On 10 July 1832 Andrew Jackson vetoed an act of Congress which sought to renew the exclusive charter of the Second Bank of the United States, it is a long veto message and, to be honest, is prone to rambling. But within it Jackson lays out several key points of thought that today should still be points of consideration when the Congress enacts any new laws – mainly the idea that law should not be passed that circumvents key rights of the individual states and that Congress should not pass laws that limit the actions of future Congresses. More critically though Jackson also argued that corporate entities should be linked to the communities in which they are created, he was worried about foreign investors outside the United States controlling its economic future, but his main argument applies even today. Jackson argued that there was a danger to liberty if the financial institutions that served a community had no connection, no loyalty, to the community served, and if those institutions were only loyal to their stockholders they might provide a means to bringing down the United States, or at least its guiding principles.
Jackson also included some powerful comments at the end of his veto message about the nature of laws that the government should undertake, comments worth quoting in full I think:
It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add to these natural and just advantages artificial distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society–the farmers, mechanics, and laborers–who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government. There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing. In the act before me there seems to be a wide and unnecessary departure from these just principles.
That quote above has been used by many different movements these days – arguing against the current movements in US law and the perceived orientation of the nation’s politics. I find it fascinating that the same concerns dominating the news today affected the nation nearly two centuries ago. But I also take some comfort from a later comment by Jackson in the same veto message:
I have now done my duty to my country. If sustained by my fellow-citizens, I shall be grateful and happy; if not, I shall find in the motives which impel me ample grounds for contentment and peace. In the difficulties which surround us and the dangers which threaten our institutions there is cause for neither dismay nor alarm. For relief and deliverance let us firmly rely on that kind Providence which I am sure watches with peculiar care over the destinies of our Republic, and on the intelligence and wisdom of our countrymen. Through His abundant goodness and their patriotic devotion our liberty and Union will be preserved.
Good government requires the election of good leaders, and the diligence of the citizens to keep them on track. It did so in 1832, and it still does today.
If you have the time I recommend reading the whole of Jackson’s veto – hard to find but well worth it. Full Text Here
Sources: Online copy of full veto message of Jackson, 10 July 1832 (http://millercenter.org/scripps/archive/speeches/detail/3636)
Greenback: The Almighty Dollar and the Invention of America, Jason Goodwin