Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay could have well been what is aptly referred to as unlike poles as far as political views and the administration of America in the period between the years1800 and 1840 was concerned, yet they also had a lot in common Much of their influence was between the years 1824 to 1837. Both Jackson and Clay where significant personalities in the American political arena during and after the formative years of the American republic. This period saw some major transformations in American politics and governance most of which set the administrative structures of government that exist to date. This was the period that saw the beginning of the abolition of slavery, the bitter struggle between federalists on one hand and anti-federalists on the other and the agitation for, and final ratification of the constitution. This was the time of flourishing capitalism and industrialization and several wars that would eventually mould America. Despite their bitter political rivalry, both Jackson and Clay were successful. Both men were owners of land and were planters meaning that they also held slaves. Apart from this, both Jackson and Clay were lawyers who had began their careers in the frontier state before finally emerging into the political scene as formidable foes and opponents of one another. Andrew Jackson was a devout military man hence his constant inclination to consider military solutions more readily. Clay was also a war hawk, but his 1819 denunciation of Jacksons unsanctioned invasion of Spanish Florida heralded the genesis of Jackson’s and Clay’s rivalry and animosity towards one another.
The “corrupt bargain” scandal of 1824, in which Clay was seen to have brokered a deal with John Adams to hand him the presidency in return for Clays appointment in to the Adams administration did not help things between the two feuding politicians. Jackson did not hold Clay in high regard, he considered Jackson as a self aggrandizing political turncoat who was perennially driven by personal interest and profit. According to him Clay was a man who would not think twice to compromise the American republican democracy. One fundamental ideological difference between Clay and Jackson was related to democracy and economic development. Publicly, both men gave the impression that they supported both democracy and the capitalist progress that was taking root in the states, but in reality, Jackson who was considered the ordinary peoples' choice by many was for one, wary that increased prosperity of the traders and the burgeoning industrialization would not be in favor of the liberties of the ordinary citizen. Jackson saw a threat to democracy in the form of rich businessmen. He held that these new opportunities would upset the existing social and political hierarchies. Contrary to Jacksons views, Clay was of the opinion that it was democracy that would interfere with the establishment of a vibrant business sector. Jackson’s criticism of Clays and Adams dwelled on their economic plans for the country and together with his supporters, they held the view that Clay’s proposition for congressional hand in what was termed internal improvement was nothing but an avenue for corruption and championing partisan interests. Immediately after Jackson was elected president in 1824, Clay hardened his stance as Jackson’s most relentless opponent. But the feeling between them was mutual
Clay together with his backers also differed strongly with Jackson concerning the formation of the national bank. Jackson vigorously resisted the idea of the national bank during his presidency seeing it as a loophole for corruption, control by foreign interests and likely to cause inflation in the country. His opposition to this idea finally culminating in the vetoing of the charter of the second bank of the United States in 1832. Jackson, apart from seeing the national bank as fraudulent, Jackson also considered it to favor the few elite entrepreneurs of the time to the detriment of the common citizen. Jackson and Clay also held completely opposing views concerning trade and tariffs. In terms of trade, America at that time consisted of two distinct blocks, the north and south. The north had a vibrant and developing industrial economy whose main competition was foreign trade especially from Europe while the south had a largely agricultural economy and they depended mostly on income from exporting their products while also importing manufactured goods from Europe. Adams the previous president had imposed high tariffs on imports of products manufactured in Europe. This was clearly a protectionist policy meant to promote the fledgling American industries that were mainly based in the north. When Andrew Jackson ascended to power, he was not keen to address this tariff concern that the southerners had. South Carolina state was intent on nullifying the federal tariff legislation and even threatened to secede from the union if these tariffs were forced upon them. Jackson in his anger warned to invade South Carolina and was ready to hang anyone who would not obey the law. Vice president Calhoun was the foremost opponent of the high tariffs which came to be known as the “Tariff of Abominations”, being from the south himself. Since Clay was an avid supporter of Calhoun he was critical of these tariffs but he eventually succeeded in aiding to forge a deal to gradually lower the trade tariffs.
Clays advocacy for federal government to fund internal improvements or infrastructure mainly roads and canals also elicited great opposition from Jacksons administration. Jackson being the president then, did not approve of Clay’s “American system”and it ended up in a showdown with Jackson vetoing a bill that would have allowed Maysville road to be funded by the federal government. This road would have linked Lexington and Ohio but Jackson felt that it would not promote interstate commerce. As much as Jackson and Clay held divergent views, it is worthy to note that they played a very significant role in the development of America to what it is now.