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Presidential Key Events

 

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James Madison - 09/27/1814: Madison nominates James Monroe as secretary of war…
Madison nominates James Monroe as secretary of war to replace John Armstrong. Monroe will serve as secretary of both war and state until the end of the war. September 27, 1814

James Madison - 10/05/1814: Alexander J. Dallas is appointed secretary of trea…
Alexander J. Dallas is appointed secretary of treasury, replacing the inept George W. Campbell. On October 17, Dallas calls for Congress to establish a national bank to finance the war and to increase taxes. The Senate passes a new bank bill on December 9. October 05, 1814

James Madison - 10/18/1814: The Massachusetts General Court calls a convention…
The Massachusetts General Court calls a convention of New England states, whose livelihood depends largely on international trade, to coordinate regional grievances against the federal government. From December 15 through January 5, delegates from some New England states meet in Hartford, Connecticut, to discuss grievances against the federal government and to provide alternative solutions to talk of secession among New England radicals. October 18, 1814

James Madison - 11/07/1814: Without authorization, Andrew Jackson takes Spanis…
Without authorization, Andrew Jackson takes Spanish-held and British-occupied Pensacola, Florida, in pursuit of Creek warriors. November 07, 1814

James Madison - 12/15/1814: Twenty-two delegates at the Hartford Convention is…
Twenty-two delegates at the Hartford Convention issue a report condemning the federal government for failing to defend New England. The report recommends that states negotiate arrangements with the federal government for their defense, and proposes constitutional amendments to protect the region's increasingly minority status in the Union. Following news of Jackson's victory at New Orleans, the U.S. public condemns the Hartford Convention as anti-American. The Federalist Party suffers as a result. December 15, 1814

James Madison - 12/24/1814: In Europe, the United States and Britain sign the …
In Europe, the United States and Britain sign the Treaty of Ghent. News of the Treaty will reach the United States in February 1815. December 24, 1814

James Madison - 01/07/1815: The House of Representatives passes an amended ban…
The House of Representatives passes an amended bank bill as a compromise between Federalists and anti-bank Republicans. The bill is nevertheless unsatisfactory to Madison and Secretary of the Treasury Dallas. Madison vetoes the bank bill on January 30. January 07, 1815

James Madison - 01/08/1815: Jackson, leading 4,000 militiamen, citizens, and r…
Jackson, leading 4,000 militiamen, citizens, and regular soldiers, wins a resounding victory over 6,000 British forces in the Battle of New Orleans. Many of Jackson's troops are volunteers, among them free blacks and slaves. There are just a dozen American casualties to 2,000 British casualties. Jackson's victory, along with his success against the Creeks, makes him a national hero. January 08, 1815

James Madison - 01/27/1815: Madison signs a bill allowing the President to cal…
Madison signs a bill allowing the President to call up 40,000 state troops. Congress has limited the bill, however, by authorizing troops to serve only in their home states with the consent of state governors. January 27, 1815

James Madison - 02/13/1815: News arrives of the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent …
News arrives of the December 1814 Treaty of Ghent that ends the War of 1812. On February 15, Congress appropriates $500,000 for the reconstruction of federal buildings. The Senate ratifies the Treaty of Ghent on February 16. February 13, 1815 - December 13, 1901

James Madison - 05/10/1815: With Madison having secured a declaration of war o…
With Madison having secured a declaration of war on Algiers, Captain Stephen Decatur leads a flotilla from New York against the Mediterranean pirates, who attack American ships during the War of 1812. Algiers surrenders on June 30. May 10, 1815

James Madison - 06/1815: Gallatin negotiates a commercial convention with B…
Gallatin negotiates a commercial convention with Britain, further signifying the potential for the United States to play an important role in international trade and industrialization. June 1815

James Madison - 12/1815: Madison presents his seventh annual message to Con…
Madison presents his seventh annual message to Congress, advocating military streamlining, a new national bank, protective tariffs to promote industry, and internal improvements. December 1815

James Madison - 04/10/1816: Madison signs a bill re-chartering a new national …
Madison signs a bill re-chartering a new national bank in Philadelphia. The charter is set for a twenty-one year term. April 10, 1816

James Madison - 04/19/1816: Madison signs a bill admitting Indiana to statehoo…
Madison signs a bill admitting Indiana to statehood. April 19, 1816

James Madison - 11/1816: Secretary of State James Monroe is elected Preside…
Secretary of State James Monroe is elected President, easily defeating Federalist Rufus King of New York. Monroe receives 183 electoral votes to King's 34. November 1816 - December 1901

James Madison - 12/03/1816: Madison delivers his eighth annual address to Cong…
Madison delivers his eighth annual address to Congress, calling for vigilance in foreign affairs, internal improvements, and the restructuring of the judiciary and executive offices. December 03, 1816

James Madison - 03/03/1817: Madison vetoes Henry Clay’s “Bonus Bill” for inter…
Madison vetoes Henry Clay's “Bonus Bill” for internal improvements. March 03, 1817

James Madison - 03/04/1817: Republican-Democrat James Monroe is inaugurated as…
Republican-Democrat James Monroe is inaugurated as the fifth President of the United States. March 04, 1817

James Monroe - 03/04/1817: President James Monroe is sworn in as the fifth Pr…
President James Monroe is sworn in as the fifth President of the United States and delivers his first inaugural address. March 04, 1817

James Monroe - 04/28/1817: Britain’s minister to the United States, Charles B…
Britain's minister to the United States, Charles Bagot, agrees to the conditions of the Rush-Bagot Agreement. Following negotiations, acting Secretary of State Richard Rush sends the document to Britain in August 1816. This is the final version of a treaty that Monroe, while secretary of state under Madison, negotiated with British foreign minister Robert Stewart Castlereagh. The agreement limits naval capacity on the Great Lakes; in doing so, it alleviates possible tension between the two nations following the War of 1812. Each country is held to one ship on Lakes Champlain and Ontario, and two ships on all the other lakes. Limits are also placed on ship tonnage and armaments. April 28, 1817

James Monroe - 06/1817: Monroe embarks on a lengthy, sixteen-week tour of …
Monroe embarks on a lengthy, sixteen-week tour of New England. In the absence of his major cabinet appointees, Monroe uses the tour to foster a sense of national unity through local political contact, public appearances, and private meetings with opposing Federalists. The tour gives birth to the designation of Monroe's administration as the “Era of Good Feelings.” June 1817 - December 1901

James Monroe - 12/1817: Monroe enunciates a policy of neutrality towards t…
Monroe enunciates a policy of neutrality towards the Latin American colonies seeking independence. He also advocates a controversial fact-finding mission, the Aguirre Mission, to Buenos Aires that could be construed as recognition for the colony's sovereignty. December 1817

James Monroe - 12/10/1817: Mississippi becomes the twentieth state in the Uni…
Mississippi becomes the twentieth state in the Union. December 10, 1817

James Monroe - 12/26/1817: Secretary of War John C. Calhoun orders General An…
Secretary of War John C. Calhoun orders General Andrew Jackson to quell Seminole Indian uprisings in the Floridas and southern Georgia; Jackson also receives a private letter from Monroe urging such action. In March 1818, Jackson pursues the Seminoles into Spanish Florida -- where he suspects they are receiving assistance -- takes the fort of St. Marks on March 6, forces the surrender of Fort Carlos de Barrancas, and executes, among others, a Scot Indian trader and a British lieutenant. After capturing the Spanish capital in May, Jackson returns to Tennessee. December 26, 1817

James Monroe - 06/18/1818: Monroe learns of Jackson’s exploits and, along wit…
Monroe learns of Jackson's exploits and, along with his cabinet (except John Quincy Adams), disapproves of Jackson's actions. Following protests from the ministers of Britain, Spain, and France, Monroe concedes that Jackson's behavior in Pensacola amounted to acts of war. The President repudiates Jackson and orders that Pensacola be handed back to Spain. Meanwhile, Adams, in a July letter, supports Jackson's tactics, blaming Spain for its inability to control the Indians. Despite his concession, Monroe recognizes that Jackson's activities in the Floridas provide the United States with a favorable strategic position for negotiations with Spain. June 18, 1818

James Monroe - 10/20/1818: British and American diplomats meet at the Anglo-A…
British and American diplomats meet at the Anglo-American Convention and conclude a treaty resolving some, but not all, of the outstanding issues from the War of 1812. The nations agree on a northern border of the Louisiana Purchase, fixed at the 49th parallel, from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains. Britain also acknowledges U.S. fishing rights off Newfoundland and provides compensation for slaves who fled to British lines. The Rush-Bagot Agreement is formally signed. October 20, 1818

James Monroe - 12/03/1818: Illinois is admitted as the twenty-first state of …
Illinois is admitted as the twenty-first state of the Union. December 03, 1818

James Monroe - 12/14/1818: Alabama becomes the twenty-second state of the Uni…
Alabama becomes the twenty-second state of the Union. December 14, 1818

James Monroe - 01/1819: The Panic of 1819 begins to take shape. A sharp de…
The Panic of 1819 begins to take shape. A sharp decline in real estate values and a severe credit contraction (an inability to secure bank loans) inflates the currency and causes imports and prices to fall. In March, the price of cotton collapses in the English market. The conservative policies of the Second Bank of the United States, founded in 1816, accelerates the crisis, which ends around 1823. January 1819

James Monroe - 02/15/1819: Debates over Missouri’s admission to the Union are…
Debates over Missouri's admission to the Union are triggered in February by New York Republican congressman James Tallmadge, Jr. Tallmadge introduces an amendment to the Missouri statehood bill prohibiting further introduction of slavery in Missouri, despite the fact that 2,000 slaves already reside in the territory. He also proposes a gradual emancipation in the Louisiana territory north of 36 degrees, 30'. Currently, the United States has eleven slave and eleven free states. Missouri's population, meanwhile, surpasses 60,000, the minimum for a state constitution. February 15, 1819

James Monroe - 02/22/1819: The Transcontinental Treaty, also known as the Ada…
The Transcontinental Treaty, also known as the Adams-Onis treaty, is resolved in February after the conclusion of negotiations dating back to July 1818. The treaty transfers the Floridas from Spain to the United States for $5 million, and advances the U.S. border across Mexico to the Pacific Ocean. Spain also relinquishes claims to the Oregon Territory. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams orchestrates the proceedings with the Spanish minister to Washington, Luis de Onis. February 22, 1819

James Monroe - 03/06/1819: Under Chief Justice John Marshall, the United Stat…
Under Chief Justice John Marshall, the United States Supreme Court rules against the state of Maryland in McCulloch v. Maryland. In a unanimous decision, the Court finds that states cannot tax federal agencies. The ruling establishes a precedent of broad federal power, marking a blow to states' rights. March 06, 1819

James Monroe - 03/03/1820: After months of fierce debate, Congress agrees to …
After months of fierce debate, Congress agrees to the first Missouri Compromise, addressing congressional jurisdiction over the conditions of statehood. After Maine petitions Congress for statehood, the balance of free and slave states in Senate will be maintained with a free Maine and a slave Missouri. The Compromise also addresses all land in the Louisiana Purchase territory and establishes that land north of the 36 degree, 30' line—with the exception of Missouri—will be free, while territory below the line will be slave. In February 1821, Congress admits Maine and Missouri as states, formalizing the Missouri Compromise. Henry Clay, “the Great Pacificator,” is by and large the architect of the Compromise. March 03, 1820

James Monroe - Monroe Signs Missouri Compromise

On March 6, 1820, President James Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise. The Compromise was made up of three parts: it admitted Maine, part of northern Massachusetts, as a free state; it admitted Missouri as a slave state; and it henceforth restricted slavery to territories south of the latitude 36º30' north.

The controversy began in Congress in early 1819 when Missouri applied for admission to the Union. Debates raged between those who wanted to limit slavery in Missouri in exchange for its admission as a state and those who wanted Missouri admitted as a state without preconditions. The volatile issue of slavery, which had been somewhat balanced by an equal split between slave and free states, flared back into public debate. Those who supported slavery believed that states should decide on their own whether to allow slavery. Those who opposed slavery wanted to stop its spread throughout the country. Speaker of the House Henry Clay finally engineered a compromise that balanced the slave state of Missouri with the free state of Maine, and limited the future expansion of slavery into the territories of the United States.

President Monroe did not speak publicly about the crisis or the Compromise, but he worked behind the scenes to secure the result he wanted. He did not think it was constitutional for Congress to impose restrictions on admitting the state of Missouri that it had not imposed on other states, and he threatened to veto any bill that contained such restrictions. Although Monroe did not support limiting slavery, he pragmatically supported the Missouri Compromise because he valued the integrity of the Union and did not want it to come apart.

Monroe privately corresponded with Senator James Barbour of Virginia, encouraging him to promote the Compromise legislation, which Barbour did. Monroe also feared that northern Federalists were promoting restrictions to Missouri's admittance into the Union because they wanted to split the Jefferson Republicans and make their party a legitimate opposition party again. It was this fear of a resurgent Federalist Party that Monroe and Barbour used to quiet the hard-core Jeffersonian Republicans of Virginia, who wanted no limits on slavery whatsoever. Virginia Republicans even threatened to withhold their state's nomination of Monroe for a second term as President if he supported the Compromise. Barbour's lobbying and evocation of the alleged Federalist threat convinced them to support Monroe.

Although President Monroe was not openly involved in the congressional debates, he supported the Compromise and worked quietly for its passage. Monroe's political skills helped solve the Missouri Crisis and preserve his own candidacy in the 1820 presidential election.

March 06, 1820

James Monroe - 03/15/1820: Maine is admitted as the twenty-third state of the…
Maine is admitted as the twenty-third state of the Union. March 15, 1820

James Monroe - 12/06/1820: As expected, Monroe secures reelection as Presiden…
As expected, Monroe secures reelection as President of the United States, receiving 231 electoral votes to John Quincy Adams's 1. Vice President Tompkins will also serve a second term. December 06, 1820

James Monroe - 03/02/1821: Monroe signs the Military Establishment Act, forwa…
Monroe signs the Military Establishment Act, forwarded by Secretary of War Calhoun, to reduce the Army's manpower by 40 percent to 6,126 men. The move reflects a shift in national priorities toward commerce and negotiation, and away from intimidation, as the primary tool of foreign policy. March 02, 1821

James Monroe - 03/05/1821: Monroe begins his second presidential te…
Monroe begins his second presidential term. March 05, 1821

James Monroe - 08/10/1821: Missouri is admitted as the twenty-fourth state of…
Missouri is admitted as the twenty-fourth state of the Union. August 10, 1821

James Monroe - 08/20/1823: In a letter to Richard Rush, British foreign secre…
In a letter to Richard Rush, British foreign secretary George Canning discreetly contemplates recognition of what is referred to as the “no-transfer” principle advocated by the United States. This proposal requires European powers to abstain from exchanging colonies or acquiring new possessions from Spain. August 20, 1823

James Monroe - 12/02/1823: In his annual address to Congress, Monroe formally…
In his annual address to Congress, Monroe formally articulates the foreign policy position that becomes known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” It meets with widespread approval and political consent. Monroe's repudiation of further American hemispheric colonization speaks to the claims of Britain and Russia, as well as Spain. The enunciation of American exclusivity and European non-interference is a seminal event in United States foreign policy. December 02, 1823

James Monroe - Monroe Doctrine Announced

On December 2, 1823, President James Monroe formally articulated a foreign policy position that became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Although it only occupied three paragraphs in the President's annual address to Congress, the Monroe Doctrine was one of the most influential foreign policy statements made by an American President and it remained a touchstone of American foreign policy into the twentieth century.

During much of Monroe's administration, Spanish colonies in Latin America had broken free from the colonial power. When rumors began to circulate that Spain was going to try to reclaim her colonies with the help of her allies, the United States grew alarmed. By November 1823, President Monroe had decided that the United States needed to issue a unilateral declaration in response to the prospect of the Spanish monarchy attempting to recover its colonial empire in the Americas. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams was primarily responsible for the ideas and content concerning foreign policy in Monroe's annual address.

The Monroe Doctrine contained several important, and previously unarticulated, ideas. Monroe first reiterated the traditional U.S. policy of neutrality with regard to European wars and conflicts. He then made it clear that the Americas were not open to recolonization nor were they to be the site of future European colonization. Finally he argued that the Western Hemisphere was a distinct political sphere from that on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. The New World was a realm of republicanism, the Old World a realm of monarchy. Political affinities meant that the Americas had a separate and distinct set of interests from Europe. The European powers should not attempt to impose their form of government in the Americas, and the United States would, in turn, not involve itself in European politics. Furthermore, Monroe's message argued, the European powers should not attempt to turn American republics to serve their interests. These were known, respectively, as the principles of “non-interference” and “non-extension” - Europe should not interfere in American government (and vice versa), nor should it attempt to extend its alliances and “balance of power” politics into the Americas.

The principles of the Monroe Doctrine met with a positive reception in Congress and with the general population. While popular at the time, the Monroe Doctrine acquired greater significance with the passage of time. Presidents invoked the Monroe Doctrine in order to justify a number of actions, whether to limit the influence of a European power in Latin America, or to attempt to affect political outcomes within the Latin American states themselves. This has been true of nineteenth-century Presidents, such as James Polk, and twentieth-century Presidents, notably Theodore Roosevelt. Although conceived as a response to a contemporary crisis, the Monroe Doctrine, reinterpreted by subsequent generations, proved to be a durable statement of the ideology and principles underlying American foreign policy.

To read the full text of President Monroe's Seventh Annual Message to Congress, click here.

December 02, 1823

James Monroe - 01/1824: Cherokee chiefs arrive in Washington, D.C., to obj…
Cherokee chiefs arrive in Washington, D.C., to object to the government's removal policies and plead for their sovereign right to stay in Georgia. Originally siding with the Cherokee, Monroe will later reverse his stance on the issue. January 1824

James Monroe - 04/30/1824: Monroe signs the General Survey Bill, departing fr…
Monroe signs the General Survey Bill, departing from his opposition to congressionally sponsored internal improvements. The United States Army Corps of Engineers prepare to produce surveys, plans, and estimates to improve navigation. Monroe subsequently purchases 1,500 shares of stock in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Co. for $300,000. April 30, 1824

James Monroe - 05/22/1824: Monroe signs the Tariff of 1824 into law, implemen…
Monroe signs the Tariff of 1824 into law, implementing protectionist measures in support of local manufactures and goods. Complaints arise in the South with cotton-growers fearful of British retaliation for the increase in price. Northern manufacturers are pleased with the law. May 22, 1824

James Monroe - 08/15/1824: Following Congress’s invitation, the Marquis de La…
Following Congress's invitation, the Marquis de Lafayette, the inspirational liberal French philosopher, makes a lengthy visit to the United States. The visit commands national attention in the press and host cities for months. August 15, 1824

James Monroe - 11/1824: At sixty-seven, Monroe decides not to seek re-elec…
At sixty-seven, Monroe decides not to seek re-election in the presidential race -- a contest that is far more contentious than the previous one. Henry Clay, William Crawford, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and John C. Calhoun initially vie for nominations. November 1824

James Monroe - 01/1825: Unable to alter the demands of the Georgia congres…
Unable to alter the demands of the Georgia congressional delegation, Monroe concedes that the only way to mitigate Indian concerns is through their removal west of the Mississippi. This position conflicts with his earlier recognition of Cherokee claims. January 1825

John Quincy Adams - 02/09/1825: John Quincy Adams Elected
The House of Representatives elects John Quincy Adams President of the United States. The election of 1824 produces an outcome in which none of the four candidates achieve a majority of electoral endorsements. Andrew Jackson receives 99, John Quincy Adams 84, William Crawford 41, and Henry Clay 37. Because no one obtains the required constitutional majority, the election is remanded to the House of Representatives. In what Jackson proponents denounce as the “corrupt bargain,” Speaker Henry Clay resolves to throw his votes behind Adams, presumably, to secure the helm of the State Department. As President, Adams nominates Clay to be secretary of state. Jackson is furious, abdicates his Senate seat, and vows to run again in 1828. February 09, 1825

John Quincy Adams - John Quincy Adams Elected President

On February 9, 1825, the House of Representative elected John Quincy Adams as the sixth President of the United States after the electoral college failed to produce a winner. The 1824 election was one of only three presidential elections in which that scenario occurred (1800, 1824, and 1876). With no candidate having an outright majority, the Twelfth Amendment of the Constitution placed the election in the hands of the House of Representatives, which then decided from among the top three candidates. In 1825, the House elected John Quincy Adams, but the resulting controversy haunted him for the entirety of his term and was a factor in his defeat for reelection in 1828.

After James Monroe's reelection in 1820, the Federalists had collapsed as a national opposition party, and nearly every national political figure was a member of the same party-the Jeffersonian Republicans. By the 1824 election, no front runner had emerged to succeed Monroe. Five candidates were in the running: Secretary of State John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford of Georgia, Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, and General Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Without a national base of support, Calhoun unofficially withdrew himself from contention for the presidency, and his supporters campaigned for him to become vice president.

The results of the 1824 election were confusing and indecisive. Jackson won 99 electoral votes, Adams 84, Crawford 41, and Clay 37. Jackson had received more than 150,000 popular votes, and nearly 40,000 more than Adams. Yet, in 1824, the overall popular vote had no standing. In some states, the state legislatures still chose the electors; many other states had only begun to have their electors chosen by general election. With no candidate having an outright majority of the electoral votes, the House was to choose between the top three vote-getters, and Clay's supporters generally threw their votes to Adams. On February 9, 1825, John Quincy Adams received 13 votes, Jackson 7, and Crawford 4. Adams thus became the sixth President of the United States.

Jackson and his supporters were furious at both Clay and Adams. When Adams chose Clay as secretary of state, Jackson's partisans alleged that they had made a “corrupt bargain.” Jackson's supporters used this slogan to mobilize for the 1828 election, and Jackson defeated Adams in that election four years later.

The 1824 election was only the second time a presidential election had been thrown into the House of Representatives. With the emergence of a two-party system during the Jackson presidency, such electoral logjams became rare. Only twice since 1824 - in 1876 and 2000 - has the presidential election failed to produce an immediate winner.

February 09, 1825

James Monroe - 03/03/1825: In his last day in office, Monroe vetoes the Cumbe…
In his last day in office, Monroe vetoes the Cumberland Road bill, which would extend construction of the interstate artery to Zanesville, Ohio. Monroe is concerned about the bill's constitutionality. Construction of the first federally financed interstate road began under Jefferson in 1811 and will continue under Adams's administration. March 03, 1825

John Quincy Adams - 03/04/1825: Adams Inaugurated
John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States and son of John Adams, the second President, makes his inaugural address. An intellectual, Adams will fail to assemble public support during his one term in office, often denounced as an aristocrat. In this address, Adams sets forth his policies bluntly, alienating many in Congress. A central feature of the Adams administration will be the opening and expansion of trade relationships with South America and the Caribbean colonies, which are formalized between the United States and several European powers in the General Reciprocity Act of 1824. March 04, 1825

James Monroe - 03/04/1825: John Quincy Adams is sworn in as the sixth preside…
John Quincy Adams is sworn in as the sixth president of the United States. March 04, 1825

John Quincy Adams - 07/07/1825: Captain Porter Court-martialed
Captain David Porter, a perennial thorn in the side of the United States Navy, is court-martialed for overstepping his powers when he chooses to land 200 troops at Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in November 1824. Porter demands an apology from the port's captain for the detention of two errant U.S. officers. Despite the court martial, the American public proves largely sympathetic to Porter's insubordination. The court martial fails to reach a decision. July 07, 1825

John Quincy Adams - 10/1825: Tennessee Legislature Nominates Jackson
The Tennessee legislature nominates Andrew Jackson their presidential challenger for the 1828 election. October 1825

John Quincy Adams - 10/26/1825: Erie Canal Completed
The first passage on the 363 mile-long Erie Canal is completed from Lake Erie to New York City, linking the Atlantic and trans-Atlantic marketplaces with growing agricultural production in the Northwest states. Construction of the canal began in 1817. During his presidential term, Adams strongly supports national planning of and the use of national funds for an improved transportation infrastructure. October 26, 1825

John Quincy Adams - 05/1826: Military Training Manuals Created
Military standardization and integration of Union and state militias is a foremost concern during the Adams administration. In response to a proposal by the secretary of war to revamp military organization and seniority systems, a joint House and Senate resolution calls for the production and dispersal of training manuals. May 1826

John Quincy Adams - 07/04/1826: Jefferson and Adams Die
Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, founding fathers and former Presidents, both die. July 04, 1826

John Quincy Adams - 11/1826: Resolution of War Damages
Under the mediation of Czar Nicholas I, President Adams finalizes a settlement with the British over restitution for damages incurred during the War of 1812, left unresolved by the Treaty of Ghent. November 1826

John Quincy Adams - 03/1827: Ports Closed to British
Adams proclaims all American ports closed to trade with British colonies, suspending disagreements from an era of protracted contention with the British over tariffs, navigation and duties. Adams's declaration embodies his response to a rising Continental cartel of exclusive trading relationships. March 1827

John Quincy Adams - 12/1827: MFN Trade System
Additional European states are incorporated into the MFN trade system, the pre-conditions of commercial growth being ëneutral rights,' which began in April 1826. December 1827

John Quincy Adams - 01/1828: Proposed Sale of U.S. Bank Stock
Nicholas Biddle of the Bank of the United States implements the sale of government securities to curtail the outward flow of specie. This policy results in propositions by Congress for the public sale of United States Bank stock. January 1828

John Quincy Adams - 01/1828: Mexican Boundary Settlement
Joel Poinsett accedes to a Mexican boundary settlement on behalf of the United States. This concludes a slew of unsuccessful efforts by Adams to negotiate more favorable borders than the existing Sabine River. January 1828

John Quincy Adams - 02/1828: Nicaraguan Canal is Proposed
Antonio José Caóaz, Guatemalan minister to the United States, proposes the construction of a canal adjoining the Pacific and Atlantic through Nicaragua. The United States is receptive, spearheading a flurry of American and international bids for surveying, building, and operation contracts. Although local instability derails the experiment, the effort is an important demonstration of the supremacy of the United States's influence in Central America. February 1828

John Quincy Adams - 05/11/1828: Tariff of Abominations
Proposed by South Carolinian and Vice President John Calhoun in an attempt to bolster support for Andrew Jackson's bid for President, Congress passes a new tariff bill. The plan calls for incredibly high tariffs on raw materials to accommodate Western interests and on British woolens to appease New England interests. Calhoun believed Jackson supporters in the Northeast would back the bill while Jackson men in the South and Southwest, generally opposed to protectionism, would oppose it; he expects the bill to fail. The Tariff angers many, including the Virginia state legislature, which terms the law the “Tariff of Abominations.” The bill's passage effectively ends Adams's hopes for reelection and increases support for Jackson who appears as a free-trade advocate to the South and a protectionist to the North. Calhoun, meanwhile, anonymously pens the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, which advocates a state's right to nullify federal laws which it opposes and deems unconstitutional. May 11, 1828

John Quincy Adams - 11/1828: Jackson Wins Presidential Election
Andrew Jackson, running on the Democratic ticket, ends Adams's bid for reelection. The Tennessee native wins the election with 56 percent of the popular vote and 178 electoral votes to Adams's 83. November 1828

Andrew Jackson - 03/04/1829: Military hero and self-made man Andrew Jackson is …
Military hero and self-made man Andrew Jackson is sworn in as the seventh President of the United States. In his inaugural speech, Jackson articulates the principle of federal office rotation, ushering in the “spoils system” for loyal supporters of presidential candidates. Additionally, Jackson declares that government officials should not be allowed to serve inefficiently for excessive and indeterminate amounts of time; although his words are cause for concern, Jackson will replace only 9 percent of appointed federal officials during his first year in office. Meanwhile, his address is vague on issues such as the Second Bank of the United States, internal improvements, and tariffs. March 04, 1829

John Quincy Adams - 03/04/1829: Jackson Inaugurated
Andrew Jackson is sworn in as the seventh President of the United States. March 04, 1829

Andrew Jackson - Andrew Jackson Inaugurated

On March 4, 1829, Andrew Jackson took the oath of office and became the seventh President of the United States. Jackson's inauguration has become a part of American political folklore because thousand of people participated in the ceremonies. Jackson's supporters reveled in the image of an executive mansion, and by extension a government, open to all. His critics cited the chaos of the day as an example of the will of the people run amok. The lasting images of the inauguration have made it a staple in histories of the American presidency as well histories of Andrew Jackson and his times.

Jackson's inaugural was the first one to take place on the east portico of the Capitol building in Washington. (Presidential inaugurations were moved to the west portico in 1981.) This site was selected in order to accommodate the thousands of people who had journeyed to Washington, D.C., to witness the inauguration. Public adulation greeted Jackson before the ceremony began, and thousands thronged around him when he left his hotel to walk to the Capitol. Jackson played the part of a democratic hero, as he wore a suit of plain black and no hat. His tall figure and gray hair made him easily visible to the crowds. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people witnessed Jackson deliver his inaugural address and take the oath of office. Before and after the ceremony, Jackson bowed to the people, a symbolic gesture that was the exact opposite of a monarchy, where the people bow to the king or queen.

Jackson delivered his address before receiving the oath of office, as was the practice of the time. His inaugural address was brief, lasting only about ten minutes. In the address, he reaffirmed many of the promises he and his supporters had made during the campaign. He would work against corruption and for reform. He promised to end the national debt and keep the size of the government small. There was little new in the address, and as Jackson did not speak loudly, not many in the crowd heard it. After the address, when Chief Justice John Marshall administered the oath of office to Jackson, the whole crowd cheered wildly.

The bulk of the crowd walked with the new President down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The executive mansion had traditionally been kept open for the public to call on the President during inauguration day, but the sheer numbers on the day of Jackson's inauguration surpassed anything seen before. No one was prepared for it, and people grew impatient as they waited in line to meet Jackson. The lower floor of the White House filled to capacity, and then people began climbing over carpets and furniture in order to get even a glimpse of the new President. Many in the crowd swarmed on waiters when they brought out drinks and ice cream, and the rush to be served resulted in thousands of dollars of broken china. Washington elites looked on the entire episode as evidence of a new era in American politics, and not necessarily a change for the better. The press of people overwhelmed even Jackson himself, and he escaped the mansion in the late afternoon to return to his hotel.

To read Andrew Jackson's inaugural address, click here.

March 04, 1829

Andrew Jackson - 04/13/1830: Following his anonymous printing of the …
Following his anonymous printing of the South Carolina Exposition and Protest in 1828, Vice President John C. Calhoun suggests that his state of South Carolina annul the federally imposed protective cotton tariff. Jackson threatens to deploy federal troops to occupy the state in the event of nullification. On April 13, at the Jefferson Day Dinner in Washington, D.C., Jackson denounces Calhoun and his theory of nullification, declaring, “Our Union—it must be preserved!” Calhoun responds, “The Union, next to our liberty most dear!” The following month, Jackson will receive confirmation that in 1818, Calhoun supported a measure to discipline Jackson for his military involvement in Florida. This discovery generates terse correspondence between the two. April 13, 1830

Andrew Jackson - 05/26/1830: Congress passes the Indian Removal Act, sanctionin…
Congress passes the Indian Removal Act, sanctioning the forcible relocation of Creek, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Seminole tribes to land allotments west of the Mississippi river. Ninety-four removal treaties follow the bill's enactment. From 1835 to 1838, Cherokee and Creek are forcibly removed from the Southeast onto reservations. Nearly one quarter die along what became known as the “Trail of Tears.” May 26, 1830

Andrew Jackson - 05/27/1830: Jackson vetoes the Maysville Road bill, which woul…
Jackson vetoes the Maysville Road bill, which would have sanctioned the federal government's purchase of stock for the creation of a road entirely within Kentucky, the home state of longtime foe Henry Clay. Jackson regards the project as a local matter and thinks its funding should come from local sources. Jackson is not entirely opposed to the federal financing of such projects, supporting the allocation of federal monies for the National Road. Nevertheless, his veto of the Maysville Road bill indicates a shift in how the federal government intends to pay for internal improvements. Meanwhile, opponents interpret the move as an abuse of power. May 27, 1830

Andrew Jackson - Jackson Signs Indian Removal Act

On May 28, 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the President additional powers in speeding the removal of American Indian communities in the eastern United States to territories west of the Mississippi River. The Indian Removal Act set the stage for the forced removals of the Cherokees, Creeks, and other southern Native American nations that took place during the 1830s.

President Jackson's annual message of December 1829 contained extensive remarks on the present and future state of American Indians in the United States. His message contained many observations, assessments, and prejudices about Native Americans that had been widely held by American policy makers since Thomas Jefferson's presidency. Jackson observed that as white settlement in the east expanded, the range for Native American hunters diminished, and that this would gradually lead to their extinction. For their own good, American Indians needed to be resettled on vacant lands west of the Mississippi River, the President argued.

In Congress, debates on a bill that would authorize the removals that Jackson proposed began in late February 1830. The debates in both the Senate and the House were quite contentious. Those opposed to Jackson's plans had many reasons for concern. They felt for the Native American situation, and many pleaded eloquently for the inviolable nature of the Native American nations' sovereignty. They also did not want to alter the established practices of Native American treaty-making, and many did not like Jackson himself. Generally, those opposed to the bill constituted the emerging anti-Jackson party. Despite the debate, the Indian Removal Bill passed the Senate at the end of April and passed the House at the end of May.

Officially, the Indian Removal Act did not directly remove any Native American communities; it simply provided for a government apparatus that made it much easier to do so. The act allowed the President to exchange eastern Native American lands for unsettled western lands and grant the Native American nations involved full title to this new land. Officially, such exchanges would have take place through voluntary treaties with the Native Americans themselves. To expedite matters, the federal government would pay all the costs involved; it would reimburse the Native Americans for any structures they had built on their lands, and subsidize the new Native American settlements in the West.

This Indian Removal Act was Jackson's creature. He worked behind the scenes to get his friends and allies appointed to the proper Congressional committees, in order to produce a bill congruent with his desires. The new law now fully committed the United States government to a policy of Native American removal, a policy that Jackson and his allies would bring to life in the latter years of his presidency.

May 28, 1830

Andrew Jackson - 04/1831: Jackson reshuffles his cabinet following the divis…
Jackson reshuffles his cabinet following the divisive and ongoing “Peggy Eaton Affair.” The woman's first husband supposedly committed suicide after discovering her dalliance with Tennessee senator John Eaton, whom Jackson later names secretary of war. Members of Jackson's inner circle and their wives feud over accusations about the woman's alleged behavior. Jackson supports the Eatons and is outraged by the charges. April 1831

Andrew Jackson - 07/04/1831: The French government agrees to a treaty settling …
The French government agrees to a treaty settling spoliation claims by the United States dating back to the Napoleonic Wars. France agrees to pay $5 million but initially declines to make the payment. When U.S. representatives warn the French of American naval superiority, monies flow from French to U.S. coffers, beginning in 1836. July 04, 1831

Andrew Jackson - 07/10/1832: Jackson vetoes a bill that would have extended the…
Jackson vetoes a bill that would have extended the life of the Second Bank of the United States. Henry Clay, running against Jackson in the presidential election, proposes the bill to bring the issue of the Bank to the forefront in the election. Jackson's opposition to the Bank actually garners him additional popular support. July 10, 1832

Andrew Jackson - Jackson Vetoes Bank Bill

On July 10, 1832, President Andrew Jackson vetoed a bill that would have renewed the corporate charter for the Second Bank of the United States. It was one of the most definitive acts of his presidency.

The Second Bank of the United States was created in the aftermath of the War of 1812 and had been controversial throughout its life. Many people blamed the Bank for the Panic of 1819, and Westerners and Southerners felt that the Bank in general, and its lending policies in particular, favored Northern interests over their own. Although most bankers believed that the Bank of the United States had helped stabilize the national money supply and thus the overall banking and commercial environment during the 1820s, the Bank still had vociferous opponents, President Jackson foremost among them.

At the end of 1831, Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, supporters of the Bank, convinced the Bank's president, Nicholas Biddle, to submit an early petition for the renewal of the Bank's charter to Congress. (The Bank of the United States was chartered through 1836.) They calculated that Jackson would not dare issue a veto on the eve of the election; if he did, they would make an issue of it in the 1832 campaign.

The petition to recharter the Bank became an instant source of controversy in Congress. Although Jackson himself despised the Bank of the United States and had been an outspoken opponent since before he became President, many Jacksonians, especially from Eastern and Midwest states, supported the Bank. The recharter bill passed both houses of Congress. Although the bulk of Jackson's cabinet favored the recharter, Jackson vetoed the bill a week after Congress passed it.

Jackson explained his veto in a lengthy message, one of the most important state papers of his presidency. Attorney General Roger Taney and adviser Amos Kendall composed the bulk of the message, which emphasized a variety of reasons for the veto-some political, some ideological, some constitutional. Jackson's message labeled the Bank elitist and anti-republican. It also argued extensively that the Bank was unconstitutional and that it was neither “necessary” nor “proper” for the federal government to authorize and permit the existence of an institution so big and so powerful that only directly benefited a privileged few. Jackson thus challenged the rulings of the Supreme Court of the United States, which had held consistently that the Bank was constitutional.

Jackson's Bank veto was significant, since it firmly inserted the President into the legislative process. Jackson vetoed the Bank bill not only for constitutional reasons, but also for political reasons. Previous Presidents had used the veto sparingly, only when they felt a law was unconstitutional. Jackson did not acquiesce in the Supreme Court's ruling that the Bank was constitutional; he challenged it head on. He also pointed to many non-constitutional issues in his message, which was new. Jackson's rhetoric of celebrating the role of the small farmer, the working man, and the middling artisan was also significant, since it has come to define Jacksonian Democracy for many historians. It was also a source of Jackson's broad-based appeal, which secured his reelection later in 1832.

To read the full text of Jackson's veto message, click here.

July 10, 1832

Andrew Jackson - 11/1832: Running on the Democratic ticket, Jackson wins ree…
Running on the Democratic ticket, Jackson wins reelection to the presidency, soundly defeating Henry Clay and William Wirt. Jackson scores an impressive victory, amassing 219 electoral votes to Clay's 49. The election marks the entrance of third parties onto the national scene, with Wirt running on the Anti-Masonic ticket. It also features the use of national nominating committees. November 1832

Andrew Jackson - 11/24/1832: A South Carolina state convention adopts the Ordin…
A South Carolina state convention adopts the Ordinance of Nullification, an decree nullifying congressional acts involving duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities. Calhoun resigns as vice president and immediately takes his elected position as senator. No other states join South Carolina in this action. November 24, 1832

Andrew Jackson - 12/10/1832: Jackson issues the Nullification Proclamation, rea…
Jackson issues the Nullification Proclamation, reaffirming his belief that states and municipalities are forbidden from nullifying federal laws. December 10, 1832

Andrew Jackson - Jackson Issues Nullification Proclamation

On December 10, 1832, President Andrew Jackson issued the Nullification Proclamation, which stated that states and municipalities are forbidden from nullifying federal laws. He also threatened to enforce the proclamation with the use of federal arms. Although congressional compromise soon defused the situation, Jackson's proclamation made it clear that he believed the federal government was the supreme power in the United States and he was willing to use the military to ensure its supremacy.

The debate over the issue of nullification actually began before Andrew Jackson took office. The passage of highly protectionist Tariff of 1828 upset many South Carolinians. They felt that tariffs on foreign manufactured goods, designed to protect the United States' infant manufacturing sector, hurt them disproportionately, since they sold their cotton on the world market and could more profitably buy manufactured goods from abroad. Since only a small number of states in the lower South shared the South Carolina viewpoint, there was little prospect of repealing the offending tariff.

Believing the tariff to be unconstitutional, South Carolinians articulated a route by which they themselves could declare a law unconstitutional. The view was put forward in an essay entitled, “An Exposition and Protest,” which was written by John C. Calhoun, but published anonymously. The essay argued that since the federal Constitution was a compact between the states, the states had the ability to declare laws unconstitutional. If a state did this, Calhoun argued, then the proper course of action was for the federal government to reconsider the law. Under Calhoun's plan, a nullified law would have to be re-approved by a two-thirds vote in Congress and a three-fourths vote in the state legislatures, then the nullifying state would have the option of acquiescing or seceding. Few beyond South Carolina found the arguments in the “Exposition and Protest” persuasive.

The question lay dormant until 1832. Congress passed another tariff, this one also protectionist in nature. Although Calhoun was vice president, he could not prevent Andrew Jackson from signing the bill into law. When the Democratic Party replaced Calhoun with Martin Van Buren as the vice-presidential candidate for the 1832 election, Calhoun felt that he had nothing to lose by challenging the law. Calhoun resigned as vice president, and the South Carolina legislature promptly chose him to be a senator. The legislature also called for the selection of a state constitutional convention. Meeting in November 1832, the state convention ruled the 1828 and 1832 federal tariffs to be unconstitutional and promptly nullified them. The convention also ruled that effective February 1, 1833, the federal government would no longer be able to collect the tariff revenues within the borders of South Carolina. South Carolina's actions shocked the United States as a whole and infuriated President Jackson. While Jackson was a fervent supporter of state sovereignty, he felt that South Carolina was taking the states' rights position to extremes and undermining the structure of the federal Union and the Constitution itself. Jackson issued a proclamation on December 10, 1832 disavowing the doctrine of nullification. He declared that the Constitution created a single government for all Americans and that secession was illegal. He regarded as treason any act of violence designed to aid and abet secession. Jackson also proposed that Congress pass a Force Bill, which would allow him as President to collect the tariff by force, if necessary.

While Jackson spoiled for a fight, leaders in Congress attempted to work out a compromise. New York Congressman Gulian Verpalnck proposed a reduced tariff, but it failed to win majority support. Senator Henry Clay then proposed what became known as the “Compromise Tariff.” This tariff would maintain protection, but its rates would decrease every year, until the protective tariff itself was totally eliminated by 1842. This proposal was acceptable to a majority in Congress and to South Carolina. Congress passed both the Compromise Tariff and the Force Bill, and Jackson signed them both into law on March 2, 1833. South Carolina rescinded its nullification of the tariffs (but then nullified the Force Bill as an act of principle), and the crisis was over.

The Nullification Crisis is interesting to historians for several reasons. It provides evidence into the nature of Andrew Jackson's political and constitutional thinking. While Jackson believed in a strict construction of the Constitution and in states' rights, he believed that when the Constitution had delegated power to the federal government, the federal government had to be supreme. Jackson also valued the Union and was not willing to see it compromised or to let it disintegrate. The Nullification Crisis also revealed the depths of alienation which existed among the cotton planters of the Deep South as early as the 1830s. This alienation did not go away, nor did the desire to seek to formulate a constitutional construction that could alleviate planter grievances - namely, economic domination by northern commercial interests and the fear that the federal government might tamper with the institution of slavery. In many ways, the Nullification Crisis was a rehearsal for the political and constitutional crisis of the 1850s that would culminate in the American Civil War.

December 10, 1832

Andrew Jackson - 03/01/1833: Pressed by Jackson, Congress passes the Force Bill…
Pressed by Jackson, Congress passes the Force Bill, authorizing Jackson's use of the army to gain compliance for federal law in South Carolina. Vice President Calhoun voices his dissent. March 01, 1833

Andrew Jackson - 03/20/1833: Jackson commissions Edmund Roberts as a “special a…
Jackson commissions Edmund Roberts as a “special agent” of the United States to negotiate commercial trade treaties abroad. Roberts's efforts result in the first treaties between the United States and a number of far eastern governments, including Siam (now Thailand). March 20, 1833

Andrew Jackson - 03/28/1834: Viewing his reelection as a mandate to continue hi…
Viewing his reelection as a mandate to continue his war against the Second Bank of the United States, Jackson issues an order for the Treasury Department to withdrawal federal deposits from the Bank of the United States and place them in state banks. When Secretary of the Treasury William Duane refuses, Jackson fires him. On March 28, the Senate, led by Clay, Calhoun and Daniel Webster, passes a resolution of censure admonishing Jackson. The censure will be officially expunged from the record on January 16, 1837, the result of political bargaining. Jackson will continue to take action against the Bank, which closes its doors in 1841. March 28, 1834

Andrew Jackson - 12/1834: Jackson announces he will terminate the national d…
Jackson announces he will terminate the national debt, freeing the United States of foreign and domestic obligations beyond the reserves of the Treasury. December 1834

Andrew Jackson - 03/02/1836: In Washington, D.C., the delegates of the people o…
In Washington, D.C., the delegates of the people of Texas officially and unanimously declare their independence. March 02, 1836

Andrew Jackson - 07/11/1836: Jackson, along with Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbu…
Jackson, along with Treasury Secretary Levi Woodbury, introduces the Specie Circular, revealing that the government will accept only gold and silver for land payments. The act serves as an attempt to check rising inflation precipitated by unprecedented land speculation and irresponsible lending. Hand-picked by Jackson to be his successor, Vice President Martin Van Buren wins the presidential election, running against three Whigs. The Whig Party hoped to split the popular vote so that the House of Representatives would decide the election's outcome. Van Buren, however, emerged with more votes than his opponents combined. July 11, 1836

Andrew Jackson - 03/1837: Jackson recognizes the independence of Texas but d…
Jackson recognizes the independence of Texas but declines to address annexation in light of threats by Mexico and its concerns about security. March 1837

Andrew Jackson - 03/04/1837: Martin Van Buren is sworn in as the eighth Preside…
Martin Van Buren is sworn in as the eighth President of the United States. His inaugural address serves largely as a commemoration of his predecessor, President Andrew Jackson. March 04, 1837

Martin Van Buren - 03/04/1837: Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the Unit…
Martin Van Buren, the eighth President of the United States, delivers his inaugural address. The speech serves largely as a commemoration of his predecessor, President Andrew Jackson. Additionally, Van Buren presents his states' rights approach to slavery. March 04, 1837

Martin Van Buren - 05/10/1837: The Panic of 1837 begins in New York when banks fi…
The Panic of 1837 begins in New York when banks first suspend payments of specie. Following the collapse of credit facility, banks can no longer redeem currency notes in gold and silver. Compounding the problem, a depression in England causes the price of cotton to drop and ends British loans to the United States. An already unstable economy now suffers from additional debts and unemployment. May 10, 1837

Martin Van Buren - 08/05/1837: Van Buren announces his opposition to the annexati…
Van Buren announces his opposition to the annexation of Texas, primarily to make possible the ensuing peace with Mexico but also to alleviate abolitionist concerns at home. August 05, 1837

Martin Van Buren - 09/05/1837: In response to the economic crisis, Van Buren call…
In response to the economic crisis, Van Buren calls for a special session of Congress. As a proponent of laissez-faire, he feels no obligation toward public welfare but worries about the government's own financial situation. Refusing to participate in sectional disputes, Van Buren proposes a bank divorce policy and the establishment of an independent treasury. September 05, 1837

Martin Van Buren - 11/1837: A rebellion erupts in Lower and Upper Canada again…
A rebellion erupts in Lower and Upper Canada against the British. Sympathetic volunteers in Maine and New York rally in support with promises of various bounties and land allotments. The American volunteers cross the Niagara River into Canada and occupy Navy Island. After a series of events, Van Buren instructs General Winfield Scott to persuade the American citizens to restrain themselves from further incursions violating national law and neutrality. November 1837

Martin Van Buren - 12/1837: Britain orders the Canadian militia to seize the A…
Britain orders the Canadian militia to seize the American steamship Caroline, which had been supplying Canadian rebels, on the Niagara River. One American is killed, and several are wounded. December 1837

Martin Van Buren - 01/1838: Following the Caroline incident, Van Buren…
Following the Caroline incident, Van Buren criticizes the British but maintains a neutral stance in the conflict. While Van Buren's peace appeals to the invading partisans and enjoys initial success, even the Neutrality Law of 1838 -- which provides for the arrest of people and the confiscation of arms, vehicles, and supplies flowing illegally across the border -- fails to deter additional incursions. Rebel assistance by secret rebel societies will continue in Detroit, Cleveland, and along the New York and Vermont borders. January 1838

Martin Van Buren - 09/11/1838: Van Buren agrees on the principle of forming an ar…
Van Buren agrees on the principle of forming an arbitration commission to settle disputed claims with Mexico. September 11, 1838

Martin Van Buren - 03/25/1839: A treaty ending the Aroostook War, which begins in…
A treaty ending the Aroostook War, which begins in 1838, is signed between the United States and Canada. Lumberjacks in Maine and New Brunswick had disputed the border and disagreed on the ownership of trees in the Aroostook Valley; the claims stemmed from an ambiguous boundary determination in the 1783 Treaty of Paris. Van Buren sends General Winfield Scott to calm matters in the area before working toward the treaty. March 25, 1839

Martin Van Buren - “Aroostook War” Ends

On March 25, 1839, Governor John Fairfield of Maine agreed to terms that ended the so-called Aroostook War. The issue at hand was the border between the American state of Maine and British Canadian province of New Brunswick. The border was a long-standing controversy which almost boiled over in 1839 when the Governor Fairfield sent militia to occupy the Aroostook River Valley. President Martin Van Buren deftly defused the crisis and paved the way for the final settlement of the boundary question, which came in 1842.

The boundary line between Maine and New Brunswick had been a matter of controversy between Britain and the United States since the end of the American Revolution. The 1783 Treaty of Paris drew the boundary with maps that were both incomplete and incorrect in regards to the region of northern Maine. Since the rivers and mountains described in the 1783 treaty were unclear, the British and American governments each had their own ideas of the border boundaries.

The situation grew more serious in 1838, when both the British and the Americans began surveying roads through the Maine lands. Additionally, lumberjacks from both countries traversed the Maine backcountry at will, angering both sides. William Harvey, the governor of New Brunswick, arrested a Maine census taker who was surveying the settlements along the Madawaska River. Finally, in January 1839, Governor Fairfield of Maine mobilized a militia and sent it to the Aroostook River Valley to expel timber cutters from New Brunswick. In response, Governor Harvey claimed that the Maine men were in New Brunswick territory and that he had the right to expel them by force.

President Van Buren turned to diplomacy to defuse the crisis. On February 26, 1839, he delivered a special message to Congress, which put forward a program of action. Van Buren both praised and criticized Governor Fairfield. Fairfield was right to expel trespassers onto Maine's territory, but he should have communicated with the governor of New Brunswick as he mobilized the militia. Van Buren said he would support Maine if it was attacked, but that Fairfield's occupation of the Aroostook was a provocation, and it had to be discontinued.

At the same time as the President addressed Congress and Maine, he negotiated with the British minister in Washington. They agreed that New Brunswick would not attack, Maine would withdraw, and both sides would agree to a joint solution to deal with incidents of trespass. The joint memorandum was controversial in Maine, but supported almost everywhere else in the United States. Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott to negotiate on the ground in Maine, and Scott negotiated a truce between Governors Harvey and Fairfield. Maine and New Brunswick tacitly agreed to divide the disputed area into spheres of interest, with Maine controlling the Aroostook River Valley and New Brunswick controlling the Madawaska River Valley. The “Aroostook War” never actually became a real war. Although President Van Buren ended the crisis, a permanent settlement was not immediate. The United States and Britain did not formally resolve the boundary dispute until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

March 25, 1839

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