Andrew Jackson Expansion of Power or Abuse of Power
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Andrew Jackson can be credited for being either one of the best presidents or one of the worst. It can go either way depending on the ideals of the viewer. Many historians believe that Andrew Jackson abused and overstepped the rights to his presidency, whereas others believe that he expanded and enhanced political power. Jackson greatly influenced and enhanced the power of the presidency. Jackson once declared that while each member of Congress represented a specific regional group, only the president represented all the people of the United States. During Jackson’s term he greatly increased the power of the presidency but believed that it was subject to the will of the people. Jackson carried through an unprecedented program of domestic reform, moving toward a hard-money currency policy, and checking the program of federal internal improvements.
Although Jackson’s presidency was subject to many changes, he disapproved of many actions by Congress and vetoed twelve bills, more then all the previous presidents combined. Many of these bills sought to increase federal spending on domestic improvements. The democrats believed that the states, not the national government, should pay for such projects. Overall Jackson’s strong actions won him much praise from the people and in the election of 1828 and 1832 he won a lot of popular votes. He believed himself to be the people’s man and established during his presidency many goals for the expansion and benefit of America.
One goal that Jackson believed to be very important was the termination of the Bank of the United States, the “monster bank”, which he viewed as a tool for the elitists; he attacked the bank and was successful in destroying it. But aside from that he also accomplished many other things during his presidency. He successfully resolved the nullification crisis in which South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union. He also strengthened the Democratic Party and institutionalized the party system in American politics. He was also the first president to use the “spoils system”; this was a system he created to give government jobs to his political supporters.
Jackson had many goals for the betterment of America. He intended to destroy the bank of America. His reason for this was the because the Bank centralized financial power, jeopardizing economic stability, it served as a monopoly on financial policy, but it did not answer to anyone within the government. Jackson believed that Congress didn’t have the authority to make the Bank in the first place, and he also believed the Bank was operating for the primary benefit of the upper classes at the expense of the working people. Jackson attacked the Bank in many ways; he began by starving the national bank. He withdrew millions of dollars in federal funds from the bank and made it available to his pet banks. He also issued the Specie Circular which made gold and silver the only real currency for the payment of public lands. Jackson and his followers viewed the bank as a dangerous monopoly and criticized its failure to establish a reliable currency.
The termination of the Bank of United States shows how Jackson enhanced his power through his cabinet and also through his supporters. When making the decision to withdraw all the federal funds he disclosed with his Secretary of Treasury who didn’t agree with Jackson and was soon fired, he then went down the line of appointments until he found someone who agreed with him. He enhanced the power of his presidency by legally causing the bank to go bankrupt and destroying it within a very short period of time. The bank officially ceased to exist when its charter expired in 1836, Jackson vetoed the re-charter bill and the Bank’s congressional supporters did not have enough votes to override him. The termination of the bank greatly enhanced his political power; it allowed him to have more control over federal funding.
Jackson strongly believed that the will of America resided within the people. He once told his secretary of state Martin Van Buren that “the people want change and that they shall not be disappointed; but it must by judiciously done, and upon principle.” He wanted to destroy what seemed to him to be a monopoly of federal offices by wealthy individuals so he used the spoils system. He wanted to clear out incompetents in the offices so he would reward his supporters with government jobs.
This practice, which began to be commonly used, was called the spoils system. Jackson believed that no federal employee should have a lifetime “right” to his or her job. He felt that his system of replacing workers made the government more democratic by giving more people the chance to work for it. This played a major roll in enhancing his political power, he was allowed to appoint who ever he wanted, this way there could be no opposition in his cabinet because he could always fire and hire who ever he desired. He would appoint people that supported him and his ideals and by doing so enhance his powers.
Aside from Jackson’s spoils system he was also the first president to use a “Kitchen Cabinet”. The Kitchen Cabinet was a nickname Jackson’s opposition gave to a group of Jackson’s close political advisors. These advisors were not all members of the president’s official cabinet. But Jackson would sometimes consult to this unofficial cabinet instead. This enhanced his political power because it personalized his decisions among close advisors and gave him strong political support. It gave him the right to confine his views among a selected few. Using this and his spoils system he had greatly enhanced his power.
Jackson had complete control over his cabinet with his spoils system, now all that was left was the support of congress. Congress in the year of 1832 passed another high tariff act and by doing so South Carolina declared the tariff laws of 1828 and 1832 to be null and void. South Carolina threatened to secede, or leave the Union, if the government tried to collect duties at Charleston. Jackson was a strong supporter of the Union and would not allow it to be destroyed; he acted quickly and ordered troops and warships to be stationed near Charleston. Jackson proclaimed “I have no discretionary power on the subject and the Disunion by armed forces is treason.
Upon Jackson’s demand, Congress passed a force bill. This law authorized him to use the armed forces to collect tariffs. South Carolina withdrew its nullification of the tariff laws, but declared the force law null and void. Jackson greatly increased his political power by subduing the nullification crisis with the help of congress. But aside from enhancing his political power he also heightened his popularity among the people. He had satisfied both the north and the south. He appeased the south by lowering the tariffs in a secret compromise that said, if South Carolina stayed in the Union the tariffs will be reduced. But he also satisfied the north in there effort to keep the union together.
There are many ideals that enhanced and expanded Jackson’s powers. He believed that no federal employee should have a lifetime “right” to his or her job and also that the cabinet shouldn’t be controlled by only the wealthy and powerful. He also terminated the Bank of the United States believing that it helped only the elitists. He also believed that as a president, that his tariffs should be enforced, and followed up on his belief by solving the nullification crisis. He was a very strong believer of the Union and believed that it must be preserved. He greatly enhanced his political power and in the process became known as the champion of the people.