Men are imperfect creatures with feet of clay. However, sometimes men of character have courageous action that inspire us to be better people and a better nation.
The following is an old history book, Our Country, dealing with just that.
In the intercourse of President Jackson's administration with foreign governments, his instructions given to Minister McLane
. . . formed the basis of action. He demanded what was right with vigor, and refused to submit to what was wrong on all occasions; and by this course he secured to our republic the profound respect of the nations of the globe.
At the end of his first term, the foreign relations of our government were very satisfactory, excepting with France. That government, by a treaty which he had vigoriously pressed to a conclusion, had agreed to pay to the United States $5,000,000 by installments,as indemnity for injury to American commerce, which the operations of the various decrees of Napoleon from 1806 until 1811 had inflicted. The legislative branch of the French govern-ment did not promptly comply with the provisions of the treaty, and the President assumed a hostile attitude. The affair was finally settled in 1836 before Jackson left the chair of state.
Similar claims were made against Portugal, and payment obtained; and for similar reasons the king of Naples agreed to pay the United States $1,720,000. Commercial treaties were with several European states and with the Sultan of Turkey; and when Jackson retired from office in the spring of 1837, our republic, with its national debt extinguished, was more respected than ever by the powers of the earth.
During the administration of President Jackson, of eight years, two new States were admitted into the Union, making the whole number twenty-six. These were Arkansas and Michigan. The former was admitted in June, 1836, and the latter in January, 1837. At that time Jackson's administration was drawing to a close. Martin Van Buren, who had been nominated for the Presidency, with the understanding that if elected he would continue the general policy of Jackson, was chosen to that office by a very large majority of the popular vote. The people failed to elect a Vice-President, when the Senate chose Richard M. Johnson of Kentucky for that office.
President Jackson offended a large class of the people of the United States by his last official act. So loud was the public clamor against the "Specie Circular,"* that a bill for the partial repeal of the measure was passed by both Houses of Congress at near the close of the session in 1837. The President refused to sign this bill; and to prevent its becoming a law by a two-thirds vote after he should veto it, he kept it in his hands until Congress adjourned. His message giving his reasons for withholding his signature was dated "March 3d, 1837, a quarter before 12 P.M."
President Jackson now retired to his seat "The Hermitage," in Tennessee. He was then seventy years of age. He never entered public life again; and there, at the beautiful retreat, he died in June, 1845, when he was more than seventy-eight years of age.
*Note: [The] famous "Specie Circular" went out from our Treasury Department (July, 1836), directing all collectors of the public revenue to receive nothing but coin. From the parlor of the Bank of England and from the Treasury of the United States went forth the unwelcome fiat, Pay up! American houses in London failed for many millions; and every bank in the United States suspended specie payments in 1837, but resumed in 1839. Then the United States Bank, chartered by the legislature of Pennsylvania, fell into hopeless ruin, and with it went down a very large number of the State banks of the country. A general bankrupt law, passed
in 1841, relieved of debt almost forty thousand persons, whose liabilities amounted in the aggregate to about $441,000,000.
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