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Return to PRIMARY DOCUMENT LESSONS: "The Bank War"
The White House Historical Association | Classroom
Make enough copies of the excerpts of Andrew Jackson's Veto Message and Daniel Webster's Reply for all your students. Because the documents are tough reading, it may be best to read them as a class. Have the students take turns reading aloud Jackson's veto message; stop after each paragraph to discuss it. After paragraphs 2-6 and 9-10, ask what objection(s) Jackson listed to the Bank in that paragraph. After paragraphs 7-8, ask why Jackson believed that he had the right to overrule the Supreme Court's declaration that the Bank was constitutional. Write Jackson's objections or reasons on the board. Remind the students that Jackson was in the middle of a presidential election campaign; ask them to what groups Jackson was trying to appeal in this message and how he appealed to them.
Next, have the students take turns reading aloud Webster's reply; stop after each paragraph to discuss it. After paragraphs 1-3, ask how the paragraph answers Jackson's objection(s) to the Bank. After paragraphs 4-9, ask how the paragraph counters Jackson's belief that he could overrule the Supreme Court. Webster, while not running for president himself, strongly supported Henry Clay in his campaign against Jackson; ask the students to what groups Webster was trying to appeal and how he appealed to them.
To wrap up the discussion, ask the students to vote on whether they believe Jackson or Webster was more persuasive. Ask several students to explain their reasoning. Alternatively, have the students each write a paragraph explaining which document they consider more persuasive and why.
Ask students in small groups or individually to create a campaign broadside or poster in which they take a position for or against Andrew Jackson, using direct phrases from either of the excerpted messages. As an alternative, invite students to write an old-fashioned, pre-election, stump speech, arguing for or against this issue. Display the broadsides, and have students deliver their speeches at a classroom election "rally."
Ask students to pretend it's 1832. Assign each student a role (western land speculator, western small farmer, northern factory worker, northern businessman, southern plantation owner, investor in a state bank, a merchant doing business all over the country) and write a letter to their congressional representative asking him to vote for or against re-chartering the Second Bank, as appropriate.