Having by this time broken utterly with Calhoun, he desired to rid himself of those cabinet members who were Calhoun's friends, and to that end took the bold and unexampled step of changing his cabinet entirely, - only Barry, the postmaster-general, being kept in office. Van Buren fell readily into the plan, gave up his portfolio, and was at once appointed minister to Great Britain. Edward Livingston took his place. A change in the "Kitchen Cabinet" followed. General Duff Green would not desert Calhoun, and so " The Telegraph " ceased to be the organ of the administration. Instead, Francis P. Blair, of Kentucky, who, like Amos Kendall, had been first the friend and then the enemy of Clay, was called to Washington, and set up " The Globe," which soon became a power for Jackson. Nor were these the only consequences of the break with Calhoun. Jackson and his closest friends were by this time bent on making Van Buren, instead of Calhoun, President after Jackson, but were doubtful of their ability to accomplish it at the next election. The President was therefore persuaded to run again. The Democrats in the legislature of Pennsylvania, acting on a hint from Lewis, sent him an address urging him to stand. If for a time he hesitated, he ceased to hesitate when it became apparent that Clay was going to be the candidate of the National Republicans. Clay, yielding to the appeals of his party friends, reappeared in the Senate at the opening of Congress in December, 1831, and now the duel between the two great party leaders grew fiercer than ever.
Clay returned to the Senate to find his tariff policy attacked by the nullifiers, his internal improvements policy blocked by the President's vetoes, and still a third policy which he and his party firmly supported vigorously attacked by the terrible man in the White House. The National Bank was in danger. Its charter expired in 1836, and the President in both his annual messages had gravely questioned the wisdom of granting another. He questioned the constitutionality of setting up such an institution, and he questioned the value and safety of the Bank as it existed. December 12,1831, the National Republicans, assembled in their first national convention at Baltimore, nominated Clay for President, and called on the people to defeat Andrew Jackson in order to save the Bank. Jackson dauntlessly accepted the issue and gave the country to understand that either he or the Bank must go to the wall. For the time, even Calhoun and the nullifiers yielded the first place among his enemies to Clay, Biddle, and the Bank.
Biddle was president of the Bank, a handsome, accomplished man, a graceful writer, and a clever, though not always a safe financier. His ready pen first brought him into disfavor. Isaac Hill and Levi Woodbury, the Democratic Senators from New Hampshire, made complaints of Jeremiah Mason, an old Federalist, who was president of the Branch Bank at Portsmouth. Their charges were various, but they and others gave J ackson the idea that the Branch Bank in New Hampshire had used its power to oppose his friends and to help the Adams men. Biddle was called on to investigate. He did so, and defended Mason against all the charges. A long correspondence ensued, and Biddle went from Philadelphia, where the head Bank was, and made a visit to Portsmouth. His letters to the Secretary of the Treasury were courteous, well written, but also defiant. It was the Jackson men, he said, who were trying to draw the Bank into politics, and the Bank had constantly refused to go into politics in any way. He made out a very good case indeed, but the longer the correspondence lasted the stronger grew Jackson's conviction that the Bank was in politics, that it was fighting him, that it was corrupt, that it was dangerous to the liberties of the plain people who had sent him to the White House. Congress took up the matter, and committees of both Houses reported in favor of the Bank. The Supreme Court had already decided that the act establishing it was constitutional.
Clay boldly determined to force the fighting both on the tariff and on the Bank. The great measures of the Congress of 1831-2 were a new tariff law and a new Bank charter. The public debt was now nearly extinguished, and it was clearly advisable to reduce the revenue; but Clay and his followers made the reductions almost entirely on articles not produced in America, and so, in defiance of the nullifiers, made the new tariff as protective as the old. Jackson had gradually given up most of his protection ideas, and so the tariff did not please him. Clay, in fact, declared that for his "American system," as he called it, "he would defy the South, the President, and the Devil." Jackson was further defied by the Senate when it refused to confirm the nomination of Van Buren to be minister to Great Britain. The struggle raged through the whole session. Benton sturdily defended the President; Clay, Webster, and Calhoun were all, in one way or another, against him. It was a great session for the orators, and so, far as Congress was concerned Clay had his way. But Lewis and Kendall were not idle; they were working not on Congress but on the people. In May, the Democrats nominated Jackson for President and Van Buren for Vice-President. In July, Congress finished its work with the Bank charter, and Jackson promptly answered with a veto, and so the two parties went to the country.
Jackson went into the campaign with an advantage drawn from his successful conduct of two foreign negotiations. His administration had secured from England an agreement by which the trade with the West Indies, closed to Americans ever since the Revolution, was opened again, and from France a promise to pay large claims for spoliations on American commerce which had been presented many times before. He was also undoubtedly supported by the great majority of the people in the stand he took against the nullifiers. What the people would decide about the tariff was doubtful; but as between a system, even though it were called the American system, and an old hero, the Democrats were not afraid of the people's choice. The great fight was over the Bank, and on that question J ackson was supported by the prejudices of the poor, who thought of the Bank merely as a rich men's institution, by the fears of the ignorant, who believed the Bank to be a mysterious and monstrous affair, and by the instinct of liberty in many others, who, though they did not believe the charges against Biddle, did feel that there was danger in so powerful a financial agency so closely connected with the government.