In response to South Carolina’s attempts to nullify a federal law, President Andrew Jackson grew enraged. Even though he was no supporter of high tariffs and South Carolina was his birth state, for the president there were greater principles at stake—safeguarding the Constitution, which held national authority supreme to state power, and keeping the union strong. For Jackson, nullification amounted to disunion and, thus, an act of treason. On December 10, 1832, he issued this proclamation, written up by Secretary of State Edward Livingston, to make the intellectual case against South Carolina’s actions. The president was prepared to use force, though, by signing into law on March 2, 1833, the Force Bill, which authorized deployment of the military to uphold federal law. It never went so far, as the nullifiers of South Carolina eventually accepted the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which lowered rates to their satisfaction. Crisis was averted … for a while.
[T]o 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, and to the reasons they have put forth to sustain
them, declaring the course which duty will require me to pursue, and, appealing to the understanding and patriotism of the people, warn them of the consequences that must inevitably result from
an observance of the dictates of the Convention.
The ordinance is founded, not on the indefeasible right of resisting acts which are plainly
unconstitutional, and too oppressive to be endured, but on the strange position that any one State
may not only declare an act of Congress void, but prohibit its execution- that they may do this
consistently with the Constitution-that the true construction of that instrument permits a State to
retain its place in the Union, and yet be bound by no other of its laws than those it may choose to
consider as constitutional. It is true they add, that to justify this abrogation of a law, 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. If it should be said that public opinion is a sufficient check
against the abuse of this power,
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