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First Cabinet Rejection


June 24, 1834

Roger B. Taney

Relations between the Senate and the president had become so embittered that the president delayed submitting the names of his recent cabinet appointees for confirmation until the final week of the congressional session. By June of 1834, the Senate stood evenly divided between supporters of President Andrew Jackson and anti-Jackson men. The president's assault on the Second Bank of the United States, launched two years earlier, had precipitated this split and led to the formation of the opposition Whig Party. In March, the Senate had censured Jackson for his efforts to remove government funds from that federally chartered quasi-private institution. When Jackson protested this extraconstitutional act, the Senate refused to print his message in its journal.

Nine months earlier, Jackson had selected Roger Taney (pictured), the architect of his anti-bank policies, as secretary of the treasury. Senators complained that the unconfirmed Taney held his office illegally. As Jackson biographer Robert Remini has written, "Whether this was true did not disturb Jackson one whit." Yet Jackson knew that sooner or later he would have to send Taney's name to the Senate and, in Remini's words, "he knew that senators would tear into the nomination like ravenous wolves to get revenge for the removal of the deposits and poor Taney would be made to bear much of the pain and humiliation."

Finally, on June 23, 1834, Jackson sent forth Taney's nomination. On the next day a pro-bank majority in the Senate, including both senators from Taney's Maryland, denied him the post by a vote of 18 to 28, making him the first cabinet nominee in history to suffer the Senate's formal rejection.

The following year the deeply insulted Jackson returned Taney's name to the Senate as associate justice of the Supreme Court. Opponents blocked a vote on the last day of that session and tried unsuccessfully to eliminate one seat from the Court. When the Senate reconvened in December 1835, under a slim margin of Democratic control, Jackson sent it a new Taney nomination, this time to fill a vacancy for chief justice of the United States. Following extended maneuvering and bitter debate, the Senate confirmed Taney.

In preparing to leave office a year later, Jackson wrote to a friend that he was greatly looking forward to seeing his loyal supporter, president-elect Martin Van Buren, whom the Senate had rejected for a diplomatic post in his first administration, sworn into office by Chief Justice Taney.

Sculpture of Roger Taney