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What Role Did State Politics Play In The Bank War?

In “The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle and the Fight for American Finance,” historian Paul Kahan explores one of the most important and dramatic events in American political and economic history, from the idea of centralized banking and the First Bank of the United States to Jackson’s triumph, the era of “free banking” and the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Relying on a range of primary and secondary source material, the book also shows how the Bank War was a manifestation of the debates that were sparked at the Constitutional Convention—the role of the executive branch and the role of the federal government in American society—debates that endure to this day as philosophical differences that often divide the United States.

Paul Kahan (Part 1): How Does The Bank War Reflect Today’s Political And Economic Environment?

Paul Kahan (Part 2): What Role Did State Politics Play In The Bank War?

Paul Kahan (Part 3): Should Andrew Jackson Be Taken Off The $20 Bill?

The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle and the Fight for American Finance,”

During the changing economic and social conditions of the 1820’s and 1830’s there was much hostility between the Bank on the one hand, and rising capitalists, urban workers, and farmers on the other. In this context, Jackson aimed to do away with the Bank. The Bank’s supporters, however, struck back. In a move intended to wrench political support from Jackson, Henry Clay forced a bill through the Senate to recharter the Bank. Jackson vetoed the bill, beginning the long struggle which has become known as “The Bank War.” Jackson defeated Clay in the presidential election of 1832 despite Clay’s efforts. Taking his political victory as a mandate from the people to destroy the Bank, he withdrew federal deposits, thereby setting the stage for the Bank’s eventual death in 1836.

In this book, Robert V. Remini begins by discussing the antagonists in the Bank War: Jackson and Biddle. He states that “the destruction of the Bank occurred because it got caught between [these] two willful, proud, and stubborn men…” He then goes on to details of the struggle, “emphasizing the ways in which the War transformed the presidential office: how Jackson capitalized on the struggle to strengthen the executive branch of the government and infuse it with much of the power it enjoys today.”

Paul Kahan
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot


About the Speaker

Paul Kahan earned his Ph.D. in history from Temple University in 2009. He has written numerous books, including Eastern State Penitentiary: A History and The Homestead Strike: Labor, Violence, and American Industry. Dr. Kahan teaches history at Ohlone College in Fremont, California. For more information, visit his website at You can also follow him on Twitter: @paul_kahan.