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A Nation Wholly Free: The Elimination of the National Debt in the Age of…
by Carl Lane
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When President James Monroe announced in his 1824 message to Congress that the [nation's] large public debt, [accumulated since the Revolution], would be extinguished on January 1, 1835, Congress crafted legislation to transform that prediction into reality. Yet John Quincy Adams, Monroe's successor, seemed not to share the commitment to debt freedom, resulting in the rise of opposition to his administration and his defeat for reelection in the bitter presidential campaign of 1828. The new president, Andrew Jackson, was thoroughly committed to debt freedom, and when it was achieved, it became the only time in American history when the country carried no national debt. Lane shows that the great and disparate issues that confronted Jackson, such as internal improvements, the "war" against the Second Bank of the United States, and the crisis surrounding South Carolina's refusal to pay federal tariffs, become unified when debt freedom is understood as a core element of Jacksonian Democracy.
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