On December 10, 1832, President Andrew
Jackson issued a proclamation to the people of South
Carolina that disputed a states' right to nullify a federal
law. Jackson's proclamation was written in response to
an ordinance issued by a South Carolina convention that
declared that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 "are
unauthorized by the constitution of the United States,
and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are
null, void, and no law, nor binding
upon this State." Led by John C. Calhoun, Jackson's vice president at the
time, the nullifiers felt that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 favored Northern-manufacturing
interests at the expense of Southern farmers. After Jackson issued his proclamation,
Congress passed the Force
Act that authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted
the tariff acts. In 1833, Henry Clay helped broker a compromise bill with Calhoun
that slowly lowered tariffs over the next decade. The
Compromise Tariff of 1833 was eventually accepted by South Carolina and ended
the nullification crisis.
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Andrew Jackson Papers
The Andrew Jackson Papers contain more than 26,000 items dating from 1767 to 1874. Included are memoranda, journals, speeches, military records, land deeds, and miscellaneous printed matter, as well as correspondence reflecting Jackson’s personal life and career as a politician, military officer, president, slave holder and property owner.
A selection of references to the Nullification Crisis include:
- Andrew Jackson to George Breathitt, November 7, 1832 (Breathitt went to Charleston ostensibly as a post-office inspector; but his real business was to observe the situation with respect to nullification and to report to Jackson) [Transcription]
- Andrew Jackson to Martin Van Buren, November 18, 1832, "This is all we want, peaceably to nullify the nullifyers." [Transcription]
- Draft of a Proclamation to the People of South Carolina, 1832
- Andrew Jackson to Lewis Cass, December 17, 1832, "If I can judge from the signs of the times Nullification, and secession, or in the language of truth, disunion, is gaining strength, we must be prepared to act with promptness, and crush the monster in its cradle before it matures to manhood." [Transcription]
- Andrew Jackson to U. S. Congress, January 16, 1833 (Clerk's copy of message to U.S. Congress regarding nullification.)
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional
Documents and Debates, 1774-1875
This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals. Negative reaction to the Tariff
Act of 1828 and the Tariff
Act of 1832 led to the South Carolina Ordinance of
this collection in the 22nd Congress using terms like
and the force
bill to find congressional
debate on this topic, including Sen.
John C. Calhoun's speech
on January 16, 1833, and Jackson's message transmitting copies of the proclamation and proceedings in relation to South Carolina.
The following sections of Elliot's Debates, Volume 4, relate to the issue of nullification:
James Madison Papers, 1723 to 1859
James Madison expressed his
opposition to nullification in a number of
documents during the nullification crisis with South
Carolina, including the following:
Search on the term nullification to
find additional documents on this topic.
Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera
The Printed Ephemera collection comprises 28,000 primary-source items dating from the seventeenth century to the present and encompasses key events and eras in American history.
- Jackson and the nullifiers ... Printed and sold, wholesale and retail, at 257 Hudson-street, and 138 Division-street. .
- Preamble and resolutions on the subject of the South Carolina ordinance ... Resolution in relation to a call of a convention to amend the constitution of the United States ... Resolution relating to the President's proclamation and message ... [Dated at] Columbus, Ohio. Feb. 25, 1833.
- Proposals by Thomas W. White, for publishing in the City of Richmond, a new tri-weekly newspaper, to be styled The friend of the union, and advocate of state rights ... August 26, 1833.
- The select committee to which was referred "so much of the Governor's message as relates to the resolutions from the states of Louisiana, Maine, New-Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, with the accompanying documents," beg leave to report ... the adoption of the following resolution ... Resolved that the doctrine of nullification is contrary to the letter and spirit of the constitution ... [Jackson, Mass. 1833].
- Should the nullifiers succeed in their views of separation, and the Union be in consequence dissolved, the following will be an appropriate epitah.
- State of New Jersey. Whereas the people of the state of South Carolina in convention assembled ... Therefore, in the name and in behalf of the people of the state of New Jersey, and as their legal representatives. Be it resolved. [ 8 resolutions of the New Jersey General Assembly in opposition to South Carolina nullification] [Trenton, 1833].
- State rights & nullification ticket. For State convention. Samuel E. Nelson. Thomas G. M'Fadden. John L. Felder. [1832?].
- Washington City, March 2, 1833. Sir: The present session of Congress closes this day, and although but few of the subjects introduced have been finally acted upon, I flatter myself that much good has been done for our country ... John Tipton.
Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606 to 1827
The issue of whether or not a state had the right to
nullify a federal law was not a new issue in 1832. Over
thirty years earlier, the Kentucky
Resolution was secretly authored by Thomas Jefferson
in response to the Alien and Sedition Acts. Along with
the Virginia Resolution, which was written by James Madison,
the Kentucky Resolution argued that state legislatures
had the right to nullify Federal statutes. This version
of the Kentucky Resolution is from the Thomas Jefferson
Papers at the Library of Congress.
Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years
On January 13, 1833, President
Andrew Jackson wrote a letter to his newly elected
vice-president Martin Van Buren discussing South Carolina
and the nullification crisis. Jackson closes with the
assertion, "nothing must be permitted to weaken
our government at home or abroad."
President Andrew Jackson wrote Vice President Martin
Van Buren expressing his opposition to South Carolina's
defiance of federal authority during the Nullification
Jackson Issues Nullification Proclamation–December 10, 1832, The Miller Center, University of Virginia
The South Carolina Nullification Controversy, ushistory.org
Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, November 24, 1832,
Avalon Project at Yale Law School
Madison's Famous Original Letter Against Nullification, 1832. New York: G. D. Smith, 1912. [Catalog
Record] [Full Text]
State Papers on Nullification: Including the Public Acts of the Convention of the People of South Carolina, Assembled at Columbia, November 19, 1832, and March 11, 1833; the Proclamation of the President of the United States, and the Proceedings of the Several State Legislatures which have Acted on the Subject. Collected and Published by Order of the General Court of Massachusetts, Under the Direction of the Committee on the Library. Boston: Dutton and Wentworth, printers to the state, 1834. [Catalog
Record] [Full Text]
Ellis, Richard E. The Union at Risk:
Jacksonian Democracy, States' Rights, and the Nullification
Crisis. New York:
Oxford University Press, 1987. [Catalog
Freehling, William W. Prelude to
Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina,
1816-1836. New York: Oxford
University Press, 1992. [Catalog
Peterson, Merrill D. Olive Branch
and Sword: The Compromise of 1833. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press,