Stanton: The Life and Times of Lincoln's Secretary of War

By Benjamin P. Thomas; Harold M. Hyman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
JACKSONIAN REFORMER

IN HIS partnership with Tappan, Stanton was allied with a man of keen legal judgment and potent influence. The young lawyer plunged into greater activity in Democratic politics. It was the height of the Age of Jackson, and the doughty old President's attack on the Bank of the United States was being carried forward under his successor in the White House, Martin Van Buren. Wages, working hours, corporation charters, the tariff, taxes, and qualifications for voting were coming under scrutiny as the Jacksonians assailed all forms of special privileges.1

Ohio Democrats centered their assault on privilege on the private banks, chartered by the state legislature, and their control of credit and the currency. The radical Democrats insisted that these banks had recklessly issued paper money, causing a ruinous inflation that resulted in the panic of 1837 and the hard times that followed it. They heartily applauded President Van Buren's establishment of an "independent Treasury" in which government funds formerly entrusted to state banks were now deposited, and insisted that the Ohio legislature curtail the financial and political power of the state banks.

Many conservative Democrats, on the other hand, advocated caution, and wanted merely to regulate the amount of notes a bank might issue. The bank question created such factional bitterness within Democratic ranks that Stanton predicted in 1839: "If the Whigs had a thimble full of sense or honesty they would carry this state next fall. And as matters stand now it is by no means certain that Ohio will not be lost to Mr. Van Buren."

____________________
1
Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Jackson ( Boston, 1946). 190-209.

-23-

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