tv The Presidency Andrew Jackson the Bank War CSPAN December 28, 2017 8:00pm-9:08pm EST
welcome to everybody. i'm the director of the david national center for white house history. i'm conkrncurrently the senior e president for educational resources and i would like contexturely to put this in a nice picture, share background of the association and that places tonight was talk if to a proper context. we're private, non-profit ed educational organization and the mission of the place is to enhance the understanding and appreciation of the executive mansion and that means 56 years at this point. it's 1961. this is during the kennedy administration and first lady, jacqueline kennedy founded the ass association and its purpose was to help the white house collect an exhibit, the absolute very
best of american history and culture but underscoring all of that to inform and excite the public about the hist raeof the executive mansion. so today we're still doing this. acquisition, preservation, research continue through the sale of our books, our products. the official white house ornament which some of you may know as well. and in recent years from private and corporate donations. to strengthen the over arching goal which is to share white house history with the public, last year we created the lecture series and its purpose is to bring well known authors and historians to the association to share their knowledge and insielt with it public and to humanize the white house, it's inhabitants and we all have a good take away. we're delighted to have professor feller with us tonight. he's going to speak about andrew
jackson in the white house and the enduring legacy of jackson's bank war and taking that a step further, the impact of that on the roll of the president in later generations. and it does bear noting because we do anniversaries. i was thinking through this lecture series that 2017 is a bench mark because jackson was born in 1767. so that makes it 250 years. so that box is being checked as well. before turning the podium over to dr. feller, it's important to share a few sailiant elements about his really impressive and far reaching background. he's professor at it university of tennessee. he's also the editor of the papers of andrew jackson and on the curriculum part, prior to joining the tennessee faculty, he was the university of new mexico albuquerque and before that at northland college in ashland, wisconsin and his
connection with the papers of andrew jackson goes all the way back in time to that period. he's contributed to numerous publications. the new oxford university press volume called "when life strikes it president." his critical essays and review articles have reviewed enmany scholarly publications and he's been on television shows. many including history detectives, who do you think you are and cnn's race for the white house and among his many pursuits, he continues to carry out scholarly resufrp that continues to our understanding and appreciation of america's history. in closing, a little tiny moment of book keeping. i think some of you may have gotten these on the way enbut we're offering a 10% discount on everything over there in the store. it's going to be open till 6:00. so it if hencompasses the totaly
of the evening. there's a wonderful jackson ornament that comes in a box set. that's a thought as well on our many white house christmas ornaments. and please welcome professor daniel feller. [ applause ] >> thank you, curtis. and thank you all for being here. as curtis said i'm the editor of the papers of andrew jackson and of that project we are publishing all of andrew jackson's paper in chronological order and our last volume covered the year 1832 and i'm going to draw on what i tell you in a few minutes. in 1833 which is the year we're working on now as it happened just last week i was sitting at my desk editing and preparing for publication living in the decatur house wrote to andrew
jackson in may 1833 saying we just auctioned off all my furniture and i'm still broke. would you buy for me out of charity all of my table wear and silver and plate, which jackson did. and went down. i'm not sure where the stuff is now. anyway, my subject is president andrew jackson's bank war. but i'm going to begin by asking a favor. you have perapse heard or read something of jackson of late. he's been very much in the news and that may have left an impression on your mind about his had character and his presidency. please put it aside because it it may very well be wrong. we seem to be engaged in kind of public war on many fronts between loud fictions and quiet facts. and at least in jackson's case, the fiction seemed to be
winning. they come from all sides. everyone from the president to the united states and his aclites at one side to izhad severest critics on the other have joined in prupounding an image of jackson as a cowboy in the white house. an image that lies somewhere between misleading and just plain false. as an example, president trump laying a wreath on jackson's birthday for the 250th anniversary said 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 relgations a few weeks ago, in its words, a very jaks ownian speech. there was nothing jaks ownian about it. on it other side of the
political fence, an atlantic magazine cover story said he fought at least 15 duals. news week magazine, not to be out done, upped that number to 100. 100 duals. you know how many duals andrew jangs actually fought? one. count them one. the new york times declared a little while back that jackson and this is its word annihilated the southeastern indians. not expelled, but annihilated which last i looked at the dictionary meant he killed them all and to top it all off a senior national security correspondent in an article about presidential insults or political insults reported that jackson said to his vice president john c. calhoun if you seseed from my nation, i will
suseed your head from your body. which is charming and completely false, fake. even john meacham's recent time magazine special issue on jackson, otherwise very good, concludes with bold quotations, several of which are dubious or plain made up and one of the made up ones is the very 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 jackson as president was compulsive and uncontrollably violent. i'm not here to defend jackson but i am here to tell you a story closely grounded in contemporary sources, especially in jackson's own surviving
papers. in other words a story that is to the best of my knowledge actually true. on july fifth, 1832, martin van buren, who been jackson's secretary of state and now is his running mate in the 1832 presidential election arrived at the white house at midnight. he had just the day before that landed in new york city found the president sprawled out and jackson took his hand and these are van buren's words with the clearest indication and a tone if tirely devoed of passion or bluster, he said, it bank, mr. van buren is trying to kill me? but i will kill it. well, van buren explained that
he kept its secret up until then for the fear that in his words was interpreted and well, van buren was right to worry and as reckless and vindicative. it eviction in 2015. by the way i have no opinion on that. no opinion. they want to change the faces, that's fine with me. but calling for jackson's eviction, the new york times charged him with wantonly and outrageously destroying the bank
which is, as the times announced was a predecessor. i'm not going to persuade you closing the bank was wise. i am going to persuade you that the concerns that motivated it were far from merely personal. at the heart of his so-called bank war were issues that were serious and weighty. serious and weighty then, perhaps still today. so let me begin by setting the stage. congress had chartered or incorporated the second bank of the united states until 1836. remember that year. it bank was head quartered in philadelphia with power to establish branchs wherever it wanted to. four years before that charter was going to run out, the baj had had 25 branchs in 20 different states in the district of columbia.
the capitol stock was set at $35 million. at a time when the annual federal budget was $20 million. the bank was neither simply a private concern nor an arm of government, but a hybrid of both. the united states owned 1/5th of its capitol stock and senate consent appointed five of the 25 members of the board of directors. the bank was to be the federal government's own bank. it performed some of the functions of today 's reserve and of today's treasury department. it received stored, transported and paid out government funds and it issued bank notes which were the country's only legal tender currency. but it it bank was also a commercial business.
it loaned money, it made profits and paid dividends. clothed by its charter 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 time with had 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 it only national 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. well, this mix of private and public and bank's organization had been a deliberate feature of alexander hamilton's design, the
first bank of the united states which also been chartered from 1791 and allowed to expire in 1811. and hamilton deliberately mixed public and private interests in the bank because he thought it was necessary to fortify confidence in the soundness of the new government's finances. but by it time andrew jackson took the inaugural oath, the ability of the united states and willingness of the united states to pay its bills, which is what hamilton had had been concerned about was no longer in question and the bank's hybrid private public nature stood out, as we shall see for other reasons. the origins of andrew jackson's hostility to the bank are obscure. they're sometimes attributed unpersuasively to an early financial disaster of his own where he had been burned by
endorsing another man pfrs bad notes. he reportedly said that he had always opposed all banks. but as we have learned at the jackson papers, jackson had a notoriously pliant memory and a habit of believing he had always believed whatever he happened to believe at the current moment. there were, at any rate plenty of good reasons to distrust banks. banking was not in the early republic as we hope it is today. operating on expected standards. at worst banking was something close to a congame. bank charters were produced the country. offen the people seeking those charters were not men with money to lend but ambitious men who
wanted to create banks so that they could borrow from them. the hard capitol with which banks supposedly started consisted of iou's with the idea you'd be able to redeem the ious with profits it banks would make from setting up. corruption was not uncommon and failures were frequent. even the second bank of the united states itself, chartered back in 1816 had begun iits career with a spree of speculation, embezelment and fraud that had brought it to the end of insolvency and required a whole sale -- given what we know of politics, it would be no surprise to know he condemned all charter banking as a sacrifice of public and private interests to a few
aristocratical friends and favorites. except that jefferson didn't say that. the man who said that was jefferson's federalist opponent and later friend, federalist john adams of massachusetts. bank of the united states kept a low and competent profile through the 1820s under the deft management of its president. it was not an issue in the storied 1828 campaign where are he defeated john quincy adams and he said nothing about it in his inaugural address. reports and tried to wield their offense. given jackson's sense of grievance over that election, an
election in which jackson believed and he didn't go. and all the torants of slander, wickedness could invent. circulated through subsidized presses and in every way supported by the patronage of the government. learning that bank of the united states was part of that tornt of wickedness and abuse would be enough by itself to sent you up against it. already by june of 1829 when he had been president all of three months, jackson was writing friends that the only thing that could prevent our liberties to be crushed by t bank and its influence would be to kill the bank itself. well, jackson challenged both the constitutionality and the
effica efficacy, the financial efficacy, competency of the bank of the united states and its first annual message to congress. this attack came out of the blue. it startled his audience, went against the advice of several members of his cabinet. but he got backing by his inner circle, including a presidential word smith named aims kendall and it district attorney whom jackson appointed for the southern district of new york, a man by the name of james a. hamilton. a son of the former secretary off treasury alexander hamilton. well, 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 sorted and interested who prized self interest more than the perpetuity of our liberty and the blessings of a free republican government. ee was opposed again by this moneyed aris oceracy with its corrupting influence preparing for a renewal of its charter which i view as it death blow 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 1830 beginning with a bill of particular es against the existing bank of the united states. one, it's unconstitutional, two it's dangerous to liberty and the text under dangerous to
liberty began with this. because in the number wealth and standing off its stock holders, in its power to make loans or with hold them, to call oppressively upon its debtors or to indulge them, to build houses, to rent lambs, to make donations for political or other purposes, the bank embodies a fearful influence which may be wielded for the agrandizement for a favorite individual, particular interest or a separate party. two, because it concentrates in the hands of a few men a power over the men in the country, which may be perverted to the oppression of the people and at times of public calamity to the embarrassments 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 he jotted down occasional notes to himself. into this private memo book he copied hamilton's entire memorandum on the bank, 6 1/2 pages long. parts of it are traceable in jackson's own veto of the bank of the united states two 1/2 years later. well, in january 1832, four years before its charter was due to expire the bank formally 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 in three annual messages. his opponent, henry clay was an advocate for it bank. and clay and bittal, president of the bank who were in communication with each other, calculated the bank was so
obviously if had dispensable to the country that jackson would not dare to veto a charter and if he did, they'd make anni iss out of it. some of jackson's counselors favored rechartering the bank and that has fooled historians if had to thinking there was possibly some compromise that could have been worked out. but the evidence of jackson's papers proves otherwise. to paraphrase charlton heston who you remember made a career of playing andrew jackson. the only way jackson was going to sign a recharter bill was with a pen he inserted into his cold, dead fingers. in fact jackson drawing on ideas that had been gathering for more than two years had started assembling materials for a veto the minute the recharter bill landed on the floor in congress.
he gave them are to jackson's best word smith and after a few weeks gave back to jackson a closely written draft for a veto, 59 pages long. just as the recharter bill and a deliberate timing on july fourth, 1832. this is the same guy jackson later appointed chief justice of the supreme court and forever branded as the man who delivered the dread scott decision. at this time he was jackson's attorney general and he has left us a picture of what came next. and tony who had had been urging jackson to veto. tony was the only one jackson thought he could trust. for a company, jackson had
living with him in the white house professional artist who had landscapes and historical scenes and any number of portraits of jackson himself. if you've seen a portrait of jackson, did them over and over and over again. so earl converted one room in the white house if to a studio. and that is where tawny and the private secretary set themselves up to work. they spent, according to tawny three days going over kendall's draft. jackson himself would occasionally wander in approve a passage, make suggestions and go back out. over the entire time earl was painting away, paying them no attention whatsoever.
completely oblivious. now, as we know from this draft, because the draft survives and we printed it in the last volume of the papers of andrew jackson and as we know from that draft, most of the revision consisted of simply crossing things out. if you take in kendall's original 59-page draft and leave out all the cross outs, what's left is the bank veto almost word for word in final form. by the way we printed it without all the crossouts there. in particular kendall wandered off into a whole bunch of rants and they took all of those out. well, in final form as jackson delivered it to congress july 10th, 1832, it's a hodgepodge of arguments. some constitutional arguments, some financial arguments. some historical arguments, some nationalistic arguments.
nationalistic and xenophobic. some arguments that there rather weighty and some that are rather silly. but it's most arresting and enduring passage was this. this is from the bank veto. it is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. in the full if joimnt of tenjoy gifts of heaven, every man is equally entitled to protection by law. but when the laws undertake to add to those natural and just advantages, artificial distinction to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges -- remember that language is in the bank charter, exclusive privileges -- to
making the rich richer and the potent more powerful. then the humble members of society, the farmers, mechanics and laborers. who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors of themselves have a right to explain of the injustice of their government. no president before had said anything like this. other presidents had warned americans against intangling foreign alliances, they had warned americans against sectionalism and partisanship at home. jackson warned them against control of their own government by in izhad words the rich and powerful. the language was unprecedented and in some eyes unpresidential. martin van buren called the veto message in his words the most effective document amongst the
people that was ever issued under like circumstances. nicolas bittal, president of the bank of the united states called it a manifesto of an aarchy whi might have been issued to the mob. it didn't end the war, it rather escalated it. the bank had four years to live under its original charter. it was still rich, powerful and bent on recharter. if it had in fact stayed out of politics down to this point which nicolas bittal rather dubiously claimed, it dropped that forbearance with a vengeance. in the 1832 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 publications.
opposing the bank veto including one skurilous piece in which he called jackson a miserable dotard. love that word. recorded under the innocuous edhadding of printing and stationary. this campaign to sway government policy and to defeat a president was in fact being waged with the governments or rather the people's own money. well, the campaign failed miserably, jackson was overwhelmingly reelected and the bank's fate was seemingly sealed. but another episode that played out simultaneously help hadded convince jackson he can now not
wait patiently for the bank to wrap up and go out of business in 1836, that needed to be defanged and stripped. the 3 percents were bonds held largely by british and europeans, showing the last of the federal debt. and notifying the government, with government funds which were on deposit with the bank of the united states. they had had around 7 or $8 million sitting there with the bank of the united states. they were going to redeem $6 million with the 3 mer.
he he requests a an extension from july to october. he then arranged with the corresponding house in britain, bearings in london, arranged 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 realize this is a little complicated. took me a little while to figure out what was going on myself from a banker's perspective, the spreading out of the redemption was smart and even brilliant. because if he didn't do that, the bank of the united states is going to have to make massive cash payment and to do that, it would have to curtail its business, call in its loans, thus threatening stability at a time when markets were unusually vulnerable.
everything worked. they just got paid a few months later. without a ripple of disruption. everyo everyone. that's not how it looked to andrew jackson. for this reason he handled it through the bank's exchange committee which was a personally hand picked subcommittee of the full board of directors. on which none of the directors -- government directors sat. and the exchange committee conducted its operations in strict secrecy. not only from the government but from the other members of the board of directors. in fact it was only after the operation was complete that the treasury even learned it had gone on. another thing about the operation was the way he
arranged it, it flatly violated terms in the bank's charter. it became known publicly accidently and at that time he publicly repudiated it. until that point the government knew nothing whatever about any of this. what it then learned after it fact was that although it ample funds on deposit in the bank to redeem the last of the debt and had had had ordered it redeemed, months later the bond holders were still unpaid. the government was still libel to them and the bank still the money. well, above all else, it was this apparently brazen violation off law and trust that prompted jackson and his advisors to question not only the bank's honesty but its solvency. and the decided jackson in 1833
to order the removal of the deposits. that is to stop using the bank of the united states as a government depository. draw down the balances in the bank and deposit the money from now on in whatever state chartered banks that would be willing to take them. stripped of the government funds in its vaults, the bank aability to wage war against the government would be drastically curtailed. but it was the secretary of the treasury who was a quasi-agent. much to hiss his astonishment, his new secretary who been appointed for this purpose bought at ord thrg removal of the deposits. so jackson convened his cabinet
and read them a paper stating it as his decision upon his responsibility to remove the deposits starting october 1st, which was just two weeks away. dwayne still didn't get the message or rather got it but refused to heed it. he refused to sign it order removing the deposits and so september 23rd, a monday not a saturday, jackson fired him and replaced him with roger tony. that was on september 23rd. three days after his appointment, he signed it order to remove the deposits, starting october 1st. all this is being done while congress is out of session. jackson's men controlled it house of representatives but were in the minority. the senate began by officialdy
manding to see that paper that jackson had read to the cabinet back on september 18. now this document was the opposite of secret. it was meant for public view. it was meant to explain jackson's policy, not only to his cabinet but to everybody else and it appeared in the newspapers it day after jackson read it to the cabinet. but invoking what today would be called executive privilege, when the senate called for it officially, jackson responded politely that what he told his cabinet was none of your dam business. on march 28, 1834, the senate voted 26/20. and this is the language of the resolution it adopted. that the president in the late executive proceedings in relation to the public revenue as assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by the constitution
and laws but in dareigation of both. it was, in other official sensor and this is the first and last time the united states senate has officially sensored a president. jackson replied with a protest. it said the senate correctly stood issue of what is the moral impeachment verdict but it had done so without an actual impeachment vote by the house of representatives. there were no evidence, no trial and no 2/3 majority which it requires to really convict somebody. remember it vote was 26-20. these proceedings jackson said were repuginant to the constitution and further more, antidemocratic because the congress was a body not elected
by the people and not, to them, directly responsible. while the president of the united states, he didn't say i, was and i quote again the direct representative of the american people. well, the senate stood its ground and branded jackson's protest as a breach of privilege, refused to acknowledge that it had been received and denied jackson's right to officially challenge or criticize it in any way. but even this did not stand. in law of course the sensor meant nothing but its symbolic importance was immense. almost immediately after the senate passed it a senator moved a resolution to expunging the sensor. that is literally not rescinded or repeal it it, but literally cross it out. he introduced that resolution. it failed in 1834, 1835, 1836.
but meanwhile, out jackson men, by now calling themselves democrats, were organizing with it expunging resolution as their rallying point and in state after state senators who would not pledge to vote for the expunging resolution were either voted out of office by state legislatures or compelled to resi resign. iicide 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. that resolution finally passed. the original hand written manuscript journal of the senate of 1834 was brought out televise vaults and they found the right page and they crossed out the resolution of sensor. the clerk was ordered to draw
black lines around it as if it never existed. meanwhile, the bank of the united states finally heeled and defeated, wound down its business, procured a new charter from the state of pennsylvania and continued as a state bank in 1836. within a few years got involved in cotton speculations that went bad and closed its doors bankrupt and disgraced. i know you were thinking what's the point? some historians and especially economists take a kind of instrumentalest approach to history and they fault jackson severely for his actions in the bank war. the bank of the united states is a modern style central bank ahead of its time. they charge that jackson had no decent replacement for it. and they blame his use of state banks which is where jackson put the money after he was taken
touft bank of the united states. blamed that for triggering an inflation a inflationary ended with a crash that in turn ushered in a deep depression that lasted through the end of the 1830s and '40s. all of this they said because of jackson's war on the bank. all these propositions can be and have been disputed. the bank was not constructed like a modern central bank it's not clear he would have operated it as such. the question of blame for the panic is basically irresolvable. because it lies at the end of a long list of hypotheticals. what would have happened if the bank of england had had not raised interest rates at particular time or what would have happened had the chinese
not found a way to finance their opium imports? i'm not making that up, it's a part of the argument. and you can go down it list of what caused it panic of 1837. really, we just don't know. it was frankly dubbed an experiment. and it would be fruitress to try to claim for jackson a sophisticated grasp of banking and finance. a historian said of replacing the bank of the united states that it may be intelligible to those whose understanding has not been corrupted by some knowledge and experience of the subject. in other words if you know anything about banking, you know jackson doesn't.
but a primitive understanding is not necessarily a false one. bankers then and dare i say today shrouded their operations in a forbidding mystery. and the answer may be a politely phrased version of never you mind. we understand these matters. you don't. go away, leave us alone. but there can also be moments and i think we can all remember one a few years later, when the banker's facade of omnissance collapses and that dismissive trust we know what we're doing gives way to a kind of embarrass embarrassed oops. it's debatable. it person who knows he doesn't
fully understand the subject is worse off than the person who thinks he does. jackson was not mainly concerned about the bank's efficacy as a financial agent, though he questioned that as well. his core concern was political. he thought the intertwining of government operations and corporate finance was inherently dangerous. politically corrupting, a threat to democracy itself. he worried about the presence within a republic of a financial instushz that was so huge and powers so fortified by special privilege that he could, even in. defiance of the people's own will move to be in defiance itself. was jackson wrong about that? it conduct of the national bank
gives us no reason to think he was. we can thank bittel for plunging him if had to politics. but it's a congressionally chartered profit corporation wielding monopoly official powers was init escapably political. as bittal himself remarked, when it came to loaning money to congressman and newspapers, he was dammed if he did, dammed if he didn't. the bank, for instance made large loans to the washington printing house of gales and seaten who were publishers of the country's leading antijackson newspaper, the washington national intelligence. bittal justified these loans as solid business transactions. they were made on good security. but part of that security is the anticipated profit from government printing contracts, which were awarded by congress on a party vote.
so what message or lesson does the bank war leave for us today? i do not think that can furnish some kind of policy pointers of any practical use. history does not repeat itself. at least not in any precise or predictable way. and the differences matter at least as much as it similarities. the bank was indeed a predecessor of the federal reserve. if you can imagine it's a privately controlled, dividend paying shop run by it boys from enron. the lesson i think, if there is one is broader and less specific, not so much a prescription as a precaution.
way back, james madison in federalist 51 and said it hay be a reflection on human nature that such devices should be necessary to control it abuses of government. but what is government itself but it reflection on human nature. well, in 1829 in the very first squirmish between the bank of the united states and the jackson administration, bittal had repelled those accusations of political favoritism on it part of the bank, in the 1828 campaign by telling jackson's treasury secretary that 500 men who ran the bank and its branchs were so disinterested that no loan had ever been made or
refused in his words on account of political partiality or hostility. ingm replying to this, challenged biddle's assertion of universal purity. ingham remarked that no institution could claim an entire exemption from the feelings and patterns inseparable from human nature. jackson 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 and while they like other such institutions, including government, can be controlled and circumscribed by rules and checks and balances ultimately, they cannot
be made more infallible than the people who run them. the ultimate question posed by the bank was thus the same as that posed by government itself. how could a system of finance and credit be created, which was sufficiently stable in uniform, to perform its necessary tasks properly, without becoming so powerful, without that it would use its powers improperly and corruptly and ultimately, become a threat to the very citizens whom it was supposed to serve. that riddle confronted jackson and the bank in the bank of the united states, in the bank war. it still confronts us today and that means that the bank, banks plural, the banks as well as the government, still bear watching. thank you.
>> any questions? >> yeah. this was wonderful. we have a few minutes for questions before you go as well then we have a reception. there is a hand-held microphone back here with matt, our senior historian. so any questions? don't leave us up here alone. there we go. have a taker. >> thanks. i have two questions. the first is simply what biography of andrew jackson would you recommend for people looking for an accurate scholarly study. second, in holmes alexander's biography of van buren, he had suggested that van buren went along with jackson's bank policy, but didn't really believe in it. do you believe that was correct? >> let me answer the second one. first because it's easier. no. and who was the author?
>> alexander. >> yeah. get another biography. 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 he had been pushing it on jackson from the beginning and van buren did write this posthumously published autobiography where he talks about how the bank veto was wonderful. and van buren then as president, when andrew jackson with was still kind of looking over his shoulder from tennessee from when van buren was president himself, he took the policy to the next level. since the state banks were an interim experiment, the next
thing to do is in the phrase of the time, divorce bank and state. separate out the federal government's financial arrangements so they have nothing to do with banks whatsoever. and set up something instead called the independent treasury. it was the leading policy. the leading policy of the van buren administration. so he was 100% behind it. good biography. well, the best biography that i can recommend to you was published in 1860, and it's rather long. it's in three volumes. a, an early historian named james parton did a three-volume life of andrew jackson. and i still think the best, by the way, it's very critical of jackson. i still think it's the best biography. this is the biography if you've
ever seen the famous phrase about jackson's ignorance was a wall around him. a high, impenetrable wall and they paced back and forth within the cage of his ignorance like a chained panther. that comes from that biography. john meacham's recent biography pulitzer prize winning biography is a good read. i think it's better on kind of social atmosphere of the white house than it is on policy. it's not really a wonks biography. robert remini, who's just died a few years ago, he spent a career writing biographies of jackson. and frankly, they got sloppier as he went on. and so i think the first one, which is still out, which was written in the 1950s then later
updated to include things he left out like slavery and indian removal. that one's, that one's still a good read and the updated version very good. >> it's two-part. i don't know if it's really related. well, it is related. were there any accommodates in currency back in that time? and the other question was what was the inflationary climate that the bank was being opened on? because i know as a precursor to federal reserve, so it wasn't interest rates as we know it today. >> it was a quote precursor of the federal reserve. inflation was not an accepted part of the economic system at
the time. so there was inflation and there was at times, deflation. but when prices and values changed, the assumption was that something had gone wrong. now over a long period of time, you can chart inflation, you know, an inflationary trend, but generally in the 19th century, when there was measurable inflation, things are more expensive this year than last year. it was when there was some disruptive event. like during the civil war. there was plenty of inflation. but the assumption of economists at the time was that price, wages, values, ought to be stable. the first part of the question, yeah.
it was a specie backed currency. and i didn't want to get into bank notes because it takes a whole hour to explain bank notes and you know, and if you thought what i did say was less than exciting, you should hear that part of it. supposedly, the only real money was gold and silver. species. and all, everything was was a representation. so what banks did when they got charters was that they allegedly had a certain amount of gold, of species in their vaults. they would issue ious from the cashier of the bank, saying this thing is worth $10, you can bring it in and i'll give you 10 real dollars for it, a gold dollar. and what the banks hoped is that not too many people bring them in at the same time because there was no deposit insurance and if you get a run on the bank, the bank folds.
what often happened, this is what i was talking about, there were some banks created where the species that was allegedly begin -- backing the paper money didn't exist. today, i think a modern economist would say well, it doesn't really matter. what underlies the soundness of our currency today is everybody's faith in it. why is a $20 bill worth $20? it is because the government tells you so. as long as we accept that, it's worth $20 anywhere you go. it doesn't matter whether there's a hypothetical gold piece behind it or not. that is a 20th century understanding of economics. >> one more question. >> this for you. wonderful. but i wonder at that time when
they have election of president and then maybe some officials, in that environment, do they put just other issues for the banks to control our government? is it really an issue in the election or does it all cover up and people don't know about it? >> no, it was a real issue. not, i could answer this in several different ways. was it a decisive issue? nobody can ever tell. the only thing you can tell at the end of a presidential election is that one person won. jackson himself believed that since he had -- remember the timing here, re-charter bill passed congress in early july of 1832, jackson vetoed it, then
the election was in november. jackson himself took that overwhelming re-election because it was overwhelming. he stomped henry clay pretty badly. as a mandate. in a modern word. and indeed, jackson's, you said over and over again, the people have spoken. this issue was before them. if they didn't want me to kill the bank and proceed further against it, 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 at the time, read the pamphlet, literature of the time, the bank issue is all over it. it's bank, bank, bank, bank. were people also voting on other grounds? sure. >> this is sort of white house historical association comment, but as i said earlier in introducing dr. feller, one of our, in fact overarching goal is to bring scholars to bring professors, experts in the
field, family members of presidents to the association to enlighten the public. what we've seen tonight, and thank you so much, dan, is to breathe life into a miami in the into a moment in the 1820s and 1830s that happened right over there and sort of right around the square here, decatur house was here as well. there were people looking out the window talking in these rooms right over here while all this was happening. so please just really join me in thanking professor fellers for making this happen. coming up new year's weekend on cspan. saturday at 8:00 p.m. eastern. north korean refugees describe life under the kim regime. >> in china, however, tens of thousands of north korean defectors are leaving without papers. under the shadows and are being
physically or sexually exploited. while the u.s. should continue urging china and russia to support more economic sanctions, it should also do more. to stop beijing repate rating defectors back to north korea. >> sunday at 6:30 p.m. eastern, james clapper on his career in the intelligence community. >> we call that new paradigm immaculate collection. now i mean it semihumorously, but it makes a point about the difficulty of being so precise, given the global interconnection represented by the internet, which is where everybody communicates, and the difficulty of sorting out you know, good people and bad people. >> and on monday, new year's day at 10:00 a.m. eastern, a tech fire summit on the self-driving revolution and at noon, former clinton administration officials on the legacy of president bill clinton.
>> he knew who he was fighting for. he got there every day. he knew the people he wanted to help. and through thick and thin, when times were good and times were bad, all he cared about was could he deliver for the people, who needed the government to be on their side. >> watch this new year's weekend on cspan. c-span cities tour takes you to springfield, missouri, january 6th and 7th, to explore the literary history on route 66 in southwestern missouri. january 6th at noon eastern. talking about the kansas city border and struggle over slavery. >> in 1858, brown left the
kansas territory and begins a series of raids into wowrns missouri during which his men will liberate enslaved people from missouri and help them escape to freedom. in the course of this, they will kill a number of slave holders. the legend or notoriety of john brown really grows. as part of this struggle that people understand locally is the beginning of the civil war. then, january 7th, 2:00 p.m., we visit the international sporting arms museum. >> theodore roosevelt was probably our shootingest president, a very avid hunter. the first thing he did when he left office was to go on a large hunting safari to africa. this particular rival was prepared specifically for roosevelt. it has the seal engraved on the
breach. he was famous for the bull moose party and there is a bull moose engraved on the side plate of this gun. >> watch c-span cities tour springfield, missouri, on book tv and american history tv c-span3 working with our cable affiliates as we explore america. c-span student cam. the tweets say it all. video and editing and splicing for constitutionality. and students have hard hitting questions about immigration reform and the dream act. we're asking students to choose a provision of the u.s. constitution and create a video illustrating why it's important. our competition is open to all middle school and high school students grade 6 through 12.
$100,000 in cash prizes will be awarded. the grand prize of $5,000 will go to the student or team with the best overall entry. the deadline is january 18th. get contest details on our website at studentcam.org. american history tv continues with the andrew jackson presidency. history professor samuel watson talks about it. it's just under two hours. >> tonight's speaker is sam watson, professor of united states and military history at the united states military academy at westpoint where he