On this day in 1835 on this day Richard Lawrence attempted to kill President Andrew Jackson. Jackson survived the attack because both of Lawrence's pistols misfired (probably because the powder was too damp to ignite).

The Schlesinger story of the Jackson Administration focuses on the Bank War; but that was not nearly as important as the political explosions that came during Jackson's second term. No one, who had not been bribed, was in favor of Biddle's bank, any more than people now are in favor of the Federal Reserve. (According to Gallup's last poll on the subject, the IRS is the only Federal agency that has a lower current approval rating that the Fed.)

The Lawrence incident brought out into the open the much more important split that would be Jackson's legacy - the divide among the two tribes of War Hawk spenders. The moral issue of slavery was not the cause of the Civil War; it was, if anything, the camouflage for the rivalry between the people who wanted the U.S. to go West and those who wanted it to go South (to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America). That is the sub-text of Horace Greeley's famous bit of advice that gets completely lost.

If the Bank issue had been truly divisive, Jackson would not have chosen a New Yorker, Martin Van Buren, as his successor; and accused his long-time ally, George Poindexter, of being part of Lawrence's "conspiracy" (sic).

The argument between Richard Mentor Johnson, Van Buren's Vice-President, and Senator Poindexter, over the subject of race is fascinating. Johnson had married his Julia Chinn, his slave mistress, openly.

"Unlike Jefferson, Clay, Poindexter and others, I married my wife under the eyes of God, and apparently He has found no objections."


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