to the MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.
last few programs, we described the presidential election campaign of
eighteen twenty-eight. It split the old Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson
into two hostile groups: the National Republicans of John Quincy Adams and the
Democrats of Andrew Jackson. The election of Jackson deepened the split. It
became more serious as a new dispute arose over import taxes.
in our series, Maurice Joyce and Stewart Spencer continue the story of Andrew
passed a bill in eighteen twenty-eight that put high taxes on a number of
imported products. The purpose of the import tax was to protect American
industries from foreign competition. The South opposed the tax, because it had
no industry to protect. Its chief product was cotton, which was exported to
American import taxes forced European nations to put taxes on American cotton.
This meant a drop in the sale of cotton and less money for the planters of the
South. It also meant higher prices in the American market for manufactured
Carolina refused to pay the import tax. It said the tax was not constitutional,
that the constitution did not give the federal government the power to order a
time, the vice president of the United States -- John C. Calhoun of South
Carolina -- had believed in a strong central government. But he had become a
strong supporter of states' rights.
wrote a long statement against the import tax for the South Carolina
legislature. In it, he developed the idea of nullification -- cancelling
federal powers. He said the states had created the federal government and,
therefore, the states had the greater power. He argued that the states could
reject, or nullify, any act of the central government which was not
constitutional. And, Calhoun said, the states should be the judge of whether an
act was constitutional or not.
idea was debated in the Senate by Robert Hayne of South Carolina and Daniel
Webster of Massachusetts. Hayne supported nullification, and Webster opposed it.
Webster said Hayne was wrong in using the words "liberty first, and union
afterwards." He said they could not be separated. Said Webster:
"Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable."
really knew how President Andrew Jackson felt about nullification. He made no
public statement during the debate. Leaders in South Carolina developed a plan
to get the president's support. They decided to hold a big dinner honoring the
memory of Thomas Jefferson. Jackson agreed to be at the dinner.
speeches were carefully planned. They began by praising the democratic ideas of
Jefferson. Then speakers discussed Virginia's opposition to the alien and
sedition laws passed by the federal government in seventeen-ninety-eight.
discussed South Carolina's opposition to the import tax. Finally, the speeches
were finished. It was time for toasts. President Jackson made the first one. He
stood up, raised his glass, and looked straight at John C. Calhoun. He waited
for the cheering to stop. "Our union," he said, "it must be
rose with the others to drink the toast. He had not expected Jackson's
opposition to nullification. His hand shook, and he spilled some of the wine
from his glass.
was called on to make the next toast. The vice president rose slowly. "The
union," he said, "next to our liberty, most dear." He waited a
moment, then, continued. "May we all remember that it can only be
preserved by respecting the rights of the states and by giving equally the
benefits and burdens of the union."
Jackson left a few minutes later. Most of those at dinner left with him.
now knew how the president felt. And the people were with him -- opposed to
nullification. But the idea was not dead among the extremists of South
Carolina. They were to start more trouble two years later.
nullification doctrine was not the only thing that divided Jackson and the vice
president. Calhoun had led a campaign against the wife of Jackson's friend and secretary
of war, John Eaton.
members of Jackson's cabinet supported Calhoun. Mister Calhoun and the three
cabinet wives would have nothing to do with Mister Eaton. Jackson saw this as a
political trick to try to force Eaton from the cabinet, and make Jackson look
foolish at the same time.
hostility between Jackson and his vice president was sharpened by a letter that
was written by a member of President Monroe's cabinet. It told how Calhoun wanted
Jackson arrested in eighteen-eighteen.
writer, William Crawford, was in the cabinet with Calhoun. Jackson had led a
military campaign into Spanish Florida and had hanged two British citizens.
Calhoun proposed during a cabinet meeting that Jackson be punished. Jackson did
not learn of this until eighteen-twenty-nine. Jackson wanted no further
communications with Calhoun.
attempts were made to soften relations between Calhoun and Jackson. One of them
seemed to succeed. Jackson told Secretary of State Martin Van Buren that the
dispute had been settled. He said the unfriendly letters that he and Calhoun
sent each other would be destroyed. And he said he would invite the vice
president to have dinner with him at the White House.
dispute ended, Calhoun thought he saw a way to destroy his rival for the
presidency -- Secretary of State Martin Van Buren. He decided not to destroy
the letters he and Jackson sent to each other. Instead, he had a pamphlet
written, using the letters. The pamphlet also contained the statement of
several persons denying the Crawford charges. And, it accused Mister Van Buren
of using Crawford to try to split Jackson and Calhoun.
Calhoun's men took a copy of the pamphlet to Secretary Eaton and asked him to
show it to President Jackson. He told Eaton that the pamphlet would not be
published without Jackson's approval. Eaton did not show the pamphlet to
Jackson and said nothing to Calhoun's men. Calhoun understood this silence to
mean that Jackson did not object to the pamphlet. So he had it published and
given to the public.
exploded when he read it. Not only had Calhoun failed to destroy the letters,
he had published them. Jackson's newspaper, the Washington Globe, accused
Calhoun of throwing a firebomb into the party.
declared that Calhoun and his supporters had cut their own throats. Only later
did Calhoun discover what had gone wrong. Eaton had not shown the pamphlet to
Jackson. He had not even spoken to the president about it. This was Eaton's way
of punishing those who treated his wife so badly.
continued to defend Margaret Eaton's honor. He even held a cabinet meeting on
the subject. All the secretaries but John Eaton were there.
told them that he did not want to interfere in their private lives. But, he
said it seemed that their families were trying to get others to have nothing to
do with Mister Eaton. "I will not part with John Eaton," Jackson
said. "And those of my cabinet who cannot harmonize with him had better
withdraw. I must and I will have harmony." Jackson said any insult to
Eaton would be an insult to himself. Either work with Eaton or resign. There
were no resignations.
problem got no better. Many people just would not accept Margaret Eaton as
their social equal. Mister Van Buren saw that the problem was hurting Jackson
deeply. But he knew better than to propose to Jackson that he ask for Secretary
Eaton's resignation. He already had heard Jackson say that he would resign as
president before he would desert his friend Eaton.
Our program was written by Frank Beardsley. The narrators were Maurice
Joyce and Stewart Spencer. Next week, we discuss Martin Van Buren's plan to
solve the dispute between Andrew Jackson and John C. Calhoun. Transcripts, MP3s
and podcasts of our programs can be found, along with historical images, at
Join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION - an American history
series in VOA Special English.
program # 58 of THE
MAKING OF A NATION