Jackson Vetoes Re-Charter of the Second Bank of the US

Andrew Jackson vetoed the bill re-chartering the Second Bank in July 1832 by arguing that in the form presented to him it was incompatible with “justice,” “sound policy” and the Constitution.

The bank’s charter was unfair, Jackson argued in his veto message, because it gave the bank considerable, almost monopolistic, market power, specifically in the markets that moved financial resources around the country and into and out of other nations. That market power increased the bank’s profits and thus its stock price, “which operated as a gratuity of many millions [of dollars] to the stockholders,” who, Jackson claimed, were mostly “foreigners” and “our own opulent citizens.” He then suggested that it would be fairer to most Americans to create a wholly government-owned bank instead, or at least to auction the Second Bank of the US’s monopoly privileges to the highest bidder.

The charter was bad policy for several technical reasons. First, it gave incorporated state banks better note redemption rights than those accorded to ordinary Americans and thereby created “a bond of union among the banking establishments of the nation, erecting them into an interest separate from that of the people.” Second, it exempted foreign stockholders from taxation but contained a clause that would allow states to tax resident stockholders. The effect of the differential taxation, Jackson believed, would drive most of the stock overseas and thus “make the American people debtors to aliens in nearly the whole amount due to this bank, and send across the Atlantic from two to five millions of specie every year to pay the bank dividends.” Because foreigners could not vote in corporate elections, the Bank would fall under the control of its few remaining citizen stockholders. “It is easy to conceive,” Jackson argued, “that great evils to our country and its institutions” would result “from such a concentration of power in the hands of a few men irresponsible to the people.”

Finally, Jackson believed the Bank of the US was unconstitutional, noting that while there was precedent for a federally chartered bank there was also precedent for not renewing its charter, as in 1811. He then rejected the notion that the Supreme Court was the sole or final arbiter of constitutionality, arguing instead that “the Congress, the Executive and the Court must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution.” He ended with a long litany of reasons why he could not reconcile his oath to uphold the Constitution with the bank’s re-charter bill.