EARLY AMERICA AND THE JACKSONIAN ERA (1815-1832)
Read and discuss the following questions to analyze the policies of Jackson in the decade precedingand the years during his time as president.
The Second Bank of the United States
Digital History ID 214
Author: John F. Lovett
Originally, the Republican party stood for limited government, states’ rights, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. By 1815, however, the party had adopted former Federalist positions on a national bank, protective tariffs, a standing army, and national roads.
The severe financial problems created by the War of 1812 led to a wave of support for the creation of a second national bank. The demise of the first Bank of the United States just before the war had left the nation ill equipped to deal with the war’s financial demands. To finance the war effort, the governed borrowed from private banks at high interest rates. To make matters worse, the U.S. government was unable to redeem millions of dollars deposited in private banks. Soldiers, army contractors, and government security holders went unpaid and the Treasury temporarily went bankrupt.
Supporters of a second national bank argued that it would provide a safe place to deposit government funds and a convenient mechanism for transferring money between states. Supporters also claimed that a national bank would promote monetary stability by regulating private banks. Opposition to a national bank came largely from private banking interests and traditional Jeffersonians, who considered a national bank to be unconstitutional and a threat to republican government.
In this selection, John F. Lovett (1761-1818), a Federalist Representative from New York, describes the bank as a concentration of unaccountable power inappropriate in a republican society.
Exhausted in a seven hours sitting, I can but [write] a word.
We are over the Rubicon–The Bank bill has passed…
This is an evil hour, from stocks constructed I known not how, and stacked I know not in what manner, have we constructed the Trojan Horse, and given commission to unite against the Republic. I make good prize of every thing for 20 years; after that period, the Commander & Crew will get their commission received to do just what they please, and no questions asked….
Copyright 2012 Digital History
The Second Bank of the United States
Digital History ID 217
Author: Jonathan Roberts
After a second national bank was chartered, legislators in several states sought to restrict the bank’s operations by imposing a tax on the bank notes of banks not chartered by their state. One state that considered levying such a tax was Pennsylvania. In the following letter, Jonathan Roberts (1771-1854), a Republican Senator from Pennsylvania, defends the bank. During the Missouri Crisis of 1819 and 1820, Roberts proposed legislation that would have prevented the introduction of any more slaves into Missouri.
Document: I think I have seen a motion made in your behalf to inquire into the expediency of taxing the United States Bank and branches in the state. What feelings prevail on this subject I know not. I should regret the proposition should be entertained. I regret the motion has been agitated. It must…[en]danger…the Union. The Bank of the United States was a measure of and is a sensible necessity. Till now we had no real [national] currency…. The bank has to struggle against stupendous difficulties but has been of immense benefit already. Such a measure [the imposition of a tax on its notes] cannot be undertaken without affecting its credit…. It [the bank] has established branches liberally to accommodate the public all of which…are an expense. An immense Bonus & benefit of subscription has been obtained from it by this government for the benefit of all. If full proportion of burden has been imposed upon it I doubt if any state Bank has contributed more to the revenue. But I can not enlarge on this subject. I think a little reflection will discover the evil with which the proposition is fraught. You will excuse these remarks, they are made in the freedom of friendship. If they be different from your ideas I hope you will let them pass as they are offered.
Copyright 2012 Digital History
McCullough v. Maryland
Digital History ID 200
Author: James Madison
In a direct attack on the new national bank, Maryland actually imposed a tax on its bank notes. The bank sued in federal court and in 1819 the Supreme Court rendered its decision in the landmark case of McCullough v. Maryland, which established the constitutionality of the second bank of the United States and denied states the right to exert an independent check on federal authority.
In his decision, Chief Justice John Marshall dealt with two fundamental questions. The first was whether the federal government had the power to incorporate a bank. The justices said that the answer to this question was yes, because the Constitution granted Congress implied powers to do whatever was “necessary and proper” to carry out its constitutional powers–in this case the power to manage a currency. The second question was whether a state had the power to tax the notes issued by the bank. The court said no, ruling that the Constitution had created a new government with sovereign power over the states.
Here, the “father of the Constitution” criticizes the court’s decision, fearing that Marshall’s broad construction of “necessary and proper” means will open the way to unlimited kinds of legislative tyranny.
I have rec[eive]d your favor [letter]…enclosing a copy of your observations on the Judgment of the Supreme Court of the U.S. in the case of McCulloch agst. the State of Maryland, and I have found their latitudinary mode of expounding the Constitution combated in them with the ability and the force which were to be expected.
It appears to me as it does to you that the occasion did not call for the general and abstract doctrine interwoven with the decision of the particular case. I have always supposed that the meaning of a law, and for a like reason, of a Constitution so far as it depends on Judicial interpretation, was to result from a course of particular decisions, and not those from a previous and abstract comment on the subject. The example in this instance tends to reverse the rule and to forego the illustration to be derived from a series of cases actually occurring for adjudication….
But what is of most importance is the high sanction given to a latitude in expounding the Constitution which seems to break down the landmarks extended by a specification of the powers of Congress, and to substitute for a definite connection between means and ends, a Legislative discretion as to the former to which no practical limit can be assigned. In the great system of political economy having for its general object the national welfare, every thing is related immediately or remotely to every other thing; and consequently a power over any one thing, if not limited by some obvious and precise affinity, may amount to a power over every other…. The British Parliament in collecting a revenue from the commerce of America found no difficulty in calling it either a tax for the regulation of trade, or a regulation of trade with a view to the tax as it suited the argument or the policy of the moment.
Is there a Legislative power in fact, not expressly prohibited by the Constitution, which might not, according to the doctrine of the Court, be exercised as a means of carrying into effect some specified power!
Does not the Court also relinquish by their doctrine, all control on the Legislative exercise of unconstitutional powers?… Suppose Congress should, as would doubtless happen, pass unconstitutional laws not to accomplish objects not specified in the Constitution, but the same laws as means expedient, convenient or conducive to the accomplishment of objects entrusted to the Government; by what handle should the Court take hold of the cases?…
It was anticipated I believe by few if any of the friends of the Constitution, that a rule of construction would be introduced as broad & as pliant as what has occurred…. There is certainly a reasonable medium between expounding the Constitution with the strictness of a penal law, or other ordinary Statue, and expounding it with a laxity which may vary its essential character; and encroach on the local sovereignties with wch. it was meant to be reconcilable.
Copyright 2012 Digital History
Letter to Lafayette on Slavery
Digital History ID 230
Author: Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson wrote the following letter at a crucial turning point in the history of slavery. Cotton cultivation was spreading extremely rapidly into the Old Southwest–Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Arkansas–a development which coincided with the decline of the West Indies, once America’s major market for all kinds of exports, and the potentious clash between North and South over admitting Missouri as a slave state. In this letter to Lafayette, the author of the Declaration of Independence advances the specious argument that the movement of slaves to the western territories offered the best solution to slavery. This hope of “diffusing” the black slave population to the west and towards Mexico, as a means of solving the problems of slavery and racial coexistence, drew increasing support from the upper South.
The boisterous sea of liberty indeed is never without a wave, and that from Missouri is now rolling towards us; but we shall ride over it as we have all others… It is not a moral question, but one merely of power….
All know that permitting the slaves of the South to spread in the West will not add one being to that unfortunate condition, that it will increase the happiness of those existing, and by spreading them over a larger surface, will dilute the evil everywhere and facilitate the means of getting finally rid of it, an event more anxiously wished by those on whom it presses than by the noisy pretenders to exclusive humanity.
Copyright 2012 Digital History
John Quincy Adams Calls for a Vigorous Role for Government
Digital History ID 332
Author: John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams was one of the most brilliant men to occupy the White House. A deeply religious man, he read the Bible at least three times a day–once in English, once in German, and once in French. He was fluent in seven languages, including Greek and Latin.
But Adams, like his father, lacked the political and personal skills necessary to win support for his programs. His adversaries mockingly described him as a “chip off the old iceberg.” But his problems did not arise exclusively from his temperament. His misfortune was to serve as President at a time of growing partisan divisions. The Republican party had split into two distinct camps. Adams and his supporters, known as the National Republicans, favored a vigorous role in promoting economic growth, while the Jacksonian Democrats demanded a limited government and strict adherence to laissez-faire principles.
In this letter, Adams observes that throughout his political career he believed that the central government was responsible for maintaining what has come to be called the nation’s infrastructure.
Conformably to your desires, I enclose herewith a copy of the Resolution moved by me in the Senate of the United States on the 23d. of February 1807. in relations to internal improvements….
This was I believe the first Resolution ever offered in Congress, contemplating a general system of internal improvement….
The question of the power of Congress, to authorize the making of internal improvements, is, in other words, a question, whether the people of this Union, in forming their social compact, avowedly for the purpose of promoting their general welfare, have performed their work in a manner so ineffably stupid, as to deny themselves the means of bettering their own condition. I have too much respect for the intellect of my country to believe it. The first object of human association is the improvement of the condition of the associates–Roads and Canals are among the most essential means of improving the condition of the Nation, and a People which should deliberately by the organization of its authorized power, deprive itself of the faculty of multiplying its own blessings, would be as wise as a Creator, who should undertake to constitute a human being without a Heart.
Copyright 2012 Digital History
Jackson’s Rationale for Removal
Digital History ID 676
Author: President Andrew Jackson
Annotation: President Jackson offers his rationale for removing Indians to lands west of the Mississippi River.
Document: It has long been the policy of Government to introduce among them the arts of civilization, in the hope of gradually reclaiming them from a wandering life. This policy has, however, been coupled with another wholly incompatible with its success. Professing a desire to civilize and settle them, we have at the same time lost no opportunity to purchase their lands and thrust them farther into the wilderness. By this means they have not only been kept in a wandering state, but been led to look upon us as unjust and indifferent to their fate…. A portion, however, of the Southern tribes, having mingled much with the whites and made some progress in the arts of civilized life, have lately attempted to erect an independent government within the limits of Georgia and Alabama. These States, claiming to be the only sovereigns within their territories, extended their laws over the Indians, which induced the latter to call upon the United States for protection….
I informed the Indians inhabiting parts of Georgia and Alabama that their attempt to establish an independent government would not be countenanced by the Executive of the United States, and advised them to emigrate beyond the Mississippi or submit to the laws of those States….
Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for a while their once terrible name. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization, which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay, the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast overtaking the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them if they remain within the limits of the States does not admit of a doubt. Humanity and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great a calamity….
As a means of effecting this end I suggest for your consideration the propriety of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the limit of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian tribes as long as they shall occupy it…. There they may be secured in the enjoyment of governments of their own choice, subject to no other control from the United States than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier and between the several tribes. There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts of civilization….
This emigration would be voluntary, for it would be as cruel and unjust to compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws….
Copyright 2012 Digital History
A Member of Congress Speaks Out Against the Removal Policy
Digital History ID 669
Author: Edward Everett
Annotation: One of the staunchest Congressional opponents of removal was the famous orator Edward Everett. Here he vehemently attacks Andrew Jackson’s removal policy.
Document: The evil, Sir, is enormous; the inevitable suffering incalculable. Do not stain the fair fame of the country…. Nations of dependent Indians, against their will, under color of law, are driven from their homes into the wilderness. You cannot explain it; you cannot reason it away…. Our friends will view this measure with sorrow, and our enemies alone with joy. And we ourselves, Sir, when the interests and passions of the day are past, shall look back upon it, I fear, with self-reproach, and a regret as bitter as unavailing.
Copyright 2012 Digital History
The Removal Act of 1830
Digital History ID 3920
Annotation: An Act to provide for an exchange of lands with the Indians residing in any of the states or territories, and for their removal west of the river Mississippi.
Document: Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That it shall and may be lawful for the President of the United States to cause so much of any territory belonging to the United States, west of the river Mississippi, not included in any state or organized territory, and to which the Indian title has been extinguished, as he may judge necessary, to be divided into a suitable number of districts, for the reception of such tribes or nations of Indians as may choose to exchange the lands where they now reside, and remove there; and to cause each of said districts to be so described by natural or artificial marks, as to be easily distinguished from every other.
And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to exchange any or all of such districts, so to be laid off and described, with any tribe or nation of Indians now residing within the limits of any of the states or territories, and with which the United States have existing treaties, for the whole or any part or portion of the territory claimed and occupied by such tribe or nation, within the bounds of any one or more of the states or territories, where the land claimed and occupied by the Indians, is owned by the United States, or the United States are bound to the state within which it lies to extinguish the Indian claim thereto.
And be it further enacted, That in the making of any such exchange or exchanges, it shall and may be lawful for the President solemnly to assure the tribe or nation with which the exchange is made, that the United States will forever secure and guaranty to them, and their heirs or successors, the country so exchanged with them; and if they prefer it, that the United States will cause a patent or grant to be made and executed to them for the same: Provided always, That such lands shall revert to the United States, if the Indians become extinct, or abandon the same.
And be it further enacted, That if, upon any of the lands now occupied by the Indians, and to be exchanged for, there should be such improvements as add value to the land claimed by any individual or individuals of such tribes or nations, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such value to be ascertained by appraisement or otherwise, and to cause such ascertained value to be paid to the person or persons rightfully claiming such improvements. And upon the payment of such valuation, the improvements so valued and paid for, shall pass to the United States, and possession shall not afterwards be permitted to any of the same tribe.
And be it further enacted, That upon the making of any such exchange as is contemplated by this act, it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such aid and assistance to be furnished to the emigrants as may be necessary and proper to enable them to remove to, and settle in, the country for which they may have exchanged; and also, to give them such aid and assistance as may be necessary for their support and subsistence for the first year after their removal.
And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to cause such tribe or nation to be protected, at their new residence, against all interruption or disturbance from any other tribe or nation of Indians, or from any other person or persons whatever.
And be it further enacted, That it shall and may be lawful for the President to have the same superintendence and care over any tribe or nation in the country to which they may remove, as contemplated by this act, that he is now authorized to have over them at their present places of residence: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed as authorizing or directing the violation of any existing treaty between the United States and any of the Indian tribes.
And be it further enacted, That for the purpose of giving effect to the Provisions of this act, the sum of five hundred thousand dollars is hereby appropriated, to be paid out of any money in the treasury, not otherwise appropriated.
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Copyright 2013 Digital History
Worcester v. Georgia
Digital History ID 3922
Author: John Marshall
Annotation: Supreme Court ruling on state jurisdiction over Indian lands.
Document: MARSHALL, C. J. This cause, in every point of view in which it can be placed, is of the deepest interest.
The defendant is a State, a member of the Union, which has exercised the powers of government over a people who deny its jurisdiction, and are under the protection of the United States.
The plaintiff is a citizen of the State of Vermont, condemned to hard labor for four years in the penitentiary of Georgia under color of an act which he alleges to be repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.
The legislative power of a State, the controlling power of the Constitution and laws of the United States, the rights, if they have any, the political existence of a once numerous and powerful people, the personal liberty of a citizen, all are involved in the subject now to be considered. . . .
We must inquire and decide whether the act of the Legislature of Georgia under which the plaintiff in error has been persecuted and condemned, be consisted with, or repugnant to the Constitution, laws and treaties of the United States.
It has been said at the bar that the acts of the Legislature of Georgia seize on the whole Cherokee country, parcel it out among the neighboring counties of the State, extend her code over the whole country, abolish its institutions and its laws, and annihilate its political existence.
If this be the general effect of the system, let us inquire into the effect of the particular statute and section on which the indictment is founded.
It enacts that “all white persons, residing within the limits of the Cherokee Nation on the 1st day of March next, or at any time thereafter, without a licence or permit from his excellency the governor . . . and who shall not have taken the oath hereinafter required, shall be quilty of a high misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by confinement to the penitentiary at hard labor for a term not less than four years.” . . .
The extraterritorial power of every Legislature being limited in its action to its own citizens or subjects, the very passage of this act is an assertion of jurisdiction over the Cherokee Nation, and of the rights and powers consequent on jurisdiction.
The first step, then, in the inquiry which the Constitution and the laws impose on this court, is an examination of the rightfulness of this claim. . .
From the commencement of our government Congress has passed acts to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indians; which treat them as nations, respect their rights, and manifest a firm purpose to afford that protection which treaties stipulate. All these acts, and especially that of 1802, which is still in force, manifestly consider the several Indian nations as distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having a right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, but guaranteed by the United States. . . .
The Cherokee Nation, then, is a distinct community, occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves or in conformity with treaties and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States.
The act of the State of Georgia under which the plaintiff in error was prosecuted is consequently void, and the judgement a nullity. . . . The Acts of Georgia are repugnant to the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States.
They interfere forcibly with the relations established between the United States and the Cherokee Nation, the regulation of which according to the settled principles of our Constitution, are committed exclusively to the government of the Union.
They are in direct hostility with treaties, repeated in a succession of years, which mark out the boundary that separates the Cherokee country from Georgia; guarantee to them all the land within their boundary; solemnly pledge the faith of the United States to restrain their citizens from trespassing on it; and recognize the pre-existing power of the nation to govern itself.
They are in equal hostility with the acts of Congress for regulating this intercourse, and giving effect to the treaties.
The forcible seizure and abduction of the plaintiff, who was residing in the nation with its permission, and by authority of the President of the United States, is also a violation of the acts which authorize the chief magistrate to exercise this authority. . . .
Copyright 2012 Digital History
South Carolina Governor Robert Y. Hayne on the Nullification Crisis
Digital History ID 355
Author: Governor Robert Y. Hayne
In Congress, Henry Clay, the “great compromiser” who had engineered the Compromise of 1820, worked feverishly to reduce South Carolina’s sense of grievance. In less than a month he persuaded Congress to enact a compromise tariff with lower levels of protection.
Although South Carolina regarded Jackson’s forceful actions as “the mad rages of a driveling dotard,” the state legislature backed down, rescinding the ordinance nullifying the federal tariff. As a final gesture of defiance, however, the state adopted an ordinance nullifying the Force Act.
In 1831 and 1832, South Carolina stood alone. No other southern state yet shared its fear of federal power or its militant desire to assert the doctrine of states’ rights. South Carolina’s anxiety had many causes. Declining cotton prices (from 31 cents a pound in 1818 to 8 cents a pound in 1831) and a growing concern about the future of slavery transformed the state from a supporter of economic nationalism into the nation’s most aggressive advocates of states’ rights. Increasingly, economic grievances fused with concerns over slavery. In 1832 the Palmetto State was one of just two states whose population was made up of a majority of slaves (Mississippi was the other). Events throughout the hemisphere made South Carolinians desperately uneasy about slavery’s future. In 1831 and 1832 militant abolitionism had erupted in the North, slave insurrections had erupted in Southampton County, Virginia, and in Jamaica, and Britain was moving to emancipate all the slaves in the British Caribbean.
By using the tariff as a focus of their grievances, South Carolina found an ideal way to debate the question of state sovereignty without debating the morality of slavery. Following the Missouri Compromise debates, in 1822, a slave insurrection led by Denmark Vesey, a free black who was familiar with antislavery speeches made in Congress during the Missouri debates, was uncovered in Charleston. In 1832, South Carolinians did not want to stage debates in Congress that might bring the explosive slavery issue to the fore and possibly incite another slave revolt.
A leading South Carolina newspaper reprinted the inaugural address of Governor Robert Y. Hayne (1791-1839), which presented the state’s view of the nullification crisis.
In the great struggle in which we engaged, for the preservation of our rights and liberties, it is my fixed determination to assert and uphold the SOVEREIGN AUTHORITY OF THE STATE, and to enforce by all the means that may be entrusted to my hands, her SOVEREIGN WILL. I recognize no ALLEGIANCE, as paramount to that which the citizens of South Carolina, owe to the State of their birth, or their adoption….
South Carolina, after ten years of unavailing petitions and remonstrances, against a system of measures on the part of the Federal Government, which in common with the other Southern States–she has repeatedly declared, to be founded in USURPATION, utterly subversive of the rights, and fatal to the prosperity of her people,–has in the face of the world PUT HERSELF UPON HER SOVEREIGNTY, and made the solemn declaration that this system shall no longer be enforced within her limits. All hope of a redress of this grievance, from a returning sense of justice on the part of our oppressors, or from any probable change in the policy of the Government, having fled, nothing was left for South Carolina, but to throw herself upon her reserved rights, or to remain for ever in a condition of “Colonial vassalage.” She has, therefore, resolved to stand upon her rights, and it is for her sister States, now, to determine, what is to be done in this emergency. She has announced to them her anxious desire that this controversy shall be amicably adjusted, either by a satisfactory modification of the Tariff, or by a reference of the whole subject to a convention of all the States. Should neither of these reasonable propositions be acceded to, then she will feel herself justified before God and Man, in firmly maintaining the position she has assumed, until some other mode can be devised, for the removal of the difficulty. South Carolina is anxiously desirous of living at peace with her brethren; she has not the remotest wish to dissolve the political bonds which have connected her with the great American family of Confederated States. With Thomas Jefferson, “she would regard the dissolution of our Union with them, as one of the greatest of evils–but not the greatest,–there is one greater: SUBMISSION TO A GOVERNMENT WITHOUT LIMITATION OF POWERS;” and such a government she conscientiously believes will be our portion, should the system against which she is now struggling, be finally established as the settled policy of the country. South Carolina is solicitous to preserve the Constitution as our fathers framed it–according to its true spirit, intent, and meaning, but she is inflexibly determined never to surrender her reserved rights, not to suffer the Constitutional compact to be converted into an instrument for the oppression of her citizens….
A confederacy of sovereign states, formed by the free consent of all, cannot possibly be held together, by any other tie than mutual sympathies and common interest. The unhallowed attempt to cement the union with the blood of our citizens, (which if successful would reduce the free and sovereign States of this confederacy to mere dependent provinces) South Carolina has solemnly declared, would be regarded by her, as absolving her “from all further obligation to maintain or preserve her political connexion with the people of the other States.” The spirit of our free institutions, the very temper of the age, would seem to forbid the thought of an appeal to force, for the settlement of a constitutional controversy. If, however, we should be deceived in this reasonable expectation–South Carolina, so far as her means extend, stands prepared to meet danger, and repel invasion, come from what quarter it may….
If after making those efforts due to her own honor and the greatness of the cause, she is destined utterly to fail, the bitter fruits of that failure, [will fall] not to herself alone, but to the entire South, nay to the whole union…. The speedy establishment, on the ruins of the rights of the states, and the liberties of the people, of a great CONSOLIDATED GOVERNMENT, “riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry” [Jefferson’s words] of our once happy land–our glorious confederacy, broken into scattered and dishonored fragments–the light of liberty extinguished, never perhaps to be resumed–these–these will be the melancholy memorials of that wisdom, which saw the danger while yet at a distance, and of that patriotism, which struggled gloriously to avert it….
Copyright 2012 Digital History
Andrew Jackson Denounces Nullification in a Presidential Proclamation
Digital History ID 371
Author: Andrew Jackson
In 1832, in an effort to conciliate the South, Jackson proposed a lower tariff. Revenue from the existing tariff (together with the sale of public lands) was so high that the federal debt was quickly being paid off. In fact, on January 1, 1835, the U.S. Treasury had a $440,000 surplus. The new tariff was somewhat lower than the Tariff of 1828, but still maintained the principle of protection. In protest, South Carolina’s fiery “states’ righters” declared both the Tariff of 1832 and the Tariff of 1828 null and void. To defend nullification, the state legislature voted to raise an army.
Although President Jackson owed his election to the presidency to southern slaveholder votes, he was an ardent unionist who was willing to risk civil war in order to defy South Carolina’s nullification threats. In the proclamation that follows, Jackson declared nullification illegal and became the first President to declare the Union indissoluble. He then asked Congress to empower him to use force to execute federal law; Congress promptly enacted a Force Act. Privately, Jackson threatened to “hang every leader…of that infatuated people, sir, by martial law, irrespective of his name, or political or social position.” He also dispatched a fleet of eight ships and a shipment of 5000 muskets to a federal installation in Charleston harbor.
Whereas a convention assembled by the State of South Carolina, have passed an ordinance by which they declare, “That the several acts…of Congress…for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities…are unauthorized by the Constitution of the United States and violate the true meaning and intent thereof, and are null and void, and have no law” nor binding on the citizens of that State….
And…the said ordinance declares that the people of South Carolina…have said that they will consider any act passed by Congress abolishing or closing the ports of the said State…as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union….
And whereas the said Ordinance prescribes on the people of South Carolina a course of conduct in direct violation of their duty as citizens of the United States, contrary to the laws of their country, subversive of its constitution, and having for its object the destruction of the Union…. To preserve this bond of our political existence from destruction, to maintain inviolate this state of national honor and prosperity, and to justify the confidence my fellow-citizens have reposed in me, I, Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, have thought proper to issue this my PROCLAMATION, stating my views of the Constitution and laws applicable to the measures adopted by the Convention of South Carolina….
The Ordinance is founded not on the…right of resisting acts which are plainly unconstitutional and too oppressive to be endured; but on the strange position that nay one State may not only declare an Act of Congress void, but prohibit its execution…. It is true, they add, that to justify this abrogation…it must be palpably contrary to the constitution; but it is evident that to give the right of resisting laws of that description, coupled with the uncontrolled right to decide what laws deserve that character, is to give the power of resisting all laws. For, as by the theory, there is no appeal, the reasons alleged by the State, good or bad, must prevail….
I consider then the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE EXISTENCE OF THE UNION, CONTRADICTED EXPRESSLY BY THE LETTER OF THE CONSTITUTION, UNAUTHORIZED BY ITS SPIRIT, INCONSISTENT WITH EVERY PRINCIPLE ON WHICH IT WAS FOUNDED, AND DESTRUCTIVE OF THE GREAT OBJECT FOR WHICH IT WAS FORMED….
The law in question was passed under a power expressly given by the Constitution, to lay and collect imposts…. The Constitution has given expressly to Congress the right of raising revenue and of determining the sum the public exigencies will require. The States have no control over the exercise of this right, other than that which results from the power of changing the Representatives who abuse it, and thus procure redress….
On such expositions and reasonings the Ordinance grounds not only an assertion of the right to annul the laws of which it complains, but to enforce it by a threat of seceding from the Union if any attempt is made to execute them.
This right to secede is deduced from the nature of the Constitution, which they say is a compact between sovereign States, who have preserved their whole sovereignty, and therefore are subject to no superior: that because they made the compact, they can break it, when, in their opinion, it has been departed from by the other states. Fallacious as this course of reasoning is, it enlists State pride, and finds advocates in the honest prejudices of those who have not studied the nature of our Government sufficiently to see the radical error on which it rests.
The people of the United States formed the Constitution, acting through the State Legislatures in making the compact, to meet and discuss its provisions, and acting in separate conventions when they ratified those provisions; but the terms used in its construction show it to be a government in which the people of all the States collectively are representative. We are ONE PEOPLE in the choice of the President and Vice President. Here the States have no other agency than to direct the mode in which the votes shall be given…. The people, then, and not the States, are represented in the Executive branch….
When chosen, they [members of the House of Representatives] are all representatives of the United States, not representatives of the particular State from which they come. They are paid by the United States, not by the State; nor are they accountable to it for any act done in the performance of their legislative functions; and however they may in practice, as it is their duty to do, consult and prefer the interests of their particular constituents when they come in conflict with any other partial or local interest, yet it is their first and highest duty, as representatives of the United States, to promote the general good.
The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league, and whether it be formed by compact between the States, or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a government in which all the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States–they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute jointly with the other States a single Nation, cannot from that period possess any right to secede, because each secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a Nation, and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offence against the whole Union….
No one fellow citizens, has a higher reverence for the reserved rights of the States than the Magistrate who now addresses you…. The States, severally have not retained their entire sovereignty. It has been shown that in becoming parts of a nation, not members of a league, they surrendered many of their essential parts of sovereignty. The right to make treaties–declare war–levy taxes–exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers–were all of them functions of sovereign power. The States then, for all these important purposes, were no longer sovereign. The allegiance of their citizens was transferred in the first instance to the Government of the United States–they became American citizens, and owed obedience to the Constitution of the United States and to laws made in conformity with the powers it vested in Congress…. Treaties and alliances were made in the name of all. Troops were raised for the common defence. How then, with all these proofs that under all changes of our position we had, for designated purposes and with defined powers, created national Governments–how it is, that the most perfect of those several modes of union, should now be considered as a mere league that may be dissolved at pleasure? It is an abuse of terms….
Fellow citizens of my native State! let me not only admonish you, as the first Magistrate of our common country, not to incur the penalty of its laws, but use the influence that a Father would over his children whom he saw rushing to certain ruin…. You are free members of a flourishing and happy union. There is not settled design to oppress you.–You have indeed felt the unequal operation of the laws which may have been unwisely, not constitutionally passed; but that inequality must necessarily removed. At the very moment when you were madly urged on to the unfortunate course you have begun, a change in public opinion has commenced. The nearly approaching payment of the public debt, and the consequent necessity of a diminution of duties, had already produced a considerable reduction, and that too on some articles of general consumption to your State….
If your leaders could succeed in establishing a separation, what would be your situation? Are you united at home–are you free from the apprehension of civil discord, with all its fearful consequences? Do our neighboring republics, every day suffering some new revolution or contending with some new insurrection–do they excite your envy?…. The laws of the United States must be executed. I have no discretionary power on the subject–my duty is emphatically pronounced in the Constitution. Those who told you that you might peaceably prevent their execution, deceived you–they could not have been deceived themselves. They know that a forcible opposition could alone prevent the execution of the laws, and they know that such opposition must be repelled. Their object is disunion: but be not deceived by names: disunion, by armed force, is TREASON….
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