Welcome to the MAKING OF A NATION – Americanhistory in VOA Special English. The question of continuing the Bank of theUnited States became a serious political issue in the national election ofeighteen thirty-two. The head of the bank, Nicholas Biddle, had become verypowerful. Biddle refused to recognize that the government had the right tointerfere in any way with the bank's business. The bank was privately operatedbut could make loans with taxpayers' money. President Andrew Jackson understoodthe power of the Bank of the United States. He opposed giving the bank a newcharter. Jackson said the Bank of the United States was dangerous to theliberty of Americans. The bank, he said, could build up or pull down politicalparties through loans to politicians. The bank, he said, would always supportthose who supported the bank. He proposed to form a new national bank, as partof the Treasury Department. This week in our series, Stewart Spencer andMaurice Joyce continue the story of the Bank of the United States.
In the election year of eighteenthirty-two, the bank still had four years left to continue. Its charter wouldnot end until eighteen thirty-six. Jackson had been urging Congress to actearly, so that the bank could -- if its charter were rejected -- close itsbusiness slowly over several years. This would prevent serious economicproblems for the country. Many of Jackson's advisers believed he should saynothing about the bank until after the election. They feared he might lose thevotes of some supporters of the bank. Biddle felt that this might be the besttime to get a charter. Henry Clay, the presidential candidate of the NationalRepublicans, helped Biddle to make this decision. Senator Clay, however, wasnot thinking of the bank when he gave his advice. Clay needed an issue tocampaign on. Most of the people of the country approved of Jackson's programs.Clay could not get votes by opposing successful programs. But, he was sure thatthe issue of the bank could get him some votes. The campaign for a new charterwas led by the most powerful men in each house of Congress. In the Senate, thebank's supporters included Senator Clay and Daniel Webster. Former PresidentJohn Quincy Adams -- now a congressman -- led the bank's struggle in the house.The chief opponent to the bank was Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri."I object to the renewal of the charter," he told the Senate, "becausethe bank is too great and powerful to be permitted in a government of free andequal laws. I also object because the bank makes the rich richer, and the poorpoorer."
Inthe House, Representative Augustin Clayton of Georgia proposed an investigationof the bank. In a speech written by Senator Benton, Clayton charged that thebank had violated its charter a number of times. The bank's supporters wereafraid to vote down the proposed investigation. It would be almost the samething as saying that the charges were true. The investigation was approved. Anda special committee was given six weeks to study the charges against the bank. Fourmembers of the seven-man committee were opponents of the bank. Three, includingJohn Quincy Adams, were friendly. As expected, opponents of the bank found thecharges to be true. And the bank's supporters found them all to be false. Themajority report told of easy loans made to congressmen and newspapermen. Itsaid a New York newspaper that had opposed the bank began supporting it afterreceiving a secret fifteen-thousand-dollar loan. The investigation did notreally change the votes of any of the congressmen. Many votes had been boughtby the bank. Attorney General RogerTaney told of one example of this. Taney opposed the bank. And he rode to workone morning with a congressman who also opposed it. The congressman asked Taneyfor help on a speech he planned to make against the bank. Taney was surprisedlater to find that this same congressman had voted to give the bank its newcharter. The congressman told Taney that the bank had made him a loan oftwenty-thousand dollars.
The Senate finally voted on the bank's newcharter. The vote was twenty-eight for and twenty against. The House votedthree weeks later. It approved the charter, one hundred seven to eighty-five. Thebill was sent to the White House. President Jackson called a cabinet meeting.Two cabinet members, McLane and Livingston, agreed that the bill should bevetoed. But they urged Jackson to reject the bank charter in such a way that acompromise might be worked out later. Attorney General Taney, however, believedthat the veto should be in the strongest possible language. He opposed anycompromise that would continue the bank beyond eighteen thirty-six. Jacksonagreed with Taney. He asked the attorney general and two White House advisersto help him write the veto message. They worked on the message for three days. OnJuly tenth, the veto was announced. And the message explaining it was sent toCongress. Jackson said he did not believe the bank's charter wasconstitutional. He said it was true that the Supreme Court had ruled thatCongress had the right to charter a national bank. But he said he did not agreewith the high court. And Jackson said the president -- in taking his oath ofoffice -- swears to support the Constitution as he understands it, not as it isunderstood by others. He said the president and the Congress had the same dutyas the court to decide if a bill was constitutional.
Jackson also spoke of the way the bankmoved money from West to East. He said the bank was owned by a small group ofrich men, mostly in the East. Some of the owners, he said, were foreigners.Much of the bank's business was done in the West. The money paid by westernersfor loans went into the pockets of the eastern bankers. Jackson said this waswrong. Then the president spoke of his firm belief in the rights of the commonman. "It is to be regretted," he said, "that the rich andpowerful bend the acts of the government to their own purposes. Differencesamong men will always exist under every just government." Equality ofability, or education, or of wealth cannot be produced by human institutions.Every man has the equal right of protection under the laws. But when these lawsare used to make the rich richer, and the powerful more powerful, then the morehumble members of our society have a right to complain of injustice." Jackson said he could not understand how thepresent owners of the bank could have any claim of special treatment from thegovernment.
Hesaid the government should shower its favors -- as heaven does its rain -- onthe high and low alike, on the rich and the poor equally. Henry Clay had madethe bank bill the chief issue of the eighteen thirty-two presidential electioncampaign. Andrew Jackson chose the words of his veto message for the samepurpose -- to win votes in the coming election. His veto of the bank bill costhim the votes of men of money. But it brought him the votes of the common man:the farmer, the laborer, and industrial worker. After his first two years aspresident, Andrew Jackson was not sure he wished to serve a second term.Jackson was not sure his health would permit him to complete a full eight yearsin the White House. But he wished to be a candidate again in eighteenthirty-two to give the people a chance to show they approved of his programs. Jacksondecided that he would campaign again for president. But if he won, he wouldresign after the first or second year, and leave the job to his vice president.