Welcome to the MAKING OF A NATION –American history in VOA Special English. Andrew Jackson became president of theUnited States in March of eighteen twenty-nine. Thousands of his supporterscame to Washington to see him sworn-in. Many were there, however, only to get agovernment job. They expected President Jackson to dismiss all the governmentworkers who did not support him in the election. Jackson supporters wantedthose jobs for themselves. This week in our series, Frank Oliver and MauriceJoyce continue the story of Andrew Jackson and his presidency. Most of the jobswere in the Post Office Department, headed by Postmaster General John McLean.McLean told Jackson that if he had to remove postmasters who took part in theelection, he would remove those who worked for Jackson as well as those whoworked for the re-election of President John Quincy Adams. Jackson removedMcLean as postmaster general. William Barry of Kentucky was named to theposition. Barry was willing to give jobs to Jackson's supporters. But he, too,refused to take jobs from people who had done nothing wrong.
Many government workers had held their jobsfor a long time. Some of them did very little work. Some were just too old. Afew were drunk most of the time. And some were even found to have stolen moneyfrom the government. These were the people President Jackson wanted to remove.And he learned it was difficult for him to take a job away from someone whoreally needed it. One old man came to Jackson from Albany, New York. He toldJackson he was postmaster in that city. He said the politicians wanted to takehis job. The old man said he had no other way to make a living. When thepresident did not answer, the old man began to take off his coat. "I amgoing to show you my wounds," he said. "I got them fighting theBritish with General George Washington during the war for independence."The next day, a New York congressman took President Jackson a list of names ofgovernment workers who were to be removed. The name of the old man from Albanywas on the list. He had not voted for Jackson. "By the eternal!"shouted Jackson. "I will not remove that old man. Do you know he carries apound of British lead in his body?" The job of another old soldier wasthreatened. The man had a large family and no other job. He had lost a leg onthe battlefield during the war for independence. He had not voted for Jackson,either. But that did not seem to matter to the president. "If he lost aleg fighting for his country," Jackson said, "that is vote enough forme. He will keep his job." Jackson's supporters who failed to get the jobsthey expected had to return home.
Next, the president had to deal with asplit that developed between himself and Vice President John C. Calhoun. Thetrouble grew out of a problem in the cabinet. Three of the cabinet members weresupporters and friends of Calhoun. These were Treasury Secretary Samuel Ingham,Attorney General John Berrien, and Navy Secretary John Branch. A fourth memberof the cabinet, Secretary of State Martin van Buren, opposed Calhoun. The fifthmember of the cabinet was Jackson's close friend, John Eaton. Eaton had beenmarried a few months before Jackson became president. Stories said he and theyoung woman had lived together before they were married. Vice President Calhountried to use the issue to force Eaton from the cabinet. He started a personalcampaign against Missus Eaton. Calhoun's wife, and the wives of his three menin the cabinet, refused to have anything to do with her. This made PresidentJackson angry, because he liked the young woman. The split between Jackson andCalhoun deepened over another issue. Jackson learned that Calhoun -- as amember of former president James Monroe's cabinet -- had called for Jackson'sarrest. Calhoun wanted to punish Jackson for his military campaign into SpanishFlorida in eighteen eighteen.
Another thing that pushed the two men apartwas Calhoun's belief that the rights of the states were stronger than therights of the federal government. His feelings became well known during adebate on a congressional bill. In eighteen twenty-eight, Congress had passed abill that -- among other things -- put taxes on imports. The purpose of the taxwas to protect American industries. The South opposed the bill mainly becauseit had almost no industry. It was an agricultural area. Import taxes would onlyraise the price of products the South imported. The South claimed that theimport tax was not constitutional. It said the constitution did not give thefederal government the right to make a protective tax. The state of SouthCarolina -- Calhoun's state -- refused to pay the import tax. Calhoun wrote along statement defending South Carolina's action. In the statement, hedeveloped what was called the Doctrine of Nullification. This idea declaredthat the power of the federal government was not supreme.
Calhoun noted that the federal governmentwas formed by an agreement among the independent states. That agreement, hesaid, was the Constitution. In it, he said, the powers of the states and thepowers of the federal government were divided. But, he said, supreme power --sovereignty -- was not divided. Calhoun argued that supreme power belonged tothe states. He said they did not surrender this power when they ratified theConstitution. In any dispute between the states and the federal government, hesaid, the states should decide what is right. If the federal government passeda law that was not constitutional, then that law was null and void. It had nomeaning or power. Then Calhoun brought up the question of the method to decideif a law was constitutional. He said the power to make such a decision was heldby the states. He said the Supreme Court did not have the power, because it waspart of the federal government. Calhoun argued that if the federal governmentpassed a law that any state thought was not constitutional, or against itsinterests, that state could temporarily suspend the law.The other states of the union, Calhoun said, would then be asked to decide thequestion of the law's constitutionality. If two-thirds of the states approvedthe law, the complaining state would have to accept it, or leave the union. Ifless than two-thirds of the states approved it, then the law would be rejected.None of the states would have to obey it. It would be nullified -- cancelled. The idea of nullification was debated in theSenate by Daniel Webster of Massachusetts and Robert Hayne of South Carolina.Hayne spoke first. He stated that there was no greater evil than giving morepower to the federal government. The major point of his speech could be putinto a few words: liberty first, union afterwards. Webster spoke next. Hedeclared that the Constitution was not the creature of the state governments.It was more than an agreement among states. It was the law of the land. Supremepower was divided, Webster said, between the states and the union. The federalgovernment had received from the people the same right to govern as the states.Webster declared that the states had no right to reject an act of the federalgovernment and no legal right to leave the union. If a dispute should developbetween a state and the federal government, he said, the dispute should besettled by the Supreme Court of the United States. Webster said Hayne hadspoken foolishly when he used the words: liberty first, union afterwards. They couldnot be separated, Webster said. It was liberty and union, now and forever, oneand inseparable. No one really knew how President Jackson felt about thequestion of nullification. He had said nothing during the debate. Did hesupport Calhoun's idea. Or did he agree with Webster. That will be our storynext week.