A battle over the Bank of the United States between President Andrew Jackson and Congress turned into a Constitutional issue when Congress sought to censure Jackson for not turning over classified documents he used in his decision to veto Congress’ vote to renew the bank’s charter.
The Senate, led by Jackson’s nemesis Henry Clay, passed a resolution demanding to see Jackson’s papers. When Jackson refused, Clay introduced a resolution to censure Jackson.
Clay, by the way, helped form the Whig Party, which believed in the Hamiltonian, big government, British mercantilism-style of government and was the forerunner to Abraham Lincoln’s big government Republican Party. Lincoln considered Clay a mentor.
Congress debated the censure for 10 weeks, while Jackson protested that since the Constitution did not provide for guidance regarding censure, the action was unConstitutional. Congress ignored his protests and issued its censure on March 28, 1831. It amounted to a public scolding. Congress also overrode Jackson’s veto.
The bank issue became central to Jackson’s re-election bid in 1832; and in 1836, the bank’s charter expired. In 1837, Democrats gained control of the Senate and had Jackson’s censure expunged from the record.
After his Presidency ended, Jackson was asked what things he thought he had left undone. He replied: “I didn’t shoot Henry Clay and I didn’t hang John Calhoun.”