The problem with corporations as far as Jackson was concerned was they had no body to be kicked or soul to be damned.
—Harry Watson, historian
After the Constitution was adopted, Americans were presented with two different visions of the nation's economic future. One, championed by Thomas JeffersonJefferson envisioned an agricultural nation and was critical of a national bank., aimed to preserve an economy based on independent farmers producing agricultural products for market. In contrast, Alexander HamiltonHamilton envisioned an industrial nation and supported the creation of a national bank. envisioned a robust industrial American economy.
Without guidance from the Constitution, these two powerful, competing visions were locked in battle.
By 1830, it had begun to look like Hamilton's ideal of elite-controlled companies and banks fostering national growth and expansion, might win out. The rise of the corporationA business enterprise legally separate from the person who operates it. had important economic consequences, contributing to a shift in power and wealth away from workers and landowners and into the hands of bankers and capitalists.
"The tradesman...who had a real craft that supported him, would find that businessmen were hiring women and children at very low wages to work piecemeal."
—Sean Wilentz, historian
The dangers were not limited to financial security.
Jackson was convinced that corporations and banks also jeopardized the political rights and influence of the common man. Unless Americans succeeded in reining in big business, the people risked losing control over their country forever.
For Jackson, the cornerstone of this crusade against big business was his opposition to extending the charter of the Second Bank of the United StatesThe bank was first chartered in 1816 and was essentially a private corporation.. He felt the Bank, chartered and backed by the government, enjoyed too much unregulated power over the nation's economy - especially with its ability to manipulate paper money.
And Jackson hated paper money.
In part because of a financial loss he suffered earlier in life from devalued paper notes, he felt that paper money was inherently evil, a device for enriching bankers and bilking farmers and workers of their hard-earned wealth.
In a perfect world, only gold and silver coin would be used for money.
Opposing Jackson was Bank President Nicholas BiddlePresident of the Bank of the United States who clashed with Jackson over the bank's function.. Biddle, according to Historian Daniel Feller, believed that "American economic growth had been built on credit. And to get rid of...credit and go back to gold and silver coin, as Jackson wished to do, would throw the country back into the Stone Age."
In what became known as the "Bank War,"Jackson fought to eliminate the national bank which he believed was corrupt. Biddle clashed with Jackson over the Bank's constitutionality and usefulness.
Eventually Jackson triumphed in 1832 by vetoingThe veto allows the president to strike down legislation passed by Congress. a congressional act extending the Bank's charter and depriving the Bank of government funds for the remainder of its current charter.
Jackson genuinely feared the rise of a moneyed elite bent on enriching themselves at the expense of the hardworking people of the United States. Upon retiring from the presidency, Jackson gave a dire warning:
"...unless you become more watchful...and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of Government have been given...away, and the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations."
—Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address to America, 1837