December 10, 1832 – President Andrew Jackson Repudiates the Doctrine of Nullification

On this day in history, President Andrew Jackson responded to the action of the South Carolina legislature, which had declared a federal tariff law on imports “null, void, and no law, nor binding” upon South Carolina.

President Jackson issued a lengthy Proclamation decrying the ordinance passed by South Carolina and declaring:

I consider the power to annul a law of the United States assumed by the 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. [emphasis in original.]”

He went on to point out that in coming together, the states formed “a government not a league,” and by taking this step, the constituent states “expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute, jointly with the other States, a single nation…” From this single nation they did not retain the right to secede. They did, by contrast, agree to transfer their allegiance to the government of the United States, to the Constitution, and to the laws made in conformity with it. And the laws of the United States, President Jackson assured his readers, must be executed.

[Well, unless Jackson himself disagreed with the law, as he did with the 1832 Supreme Court decision to protect the Cherokees in Worcester v. Georgia, but that’s another story….]

President Andrew Jackson

President Andrew Jackson

South Carolina still resisted, however, and even threatened Civil War. President Jackson then called on Congress for a Force Bill (4 Stat. 632 ,1833), stipulating that the president could, if he deemed it necessary, deploy the U.S. Army to force South Carolina to comply with the law. Surrounding southern state legislatures also indicated they did not agree with the actions taken by South Carolina, and it finally capitulated – at least, until twenty-eight years later.


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