Veto! The Jacksonian Revolution in Constitutional Law
58 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2006 Last revised: 6 May 2014
Date Written: 1999
This Article explores the debate over the presidential veto power during the 1830s and 1840s. Prior to this period, James Madison and other legal luminaries held that legislative precedent constrained the president's discretion in using this authority. Andrew Jackson repudiated this view, most famously with his veto of the Bank of the United States, and in so doing transformed the veto power into its modern form. That change was vigorously contested by the Great Triumvirate of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun and was not resolved until John Tyler faced down his own party on the issue in the early 1840s.
Furthermore, the Article shows how the veto debate fit into the broader legal struggle that accompanied the rise of Jacksonian Democracy. This generation represents an important missing link in our constitutional tradition, and recognizing the creativity of that period opens the door to many new insights about the foundations of our Republic.
Keywords: Jacksonian democracy
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