JACKSON, Andrew. Autograph letter signed ("Andrew Jackson"), to Attorney General Benjamin F. Butler (1795-1858), the Hermitage, [Nashville, Tennessee], 24 June 1837. 7 pages, 4to (9¾ x 7 15/16 in.), minor browning, seal hole affecting a few letters of text, otherwise in fine condition.
"THE CONNECTION OF BANKS WITH THE GOVERNMENT I HAVE CONSIDERED MORE DANGEROUS TO LIBERTY THAN THE UNION OF CHURCH & STATE"
In the context of a consideration of the problems caused by the Panic of 1837, the former President describes a radical plan to reorganize the nation's fiscal and monetary systems, completely overthrowing the Hamiltonian system. Jackson's second term had seen the destruction of the Second Bank of the United States (see notes to lot 64), but after his retirement, the nation had fallen into a severe economic depression, and banks nationwide suspended specie payments. While his political opponents blamed the former President, Jackson "ascribed the panic conditions (especially the suspension of specie payments) to the greed of wealthy capitalists, who had fattened themselves so rapidly during the last several years..." (R. Remini, Andrew Jackson, pp. 338-339).
Butler, Jackson's last Attorney General, had stayed on under Van Buren. Here, only one month into the Panic, Jackson tells Butler "I have been wide awake to all the difficulties with which you, all, have been surrounded since I left you. I thought I saw in..some of our professed friends in the Senate last winter the deep treachery to the administration that the combined, dishonest, & dishonorable conduct of the banks have so suddenly disclosed by the suspension of specie payments, with the whole revenue in their vaults, first robbing the Treasury and crying out the Government is bankrupt." Jackson suggests that the Secretary of the Treasury should have ample powers to regulate the banks, but cannot due to the resistance from "the aristocracy & the enemies to our home industry, & speculators. These classes will never approve of any act that will promote the prosperity of the labouring classes, & the general good." He observes "it is useless to look back on times gone by, unless to guard against the evils, and similar treachery arising from selfish views for the future. We must now look forward..."
"I never despair of the republic," Jackson writes, "I have always trusted to a benign providence and a virtuous people, & I have never been abandoned nor will the Executive government be now; the people will support it." Jackson labels the actions of the banks "treachery," and suggests that the government retreat from any connection with banks: "The government must seperate itself from all Banks, & provide a sole depository of treasure for public revenue...The connection of Banks with the Government I now consider more dangerous to liberty than the union of Church & State." Jackson claims that his plan would ensure "a stable currency, safety to the revenue, prosperity to our country, and perpetuity to our glorious union & happy form of Government." He calls for revenue to be reduced "to the actual wants of the government"; it should be paid only in gold and silver to "prevent overtrading by our merchants & also prevent foreign agents from inundating our country with foreign merchandise." Treasury agents would take over collection duties previously assigned to banks. "The disbursements all in gold & silver coin will in less than one year give us a general circulation of a sound metalic [sic] currency. To the officers & soldiers on our frontier, the labourers at our arsenals, our shipyards and fortifications, and on all other public works and for all public supplies, will give throughout the union a general circulation of our coin from our mints." He assures Butler that the circulation of coin will make the paper money of state banks worthless and will prevent bankers like Nicholas Biddle from shipping the nation's specie to England. He concludes: "only then, when freed from the curse of a fluctuating paper credit system so injurious to our morals, can we be a happy, contented, and prosperous people."