On Jan. 8, 1835, all the big political names in Washington gathered to celebrate what President Andrew Jackson had just accomplished. A senator rose to make the big announcement: “Gentlemen … the national debt … is PAID.”
That was the one time in U.S. history when the country was debt free. It lasted exactly one year.
But, just like today, it wasn’t easy for politicians to slash spending — until Andrew Jackson came along.
“For Andrew Jackson, politics was very personal,” says H.W. Brands, an Andrew Jackson biographer at the University of Texas. “He hated not just the federal debt. He hated debt at all.”
Before he was president, Jackson was a land speculator in Tennessee. He learned to hate debt when a land deal went bad and left him with massive debt and some worthless paper notes.
So when Jackson ran for president, he knew his enemy: banks and the national debt. He called it the national curse.
Andrew Jackson’s farewell address:
“. . . . In reviewing the conflicts which have taken place between different interests in the United States and the policy pursued since the adoption of our present form of Government, we find nothing that has produced such deep-seated evil as the course of legislation in relation to the currency. The Constitution of the United States unquestionably intended to secure to the people a circulating medium of gold and silver. But the establishment of a national bank by Congress, with the privilege of issuing paper money receivable in the payment of the public dues, and the unfortunate course of legislation in the several States upon the same subject, drove from general circulation the constitutional currency and substituted one of paper in its place.”