DETAILS CONTINUE VOLUME II:
CHAPTER ONE: The 5tt President: James Monroe
JAMES MONROE: Monroe was the only president after Washington who actually fought in revolution from 1775 when he was 18. 1817 was the year when the new generation came to power. It was not only in Monroe in White House, but also Calhoun and Clay who become Speaker even earlier in 1812.
The main events and people of Monroe’s era included:
TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTION: The transportation revolution came with expansion of road building and most important with steamboats. There is an interesting story about initial Fulton’s monopoly granted by government for 30 years that slowed down development of steamboats until in 1817 it was legally broken and Vanderbilt created cheap and effective transportation network. Author stresses that technology was not enough and only free market opened way for new technology.
European Wars; John Quincy Adams; Henry Clay; John Calhoun; Andrew Jackson; Taking Florida: Here author reviews 4 other important players of the period and history of Florida acquisition mainly due to decisive actions of Andrew Jackson and despite Monroe undecidedness and Henry Clay’s attack in Congress and accusations in monarchical tendencies.
NATIONAL BANKING and THE PANIC OF 1819: Just before Monroe become president there was an explosion in number of banks from 117 in 1812 to about 250 in 1815. It was result of suspension of demand for exchange notes for species in 1814 to finance war. This suspension was lifted in 1817 causing move back to gold. It improved economy and provided for next bout of banks number explosion supported by the Second Bank of US. As usual it caused boom/busts cycle of 1819.
JOHN MARSHALL: McCulloch v. Maryland: This is review of a few cases establishing precedents under Marshall promoting Hamiltonian vision. Especially important was McCulloch in which Marshall established dominance of Federal government by rejecting Maryland’s attempt to tax local branch of the Second Bank of US. It was done by appealing to the power of people who established federal government as superior to power of states. It was initial successful attempt to deny relevancy of 10th amendment.
THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE: Unexpected Crisis and Compromise; Second Crisis, Second Compromise: The crisis started with Missouri petitioning for statehood as slave state. Since it would change balance of power, Maine was admitted as Free State to compensate. The compromise eventually included line to the Pacific dividing future territory into free north and slave owning south. At this point no civil war was conceivable because everybody accepted state’s cessation as constitutional right.
TOO DANGEROUS FOR WORDS: Tariff of 1816; Tariff of 1824: More contentions than slavery was issue of tariffs. In 1816 new tariffs were supported by Middle States, opposed by South and had mixed approach from New England where merchants wanted low tariffs and manufacturers high. By 1824 the tariffs champion Clay managed to raise them to 35% and start pushing “American system” of government support for infrastructure.
FOREIGN POLICY: Monsters to Destroy; the Monroe Doctrine: Foreign policy generally was not a big issue, but it still played role mainly in form of Monroe doctrine that demonstrated sufficient power of US to warn European powers to stay away from Latin America that at the time was in process of revolutions. Author also stresses the second part of doctrine, which is now completely forgotten: American would stay away from any conflicts in Europe.
CHAPTER TWO: The 6th President: John Quincy Adams: THE CORRUPT BARGAIN; LIKE FATHER LIKE SON; THE SPIRIT OF IMPROVEMENT; THE ERIE CANAL; Specific Gains, Theoretical Losses; PANAMA, MEXICO, TEXAS, CUBA;
PAYBACK FOR ’24
Adam’s presidency started with Henry Clay using Congress to give Adams presidency even if Jackson won the election. This “corrupt bargain” doomed Adams’ presidency. Adams big government pushed for “improvements”, which inevitably led to corruption and waist. The main program of improvements at the time was construction of canals. Internationally there was Panama congress initiated by Bolivar in attempt to create Pan American space for free trade and cooperation. The idea did not work out due to resistance to any alliances.
Martin Van Buren: The Tariff of Abominations; Election of 1828:
Author dedicated quite a bit of space to Van Buren whom he considers an outstanding Jeffersonian with preference to small and effective government. The top issue was a tariff increase that was demanded by Northern manufacturers, accepted by West, and opposed by South with its export-oriented economy. Van Buren managed to convince all sides that Jackson is with them. Campaign was dirty as usual with all kind of sexual and religious accusations and ended with Jackson’s clear victory.
CHAPTER THREE: The 7th President: Andrew Jackson
THE PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT; The Petticoat War; This is a story of small semi-political war between loyalty and society opinion, Jackson’s loyalty to his men and society’s attack against wife of one of his men. Result was an initial trouble for Jackson’s presidency.
REFORM, RETRENCHMENT, and ECONOMY: The Maysville Road; TRAIL OF TEARS: The first attack against big government was to rain in corruption that was done by cutting out quite a few bureaucrats. Jackson’s mantra was: Constitution should be obeyed, States rights assured, Union preserved, debt paid, and direct taxes avoided. At the same time as repugnant as it was for Jackson he compromised on a number of government financed infrastructure improvements such as the Maysville road. Jackson also pushed through Indian removal. As cruel as it was it is hard to imagine how else it would be possible to prevent genocide that was continuously occurring in clashes between Indians and settlers.
KNELL OF THE UNION: Nat Turner and the Slavery Debate in the South; David Walker and William Lloyd Garrison: The slavery issue was getting worse day by day with loud abolitionist movement getting more and more power and Southern tranquility disturbed by Nat Turner insurrection. There is reference to internal southern debate about abolition of slavery. It demonstrated understanding that slavery will inevitably lead to restriction of freedom for people who are not slaves and it was obviously coming.
KING ANDREW THE FIRST: Cabinet Massacre; Power of the Presidency; NULLIFICATION and THE TARIFF OF 1832: The South Carolina Exposition; Calhoun Resigns; Webster-Hayne Debates; Aversion to Manufacture; Compromise Tariff and the Force Bill: The tariffs war continue divide country and achieved such level of intensity that South Carolina moved to nullification of federal laws. Jackson used combination of threats of force and compromise to resolve this crisis successfully, but issue did not go away.
THE BANK WAR: Suffolk Bank; Mandate; Pet Banks: The final and most important struggle of Jackson presidency was fight with the Bank and victory over it. A very interesting narrative about successful Suffolk bank that fulfilled clearing functions without federal government intervention supports an idea that government control over money supply is not such a necessity.
ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS: A New Jerusalem: The Jackson presidency was also a time of Great Awakening leading to religious resurgence in America, creation of new denominations and expansion of religious activism.
LEGACY: Author compares Jackson with Cornelius Sulla who destroyed Rome in order to save it. Jackson defended republic by using non-republican methods and therefore created precedent that was later used for destruction of original American republic.
CHAPTER FOUR: The 8th President: Martin Van Buren; ELECTION OF 1836; Jackson’s Third Term? Beyond Those Limits I Shall Never Pass: Author praises Van Buren as one of the most libertarian presidents. As the closest ally of Jackson he practically inherited popular presidency, however author does not agree with the view that it was Jackson’s third term. The point is made that it was Van Buren who to the great extent was behind Jackson policies and he maybe even prevented Jackson going to war with France over unpaid reparations. The huge merit of Van Buren was a strict adherence to constitution that author interprets as neutrality in foreign affairs.
RECESSION: The Panics of 1837 and 1839; Suffolk Bank and New England; THE INDEPENDENT TREASURY: The recession started soon after recession in 1837 when bank stopped redeeming paper with species, but after brief downturn come miniboom in 1838 followed by more serious downturn in 1839. Author credit recession to states excessive borrowing for various project especially Erie Canal. Van Buren rejected idea of federal assumption of state’s debt causing economic pain, but instilling some discipline in states. The bright spot was New England where Suffolk bank successfully controlled money supply preventing boom bust cycles in this area. The main economic efforts of Van Buren were directed to establishment of independent treasury and overall separation of economy from the state. Van Buren succeeded in creating Independent treasury that lasted until civil war and one thing dramatically different in narrative of this author from usual history is that he claims recession being relatively mild with overall losses of bank notes holders not exceeding levels equal to 2% inflation. The whole nearly 30 years period afterword author claims to be economically successful, while typical history claims to be period of chaos. Actual economic statistics seems to be supportive of this position: GDP growth was 3.9 from 1814 to 1840 and 4.9 from 1840 to 1860.
THE SLAVERY DEBATE: Petitions; Gag; Amistad: Issue of slavery keep getting more difficult with abolitionist movement expanding and the South responding by limiting free speech and expelling them, while North by physical attacks against blacks and abolitionists by the mobs. However both parties avoided raising the issue because both were active in North and in South so divide about the issue was within parties.
INDIAN REMOVAL: Second Seminole War; Trail of Tears: Van Buren continued Jackson’s policy of removing Indians out of way of American settlements expansion. There was Seminole war from 1836 to 1842 with nearly complete extermination of this tribe and at least 1500 loses by regular army.
SAM HOUSTON; TEXAS; President Houston: This period also included beginning of Texas problems with declaration of Texas independence in 1835. Both Jackson and then Van Buran rejected acceptance of Texas on constitutional grounds and to avoid war with Mexico.
MAY ALL HER PATHS BE PEACE: The Caroline Affair; Aroostook War: There were still issues with Canada related to clashes on the border from time to time and the borderline definition. Van Buren successfully avoided outgrowing of these issues into a war.
LEGACY: Author sees Van Buren as defender of Jeffersonian revolution promoter of limited state and individual freedom.
CHAPTER FIVE: The 9th President: William Henry Harrison
Harrison was big government Wig and Hamiltonian. He won election by thoroughly avoiding declaring his principles and blaming Van Buren for recession. It also helped that bank supporting and wealth-seeking democrats moved away from Van Buren. However since he died one month after inauguration, the return to Hamiltonian big government policies had to wait.
CHAPTER SIX: The 10th President: John Tyler: THE BANK AGAIN; TARIFFS and DISTRIBUTION; TEXAS and A THIRD PARTY: An English Monkey Wrench; John Calhoun; LEGACY
Tyler inherited presidency from Harrison and at the time it was unclear if he is president or just a placeholder until next election. He managed to assert himself as full pledged president setting up a precedent that was later confirmed by 25th Amendment in 1967. The main issues were the same: bank, tariffs, and Texas. Tyler believed Bank was unconstitutional, but being a Whig was inclined to compromise. Clay, on other hand was not and pushed to full restoration of bank. As result Tyler vetoed bank restoration, but agreed to raise tariffs. An interesting dynamic developed with Texas. There was a problem admitting it in Union as slave state, but there was also a problem of leaving it independent. That was because Britain started moving close to Texas as its protector causing planters’ fear of future push of British abolitionists. This situation resulted in Southern champion Calhoun moving ahead with annexation. Overall Tyler turned out to be protector of Van Buren legacy of mainly Jeffersonian Union.
CHAPTER SEVEN: The 11th President: James Polk: INAUGURAL; CABINET
MARK OF GREATNESS: Tariffs; Independent Treasury; Great Contradiction; Oregon; California;
Born after revolution in 1795 Polk was mainly political looser, but luckily for him stronger candidates Clay and Van Buren both declared against annexation of Texas going against strong popular will and by doing so removing themselves from competition. Polk was unusual president because he managed to make real everything he promised to do: lower tariffs, reestablish independent treasury, and annex territories from Mexico. Polk also was a clear supporter of slavery and author sees it as contradiction that Southern Jeffersonian freedom lovers were also supporters of slavery. Polk moved aggressively against Britain in question of Oregon getting to the brink of war, but then settling at 49 parallel.
THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR: First Shot; Match-ups; Matamoros; New Mexico, California, and Northern Mexico; Quagmire; Secession; Wilmot Proviso;
All Mexico; On To Mexico City; Legacy of the War; Henry David Thoreau and Karl Marx; The Way Not Taken: Lysander Spooner; JAMES POLK’S LEGACY
It was different with Mexico where events developed in regular war. Author ‘s interpretation of this war is that despite it being wrong ideologically for republic, America with its democracy, relatively low level of corruption proved to be much more effective military than corrupted Mexican government and army despite Mexico’s numeric and moral superiority of defending their land. The new territories brought in by successful war proved to be a challenge to existing North-South compromise. The struggle exploded around Wilmont’s proviso that would forbid slavery on newly acquired territories. The proviso did not pass, but it did opened new fight between South and North. Eventually it destroyed old Whigs and opened way for creation of Republican Party.
Author also goes into philosophy bringing in Marx and Henry Thoreau: one proponent of nonviolence and another ideologically based violence mainly because both happen to publish their manifestos in 1848. Another writer he brings in is Lysander Spooner who wrote “The Unconstitutionality of Slavery” and argued that slavery could be removed without any amendment to Constitution. Obviously it was non starter with Southern elite since slaves where their main economic assets.
CHAPTER EIGHT: The 12th President: Zachary Taylor: THE LOST DECADES; THE IRONY AND THE TRAGEDY; ZACHARY TAYOR; FOREIGN POLICY: EXPANSION OR NEUTRALITY? DOMESTIC POLICY: FREE OR SLAVE? No Morbid Sympathy for the Slave; Statehood Crisis
Author views American 30 years of American history before civil war as solidification of Jeffersonian vision of America. These years saw tremendous economic and technological development, but it occurred mainly at the North. Taylor came from planter background, but spent most of his life in military fighting Indians. As a military man he new and did not like war, consequently stopping potential expansion into Cuba. He defended status quo on slavery even if he believed that slavery is wrong. Author contrast behavior of human slave-owners such as Taylor and Jefferson Davis with racial hate of many abolitionists who often proclaimed this hate and saw abolition as a way to protect white lower classes against black labor. Taylor died in the middle of his term in 1850 just when statehood crisis started with Western states applying for entry as free states breaking down Missouri compromise and Southerners responding to this with cessation movement.
CHAPTER NINE: The 13th President: Millard Fillmore: PLUMES AND SABERS;
THE CROSS; MILLARD FILLMORE; THE COMPROMISE OF 1850; Fugitive Slave Act of 1850; Slave and Freeman, North and South; Jury Nullification
ECONOMIC POLICY: NOT MUCH; FOREIGN POLICY: OPENING JAPAN; ELECTION OF 1852
Fillmore did not want and did not expect to be president, but that’s what happened. He, however, was a pretty good administrator so he managed country with minimal disturbance: no wars, no economic changes. He was not able to avoid issue of slavery and it start unraveling on his watch with the Fugitive slave act of 1850. The problem was that without North returning run away slaves Southern planters could not keep their thinking and walking property from running away. On other hand the act clearly violated rights of Northerners to speak and publish what they want, associate with whomever they want and so on. In short Southern slave owners had to invade Northern lives to save slavery in South.
CHAPTER TEN: The 14th President: Franklin Pierce: CABINET; OSTEND MANIFESTO; THE ROAD TO SECESSION; TRANS-CONTINENTAL RAILROAD:
Stephen Douglas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act; Jefferson Davis and the Gadsden Purchase; Abraham Lincoln Returns to Politics; Whigs Implode; Reborn As Republicans; DRED SCOTT and ROGER TANEY: Dred Scott; The Decision; ELECTION OF 1856
Pierce was a democrat politician with no special distinction. The main reason he won election was that he was Northerner and vague about slavery issue while his opponent was clearly anti-slavery. In foreign affairs Pierce wanted empire starting with annexation of Hawaii and Cuba. This was clearly stated in Ostend Manifesto of American diplomats on diplomatic conference in Belgium.
But of course the most important issue remained slavery. Author sees it more as a symptom than the cause of the coming clash. In his view it was clash of two cultures Cavaliers culture of the South with Puritans culture of the North. Both sides were fighting for freedom: North for free labor and the South for free trade. North wanted high tariffs to protect its business elite and internal improvements to provide business with public investment in infrastructure, while the South wanted low tariffs because it would lead to trade war in which their source of wealth – cotton trade would suffer. The fuel to this clash was added by dispute over which way to build transcontinental railroad and Kansas-Nebraska act that eliminated Missouri compromise. All these issues become red hot during Pierce presidency and he had no way to manage it.
CHAPTER ELEVEN: The 15th President: James Buchanan: PANIC OF 1857
THE FORGOTTEN SECESSION; BLEEDING KANSAS; LINCOLN RISES: THE ELECTION OF 1860; WAR OR PEACE: The Riddle of Calhoun; Secession; War of Tariffs: The next president another Democrat – James Buchanan also was not capable to put Jeannie of sectional economic and political divide back into the bottle. He actually had another cessation to deal with: Mormons, but it was successfully dealt with using compromise since Mormons did not really posed threat to any of main fractions of American public. They just wanted to have their way of life and they were let alone delaying the resolution of most contention issue of polygamy until 1890.
A lot worse was situation with bleeding Kansas and dramatic polarization of the country that ended in election of Lincoln – the candidate absolutely not acceptable to the South. Author believes that in reality slavery issue was just a bogus and Northern business elite was ready to let the South to separate as long as it would agree to maintain high tariffs. The free trade on other hand was not acceptable. That’s why election of Lincoln who by no means was an abolitionist, but was a corporate lawyer absolutely adamant about high tariffs, made war inevitable.
CHAPTER TWELVE-A: The 1st President: Jefferson Davis
CONFEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA: Constitution; Second Wave: It is highly unusual to include CSA as part of American history, but it makes a lot of sense. After all confederates were also Americans and they fought to defend their country that is the states they lived in. Author divides cessation into two separate waves. The first one was 6 Deep South states that decided to leave union because of slavery and tariffs. They model their constitution on US with only one significant difference: clear support for institution of slavery. However states of northern part of South joined only after Lincoln started war by refusing to accept separation and evacuate Fort Sumter. The following events that lead to war were considered by these states as Northern aggression.
GOVERNING THE CONFEDERACY: Cotton Communism; Conscription; Class Conflict within the Confederacy; FIGHTING THE WAR: Black Soldiers; Tears Spoiled Their Aim: What is interesting is practical rejection of American traditions in CSA when nearly all industries were nationalized, central planning implemented, military conscription implemented in much more severe form than it was on the North, individual freedoms also were suppressed much more severely. In short the civil war clearly demonstrated that seeds of future socialist shift were planted in American culture on both sides of divide.
CHAPTER TWELVE-B: The 16th President: Abraham Lincoln
INAUGURAL ADDRESS: TARIFFS OR ANGELS? THE QUESTION OF WAR: Fort Sumter; Blockade; Militia Call-up and Second Secession; Stemming the Tide
Author makes quite convincing case that Lincoln’s objectives were not that much related to slavery as to assure high tariffs protecting wealth of Northern businesses that believed that they couldn’t compete against cheap foreign goods. These interests clearly override for him constitutionality of secession, protection of individual rights, separation of powers, as well as just about everything else in Constitution. In short author’s position is that the causes of war inalienably linked to sources of income and prosperity for ruling classes: slavery and free trade for southern planters and government protection of their businesses against competition for northern manufacturers.
THREE NEEDS OF OFFENSIVE WAR: THE FIRST NEED: MONEY: Control of the Money Supply; Income tax; THE SECOND NEED: SUPPRESSION OF RIGHTS: John Merryman and Roger Taney; Clement Vallandigham; THE THIRD NEED: CONSCRIPTION: Economic Elites and America’s First Drafts; THE WAR: Death and Destruction; Mid-Term Elections; Pope Doctrine: Collective Responsibility; another Pope Doctrine; Utter Extermination; THE WAR SHIFTS TO A HIGHER PLANE: Emancipation Proclamation; Gettysburg Address: Poetry, not logic; Second Inaugural Address: The history of civil war in this libertarian presentation narrates not that much about battles, offensives, and defensives as about violation of American constitution by Lincoln’s administration in all conceivable areas: nationalization of money supply, separation of powers, and individual rights. It also narrates about people who stand up to these violations and suffered imprisonments, financial ruin, and sometimes death. The point author makes is that if any of these two sides were really defending itself against aggression it would be no need for conscription and suppression
LEGACY: Author sees the main Lincoln’s legacy not in what actually happened, but in what he prevented from happening. He believes that if Lincoln allowed 6 Southern states to leave union, it would lead to free trade of South forcing the same on North and resulting in faster and better economic development. At the same time absence of fugitive slave laws would make slavery at the South unsustainable so reunion with slavery eliminated would be the most probable outcome.