-A Critical Examination of President Andrew Jackson’s Economic Policies-
PART 1- INTRODUCTION: IMPORTANT, FUNDAMENTAL, ABSTRACT QUESTIONS ABOUT ECONOMIC RIGHTS
What entitles a person or a country to land? What entitles a state, county, or town to land?
It is an extremely important question because land is a resource and a resource is valuable and thus is worth money, and moreover, land and money are both properties- things people can possess. This only leads to further questions.
Should a person be allowed to claim and keep his or her own property?
If not, why?
If so, under what conditions, and why?
The degree to which a person cannot claim and/or keep his or her own property is the degree to which either rampant slavery, theft or government regulation defines a region’s official or unofficial economic policies, and there are various factors which determine these policies.
Are we talking about a region that does not acknowledge property rights, doesn’t enforce property rights, or doesn’t fairly recognize and enforce property rights?
In the case of the United States, from a historical perspective, we must start with the fact that Thomas Jefferson wrote in our Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1776)
Further, in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, it is stated that its purpose was to “secure the Blessings of Liberty.”(1787) (Tragically though, we must add that this most sacred right of “Liberty” (so sacred a right that our founders capitalized the “L” in the word) was not fairly secured even slightly until the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteen Amendments (the prohibition of slavery, the guarantee of equal protection under the law, and equal guarantee ((but only among men)) to vote) were passed.
It took until the 20th century for women to have the right to vote, and until the 21st century for homosexuals to have the right to marry. To this very day, the clash of Native American culture and Capitalist American culture remain an issue. It is one of the more tragic truths of the human condition that moral enlightenment of a society is an evolutionary process, no matter how self evident it may be to some, and no matter how self evident some may say it is while not practicing what they preach.
But this is really only half of the complexity of economic policy.
There is the morality of property rights, and then there is the politics of it.
After all, a government cannot operate if it cannot tax the citizens. Sometimes the government is short of money and needs to borrow. Moreover, the government has to decide whether or not there should be a federally mandated universal form or currency of money and whether or not the government should have any hand in the circulation of any given currencies, which means, should it have a central bank, or should banking be an entirely free enterprise?
Money is not just currency exchanged or deposited in a bank. Money is, or buys, resources.
One of the greatest resources on Earth is land.
When European Colonists came to America they faced a tremendous land conflict because there were already Native American Tribes living on the land.
And on the one hand, the Native Americans claimed the land first.
On the other hand, Colonists were introducing, albeit in a very sloppy, totally inconsistent way, an official and capitalistic idea of land ownership, whereby a person purchases land that may be his or her own to do whatever he or she wants with it.
Many Native American tribes did not share that view of handling land.
When two cultures have such fundamentally different different views of land ownership, what is to be done?
These are just some of the economic policy questions that early American politicians faced. But that’s only the more intellectual-philosophical part of it.
What about the politicking part of it?
That is to say, what about that part where, in an American context, politicians have to:
1) please enough of their constituents to get and remain elected, which is a horrendous task if that constituency base is bigoted, biased, or generally ignorant, which means that in the realm of campaigning the politician’s rhetoric may resort to entirely betraying his or her real conscience just to get perhaps, a chance to suddenly flipflop and use the power of his or her vote/authority in the legislature or within his or her office to promote a policy he or she truly believes in (I am not necessary saying I condone this so much as I am saying it is a clear reality much of the time)
2) get a majority of fellow politicians with a wide range of different perspectives and different constituencies to agree on rules that everyone in country must follow. This means, I am willing to assert, that just as the moral enlightenment and education of a country is an evolutionary process, the politicking of a country is a messy and fundamentally imperfect, contradictory process.
Tying all of this back to economic policy, I’ve offered the above context, not in defense of American history’s immorality and totally unacceptable politicking and policy, but rather, as a framework from which we can at least objectively evaluate economic political reform from the perspective of the political and cultural and economic climate that politicians have had to work within so that at least we might gain something legitimate to appreciate.
So far as reforming economic policies go, I can think of no other politician who addressed them so comprehensively than former United States President Andrew Jackson.
It may be true that Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson may have given us some basic principles of economic philosophy, and it may be true that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson may have uplifted the poor with the “New Deal” and The “Great Society” policies but each of these men I have mentioned tended to have particular focuses. In contrast, so far as economic policies in the United States goes, President Andrew Jackson took on virtually every aspect of it.
Andrew Jackson’s comprehensive economic policies, in each case, surely addressed the issue of property rights, but with the exception of paying back the federal debt and lowering tariffs, it was not the property rights for all that he concerned himself with; as his mandated increase in the supply of land was at the expense of Native American rights and tragically their lives; his increase in the circulation of gold meant a loss of purchasing power for those who owned mostly silver; and finally, his decentralization of the banks in the name of taking on the monopoly on the money supply only empowered and enriched those heading his so called “pet banks”, leaving many to fall prey to loosely regulated state chartered banks or free banks; each case being a matter of either upholding or violating property rights.
By looking back and critically examining each of these treatments of property rights, it is my hope that at the very least, it will be perfectly clear that Andrew Jackson was no hero for “the people”- that instead he was a hypocritical, extremely dangerous megalomaniac who used the seductive pretense of protecting property rights to simply bask in his own power, act vindictively towards others, impoverish some, authorize murders, and enrich his friends in his pet banks.
PART 2: ANDEW JACKSON’S FISCAL POLICIES
*PAYING BACK THE DEBT
Some historians, at least those participating in the publication of Robert Divine’s America: Past and Present, Volume 1 either are generally uneducated historians (very doubtful considering the depth of its scholarship in many aspects of its chapters on United States History) or are ones so entirely and terribly biased that they want to completely evade the monumentally historic fact that in 1835 President Andrew Jackson paid back all of the United States’ federal debt, which was, according to John Steele Gordon, “about $58 million.” (2011, 3) Gordon also notes that no president ever had paid back the debt before, and never has since. One might think that in Devine’s textbook, somewhere in the index, under “D” and “debt” one would find, among the following:
Debt: for American Revolution, 142; attempts to reduce England’s, 109–113; growth in colonial period, 89; Hamilton’s solution for national, 161–162; Jefferson’s policy on paying national, 184 (Divine 2012, I-3)
…some mention of ‘Jackson’s complete repayment of.’ Alas, it is not there. But the event did occur and as I stated, it was quite momentous but not only because Jackson was the only president in our history to do it.
Governmental debt is, in almost every situation, an unjust taxation on future taxpayers without even a democratic say in having it bestowed upon them. Moreover, it is quite literally a liability. It was debt which destroyed the Ottoman Empire. It was debt which so weakened the United Kingdom that it sought to usurp money from the American colonists. In the words of President Jackson, in his first inaugural address, debt is “incompatible with real independence.” (1829) He is quite right about this if one will think about it literally. When a country needs money from or owes money to another country, it is to that degree, dependent on it. When a country owes no money, it is literally independent, and the amount of its surplus represents the degree of its economic strength.
Unfortunately, governmental debt alone is not the sole cause in a country’s thriving, mediocre, or failing economy and thus while Jackson may be exceptional for extinguishing it temporarily, it did not make him a savior of the United States economy. Noteworthy as it certainly was, in the context of improving the U.S. economy, ultimately it was simply a single achievement, buried under an list of failed, immoral economic policies.
LOWERING DUTIES AND TAXES
When Andrew Jackson entered the Presidency the United States was suffering from “tariffs [that were] at their highest level in American history.” (Whaples 2014,11) In 1832 Jackson approved a reduction in tariffs. (Divine, 10) A year later Jackson lowered tariffs even more. (Ibid) Tariffs went down from “an average of more than 50 percent to less than 20 percent—a rate that was well below the nineteenth-century norm.” (Whaples, 11)
It should be duly noted that historians appear to agree generally and implicitly at the time, tariffs were the main form of taxation in the United States, however it should be likewise noted that historians tend to be ambiguous about the exact particularities of early tax policies. According to Policy Almanac “in the late 1790’s, the Federal Government imposed the first direct taxes on the owners of houses, land, slaves, and estates [but then w]hen Thomas Jefferson was elected President in 1802, direct taxes were abolished and for the next 10 years there were no internal revenue taxes other than excises [until] the War of 1812, [when] Congress imposed additional excise taxes, raised certain customs duties, and raised money by issuing Treasury notes [which i]n 1817 Congress repealed …and for the next 44 years the Federal Government collected no internal revenue [i]nstead…receiv[ing] most of its revenue from high customs duties [i.e., tariffs] and through the sale of public land. (History of the US Tax System; The Post Revolutionary Era)
This is more or less corroborated by Charles Adams who tells us that the earliest federal taxation policies were 1) a tax on whiskey (which was ultimately repealed by Jefferson); 2) tariffs, 3) a “direct tax” (which is left undefined, but also referred to as “Hamilton’s taxes” which were ultimately repealed) (Adams, 2006)
Syracuse University Historian Andrew Wender Cohen also confirms that taxation in the nineteenth century “meant tariffs…” (When Americans Loved Taxes, 2015) The significance of emphasizing the notion of tariffs as the main prey of taxation is that when we think of how property taxes, and income taxes affect us, this is how people would have viewed the tariff rates, which, by the late 1820’s and early 1830’s were viewed as so intolerable that Vice President John C. Calhoun and the South Carolina declared them unconstitutional and nullified! (Divine, 235)
To realize then that Jackson cut the tariffs, i.e., the tax rate, by about 30 percent, is to further realize that he gave the American people a lot of their money back! Just as paying back the federal debt was no small gift for the United States, neither was this massive tax cut! Say what one will about taxes and the need for various government programs, there is a point when taxation turns from a necessary revenue for financing the government, to a point of abuse and theft.
When folks are taxed up to fifty percent, in other words, half the value of their product or service, or income, or property, that is utter abuse as it is depriving a person of half their assets. But even if one wishes to criticize Jackson for giving the people more of their money back, one cannot deny that his tariff reductions, just like his debt elimination, were acts of protecting private property rights.
Unfortunately Jackson’s two major fiscal policy achievements, which more or less served the American population universally, are more or less undermined in the broader scope of things as his monetary policies proved to bring tragedy to Native Americans, deprive owners of silver their due purchasing power, and demonstrate that at his core, however much he wanted to give Americans some of their money back, he was ultimately a megalomaniac, which his banking policy proves.
PART 3: JACKSON’S MONETARY POLICIES
INCREASING LAND OWNERSHIP AT THE EXPENSE OF NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS AND LIVES
If history is to have any meaning whatsoever then its most horrific episodes must to some degree haunt us; we must feel so angry with those who committed the gravest of evils in the name of our country, that as part of our tradition we condemn them passionately, we teach every generation about the evils perpetrated, and although we cannot change the past we can at least know it and out of contriteness and self esteem constantly improve ourselves morally, and politically. True, it is ultimately insufficient but in a universe where humanity can’t be omniscient and perfect, settling for improving upon our consciences and making something out of it is better than not. I say this because one of America’s ugliest and bloodiest money grabs occurred at the expense of the Native Americans, and although Andrew Jackson was not the only American President or politician or official or person to partake in it, (in fact some of the state legislatures were arguably crueler) he nonetheless led a fair share of it.
It would be inaccurate, incomplete, immoral, unjust, ugly, useless and I think even crazy to discuss Jackson’s monetary policies without discussing the Indian Removal Act. Land is an extremely valuable thing and bloodbaths over it have plagued humanity from its earliest days even up to the present. One need only to look at the crisis in Ukraine which is really a dispute between the American-Western European Alliance and Russia, or to look at the dispute between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
As is stated in Divine’s textbook, in 1830 Jackson “called for the speedy and thorough removal of all eastern Indians to designated areas beyond the Mississippi.” (2013, 234) After the Indian Removal Act was passed he “us[ed] the threat of unilateral state action to bludgeon the tribes” as means of coercing the Native Americans to leave their homes and migrate West. Divine adds: “[b]y 1833, all the southeastern tribes except the Cherokee had agreed to evacuate their ancestral homes.” In response, the military “forced them to march to Oklahoma.” (Ibid.) The event has been termed the Trail of tears because a quarter of the Cherokees who marched died.
The Seminole Tribe was also reluctant to be coerced by Jackson and his accomplices. This resulted in what historians call The Second Seminole War (1834-1841) which Divine tells us lasted seven years and was America’s “most expensive Indian war” in its history. (Ibid.)
With Native Americans now forcibly removed from their land the government had vacant land to sell, which means the government now had 1) a massive-although immorally, unjustly obtained- source of revenue and 2) a massive amount of property to give, mostly to white males. Such an explosion in newly own land was an explosion of new capital, that is to say, an explosion in newly valuable and/or exchangeable, sellable property. Speaking strictly in terms of money supply and material wealth America was greatly enriched.
I grant that a complexity in the matter was the fact that not all Native American tribes were capitalistic and speaking economically, for perfectly valuable, money-making land to have its economic potential frozen when there were people willing and able to make the most of it economically, it amounted to a legitimate political conflict. To say that some kind of deal should and could have been struck where Native Americans could keep the land they inhabited while American capitalists could have found a way to profit is obviously easier to state, than to show how it could have been done. But in hindsight that is what should have been striven for. Instead, the Jackson administration committed massive theft and genocide against the Native Americans and cashed out tremendously. This demonstrates how wickedly racist and hypocritical Jackson and his accomplices were.
On the one hand, Jackson was supposedly about property rights. He lowered the tariffs and reduced the debt. He enacted policies that let people keep more of their money; and not only let them keep more money- he even increased the supply of money they could gain and not with fiat money but with actual assets: land. But what about the property rights of the Native Americans? What about their money supply?
Suddenly one has to grow suspicious of just how pious Jackson was about property rights and economic prosperity. Clearly this principle did not apply to Native Americans and American history is forever damned by Jackson’s evil, racist exception. But was racism the only stain in Jackson’s supposed protection of property rights?
INCREASING THE CIRCULATION AND VALUE OF GOLD AS AN ATTACK ON THE NATIONAL BANK
While Jackson was increasing the money supply by stealing land from the Native Americans he was also stealing purchasing power from owners of silver in favor of owners of gold. To be contextually fair though, there was more to this political move than Jackson merely having an extreme bias in favor of owners of gold over owners of silver. The Founding Fathers of the country had unfortunately and inadvertently set the stage when they passed the Coinage Act of 1792.
The Coinage Act of 1792’s currency policy and the rationale behind it and relevant history are all a bit complex, mainly because prior to the act there were several competing currencies in America.
As the very famous economist, professor, and contributing force behind the establishment of the modern Federal Reserve, Laurence J. Laughlin, writes in his classic book The History of Bimetallism in the United States: “[i]n the time before the adoption of the Constitution the circulating medium of the colonies was made up virtually of foreign coins.” (I.II.1, 1885)
Among them, he tells us, was the English guinea, the French guinea, the Johannes, the Half Johannes, the Spanish pistole, the French Pistole, the Moidore, the English Crown, the French Crown, and the English Shilling. (Ibid.) Laughlin adds that: “[f]rom 1782 to 1786 the colonies began seriously to consider the difficulties arising from the variety of different coins in circulation, and their deleterious effects on business and methods of accounts.” (I.II.2) This, he tells is, is what propelled American leaders to seriously contemplate the establishment of some kind of official currency policy. (Ibid.)
And so the issue was debated among Robert Morris, the Super Intendant of Finance, and Jefferson, and Hamilton. (I.II.2-8) Although it was ultimately determined, based on Hamilton’s advice, that the United States Dollar would be backed by both silver and gold- a policy called bimetallism, Laughlin tells us, Hamilton did have a bias towards gold. (Ibid) To enforce this policy would of course require determining how much gold is worth how much silver.
To determine the how much gold was worth how much silver our Founding Fathers researched gold and silver values across the world, with a keen eye on Spain.
“[Hamilton] announced that the later issues of dollars from the Spanish mint had contained 374 grains of fine silver, and the latest issues only 368 grains, which implied a current market ratio in the United States (if these dollars exchanged for 24¾ grains of fine gold) of from 1:15.11 to 1:14.87, or a mean ratio of about 1:15. Of this ratio Hamilton says it is ‘somewhat more than the actual or market proportion, which is not quite 1:15.’ But, throughout his inquiry, no one can doubt but that he was honestly seeking for a ratio as near as possible to that existing in the markets of the United States. He certainly can not be charged with an intention of underrating gold.” (I.II.16)
In other words, it was Hamilton’s point of view that fifteen ounces of silver should be worth one ounce in gold. This in fact was the standard determined by the Coinage Act of 1792. Unfortunately it led to unintended consequences: a devaluation of gold by the mint and an overvaluation of silver. This was so problematic that, in the words of Laughlin, “gold coins were seldom seen during the largest part of this period from 1792 to 1834. Even when bank-paper was used, the reserves of the banks were generally in silver, not in gold. Whatever the cause of the change in the relative values, certain it is that gold disappeared, and that the United States had but a single silver currency as early as 1817, and probably earlier.” (I.II.31)
President Andrew Jackson and his allies understood that this was a consequence of a bimetallist monetary policy and reasoned that if silver could overtake gold, as it did, under such a policy, then by changing the ratios, gold could overtake silver. Writes Laughlin: “the majority [of those debating a change in monetary policy] were evidently aiming at a single gold standard, through the disguise of a ratio which overvalued gold in the legal proportions. In the market an ounce of gold bought 15.7 ounces of silver bullion; when coined at the Mint it exchanged for sixteen ounces of silver coin. Silver, therefore, could not long stay in circulation.” (I.IV.17) Indeed the Coinage Act of 1834 was passed and the new standard increased to 16 ounces of silver for one ounce of gold. Was this change in a policy merely an appeal to owners of gold who had been essentially ripped off for decades, or was there yet more to it?
Economist Paul M. O’Leary writes: “[t]he real forces back of the ultimately successful effort to establish a coinage ratio of 16:1 were immediately political; what looks like a friendship toward gold was really more a case of animosity toward the Bank of the United States with its circulation of bank notes.” (1937, 84)
An expression of this animosity was published in The Washington Globe, as cited by O’Leary, stating that pro-silver members of congress, and the the bank favored silver because “the United States bank can then get nearly all the domestic and foreign gold, to sell to Europe and the West Indies for a premium.”(89)
Jackson most certainly agreed with
this perspective, saying in his Eighth Annual Address to Congress that “[a] value was soon attached to the gold coins which made their exportation to foreign countries as a mercantile commodity more profitable than their retention and use at home as money.” (1836) ( In other words, a bimetallic policy that favored silver, according also to the Washing Globe, O’Leary tells us, empowered the Bank, being a super rich entity compared to average Americans, would have the upper hand in gold purchases, and not for the purpose of circulating it within the American economy, but rather, for the purpose of enriching itself by selling to foreign interests.
Andrew Jackson did not stop after the Coinage Act of 1834. He also instructed the Secretary of the Treasury-Roger B. Taney- to stop depositing federal money into the national bank and to in fact withdraw federal money that was presently deposited in the bank. Then the newly withdrawn money was to be deposited into preferred state banks that were referred to by anti-Jacksonians as “pet banks.” (Divine, 238-239)
Further, in 1836 he passed an executive action named “The Specie Circular” which required that all purchases of public land be made in gold or silver. (Divine, 240) In defense of this policy, Jackson stated:
“By preventing the extension of the credit system it measurably cut off the means of speculation and retarded its progress in monopolizing the most valuable of the public lands. It has tended to save the new States from a nonresident proprietorship, one of the greatest obstacles to the advancement of a new country and the prosperity of an old one. It has tended to keep open the public lands for entry by emigrants at Government prices instead of their being compelled to purchase of speculators at double or triple prices. And it is conveying into the interior large sums in silver and gold, there to enter permanently into the currency of the country and place it on a firmer foundation. It is confidently believed that the country will find in the motives which induced that order and the happy consequences which will have ensued much to commend and nothing to condemn.” (Jackson’s Eighth Annual Address to Congress, 1836)
While it may appear that Jackson was heroic by taking gold away from the national bank’s self enrichment, devaluing its silver thus in the process, making gold more valuable than silver so that the people, and Jackson’s pet banks may enjoy gold’s newly increased purchasing power, and while it may appear that Jackson took on the evil of fiat money, logical analysis will show, I contend, that it was not quite what it seemed to be.
It is true that central banking is always a suspicious activity.
After all, left unchecked, it has the power to devalue the national currency by putting more money into circulation, backed either by something fundamentally less valuable than another commodity (as in the case of silver coins as opposed to gold ones) or fiat money, while still having the advantage of being the institution in charge of the money supply, and thus being the institution with the most money which could be used to manipulate policies domestic and foreign- everything from handpicking politicians to cashing out on instigating wars by lending money to arm two opposing parties. That being acknowledged, it would be foolish to assume that private, or free banks would not necessarily climb to the same position of corrupting power.
The only difference is, at least in theory, that a central bank can actually be held more accountable, whereas a series of free/private banks, by virtue of being totally free, or separate from the government, again at least in theory, could be subject to less scrutiny since they would be free, and separate from the government.
It should be noted emphatically here then that the current central/national bank of America- The Federal Reserve- is NOT an example of what a good central bank should and could be as is evidenced by the fact that it has not been audited in decades and is shrouded in secrecy and is significantly independent of the government, functioning almost like a federally sanctioned private bank that can do virtually whatever it wants. (One could I think argue that it is a regulated central bank in name, but a free and independent one in practice which is further arguably how it gets away with its evil and exuberant inflation)
By taking on the national bank, Jackson did not really do anything to reform actual banking so much as he took power away from particular bankers, suggesting that his famous war against the central bank was more like an act of personal vindictiveness than any kind of political heroism.
As for increasing the value of gold and decreasing the value of silver, ultimately it ripped off and served as an act of theft towards anyone in possession of silver or seeking possession of silver as it was unnaturally devalued. Now, if Jackson had the wisdom to do away with the bimetallic standard and instead establish an official monometallic gold standard, nobody would have lost out. But that he did not do.
Even Jackson’s “Specie Circular” is not really impressive since the country was under a bimetallic standard, not a fiat money standard.
In other words, paper that could be redeemed for gold or silver wasn’t fundamentally a bad thing. It was not of less value and so it really was totally unfair for Jackson to grant land purchasing rights exclusively to those in immediate possession of the gold or silver.
Granted one could argue to a holder of paper money at the time ‘just go to the bank and get your gold or silver’ but what is the point of possessing money, paper or metallic, if it cannot buy?
It might be one thing if paper money could not at all be redeemed for silver or gold but such a policy should either be universal or not at all. It is obvious by the exclusiveness of the policy (it only pertained to purchases of public land) that Jackson was seeking to grant the government’s new pet bankers with gold and silver- especially gold. After all, we must consider the fact that it was they- Jackson’s pet banks- who were now receiving deposits of money from the U.S. Treasury-in other words, money (gold and silver) that went from the hands of purchasers of public land to the U.S. Treasury then to Jackson’s pet banks.
To clarify it even more so: it was the undoing of one system of crony-capitalism which had been orchestrated by the former national bank, and the creation of a new system of crony-capitalism, which had been orchestrated by Jackson and his pet banks. The bottom line: Jackson was a hypocrite and megalomanic. His monetary policies were not about ‘the people’, they were about manipulating the people, appeasing cronies, and getting to be the man in charge.
PART 4- THE CONCLUSION: A THOUGHT FOR HISTORY TEACHERS
A portrait of Jackson’s economic policies is a highly complex one. It is also highly controversial. Within it are actions so controversial even to historians today that those with biases that federal debt is good will not even mention in their history books that Jackson paid back all of the federal debt and was the only one to do so. Some other historians with a more libertarian or nationalist leaning bias might portray Jackson as a man who took on on the evils of the institution of the central bank. James Perloff writes in his book Shadows of Power, for example: “the Bank of The United States (1816-1836), an early attempt to saddle the nation with a privately controlled central bank, was abolished by President Andrew Jackson…American heeded Jackson’s warning for a remainder of the century.” (1988, 20-21) What Perloff does not mention is that, first of all, if any credit is to be granted to anyone in curbing crony capitalism it was actually President Martin Van Buren who fought for an Independent Treasury so that government money wasn’t benefiting certain peoples’s banks. Secondly Perloff fails to mention that the country was subject to the instability of fairly unregulated banks.
Larry J. Sechrest reports in his book on free banking that nearly fifty percent of free banks (of which there was about 709. 678 of which had sufficient records for historians and economists to evaluate) failed! ( 97-98) And among the ones that didn’t fail immediately, on average, they failed to remain in business for even a decade. One could debate the significance of those statistics for a long time thus I shall not pursuit it longer.
The point is that this is just how complex Jacksonian economics was: it is a topic worth the examination of countless books, but still a bottom line about the essence of it can be succinctly stated: Jackson’s economics amounted to property rights for some, but theft and death for others.
Yes, he paid back the debt (a wonderful thing!) and yes he lowered tariffs (in other words, taxes- another wonderful thing) but it really wasn’t all that meaningful in the grand scheme of things since he stole land from the Native Americans, many of whom were murdered and died as a result, which he then sold to people only with gold- which had been newly granted a higher value- and silver-which there was less of and which had less value, amounting to theft committed against owners of silver- all of which ultimately enriched Jackson’s pet banks since federal money received for purchase of land (again, stolen by native Americans) in the form of gold (again, at the expense of silver owners).
Ultimately, the notion of protecting property rights seems more like a means to an end for President Jackson; it seems, in conclusion, to have served as nothing more than an attractive political principle that he used to appeal to and seduce the people as to remain powerful in a newly and highly democratic culture. It would have been different if Jackson had refused to force the Native Americans from their land, if he had passed an official monometallic gold standard instead of a bimetallic standard that favored owners of gold and Jackson’s pet bankers. It would have been different if instead of moving power from one banking system to his preferred bankers, he had just reformed the National Bank and sought to forbid it from conducting self enriching activities that were not fair to the American people. But he did not do those things so as lovely as his debt elimination and tariff reductions might be, they were not done in the context of integrity.
Humanity is not perfect and politics is extraordinarily messy but John Adams did not need to fit in with his peers by owning slaves. Lincoln may have tarnished his name by being a racist but he still fought for the end of slavery- and won! Jackson does not have, as an excuse, that people just tended to dislike Native Americans.
And while, again, politics is no doubt messy, if messy politics can at least lead to good policy- to justice!- at least then, we the people could feel somewhat less cynical about it all.
But Jackson did not bring more justice to America. In fact, his presidency brought to America more injustice, and not solely “more”, but great injustice, using the beauty of the protection of property rights as mere bait so that he could commit his atrocities.
Let us note that President Elect Donald Trump appears to have learned from Jackson, not about how Jackson’s actions were evil though, but rather, how Jackson used the promise of justice to enjoy his own power at the expense of his fellow Americans.
One need only consider Trump’s recent attack on the First Amendment, when he suggested that those who burn the American flag should go to jail or lose their citizenship, to know this much. (Nelson, 2016)
With that in mind I must close by stating emphatically and very seriously, that a critical examination of Jackson’s economic policies tied to a critical examination of current US politics, makes it very obvious that history teachers need to do a much better job teaching their students about the real nature of the evils of Andrew Jackson.
Adams, Charles. “A Brief Tax History of America.” lewrockwell.com. October 7, 2006. Accessed December 3, 2016. ((https://www.lewrockwell.com/2006/10/charles-adams/a-brief-tax-history-of-america/))
Cohen, Wender Andrew. “When Americans Loved Taxes.” Politico. 2015. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/09/when-americans-loved-taxes-smuggling-213126)
Divine, Robert A.; Breen, T. H.; Williams, R. Hal; Gross, Ariela J.; Brands, H. W.. America: Past and Present, Volume 1 Pearson Education. Kindle Edition.
Gordon, John Steele. “A Short History of Debt.” American History. Volume 46. Issue 4. pp. 58-63. Accessed December 3, 2016. <a href=”https://ezproxy.wpunj.edu/login?url=http:// search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=64393590″>A Short History of DEBT.</a>
Jackson, Andrew. First Inaugural Address. (1829) Accessed December 3, 2016 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/jackson1.asp_
Jackson, Andrew. Eighth Annual Message to Congress. December 5, 1836. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.wpunj.edu/eds/detail/detail? sid=1beeb4ce-6c63-430b- af28-7b83d64b714e@sessionmgr4006&vid=4&hid=4210&bdata=#AN=21212761&db=fth
Jefferson, Thomas. 1776. Declaration Of Independence.
Laughlin, J. Laurence. The History of Bimetallism in the United States. D. Appleton and Co. 1885 (First Publication.) 1898 (4th Edition) New York. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Laughlin/lghHBM4.html#I.IV Change of the Legal Ratio by the Act of 1834
n.a. n.d. “History of the US Tax System” Policy Almanac. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.policyalmanac.org/economic/archive/tax_history.shtml)
Nelson, Louis. “Trump calls for jailing, revoking citizenship of flag-burners” Politico. November 29, 2016. Accessed December 3, 2016. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/11/trump-flag-burning-231920
O’Leary M. Paul. “The Coinage Legislation of 1834.” Journal of Political Economy. Volume 45, No. 1. February, 1937. The University of Chicago Press. Accessed on December 3, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1824056
Perloff, James. Shadows of Power. John Birch Society through Western Islands. Appleton, Wisconsin. 1988.
Sechrest, J. Larry. Free Banking. Quorum Books. Westport, Connecticut. 1993. Accessed December 3, 2016.(https://mises.org/system/tdf/Free%20Banking%20Theory%2C%20History%2C%20and%20a%20Laissez-Faire%20Model_2.pdf?file=1&type=document)
Whaples, Robert. “Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies ‘Good for the Economy’? Independent Review. Spring 2014. Volume 18. Issue 4. p545-558. Accessed December 3, 2016. <a href=”https://ezproxy.wpunj.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=buh&AN=94846602″>Were Andrew Jackson’s Policies “Good for the Economy”?</a>