“The President is the direct representative of the American people…” Andrew Jackson defiantly responded to his censure by the Senate. Jacksonians believed the election victory in 1832 was a mandate from the people to kill the National Bank. Jackson withdrew the nation’s deposits from the bank despite protests from Congress and his own Cabinet. Bank President Nicholas Biddle responded by contracting credit- sending the nation into a panic. Congress was powerless to stop Jackson, the Senate’s censure an empty gesture.
Jackson’s victory in the Bank War… radically changed the Presidency. In many ways, he was our first modern President; using the office in a role of national leadership, rather than passive executive. His war on the Bank forever changed the relationship between the President and the American people. Not only did Jackson triumph over Biddle, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster- the Bank War increased the power of the Presidency beyond anything the Framers could have imagined. The voters would continue to look to the President to make policy, not just sit in judgement of Congressional actions. Jackson’s leadership solidified the control a President had over his party- the Democratic party carried out Jackson’s will – “My friends never leave me….”
With the ending of winter, the campaign of 1864 was coming close, as careful observers could tell by two executive orders issued by Lincoln. The first on March 12, 1864 detailed the new command structure, with Grant made General-in-Chief, Sherman placed in command in the West, and McPherson commanding the Army of the Tennessee. Grant was depending upon his command team from the Army of the Tennessee to win the War in the West, while he took command of the Army of the Potomac. The useless Halleck was demoted from General-in-Chief and made Chief of Staff. It is characteristic of Lincoln that he spared the feelings of Halleck by indicating that the demotion was at his request and thanking him for his completely barren services. The second executive order, calling for a draft of 200,000 men, was issued on March 14, a sure sign that the fighting this year would…
The original idea for an American airborne came from Gen. Billy Mitchell in 1918. His commander, Gen. Pershing agreed, but once the WWI Armistice was signed, the plan was terminated. In the late 1920’s, Germany began training parachute units and in the 1930’s, they led the world in gliders. Russia created the Air Landing Corps in 1935. Japan started in 1940 with German instructors. The U.S. did not take note until Germany was successful on Crete in 1941.
The American tradition was born when 48 men jumped at Ft. Benning on Aug. 16, 1940, where Private Eberhard, promised to yell to his buddies below, was the first to shout out “Geronimo”. General William Lee is considered the “Father of the Airborne.” My father, Everett Smith or “Smitty” (as you’ll get to know him), did not care for heights or…
The current political parties are trying to harness the power of the disinterested masses by stoking fears and passions rooted in volatile issues like immigration and the culture wars. Both parties want to maintain a majority and implement policy. Neither side has been given such a mandate by the people. Any minority with greater than 46% of the population is one that cannot be disregarded. Few true statesman remain, and sadly they are the most marginalized in our current climate.
Madison warned us of such tactics:
“It is in vain to say that enlightened statesmen will be able to adjust these clashing interests, and render them all subservient to the public good. Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm. Nor, in many cases, can such an adjustment be made at all without taking into view indirect and remote considerations, which will rarely prevail over the immediate interest which one party may find in disregarding the rights of another or the good of the whole.“
Madison argues that oligarchy is difficult in America because of our size and diversity… but critics consistently cited the House of Representatives as the most susceptible institution in the new government.
Anti-Federalists argued that the Representatives would have the least amount of sympathy… with the masses of people; focusing exclusively on the narrow interests of their few electors, ignoring the will of the majority. Madison first counters with a historical analysis of the British system and the necessary role of states in the Federal system. But he concludes his argument in Federalist #57 by appealing to what he describes as the American Spirit:
“If it be asked, what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer: the genius of the whole system; the nature of just and constitutional laws; and above all, the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America — a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it.”
He had a good way with horses from the start. By 15, he was considered an excellent judge of horseflesh, and a savvy trader. He also discovered the spirit of the speculator within himself. It cost him his modest inheritance. Nevertheless, the Sport of Kings would always be a passion with Old Hickory.
He came to Nashville, TN when he was twenty, having read law sufficiently to pass the South Carolina bar. In pre-statehood Tennessee, lawyers were a welcome commodity. There was land to purchase…
Peter Cozzens’s recent book “Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation” was published in the fall of 2020. Cozzens is a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer and the author or editor of nearly two-dozen books covering the Civil War and US-Indian relations during America’s westward expansion. He is probably best-known for “The Earth is Weeping: The Epic Story of the Indian Wars for the American West.”
For more than twenty years the classic biography of Tecumseh (~1768-1813) has been John Sugden’s “Tecumseh: A Life.” But biographies of the Shawnee chief have traditionally minimized or ignored the…
Jefferson offered an optimistic assessment of our republic’s fortitude. Words that we should turn to today;
“I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world’s best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth.”
“I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”
Truman on Washington bureaucracy-
“A bureaucrat is a Democrat who holds some office that a Republican wants.”
Truman on his upset victory in 1948-
“I never did give anybody hell. I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.”
The Doctrine of Nullification lost in the court of history… as a nation state and as a people we rejected it, outright. Our Constitution created a hierarchy of law to bring order to the muddled system of 13 competing legal systems. Madison, describing government as an unruly beast defended the Supremacy Clause: “it would have seen the authority of the whole society everywhere subordinate to the authority of the parts; it would have seen a monster, in which the head was under the direction of the members”.
The Resolutions of 98- Roundly rejected by 10 of the 13 legislatures, Jefferson and Madison had taken their objections to the Alien and Sedition Acts too far. Unconstitutional actions by the legislature can be addressed in the Federal Courts. Washington saw the danger in them: “they would dissolve the union or produce coercion.”
McCulloch vs. Maryland- The Supreme Court settled the issue in 1819 striking down Maryland’s attempt to tax the Second Bank of the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall defended implied powers in the Constitution: “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consist with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.”
Nullification Crisis of 1831- John C. Calhoun’s pernicious attempt to undermine the Jackson Presidency- South Carolina unlawfully “nullified” the tariff of 1828. A tariff is a DELEGATED power; not reserved for the states, and not implied in a clause…it is specifically cited in the Constitution. Calhoun and his ilk were no match for Old Hickory and his willingness to use force to defend Federal authority.
So why are amateurish politicians like Greg Abbott…in Texas hearkening back to something as discredited as Nullification? Abbott proposed it several times in his suggested list of “amendments.” Governor Abbott needs to read some history. We’ve been down this road before- it leads nowhere…