted to the people and to times of public calamity to the embarrassment of the government. this is what alexander hamilton's son thought of the bank of the united states. jackson kept a private memorandum book in which she jotted down occasional notes to himself. usually a few lines or less really short things. , into this private memo book he copied hamilton's entire memorandum on the bank, 6.5 pages long, parts of it are traceable in jackson's own fee
-- veto of the bank of the united states 2.5 years later. in january, 1832, four years before its charter was due to expire in the bank formally 1836, applied to congress for a renewal. this timing was not accidental. a presidential election was coming up in the fall. jackson had declared against the bank, now in three annual messages, his opponents for the presidency in 1832, henry clay was an advocate for the bank. clay and biddle, president of the bank calculated that the , bank was so obviously indispensable to the country that jackson would not dare to veto a recharter. if he did, they would make an issue out of it during the campaign. some of jackson's counselors, even within his own, favorite return during the bank.
that has fooled historians into thinking there was some compromise that could have been worked out. the evidence of jackson's papers proves otherwise. to paraphrase charlton heston who made it career out of , playing andrew jackson, the only way jackson would sign a recharter bill was with a pen insert it into his cold, dead fingers. in fact, jackson, drawing on ideas that were gathering for more than two years, had started assembling materials for a veto the minute the bill landed on the floor of congress. in june of 1832, he gave the moral to this guy, amos kendall. jackson's best wordsmith. after a few weeks he gave it back to jackson a closely written draft for a veto. 59 pages long, just as the recharter bill finally passed congress and was presented to jackson with deliberate timing
on july 4, 1832. roger tawney, the same guys who jackson appointed chief justice of the supreme court and is now forever branded as the man who delivered the dred scott decision. at this time he was jackson's attorney general. he has left us a picture of what came next. jackson wanted someone to work over kendall's draft. tawny, who was the one member of jackson's cabinet who is in favor of vetoing the charter. he was the only one that jackson thought he could trust. for company jackson had living with him in the white house a professional artist named ralph earl who have taken landscapes and historical scenes and any number of portraits of jackson himself. if you have seen a portrait of jackson, it is almost certainly
an earl portrait. he get them over and over again. earl had converted one room in the white house, unfortunately i don't know which. converted one room in the white house into a studio. that is where tawny and andrew jackson's private secretary set themselves up to work. they spent three days going over kendall's draft. jackson himself would occasionally wander in, approve a passage, make some suggestions, then go back out. over the entire time, earl was painting away, paying absolutely no attention whatsoever. completely oblivious. as we know from this draft, because the draft survives and we printed it in the last volume of the papers of andrew jackson. as we know from that draft, most of tawny's revision consisted of mostly crossing things out.
if you take in kindall's original 59 page draft and leave out all the cross outs, when his left is the bank's veto almost word for word in final form. reprinted it with all the cross out there, see you could see what was crossed out. in particular kendall wandered off in a rant in the tick all of -- rant about the british moneyed aristocracy. they took almost all of those out. as jackson delivered it to congress, the bank veto is a hodgepodge of arguments. some constitutional argument, some financial arguments, some historical arguments, some nationalistic arguments, even xenophobia. ophobic. some arguments that are rather silly. it's most enduring passage was this. this is from the bank veto. "it is to be regretted that the
rich and powerful to bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. in the full enjoyment of the gifts of heaven and the economy and virtue every man is equally , entitled to protection by law. but when the laws undertakes to add to those natural and just advantages, artificial distinctions to grant titles, , gratuities and exclusive privileges -- remember that language is in the bank charter, exclusive privileges. to make the rich richer, when the laws undertake to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful. then the humble members of society, the farmers, mechanics for laborers, who have neither the time or means to securing these labors, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government."
no president before had said anything like this. other presidents had warned americans against entangling foreign alliances. they had warned americans against sectionalism and excessive partisanship at home. jackson warned them against control of their own government by, in his words, the rich and powerful. the language was unpresidential. martin van buren called a veto message in his words, the most effective document amongst the people that was ever issued under like circumstances. , president ofe the bank of the united states, called a manifested of anarchy that robespierre might've issued to the mall. the veto did not end the war, it just escalated it.
the bank still have four years to live under its original 1816 charter. it was still rich, still powerful and still bent on recharter. if it had stayed out of politics down to this point, which nicholas biddle rather dubious claimed it dropped that , forbearance after the veto with a vengeance. in the 1830 presidential contest, the bank campaigned openly for henry clay and against jackson. spent thousands of dollars on loans to newspaper editors and congressman, and on publication opposing the bank veto, including one piece that he wrote himself, in which he called jackson a miserable do ter. these expenses are recorded on the bank's books which were
subject to treasury inspection. recorded out of the innocuous heading of printing and stationary. as jackson himself noted, since the united states owned 1/5 of the bank's stock, this campaign to sway government policy and to defeat a president was in fact being waged with the government's, or rather the people's own money. while the campaign failed miserably, jackson was overwhelmingly reelect and the bank's stake was sealed. another episode that played out simultaneously helped convince jackson that he can now not wait patiently for the bank to wrap up and go out of business in 1836. that it needed to be defanged, stripped of its power to do further damage right now. and that affair concerned the so-called 3%. the 3%'s were outstanding
government bonds helped largely by british and european investors, representing nearly the last of the federal debt. early in 1832, jackson's treasury secretary notified biddle of the government's intent to redeem most of the 3%. with government funds ample to that purpose, which were on deposit with the bank of the united states. the united states had $7 million or $8 million in its account. there were going to redeem about $6 million. 3%. he requested a three-month extension from july until october. he then arrange with the bank's corresponding house in britain, bearings of london. arrange with bearings to buy up the foreign held debt certificates and hold them for redemption later on. with the bank paying the regular
interest in the interval. i realized this was a little complicated. took me a while to figure out what was going on. from a bankers perspective, this spreading out of the redemption was smart and even brilliant because it biddle did not do that the bank of the united , states was going to have to make a massive cash payment all at once, all of it in gold and silver. to do that it would have to curtail its business, call and -- call in its moans and threat and threaten commercial stability at a time when financial markets were unusually vulnerable. everything worked. the bondholders still got paid, just a few months later. the government suffered no loss, the business of the country went on without a ripple of disruption. everybody one. -- everybody won. that is not how it looked to andrew jackson.
for this reason, biddle had handled the whole transaction through the bank's exchange committee, which was a personally hand-picked subcommittee of the full board of directors on which none of the government directors sat. remember the president of the united states appointed five of the 25 directors. and the exchange committee conducted its operations in strict secrecy. not only secrecy from the government, but secrecy from the other members of the board of directors. in fact it was only after the operation was complete that the treasury even learned what had gone on. another thing about the operation was that it slightly -- flatly violated some of the terms and the details of the bank's charter. it became known publicly accidentally and he repeated it after it became known of what he was doing. until that point, the government knew nothing whatever about any
of this. what it then learned, after the fact, was that although it had ample funds on deposit in the bank to redeem the last of the debt, and had ordered it redeemed, months later the bondholders were still unpaid, the government was still liable to them, and the bank still had the money. above all else it was this brazen violation of law and trust that prompted jackson and his advisers to question not only the bank's honesty, but its solvency. they decided jackson to order the removal of the deposits. that is to stop using the bank of the united states as a government depository, draw donw the balance in the banks and deposit its money in whatever state chartered banks could be found that would be willing to take them. stripped of the government
funds, the bank's ability to wage war against the government would be drastically curtailed. under the bank's charter, the man who had legal authority to remove the deposits was not the president of the united states but the secretary of the treasury. who for this purpose was a quasi-autonomous agent. much to jackson posing astonishment, his new treasury secretary, who is an appointed baulkedtly this purpose at ordering the removal of the deposit. in 1833, jackson convened his cabinet and read them a paper stating it as his decision upon his responsibility to remove the deposits starting october 1, which was just two weeks away. duane still do not get the message. or rather he got it but refused it. ed
he refused to sign the order removing the deposit so on september 23, a monday, not a saturday, jackson fired him and replaced him with roger tawney, previously the attorney general. that was on september 23. on three days after his september 26, appointment he signed the order to remove the deposit. starting october 1. all this is done while congress is out of session. in december, a new congress convened. jackson then control the house of representatives, but they were in the minority in the senate and that is where the action took place. the senate began by officially demanding to see that people -- that paper jackson had read to the cabinet on september 18. this document was the opposite of secret. it was meant for public view. it was meant to explain his policy. not only to his cabinet but to everybody else. it appeared in the newspaper the
day after jackson read it to the cabinet. but invoking what today would be called executive privilege, when the senate called for it, jackson responded politely that what he told his cabinet was none of your damn business. on march 28, 1834, the senate voted 26-20. this is the language of the resolution. that the president in the late executive proceedings in relation with the public revenue has assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the constitution and laws, but in derogation of both. it was in other words an official censure. this is the first and so far last time that the united states senate had officially censured a president. jackson replied with an official protest, a forceful one.
he said the senate had issued but was meant to stand as a moral equivalent of an impeachment verdict but done so , without an impeachment vote by the house of representatives. there were no specific charges, there was no evidence, there was no trial, and there was no two thirds majority which is required to really convict somebody. the vote was 26-20. these proceedings, jackson said, were "palpably repugnant to the constitution." furthermore he said they were anti-democratic because the senate was a body not elected by the people and not to them directly responsible. while the president of the united states, he did not say i, was "the direct representative of the american people." the senate stood its ground, the -- they branded his protest as a
breach of official privilege, refused to enter it on the journal and refuse to acknowledge it was received and denied jackson's right to officially challenge or criticize it in any way. even this did not stand. but in law the center meant nothing. -- censure meant nothing. it's symbolic importance was cemented after the majority pass. they moved a resolution to expunge the censure. that is literally not resend it or appeal it, but literally cross it out. he introduced that resolution . it failed in 1834 and in 1835, and in 1836. meanwhile, jackson men are now calling themselves democrats, were organizing with the expunging revolution -- resolution as their rallying point. in state after state senators
, who are not pledged to vote for the expunging revolution were either voted out of office by state legislatures or compelled to resign. by state legislators i should add, acting on cue from the white house. the crowning triumph came in january, 1837, just six weeks before the end of jackson's presidency. the expunging resolution finally passed. the original handwritten manuscript journal of the senate from 1834 was brought out of the vault, they found the right page, and the crossed out the resolution of censure. the clerk was ordered to draw black lines around it as if it never existed. meanwhile, the bank of united states finally defeated, wound down its business, procured a charter from the state of pennsylvania and continued as a state bank after 1836.
within a few years it was involved in cotton speculation that went bad and it closed its doors bankrupt and , disgraced. what do we make out of all of this? i know you are thinking what is the point? here is the point. some historians and economists take a kind of instrumentalist approach to history and they fault jackson severely for his actions in the bank war. they defend the bank of the united states as a modern style central-bank ahead of its time. they charged that jackson had no decent replacement for it, and they blamed his use of state banks which is where jackson put , the money was taken out of the bank of united states. they blamed that for triggering an inflationary boom that ended with a crash, the panic of 1837, that in turn ushered in a deep depression that lasted through the end of the 1830's and 1840's. all of this because of jackson's war on the bank.
all of these propositions can be and have been disputed. the bank was not constructed like a modern central bank. it is not clear that biddle was operating it as such, or would have understood what a modern central bank does. the question of blame for the panic is basically irresolvable because the answer lies at the end of a long chain of hypotheticals. what would have happen if jackson had not removed the deposit? or what would have happened if the bank of england had not raised interest rates at a particular time? what would have happened if the or chinese are not found a new way to finance their opium imports? no, i'm not making that up. that's infected major part of the argument. you can go down the list of what caused this. really we just don't know. it is true that jackson had no ready substitute for the bank.
using state banks as depositories was dubbed in -- an experiment, and it would be fruitless to try to claim jackson had a sophisticated grasp of banking and finance. a historian famously said once, of one of jackson's ideas for replacing the bank of the united states, "it may be intelligible to those whose understanding has not been corrupted by some knowledge and experience of the subject." if you know anything about banking, you know jackson does not. but a primitive understanding is not a false one. bankers then, and dare i say today, shrouded their operations in a forbidden mystery. let a president or congressional
committee inquire into them and the answer may be a politely phrased version of never you mind. we understand these matters, you do not. go away, leave us alone. but there can also be moments, and i think we can all remember a few years later. onewhen the bank collapses and that dismissive "trust us when you will your doing," gives way to an embarrassed "oops." it is debatable than the person who knows the subject is worse off than the person who thinks he does. all of this perhaps misses the point. jackson was not mainly concerned about the bank's efficacy of a financial agent. we question that as well. his core concern was political. he thought the intertwining of government operations with
banking and corporate finance was inherently dangerous. politically corrupting, a threat to democracy itself. he worried about the presence within a republic of a financial institution that was so huge, and with its powers so fortified by special privilege that it could, even in defiance of the people's own will, run the country to suit itself. was jackson wrong to worry about that? the actual conduct of the bank of the united states offers no reason to say that he was. we can blame biddle for descending into politics. and some have. the fact was that the banks very nature was a profit-making core position -- corporation and was inescapably political. as biddle remarked, when it came
to loaning money to congressman and newspapers he was dammed if , you did an dammed if he did not. it was political either way. the bank barge loans to the may washington printing house, who were publishers of the country's leading anti-jackson newspaper, the washington national intelligencer. biddle justified these loans a solid business transactions that were made on good security. but part of that security was the anticipated profits from government printing contracts, which were awarded by congress on a party vote. what message or lesson does the bank war leave for us today? i do not think that it can burn or some kind of politics point. contrary to the famous aphorism history does not repeat itself, , at least not in any precise or predictable away.
our circumstances may now reasonable those of jackson's days in some ways, but not in others. the differences matter as much as the similarity. the bank of the united states was indeed a predecessor of the federal reserve. the federal reserve is a privately controlled, profit-making dividend making shop on the boys from enron. the lesson is broader and less specific. not so much a prescription as a caution. speaking of governmental checks and balances, way act at the option of the constitution, james madison in federalist paper number 51 famously said, "it may be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control the
abuses of government, but what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections of human nature. if men were angels, no government would be necessary." in 1829, and the first skirmish between the bank and the jackson administration, biddle had repelled those accusations of political favoritism on the part of the bank in the 1828 campaign by telling jackson's treasury secretary that the 500 men who ran the bank and its branches were so disinterested that no loan had ever been made or refused on account of political partiality or hostility. ingam challenged what he calls biddle's assertion of universal purity.
he said no human could claim an entire exemption from the influence of feelings and passions inseparable from human nature. jackson reading this exchange, wrote in the margin opposite that, "well said." and he underlined it. indeed james madison and andrew , jackson were saying the same thing. banks are but human institutions. well they like other such institutions, including government, can't do a degree be controlled and circumscribed by rules and procedures or checks and balances, ultimately they cannot be made more infallible than the people who run them. the ultimate question posed by the bank was the same posed by government itself. how can a system of financing credit be created, which was sufficiently stable in uniform, to perform its necessary tasks
properly without becoming so powerful that it would use its powers improperly and ultimately become a threat for the citizens whom it was supposed to serve here in that riddle confronted andrew jackson and the bank in the bank war. it still confronts us today. that means that the banks, as well as the government are still there watching. thank you. [applause] >> do you want to do questions? this was wonderful. we have a few minutes for questions before you all go and that we have a recession. there is a handheld microphone which is vacuum of dr. costello.
any questions? don't leave us up here alone. there we go. >> i have two questions. the first is what biography of andrew jackson would you recommend for people looking for an accurate scholarly study? in alexander's biography of martin van buren, he suggests that van buren went along with jackson's bank policy but did not really believe in it. do you believe that was correct? prof. feller: who was the author? get another biography. [laughter] prof. feller: would it help answer that to tell you that when jackson was collecting
ideas for the bank veto, van buren was a willing contributor. van buren was in fact not only not a supporter of the bank veto , but yet been pushing it on jackson from the beginning. van buren did publish the posthumously published autobiography were he talked about how the bank veto was wonderful. and then been your -- and when van buren was president and andrew jackson was still looking over his shoulder, but when van buren was president he took the policy to the next level since the state banks were an interim experiment. the next thing to do is divorce bank and state. separate out the federal government's finance arrangement so they have nothing to do with banks whatsoever. set up something instead of the independent treasury. the independent treasury was the
leading policy of the van buren administration. he was 100% behind it. good biography. the best biography that i can recommend to you was published in 1860. it is rather long, it is in three volumes. an early historian named james parton did a three volume life of andrew jackson. it is very critical of jackson. i still think it is the best biography. this is the biography if you ever have seen the famous phrase about jackson's ignorance was a wall around him. a high, impenetrable wall. he paced back and forth like a chained panther. that comes from the biography.
'shn beauchamp's -- meachum recent pulitzer prize winning biography is a good read. social atmosphere of the white house that it is on policy. robert remini spent a career writing biographies of jackson. frankly they got sloppier as he went on. i think the first one, which is still out, which was written in the 1950's, than later updated to include things he left out of it, like slavery and the indian removal. that one is still a good read. the updated version is very good.
>> it is two parts, but i don't know if it is related. it is related. was there any commodity with the currency in that time? what was the inflationary climate that the bank was being opened on? i had was a precursor to the federal reserve so wasn't interest rates as we know them today. prof. feller: it was a "precursor" of the federal reserve. inflation was not an accepted part of the economic system at the time. there was inflation and then there was at times, deflation.
when prices and values changed, the assumption was that something had gone wrong. over a long period of time, you can chart inflation. generally, in the 19th century, when there was measurable inflation, it was when there was some disruptive event. like during the civil war there was plenty of inflation. the assumption of economists at the time was prices, wages, values ought to be stable. the first part of the question? [inaudible] it was a specie backed currency. i did not want to get into bank notes, because it takes a whole hour to explain bank notes. if you thought what i did say was less than exciting, then you should hear that part of it. [laughter]
prof. feller: supposedly the only real money was gold and silver. everything else was a representation. what banks did when they got charters was that they allegedly had a certain amount of gold in their vaults. they would issue notes, which functioned as money but they were ious from the cashier of the bank, saying this thing is worth $10, if you want you can bring it in and i will give you 10 real gold dollars. what the banks hoped is that not too many people brought them in at the same time because there was no deposit insurance. if you had a run on the bank the bank pulled. what often happened was that there were some banks that were created where the specie that was backing the paper money did
not exist. today, i think a modern economist would say it does not really matter. what underlies the soundness of our currency is everyone's faith in it. why is a $20 bill worth $20 today? it is because the government tells you so. as long as we all except that, it is were $20 wherever you go. it doesn't matter if there is a hypothetical gold piece behind it or not. that is a 20th-century understanding of economics. >> at the time when they had election of president, in that environment -- do they put these
other issues for the bank to control our government? is there in issue and the election, or is that all the cover up and people do not know about it? prof. feller: it was a real issue. i could answer this in several different ways. was it a decisive issue? nobody could ever tell. the only thing you could tell at the end of a presidential election was that one person won. jackson believed since he had re-charted a bill passed in congress of july of 1832, jackson vetoed it and then the election was in november. jackson himself took that overwhelming reelection, because it was overwhelming, as a mandate.
jackson said over and over again that the people have spoken. this issue was before them. if they did not want me to kill the bank can proceed further, they would have voted me out of office and therefore i have been empowered to proceed further in killing the bank. if you read the newspapers, pamphlets, literature, the bank issue is all over it. were people also voting other grounds? sure. >> i want to add a thought as well. this is the white house historical association comment. one of ourarlier, overarching goals is to bring scholars and professors and experts in the fields and family members of presidents to the association to enlighten the public. what we have seen here tonight
is to breathe life into a moment in the 1820's and 1830's that happened over there and around the square here. decatur house was here as well. looking out the window and talking in these rooms while all of this was happening. join me in thanking professor feller, for making this happen. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2017] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> today at 6:00 on the civil war, generals we love to hate on confederate general joseph johnston. >> johnson's critics argue that his timidity with the enemy and his combativeness with the confederate government so undermined the southern war effort as to make him a contributor factor in confederate defeat. to these critics, johnson was the real mcclellan of the west.
[laughter] >> a man who lacked the moral will to commit troops to battle until he could be absolutely certain of victory and since those circumstances were never obtained, he seldom if ever sought battle. 4:00 eastern on real america, the white house naval photographic units report on president lyndon johnson. >> two days after his return from new york, the president's oldest daughter became the bride of a captain of the united states marine corps. historically, it was the first white house wedding in 53 years. >> at 6:00, on "american artifacts" the history of the guests hotel, whose include abraham lincoln, and the first japanese delegation to the united states in 1860. >> abraham lincoln conducted quite a bit of business while he was here.
thetayed for 10 days and first white house levity was held at the willard hotel. when he introduced himself and his wife, who was quite a bit shorter, he said i want to introduce you to the long and the short of the new presidency. history tv, all weekend, every weekend, only on c-span3. journal" "washington arrives every day with news and policy issues that impact you. sunday morning, we will discuss the vote on the final republican tax reform bill with americans tax reform grover norquist and andy greene with the center for american progress and the rand corporation on threats to the u.s. homeland over the holiday season. liven's washington journal beginning at 7:00 eastern sunday morning. join the discussion. this year marks the 100th anniversary of the u.s. entry
into world war i. army command and general staff college professor richard faulkner talks about american soldiers views of the french, british, and germans, after arriving in europe in 1917. the national world war i museum in kansas city, missouri, hosted this event. it is now with great pleasure that i introduce a ,ongtime supporter, advocate and good friend of the museum. faulkner.d he has been an invaluable resource to the museum for over a decade and has been actively involved with many of our public programs. he is a key advisor for our living history volunteerhe has s and a leader and an advocate for the command and general staff partnership