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No Longer a Safe Depository

October 24, 2018

Henry Clay was very disappointed.  He had run for President in 1824 and received only 14.1% of the Electors, finishing fourth in a four-way race.  In 1832 he received only 17.1% of the Electors despite a second place finish.  The man who beat him would now be living in the White House another four years, and it was unlikely Clay would be able to muster the two-thirds majority needed to override the President’s vetoes.  In addition, the charter for the 2nd Bank of the United States (B.U.S.) would expire before the President left office.  The legislation to recharter that institution had already been vetoed before the election.

“The dark cloud which had been so long suspended over our devoted country, instead of being dispelled as we had fondly hoped it would be, has become more dense, more menacing, more alarming.”  That’s what Henry Clay said on November 17, 1832.  What more could go wrong for the Whigs?

President Jackson, however, was not one to rest on his laurels.  Having prevented the B.U.S. from existing beyond 1836, he was now determined to end its influence long before that.  “The hydra of corruption is only scotched, not dead,” Jackson told a key ally.  On December 4, 1832, Jackson sent Congress a State of the Union Message where he continued to criticize the B.U.S.

Jackson used only two paragraphs to make his case.  In a key sentence he declared: “An inquiry into the transactions of the institution, embracing the branches as well as the principal bank, seems called for by the credit which is given throughout the country to many serious charges impeaching its character, and which if true may justly excite the apprehension that it is no longer a safe depository of the money of the people.”




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