The Nullification Crisis and the Bank War


Jackson’s veto of the bank and his Specie Circular helped galvanize opposition forces into a new political party, the Whigs, a faction that began to form in 1834. The name was significant; opponents of Jackson saw him as exercising tyrannical power, so they chose the name Whig after the eighteenth-century political party that resisted the monarchical power of King George III. One political cartoon dubbed the president “King Andrew the First” and displayed Jackson standing on the Constitution, which has been ripped to shreds (Figure).

Political caricature (a) represents President Andrew Jackson as a despotic ruler in robes and a crown, holding a scepter in one hand and a veto in the other. The border of the drawing reads “King Andrew the First. Of Veto Memory. Born to Command. Had I Been Consulted.” Cartoon (b) shows Jackson overseeing a scene of uncontrollable chaos. He wields a broom as rats with human heads, representing some of his cabinet members, run around on the floor. A pedestal labeled “Altar of Reform” topples over, while Jackson falls from a collapsing chair labeled “The Hickory Chair coming to pieces at last.”
This anonymous 1833 political caricature (a) represents President Andrew Jackson as a despotic ruler, holding a scepter in one hand and a veto in the other. Contrast the image of “King Andrew” with a political cartoon from 1831 (b) of Jackson overseeing a scene of uncontrollable chaos as he falls from a hickory chair “coming to pieces at last.”

Whigs championed an active federal government committed to internal improvements, including a national bank. They made their first national appearance in the presidential election of 1836, a contest that pitted Jackson’s handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren, against a field of several Whig candidates. Indeed, the large field of Whig candidates indicated the new party’s lack of organization compared to the Democrats. This helped Van Buren, who carried the day in the Electoral College. As the effects of the Panic of 1837 continued to be felt for years afterward, the Whig press pinned the blame for the economic crisis on Van Buren and the Democrats.

Explore a Library of Congress collection of 1830s political cartoons from the pages of Harper’s Weekly to learn more about how Andrew Jackson was viewed by the public in that era.