As long as our Government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will; as long as it secures to us the rights of person and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending...
While America's rapid industrialization brought about changes that benefited society, it also had negative side effects. Craftsmen and other skilled workers saw their jobs eliminated or changed, and crime, poverty, and the disparity between the rich and the poor increased. Andrew Jackson, ever wary of the "elite" who controlled banks, factories, and corporations, used the power of the presidency to assault the institutions that he believed harmed the common man.
In the 1830s, white working class performers created a new form of entertainment, the minstrel show, by darkening their faces with burnt cork and greasepaint, dressing in outlandish costumes, and performing what they claimed to be genuine "Negro" songs and dances. Though the performances were overtly racist – stereotyped black characters were lampooned as lazy, ignorant, but ever cheerful – by dressing as black men, white performers were also able to express their own fears about the rapid changes in society being brought about industrialization.
"We can look to the stage and we can find a place in American society where that working class could express in a powerful and gripping way what it felt about what this world was doing to them out there."
—Dale Cockrell, historian
To help protect average people from the rich and powerful who exploited them, Jackson set his sites on an institution he believed to be unconstitutional and a threat to individual liberty - the Bank of the United StatesThe bank was first chartered in 1816 and was essentially a private corporation.. When Congress passed a bill to recharter the Bank in 1832, Jackson vetoedThe veto allows the president to strike down legislation passed by Congress. it. After his decisive victory in the 1832 presidential election, Jackson felt empowered to intensify his attack on the Bank. Even though the House of Representatives had voted to leave federal deposits in the Bank, Jackson decided to remove them. Treasury Secretary William John Duane refused Jackson's order to withdraw the funds, so Jackson fired Duane and replaced him with Attorney General Roger Taney, who removed the deposits and distributed them to selected state banks.
"...we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our Government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many... "
—Andrew Jackson after vetoing the Bank of America recharter bill
His opponents in Congress, who now believed Jackson felt he was above the law, formed a new party, the Whig PartyParty formed in the 1830s in opposition to the Democratic Party and Andrew Jackson. , to protest the tyrannies of the man they called "King Andrew I." With a majority in the Senate, the Whigs rejected Taney as Secretary of the Treasury and, for the only time in American history, censured the president. (The censure was expunged from the Senate journal in 1837 when Democrats regained control of the Senate.)
Jackson finally won the "Bank War"Jackson fought to eliminate the national bank which he believed was corrupt. in 1834 when the House of Representatives definitively voted against rechartering the Bank of the United States, effectively shutting it down.
The next year began triumphantly for Jackson as he succeeded in one of his great reforms - eliminating the national debt. On January 30, 1835, three weeks after a grand banquet in Washington celebrating the end of the debt, a would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, fired a pistol point blank at the president as he was leaving the Capitol building. When the pistol misfired, Jackson lunged at the man, who then fired another gun. The second gun also misfired. Lawrence, an unemployed house painter, was later declared insane, but the attack, the first assassination attempt on a U.S. president, stunned the nation.
"I have only two regrets-that I have not shot Henry Clay or hanged John C. Calhoun."
—Words allegedly spoken by Andrew Jackson upon leaving the White House
When his second term ended in 1837, Jackson retired to the HermitageJackson's estate located outside Nashville, Tennessee . Though he had suffered from poor health for years, he remained involved in politics, advising future presidents, publicly endorsing the annexation of Texas, and working to get Democratic candidates elected. Until the day he died, June 8, 1845, he continued to greet scores of visitors who stopped by to visit the old general.