Andrew Jackson on taxation

Posted by: Phineas on November 20, 2010 at 1:25 pm

From President Jackson’s farewell address:

It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the General Government, and experience would seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. …There is, perhaps, no one of the powers conferred on the Federal Government so liable to abuse as the taxing power. …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 intrusted 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. …Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. …There is but one safe rule, and that is to confine the General Government rigidly within the sphere of its appropriate duties. It has no power to raise a revenue or impose taxes except for the purposes enumerated in the Constitution, and if its income is found to exceed these wants it should be forthwith reduced and the burden of the people so far lightened.

Hmmm… Maybe President Obama should spend more of his time studying his predecessors than his golf swing.

via Dan Mitchell

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

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7 Responses to “Andrew Jackson on taxation”


  1. Lorica says:

    Yet another of the great heros of this country that realized that taxation With/Without representation is harmful to this country. – Lorica

  2. daMello says:

    Don’t count on the Pres. to study any of our past elected officials or our history. He only absorbs politic ideals that are outside of mainstream america.

  3. Jackson isn’t exactly the model I would suggest Obama study, he caused the first depression in the country with his hard specie law. He was also responsible for the Trail of Tears. As if that were not enough he is the one that made political patronage an article of faith.

    Fine, he was against excessive taxation. If you’d asked him he’d probably tell you he was against rape and murder too.

  4. Phineas says:

    Well, the point of the quote was to have a bit of fun poking a finger in the administration’s eye by pointing out wise words from a predecessor. It wasn’t a wholesale endorsement of Jackson as a role-model.

    But, since you brought it up, here are a couple of points on Ol’Hickory’s defense:

    1) Regarding the Indian removal, Jackson had long had a policy of advocating buying the lands of the tribes and relocating them west of the Mississippi. In that, he was a moderate for the time; many people of the period, particularly in the South and the West, advocated extermination. From his first message to Congress, 1829:

    This emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws. In return for their obedience as individuals they will without doubt be protected in the enjoyment of those possessions which they have improved by their industry.

    The incident that perhaps most sticks in people’s minds from what they learned of the Indian removal, the sending of the Army to force the Cherokee off their lands, was done by Jackson’s successor, van Buren, to enforce the Treaty of Echota.

    Naturally, I’m not defending Indian removal at all; it was nothing less than ethnic cleansing. But to condemn him for it is to ignore the dynamics of US history in the 1820s and 1830s.

    2) Regarding the Panic and Depression of 1837, that was a beautiful example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Yes, Jackson opposed the Bank of the United States; he was a populist, and he felt the concentration of US money in that one institution made the government vulnerable to foreign influence and that it favored Northeastern interests over the South and West. When it was destroyed, a raft of regional and state banks sprung up that engaged in various lending projects. There was indeed a boom in canal construction, cotton production, and manufacturing.

    Trouble was, the banks were issuing their own notes backed by no hard metal, setting off a round of serious inflation. (Yes, it was their own Quantitative Easing.) Jackson issued the Specie Circular to rectify this, but the sudden application of the brakes caused banking crashes and, under the luckless van Buren, the 1837 crisis. (Sounds a lot like what happened under Reagan and Volcker, actually.)

    To hold Jackson responsible as The Villain in this scenario is to say he should and could have seen what was coming. Maybe he should have; I don’t know if there was anyone around then warning of the consequences. But, again, we have to be aware of what was going on at the time: an inflationary boom is almost always followed by a crash. If Jackson had not issued the Specie Circular, I suspect some sort of corrective crisis would have ensued within a few years as money became worthless thanks to inflation and prices skyrocketed.

    Anyway, yes, Andrew Jackson is not the perfect role model for a US President. But I believe his tax quote shows him to be much wiser than his current successor and most of those in Congress.

  5. Carlos says:

    To finish ThePaganTemple’s thought, Duh-1 shouldn’t read about Jackson because he is nothing more than an old dead white man who had a hand in extending the influence of other old dead European white men in an atrocious and deadly manner.

    Of course, that begs the question of why he pays so much attention to other dirty, old, dead and deadlier European white men like Marx, Engels and Lenin?