Plotting to Kill the President: Assassination Attempts from Washington to Hoover

By Mel Ayton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
The Antebellum Presidents

I would object on general principles that it is antagonistic to our traditions, to our
habits of thought, and to our customs that the President should surround himself
with a body of janissaries or a sort of Praetorian Guard, and never go anywhere
unless he is accompanied by men in uniform and men with sabers as is done by
the monarchs of the continent of Europe.

—Sen. Stephen Mallory, U.S. Senate 1850–61

From the time of George Washington to the presidency of Andrew Jackson, America had been undergoing vast changes. The nation’s population had more than doubled in size and hundreds of thousands of Americans had emigrated westward. Cities flourished as new European immigrants arrived. Although this influx of people created jobs and economic prosperity, there were also negative effects. Poverty was increasing, which led to an increase in crime, violence, and rioting in American cities. Along with the spread of crime and the growth in the population came increased threats against American presidents.

There was also the developing fear that disputes and problems between the North and the South would inevitably lead to a war between the states, creating security problems for American leaders.

Southern states first began discussing secession in response to the Nullification Crisis during the Jackson administration in the early 1830s. While it would take almost thirty years before South Carolina became the

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