Reflections from the Ah­nish­i­nah­bæójib­way (We, the People)

June 22, 1988 - Farewell Address of President Andrew Jackson

Editor’s Note:
Inaugurated in 1829, Andrew Jackson attempted to root out corruption in the b
ureaucracy by dismissing over 2,000 government employees.  Jackson also paid off the National Debt in 1835 [with Indian money from the sale of the Cherokee Nation’s land] and helped halt land speculation.  We do not agree with what he did to our ancestors—he was a commander in the U.S. Army against the Seminole Nation; and went over the head of the Supreme Court to steal the homeland of the Cherokee and create the Trail of Tears (relocation).  Jackson stated, “the States which had so long been retarded in their improvement by Indian tribes living in their midst are at length relieved from this evil.”  This U.S. President, however, understood his own culture clearly.

Francis Blake, Jr.

... There is, perhaps, no one of the powers conferred on the Federal Government so liable to abuse as the taxing power.  The most productive and convenient sources of revenue were, necessarily given to it, that it might be able to perform the important duties imposed in it; and the taxes which it lays upon commerce being concealed from the real payer in the price of the article, they do not so readily attract the attention of the people as smaller sums demanded from them directly by the tax gatherer.  But the tax imposed on goods enhances by so much the price of the commodity to the consumer, and as many of these duties are imposed on articles of necessity which are daily used by the great body of the people, the money raised by these imposts is drawn from their pockets.  Congress has no right under the Constitution to take money from the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific powers entrusted to the Government; and if they raise more than is necessary for such purposes, it is an abuse of the power of taxation, and unjust and oppressive.  It may indeed happen that the revenue will sometimes exceed the amount anticipated when the taxes were laid.  When, however, this is ascertained, it is easy to reduce them, and in such case it is unquestionably the duty of the Government to reduce them for no circumstances can justify it in assuming a power not given it by the Constitution nor in taking away the money of the people when it is not needed for the legitimate wants  of the Government.

Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find that there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and impose unnecessary burdens upon the people.  Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties ... and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service, and the country has already felt the injurious effects of their combined influence.  They succeeded in obtaining a tariff of duties bearing most oppressively on the agricultural and laboring classes of society and producing a revenue that could not be usefully employed within the range of the powers conferred upon Congress, and in order to fasten upon the people this unjust and unequal system of taxation extravagant schemes of ... were got up in various quarters to squander the money and to purchase support...  But, rely upon it, the design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes beyond the economical wants of the Government is not yet abandoned.

The corporations and wealthy individuals who are engaged in large manufacturing establishments desire a high tariff to increase their gains.  Designing politicians will support it to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters...  Do not allow yourselves ... to be misled on this subject.  The Federal Government can not collect a surplus for such purposes without violating the principles of the Constitution and assuming powers which have not been granted.  It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin.  The surplus revenue will be drawn from the pockets of the people—from the farmer, the mechanic, and the laboring classes of society; but who will receive it when distributed among the States, where it is to be disposed of by leading State politicians, who have friends to favor and political partisans to gratify?  It will certainly not be returned to those who have paid it and who have the most need of it and are honestly entitled to it.

Some of the evils which arise form this system of paper [money and centralized banking] press with peculiar hardship upon the class least able to bear it ... The result of this ill-advised legislation was to concentrate the moneyed power of the [United States], with its boundless means of corruption and its numerous dependents ... as one body, and securing to it ... concert of actions throughout the United States, and enabling it to bring forward upon any occasion its entire and undivided strength to support or defeat any measure of the Government.  In the hands of this formidable power, thus perfectly organized, was also placed unlimited dominion over the amount of the circulating [money], giving it the power to regulate the value of property and the fruits of labor in every quarter of the Union, and to bestow prosperity or bring ruin upon any ... as might best comport with its own interest or policy.

We are not left to conjecture how the moneyed power, thus organized and with such a weapon in its hands, would be likely to use it.  The distress and alarm which pervaded and agitated the whole country when the Bank of the United States waged war upon the people in order to compel them to submit to its demands can not yet be forgotten.  ... If such was its power in time of peace, what would it have been in a season of war? ... No nation but the freemen of the United States could have come out victorious from such a contest yet if you had not conquered, the government would have passed from the hands of the many to the hands of the few, and this organized money power from its secret enclave would have dictated the choice of your highest officers and compelled you to make peace or war, as best suited their own wishes.  The forms of our Government might for a time have remained, but its living spirit would have departed from it.

... You must remember, my fellow citizens, that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.  It behooves you therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government.  The power which the moneyed interest can exercise, when concentrated ... and with our present system of currency, was sufficiently demonstrated in the struggle made by the Bank of the United States. Defeated in the Central Government, the same class of intriguers and politicians will now resort to the States and endeavor to obtain there the same organization which they failed to perpetuate in the Union; and with specious and deceitful plans of public advantages and State interests and State prides they will endeavor to establish in the different States one moneyed institution with overgrown capital an exclusive privileges sufficient to enable it to control the operations of the other banks ... and the money power will be able to embody its whole strength and to move together with undivided force to accomplish any object it may wish to obtain.  You have already had abundant evidence of its power to inflict injury on the agricultural, mechanical, and laboring classes of society, and over those whose engagements in trade or speculation render them depending on bank facilities ...  It is one of the serious evils of our present system of banking that it enabled one class of society—and that by no means a numerous one—by its control over the currency, to act injuriously upon the interests of all the others and to exercise more than its just portion of influence in political affairs. The agricultural, the mechanical, and the laboring classes have little or no share in the direction of the great moneyed corporations, and from their habits and the nature of their pursuits they are incapable of forming extensive combinations to act together with united force ... They have but little patronage to give to the press, and exercise but a small share of influence over it; they have no crowd of dependents about them who hope to grow rich without labor by their countenance and favor, and who are therefore always ready to execute their wishes.  The planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer all know that their success depends upon their own industry and economy, and that they must not expect to become rich by the fruits of their toil.  Yet these classes of society form the great body of the people of the United States ...  But, they are in constant danger of losing their fair influence on the Government, and with difficulty maintain their just rights against the incessant efforts daily made to encroach upon them.  The mischief springs from the power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations which exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining in the different States, and which are employed altogether for their benefit; and unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find that the most important powers of Government have been given or bartered away, and the control over your dearest interests has passed into the hands of these corporations.

The paper-money system and its natural associations—monopoly and exclusive privileges—have already struck their roots too deep in the soil, and it will require all your efforts to check its further growth and to eradicate the evil.  The men who profit by the abuses and desire to perpetuate them will continue to besiege the halls  of legislation in the General Government as well as n the States, and will seek by every artifice to mislead and deceive the public servants.  It is to yourselves that you must look for safety and the means of guarding and perpetuating your free institutions. ... But it will require steady and persevering exertions on your part to rid yourselves of the inequities and mischiefs of the paper system and to check the spirit of monopoly and other abuses which have sprung up with it, and of which it is the main support.  So  many interests are united to resist all reform on this subject that you must not hope the conflict will be a short one nor success easy. ... Enough yet remains to require all your energy and perseverance.  The power however, is in your hands and the remedy must and will be applied if you determine upon it.

Knowing that the path of freedom is continually beset by enemies who often assume the disguise of friends, I have devoted the last hours of my public life to warn you of the dangers. ... It is from within, among yourselves—from cupidity, from corruption from disappointed ambition and inordinate thirst for power—that factions will be formed and liberty endangered.  It is against such designs, whatever disguise the actors may assume, that you have especially to guard yourselves.

My own race is nearly run; advanced age and failing health warn me that before long I must pass beyond the reach of human events ... I bid you a last and affectionate farewell.

[From the book, The Compilation of Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Volume IV.  James D. Richardson, 1897.]

Andrew Jackson

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