Maysville Road Bill Veto

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  • 0:01 The Maysville Road Bill
  • 0:34 The American System
  • 1:22 Presidential Veto
  • 2:26 Support & Opposition
  • 3:34 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

The executive veto of the Maysville Road Bill became synonymous with President Andrew Jackson's handling of national affairs. Learn about the proposed project, the veto and the legacy of the failed road in this lesson.

The Maysville Road Bill

The veto of the Maysville Road Bill is an obscure topic in United States history, but it has a degree of importance in understanding the tenets of Jacksonian Democracy. Proponents of the Maysville Road argued that the turnpike, which would run from Louisville, Kentucky, to Maysville, Kentucky, offered a new system of transportation that would unite two major cities on the Ohio River. President Andrew Jackson, however, viewed the bill as an overreach of the federal government and potentially harmful to the national debt. Let's take a look at how the veto of the Maysville Road Bill unfolded.

The American System

Supporters of the Maysville Road found themselves clumped together in a group that supported the idea of the American System, an economic plan backed by politicians such as Henry Clay. The American System was a wide-ranging attempt to unify and strengthen the United States through internal improvements, a centralized banking system and protective tariffs. The construction of a large-scale turnpike, such as the Maysville Road, fell under the internal improvements category. The ultimate concept was to begin replacing sectional rivalries with national accord.

Members of the United States Congress seemed to concur. In 1830, Congress overwhelmingly passed the funding for the Maysville Road. Federal funding for the road would be added to the large-scale project of rebuilding the National Road that had begun simultaneously.

Presidential Veto

Unfortunately for Congress and advocates of the Maysville Road Bill, President Jackson was not a strong supporter of the project. In fact, Jackson quickly vetoed the bill on May 27, 1830.

Jackson's rationale was straightforward: the project was unconstitutional. He maintained that the federal government did not have the power to fund intrastate (within a state) projects; rather, any such project had to be funded directly through the state. State infrastructure projects did not benefit the whole of the nation, and, therefore, federal subsidies should not be appropriated. Jackson's veto bolstered his conviction to a limited federal government and the protection of states' rights from federal intervention.

Aside from the constitutionality of the Maysville Road, Jackson contended that the goal of his administration was to erase the national debt. Expenditures on the magnitude of the Maysville Road would only add to the burgeoning debt, rather than eliminating it. This did not mean that Jackson was completely opposed to federal projects, but it was important that the project benefited the entirety of the nation in order to be funded.

Support and Opposition

Jackson's veto of the Maysville Road Bill did not cause the major political opposition that many expected. Congress accepted the veto without challenge, and many Americans approved of the executive veto for tax purposes. However, the veto was not entirely supported.

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