by Gabriel Donohoe
200 years ago today, January 8th, 1815, the 17 day battle for the strategic port city of New Orleans ended in a decisive victory for the American forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson.
It is difficult to recall a more ignominious defeat for the British. The swamplands around Chalmette were strewn with 2,000 dead and wounded redcoats, including their youthful commander, Major General Sir Edward Packenham. Jackson’s casualties were a meagre score or so dead and wounded.
Thus ended the War of 1812.
This war, like almost all wars, was a bankers’ war. It is believed that Nathan Rothschild threatened President Madison in 1811 with a “most disastrous war” if Congress did not renew the charter of the privately controlled central bank, the First Bank of the United States. Knowing that the central bank had almost ruined the U.S. economy while vastly enriching the bankers, Congress refused to renew the charter.
This prompted Rothschild to declare, “Teach those impudent Americans a lesson! Bring them back to colonial status!”
Rothschild money and influence worked to provoke a war with the Americans. However, the British Prime Minister, Spencer Perceval, opposed a war in North America; he was assassinated in May, 1812, the only British Prime Minister to be murdered while in office. Under Perceval’s successor, Robert Banks Jenkinson (with an ironic middle name), the Americans were goaded into declaring war on Great Britain in June, 1812.
Despite the American victory, the War of 1812 achieved Rothschild’s objective. The fledgling republic was deeply in debt and monetary chaos reigned across the land. Madison and Congress had to back-pedal and in 1816 felt compelled to offer a new 20 year charter to another private central bank, The Second Bank of the United States.
The bankers took up from where they had left off in 1811 and continued to loot the American people. Then, in 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected president. ‘Old Hickory’, as Jackson was affectionately known by his former troops, easily won the popular vote and the electoral vote. Having routed the British Army at New Orleans, ‘Old Hickory’ decided he would do the same to the British controlled central bank.
Andrew Jackson was born in the Carolinas in 1767 shortly after his family migrated to North America from Co. Antrim in Ireland. The Jacksons were Ulster Presbyterians, a religion that was discriminated against and persecuted by the British almost as much as Catholics.
As a young teenager, Andrew was active on the American side in the Revolutionary War. When the 14 year old Jackson was captured by British Dragoons in South Carolina, a British officer demanded that he clean the officer’s boots. Jackson told the officer where he could stick his boots and received a nasty sabre gash across the arm and forehead for his insolence. Jackson bore these scars to his dying day but made the British suffer terribly at New Orleans for their gratuitous violence.
As Jackson’s first term in office ended (1828-32), the president of the Second Bank of the United States, Nicholas Biddle, decided to apply early for renewal of the bank’s charter which would expire in 1836. He felt Jackson would be vulnerable in the re-election campaign and would eschew anything controversial.
Biddle got it dead wrong. Rather than avoid controversy, Jackson based his entire re-election campaign on destroying the central bank. His election slogan was “Jackson And No Bank”.
Jackson once berated a delegation of bankers with these words:
“Gentlemen! I too have been a close observer of the doings of the Bank of the United States…You are a den of vipers and thieves. I have determined to rout you out, and by the Eternal, I will rout you out!”
Just before the re-election campaign began in earnest, Congress passed a bill into law to allow the Second Bank of the United States to renew its charter for a further 20 years. But Jackson vetoed the bill. He outlined his reasons in a message to the American people, a populace long sceptical of central banks and bankers.
As the presidential campaign progressed, Biddle and his bank heavily funded Jackson’s opponent, Henry Clay, a highly respected Kentucky senator and former Speaker of the House of Representatives. But ‘Old Hickory’ won the election by a landslide.
Although the bank had 4 more years of its charter to run, Jackson set about hammering nails into its coffin. He ordered Secretary of the Treasury McLane to pull all government funds out of the central bank and deposit them in state-chartered banks. Secretary McLane refused and Jackson fired him. He appointed William Duane as Treasury Secretary and ordered him to remove deposits from Biddle’s central bank. When Duane dragged his heels, Jackson fired him too. The third appointed Secretary, Roger B. Taney, complied and the bank was in serious difficulty.
Biddle attempted to turn Congress and the people against Jackson by causing a recession in 1834. The bank demanded that all existing loans be repaid immediately; it deliberately refused to make new loans. A nation-wide recession ensued.
Jackson, under pressure, declared, “The bank is trying to kill me – but I will kill it!”
Actually, the bank came close to literally killing Jackson when a would-be assassin, Richard Lawrence, believed to be in the pay of the Rothschilds, attempted to murder Jackson in January, 1835, but both his pistols misfired. ‘Old Hickory’ began to thrash Lawrence with his cane and had to be physically restrained from beating his attacker to death.
With blame for the recession travelling backwards and forwards, Biddle’s huge ego became his own undoing. He was heard to boast in public that it was he who had caused the recession. The people and Congress turned against him. The bank’s charter was not renewed. In fact, it would take 77 years before another central bank would appear on the scene – the Federal Reserve Bank in 1913.
When asked what was the greatest achievement of his career, Jackson replied, “I killed the bank!”
Political leaders of the world, take note.