Jackson`s Censure by the Senate

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Andrew Jackson was deeply opposed to the continuation of the Second Bank of the United States, and when legislation rechartering it reached his desk in the summer of 1832, he vetoed it. His subsequent victory in the Election of 1832 convinced him that he had a popular mandate to squash the bank. However, when he moved to take federal deposits away from the Second BOUS, he was opposed by his Secretary of the Treasury William Duane. Unwilling to be thwarted, Jackson removed Duane and replaced him with Roger B. Taney, who did his bidding and shifted federal funds to another Philadelphia bank.

Henry Clay, as leader of the Whigs, asked the Senate in December to censure Jackson for exceeding his lawful powers. Debate over the censure continued into 1834. Clay spoke strongly in the Senate:

And now, Mr. President [of the Senate], what, under all these circumstances, is it our duty to do? Is there a senator who can hesitate to affirm, in the language of the resolution, that the President has assumed a dangerous power over the Treasury of the United States, not granted to him by the Constitution and the laws; and the reasons assigned for the act, by the secretary of the treasury, are insufficient and unsatisfactory?

Clay's arguments swayed the Senate and on March 28, 1834, the Senate voted 26 to 20 to adopt a censure along the lines proposed by Clay.

Jackson was responded promptly with an assertion of the executive power:

Tested by these principles, the resolution of the Senate is wholly unauthorized by the Constitution, and in derogation of its entire spirit. It assumes that a single branch of the legislative department may for the purposes of a public censure, and without any view to legislation or impeachment, take up, consider, and decide upon the official acts of the Executive. But in no part of the Constitution is the President subjected to any such responsibility, and in no part of that instrument is any such power conferred on either branch of the Legislature.

The Senate refused to enter the President's response into the official record. On January 16, 1837, as Jackson's second term was nearing an end, the resolution of censure was rescinded. By that time, Jackson's war against the Second Bank had ended with his complete victory.

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