Monday, February 27, 2012

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham

  • "In his first weeks in office, with John Eaton's help, Jackson was direct with the Indians: either submit to state law or leave. Despite treaties signed and assurances given, he did not believe the Indians had title to the land, and he would not tolerate competing sovereignties within the nation." - 91
  • "The president, Jackson believed, should be an instrument of the people against the combined interests of the rich and the incumbent. 'Our system of government was by its framers deemed an experiment, and they therefore consistently provided a mode of remedying its defects.'...Amend the Constitution, Jackson said...limit the executive to a single four- or six-year term, thus checking the danger of a despot." - 120
  • "Never for a moment believe that the great body of the citizens of any State or States can deliberately intend to do wrong. They may, under the influence of temporary excitement or misguided opinions, commit mistakes; they may be misled for a time by the suggestions of self-interest; but in a community so enlightened and patriotic as the people of the United States argument will soon make them sensible of their errors, and when convinced they will be ready to repair them." - Andrew Jackson, 134
  • "Jackson's vision of himself as the embodiment of the people standing against entrenched interests, combined with his appetite for control and for power, led him to see the veto as more than an occasional tool. Congress should consult with the president in advance of sending legislation down Pennsylvania Avenue, Jackson said -- a novel notion in 1830." - 141
  • "If a mass representative democracy were to work well, a leader's troops could not be -- to borrow a phrase from the Revolutionary War ethos so important to Jackson -- sunshine patriots...A willingness to wage constant partisan combat, no matter what the issue, was an emerging requirement in the politics coming into being in the 1830s." - 188
  • "Without union our independence and liberty would never have been achieved; without union they can never be maintained. Divided into twenty-four, or even a smaller number, of separate communities, we shall see our internal trade burdened with numberless restraints and exactions; communications between distant points and sections obstructed or cut off; our sons made soldiers to deluge with blood the fields they now till in peace...The loss of liberty, of all good government, of peace, plenty, and happiness, must inevitably follow a dissolution of the Union." - Andrew Jackson, 249
  • "On Monday, February 22, 1836, in a message to Congress, Jackson quoted George Washington: 'There is a rank due to the United States among nations which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it. If we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times, ready for war.'" - 297
  • "The motion to expunge carried, and, after what Isaac Bassett called 'a storm of hisses and groans' from the left wing of the Circular Gallery (the sergeant at arms rounded up the 'disturbers'), the record of Jackson's censure for abuse of power [by unilaterally removing government deposits from the Second Bank of the United States] was marked out of the journal by the secretary of the Senate." - 337
  • "For Lincoln as for Jackson, a majority was neither always right nor always wrong. The right would depend on the circumstances. But the president's duty was constant: to preserve the Union, for without the Union no progress was possible." - 356

Sunday, February 19, 2012

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel

  • "In the United States, 'Publicola' [one of Adams' literary pseudonyms] hastened the opening of party warfare. Factions called Federalists and Republicans began dividing over the issues raised by Thomas Paines and John Quincy Adams" - 74
  • "His diary abounded with shamefaced admissions of wasting time or of reading to no purpose. What he needed, Adams now declared, was the diligence imposed by a regular schedule, such as one that would come with a seat in the legislature." - 134
  • "As he scornfully asserted, ordinary lawmakers, state and national, had one guiding principle, which was to 'be satisfied to provide for the occasions of the day, and leave future times to take care of themselves.'" - 135
  • "There are energies in the constitution of Man which a long protracted peace always weakens, and sometimes extinguishes altogether. Occasional war is one of the rigorous instruments in the hands of Providence to give tone to the character of nations." - JQA, 214
  • "With the capable assistance of Richard Rush, who had gone to London as his successor, John oversaw the negotiations leading to the Treaty of 1818. This agreement established the northwest boundary between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel to the Rocky Mountains, and left the region beyond open to citizens of both nations." - 249
  • "His was a nature ordained to be darkened by worry, over his relatives and himself. Only a rare time of family joy, an occasional professional success, or, most often, moments of bibulousness could release him temporarily from his torment." - 256
  • "Without hesitation, Adams claimed that if the world adopted the metric system, the upshot would bring 'the foretaste here of man's eternal felicity. It would help cast down the Spirit of Evil...from his dominion over men.' If a permanent, universal uniformity of weights and measures was ever achieved, Adams predicted that those who brought it about 'would be among the greatest of benefactors of the human race.'" - 265
  • "His most important motive was an unalloyed desire to stand tall in history as a benefactor of the republic and of mankind in general. If the nation rejected him, Adams believed, he would be forever disgraced in history's eyes." - 285
  • "All of Adams' scientific and educational proposals were defeated, as were his efforts to enlarge the road and canal systems. A design to strengthen the Bank of the United States as a centralized credit authority and a plan to refinance the public debt were lost. His campaign for a national bankruptcy act was blocked, as were efforts to increase revenue from the sale of public lands. In short, a vengeful opposition was delighted to kick around almost every legislative proposal that hinted at Adams' determination to pursue national development through federal means." - 303
  • "The older he became, the more certain was JQA that his only assured way of benefiting future generations was by planting trees." - 367
  • "By 108 to 80, a gratifying margin, the House had voted to approve Adams' resolution rescinding the hated gag rule. Thereafter, petitioners who urged the abolition of slavery and the slave trade would be freely heard. But it seemed an anticlimax, given the far graver challenge of Texas." - 403

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger

  • "An ardent Freemason, Lafayette viewed the Revolutionary War as more than a war to liberate thirteen colonies from Britain; he believed it represented a worldwide conflict to liberate mankind from tyranny of all kinds, religious as well as political. Monroe instantly embraced the broadened concept, seeing beyond national borders for the first time and growing passionate about the rights of man." - 28
  • "Monroe had, as a young man, believed that expansion of individual liberties was central to the policies of modern governments born of revolution and, indeed, that revolutions would eventually tear down national boundaries and unite mankind. Now he recognized that protection of national interests was the raison d'etre of all governments, whether born of revolution or not. Expansion of individual liberties had simply been a by-product of the American Revolution because it was essential for uniting the American people and, therefore, in the national interest." - 178
  • "With the government bankrupt and no central bank from which to borrow, Monroe ignored both the law and the Constitution and seized power. Saying he was the government of the United States, he intimidated private banks and municipal corporations into lending him more than $5 million on his own signature." - 248
  • "Possessing as we do all the raw materials, the fruits of our own soil and industry, we ought not to depend in the degree we have done on supplies from other countries" -  James Monroe, 263
  • "Marshall's Federalist rulings gave Republican Monroe the constitutional tools he needed to expand the United States into an American empire and lead the American people into the greatest period of extended prosperity in the nation's history." - 264
  • "After assuming the presidency, Monroe remained irate about the Federalist-led secessionist movement in New England during the war. Equating secessionism with treason, he excluded Federalists from the cabinet and pledged 'to prevent the reorganization and revival of the federal party.'" - 267
  • Monroe "told Congress, 'the revenue arising from imposts and tonnage and from the sale of public lands will be fully adequate to the support of the civil government...without the aid of internal taxes. I consider it my duty to recommend to Congress their repeal.' And with that, Congress abolished all property taxes and other internal taxes in the United States." - 276
  • "In addition to ceding the Floridas, the Adams-Onis, or Transcontinental Treaty, defined western limits of the Louisiana Territory, with the Spanish ceding all claims to the Pacific Northwest and extending nominal U.S. sovereignty to the Pacific Ocean." - 293
  • "Without a political party to control individual political ambitions, the president had no mechanism to discipline his own cabinet members, let alone members of Congress...In effect, Monroe had created political anarchy and, in doing so, he not only rendered himself politically impotent, he permitted new divisions based on personal political ambitions to form between political leaders." - 310
  • "As the Duke of Wellington had warned, no nation on earth was powerful enough to sustain military supply lines long enough to challenge American hegemony in the Western Hemisphere. With the Monroe Doctrine, most European leaders realized it would be far less costly to trade with the Americans than to try to subjugate them." - 317