I've recently been reading a biography of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States and the founder of the modern Democratic Party. While many historians place Jackson in their list of the top 10 presidents, I personally believe that he was a horrible president with an ugly legacy. However, what did our ancestors of the time think of their president?
In 1834, after years of political maneuvering between Jackson and the Whigs, led by Henry Clay, Jackson managed to kill the 2nd Bank of the United States by withdrawing all U.S. government deposits and then vetoing the renewal of the bank's national charter. These acts, which many cheered as a blow against the evil eastern bankers, had a predictably calamitous effect on the United States economy. which led to a full blown panic and economic collapse only a few years later.
During its fight for survival, as the federal government withdrew funds, the 2nd Bank of the United States tightened credit. This was partly done as a tactic of the bank, to cause hardship which they hoped would be blamed on the president and his party. As Jackson moved federal deposits to undisciplined, barely regulated state banks, tightened credit was replaced by rampant inflation and speculative bubbles, followed by a tremendous crash and 25% unemployment.
So what effect did this have on our ancestors and what did they think of Jackson? In 1834, my 3x great-grandfather, Clement Simpson, was a 59 year old farmer in Harrison Township, Pickaway County, Ohio at the time, with his wife, Minty, and 6 of their children, including my 2nd great grandfather, 8 year old Nelson Simpson.
During the fight between Jackson and Clay, the many residents of Harrison Township left no doubt to who they supported. They drafted and signed a petition, which they sent to the U.S. Senate, complaining that they face ruin over the collapse of beef, pork and flour prices. They declare that they are free, independent American citizens and as republicans and Whigs determined to "use all lawful means to save ourselves from the iron grasp of our mis-rulers..."
They complained that Jackson was guilty of a "falsification of faith" and "an unwarrantable usurpation of executive power".
This was a boilerplate testimonial signed by many farmers all over the country, many of whom lost their farms as credit disappeared.