# 3: Right to Instruct [Brown]


Brown, Thomas. Southern Whigs and the Politics of Statesmanship, 1833-1841. The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Aug., 1980), pp. 361-380.

“Needless to say, Calhoun and his followers were appalled by the putative consolidationism of Jackson’s response to nullification. But so were many southern states’ righters who, like John Tyler, opposed nullification but objected even more to the hypernationalism of the proclamation. Yet the Old Hero had only begun to trample upon the Jeffersonian sensibilities of many southerners who had come to consider him the political heir of the Sage of Monticello. In late 1833 Jackson ordered the removal of the government’s deposits in the Bank of the United States and their redeposit in his so-called “pet banks,” prompting charges that he was scheming to unite “the purse and the sword” under his control. Affirming the venerable republican principle of legislative supremacy, Henry Clay led a majority of the Senate in censuring Jackson for not consulting Congress on the removals. But the Jacksonians were not to be outdone by the opposition. They initiated a successful grass-roots campaign (presumably orchestrated by Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet“) to Pressure state legislatures to instruct United States senators to expunge the censure resolutions” (364, italics mine).

“During the dispute over the removal of the deposits Clay warned that, once in the coffers of compliant pet banks, federal funds in conjunction with the patronage could be used by the executive to interfere directly in the politics to the states. Most southerners may have scoffed at this allegation when they first heard it. But when they saw the Jacksonians inducing state legislatures to wield the club of instruction over the heads of United States senators, many began to heed the Kentuckian. Echoing him, they called for curbs on the powers of the Presidency and for renewed respect for the independence of the Senate.” (365-366, italics mine).

“In 1812 Van Buren had backed the quasi-Federalist DeWitt Clinton over the beloved Madison for President. As a state senator he had voted to instruct New York’s senators to oppose the introduction of slavery into the state of Missouri” (369).

“Whig propagandists asked southerners who expressed such misgivings to examine the careers and characters of their candidates for President and Vice-President. Both were touted as statesmen who cared for the interests of the entire country, including the South. John Tyler, their vice-presidential candidate, fit the conventional mold of the senatorial statesman. Like other members of the species, he had resigned from the Senate rather than submit to instructions by a  Democratically controlled legislature. He was the perfect complement to Harrison, a statesman like general in the line of Cincinnatus and Washington. The Whigs assured southerners that they could take special comfort in the fact that Harrison, like Tyler, was a son of the Old Dominion” (375).


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