Another Twist on the Jacksonian Bank War: Part 3
©1997 by Gerry Rough

This is the last of a three part series on the second Bank of the United States. In this essay we will take an analytical look at President Andrew Jackson’s veto message.

The message is one of the most cited documents in conspiracy theory circles. After Congress passed the recharter bill, it was given to President Jackson to either sign or veto at his discretion. This move was planned by the pro-bank forces to discredit President Jackson. If he should sign the bill, he would abandon everything that he had said earlier on the recharter question. If he didn’t sign the bill, he would be taking a concrete stand on an issue that was sure to electrify the voters. Up until this point in the election, Jackson’s popularity was never in doubt. But by taking the recharter issue, Jackson was taking a risk that would shriek the modern political operative. The Bank of the United States was a popular institution even at this point in the election. Surely, his opponents thought, it was political suicide to dare destroy one of the most popular institutions in America.

But before we get to the message itself, lets take a short digression to what other historians have said of the message. Below are several opinions of the recharter veto message.

Conspiracy theorists believe there are three reasons why President Jackson vetoed the recharter bill that was passed by Congress. G. Edward Griffin, author of the tome, The Creature From Jekyll Island, states the best case: The second reason, the Constitutional question, will be dealt with in a later essay. Here we will deal with the first and third charges against the Bank. To this end, let’s now take a closer look at the most controversial Presidential veto in our nations history. The entire message is not contained here, but all of the sections dealing with Griffin’s analysis. Almost all of the remaining sections deal with the Constitutional question. As reference, all of the following quotations of the message itself are taken from Documentary History of Banking and Currency in the United States, Volume 2, p. 816-832.

To The Senate:
Washington, July 10, 1832
The gratuity mentioned is endemic to all stockholders of any kind. Jackson is here bemoaning the fact that those who hold stock in any corporation will receive a reward for doing so. As to the issue of the stock price rising above its par value, the alternative plan for a new bank that is mentioned later in the message would have done so as well. For Jackson to mention this as an evil endemic only to the Bank of the United States is patently absurd. The above is a famous conspiracy quote. It is quoted to show that the bank was somehow controlled by foreigners and by the rich. Somehow there is something evil about receiving a dividend from a private corporation. Even worse still, some went to foreign investors. On this note, Hammond’s analysis is most instructive: It is appropriate here to digress to the issue of foreign control of the Bank of the United States. This issue is one of the most cited in conspiracy theory writings. It is also important because the famous Rothschild family enters the picture. It is really more accurate to say "Rothschild control" of the Bank than it is to say "foreign control" of the bank since that is always the implicit message. On this issue, Griffin writes the following: It most certainly is! Griffin is deliberately distorting the facts in order to prove his point. Notice that he states that the "new" bank was one-third owned by foreigners. This is the distortion. The largest block of stock owned by foreigners was 84,055 in 1832, a full 15 years after the "new" Bank went into operation. As of 1820, foreigners only owned 29,288 (8.3%) of the outstanding shares, destroying Griffin’s argument regarding foreign concentration at the beginning. [9] Total outstanding shares in the Bank were 350,000, which makes 84,055 shares calculate to 24.01%. Again, not the "one third," as Griffin points out. Further, the largest single block of stock was not the stock owned by foreigners at all. This honor belongs to none other than one Steven Girard, one of the richest men in America at the time. The charter said that no one could own more than 3,000 shares unless the initial stock offering was not fully subscribed. [10] As it turned out, there were 30,383 shares unsubscribed at the end of the initial stock offering, so Girard subscribed the entire amount himself. [11] As we have seen, Griffin has deliberately distorted all of his facts to prove his conspiracy.

Griffin states again:

As is usually the case, neither Griffin nor any other conspiracy theorist has done any serious research to substantiate the claim. This same claim is recycled many times over in conspiracy writings on the New World Order. On February 27th, 1832, Representative Augustin Clayton proposed a Resolution before the House of Representatives to investigate the Bank. Almost all of the charges were without foundation and refuted the next day by Representative George McDuffie. One of the charges was, you guessed it, foreigners controlling the Bank. McDuffie’s refutation is most emphatic: How appropriate it is to hear the conspiracy theorists repeat almost verbatim the charge that never had even the thinnest of foundation. So completely absurd is the charge, in fact, that the anti-bank forces themselves did not give credibility to such foolishness. Walter Buckingham Smith would later write of the obvious error of this line of attack: Jackson continues: Jackson’s travesty of truth continues. There was no expense to the public whatsoever. The expense was from the Bank itself and its profits. Jackson’s travesty continues further by stating that "many millions….must come directly or indirectly" from the American people. Patently untrue again, the dividends and expenses would come only from the operations of the bank. Another widely circulated conspiracy quote, the above strikes at the heart of two of the main arguments of the message simultaneously. It serves to draw a contrast between the rich and the poor on the one hand, and vilifies the foreign stockholders on the other. As to the first statement, Hammond’s analysis mentions that the President had months before raised the issue himself of furnishing a plan of his own, then, contradicting himself later in the message, states that had he been called upon to do so, "the duty would have been cheerfully performed." His second statement is erroneous as well since it assumes an act of Congress would ascribe to the stockholders the "bounty of the Government;" an obviously ridiculous charge since the Bank was a private institution. The second paragraph above is often quoted in the conspiracy press. It is quoted to prove how dangerous foreign stockholders are to the economy and our personal freedom. Fraught with deliberate fabrication, both paragraphs taken together are the core argument against foreign investors. It is "delightfully Jacksonian" in its absurdity, as Catterall once said. Note that in an earlier quote, it was stated by Jackson himself that "it appears that more than a fourth part of the stock is held by foreigners." Then Jackson states that somehow through some sort of magical means "almost a third of the stock is in foreign hands," then he completes the absurdity by stating, "a bank almost wholly owned by the subjects of a foreign power." Bray Hammond continues the analysis regarding foreign control of the Bank: Jackson contiues again: Hammond’s analysis again continues: Jackson continues again: The words of the Bank’s President, Nicholas Biddle, are not so hollow and politically motivated as one might imagine whence said he, "It is really a manifesto of anarchy." For President Jackson to make such a statement belies the foolishness of the message. According to Jackson himself, "Each public officer…. swears that he will support it [the Constitution] as he understands it, and not as it is understood by others." Forget the history of the Constitution, forget what the founding fathers wanted, forget the great men who forged our great republic into the United States of America. Forget all that. History and its wisdom are irrelevant. Interpret the Constitution as you alone understand it. If the conspiracy theorists want to be taken seriously, they can start here with an unconditional condemnation of Jackson’s apparent contempt for the Constitution and those who framed it.

Jackson continues:

Another travesty of hypocrisy, recall that earlier Jackson had himself had advocated a bank with a startup capital of $200,000,000. The capital of an institution of this size would surpass the existing institution’s capital many times over. As well, the proposed bank that Jackson is here advocating would be just as private, in fact more so since the proposed bank would be completely private, with no government owned stock. Here again, the conspiracy theorists have clung to the wrong hero for their New World Order conspiracy; Andrew Jackson himself, the dragon slayer who promoted an even larger dragon. Another widely circulated conspiracy quote, Jackson is here again playing the class warfare card, the ignorant to impress. If Andrew Jackson was really the champion of the poor and oppressed, he would have signed the recharter bill without giving a second look at another institution, or of killing the bank outright. The flagrant misrepresentation of the Bank as the eternal grinch who would steal from the poor was clearly out of the bounds of democratic discourse. The charges of the Bank oppressing the poor and the rich being the only benefactors of its charter and operations were eloquently refuted a full two years before in the report of the committee of 1830. It is sad that President Jackson’s undying hatred of banks blinded him to the truth that surrounded his Presidency. The same could just as easily be said of the modern conspiracy theorists. As a conclusion to this essay, it is worthy of note that many of the issues that the conspiracy theorists argue are dealt with in the following from the McDuffie report. The McDuffie Report of 1830 concludes: In view of the evidence, and without regard to partisan political gain, I hereby lend my full and unconditional support to the candidacy of Henry Clay and John Sergeant for the next President and Vice President of the United States. For if these two men of renown are elected, I have no doubt whatsoever that they will lead our great nation to the greatness that is indeed our future destiny as Americans. Future generations will regard this great era of the 1830’s as the era of the greatest of our Presidents, Henry Clay.


1 The operative term here is "effective." Van Deusen is well aware that the veto message did mention an alternative to the Bank of the United States. All serious economic historians eschew Jackson’s alternative as ill-advised and unworthy of serious consideration. The alternative was that the proposed bank would become the instrument of the party in power. Hardly an alternative considering that the Bank of the United States was already independent, yet ended its career as a victim of politics.

2 The paragraph just prior to the aforementioned citation is priceless in view of the subject matter being discussed. Parton opines: "Concerning the financial and legal principles laid down in this important document, financiers and lawyers differ in opinion. The humbler office of the present chronicler is to state that the bank-veto message of President Jackson came with convincing power upon a majority of the people of the United States. It settled the question. And it may be safely predicted that while that message endures, and the Union, as it is now constituted, endures, a bank of the United States can never exist. If ever it should be seriously proposed to establish one again, that message will rise from its grave in the volume of presidential messages, where it sleeps forgotten, to crush the proposition." [3]


1) G.G. Van Deusen, The Jacksonian Era (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1959; reprinted, HarperCollins, 1992) 67
2) J. Parton, Life of Andrew Jackson (New York: Mason Brothers, 1861) Volume III, p. 411
3) Parton, p. 410
4) B. Hammond, Banks and Politics in America: From the Revolution to the Civil War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957) 405
5) J.C. Curtis, Andrew Jackson and the Search for Vindication (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1976) 130, 131
6) G. Edward Griffin, The Creature from Jekyll Island (Appleton: American Opinion Publishing, Inc., 1995) 348-349
7) Hammond, p. 407
8) Griffin, p. 342-343
9) J.T. Holdsworth and D.R. Dewey, The First and Second Banks of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, National Monetary Commission, vol. IV, 1910) 204
10) A. B. Hepburn, A History of Currency in the United States (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1903; reprinted, August M. Kelly Publishers, 1967) 94
11) Hepburn, p. 95
12) Griffin, p. 350
13) H. E. Krooss, ed., Documentary History of Banking and Currency in the United States (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1969) Volume 2, p. 780
14) W. B. Smith, Economic Aspects of the Second Bank of the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953) 248-249
15) Hammond, p. 407
16) Hammond, p. 407-408
17) M. St. Clair Clarke and D.A. Hall, Legislative and Documentary History of the Bank of the United States (Washington: Gales & Seaton, 1832; reprinted August M. Kelley, Publishers, 1967) 753

Additional sources

A. M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Jackson (New York: Book Find Club, 1946)
H. E. Krooss, ed., Documentary History of Banking and Currency in the United States (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1969) Volume 1
R. C. H. Catterall, The Second Bank of the United States (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1903)
John Jay Knox, A History of Banking in the United States (New York: Bradford Rhodes & Company, 1903)
R.E. Shaw, ed., Andrew Jackson: 1767-1845 (Dobbs Ferry, NY: Oceana Publications, 1969)
George Rogers Taylor, Jackson versus Biddle: The struggle over the second Bank of the United States (Boston: D.C. Heath and Co., 1949)
G. Dangerfield, The Awakening of American Nationalism: 1815-1828 (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965)
J. R. Sharp, The Jacksonians Versus the Banks (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970)
H.L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990)
L.W. Mints, A History of Banking Theory: In Great Britain and the United States (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1945)
C.A. Conant, A History of Modern Banks of Issue (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1927)

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