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Andy Jackson's Two Regrets

In going through what happened in history on March 31st, I noticed that it was the anniversary of the death of John C. Calhoun. Calhoun had been Andrew Jackson's vice-president in Jackson's first term, but was dumped from the ticket in Jackson's second term in favor of Martin Van Buren. A lot of Presidents didn't get along with their Veeps, but Jackson actually threatened to hang Calhoun. It was all over the "Nullification Crisis" in which a number of southern states were upset with high tariffs on imports of common manufactured goods made in Europe which made those goods more expensive than ones from the northern U.S. Southern politicians argued that tariffs benefited northern industrialists at the expense of southern farmers.

The issue came to a head in 1828 when Vice President Calhoun, supported the claim of his home state, South Carolina, that it had the right to "nullify" (declare void) the tariff legislation of 1828, and more generally the right of a state to nullify any Federal laws that went against its interests. Although Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, he was also a strong supporter of a strong union, with effective powers for the central government. Jackson attempted to face down Calhoun over the issue, which developed into a bitter rivalry between the two men.

On April 13, 1830, the two were at a Jefferson Day dinner, involving after-dinner toasts. Robert Hayne began by toasting to "The Union of the States, and the Sovereignty of the States." Jackson then rose, and in a booming voice added "Our federal Union: It must be preserved!" – a clear challenge to Calhoun. Calhoun clarified his position by responding "The Union: Next to our Liberty, the most dear!"

At the first Democratic National Convention, Van Buren replaced Calhoun as Jackson's running mate and in December 1832, Calhoun resigned as Vice President to become a U.S. Senator for South Carolina. In response to South Carolina's nullification claim, Jackson vowed to send troops to South Carolina to enforce the laws. He privately threatened to hang Calhoun. Jackson issued a proclamation against the "nullifiers," stating that he considered "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."

South Carolina, the President declared, stood on "the brink of insurrection and treason," and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to that Union for which their ancestors had fought. Jackson also denied the right of secession: "The Constitution... forms a government not a league... To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation."

Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the tariff, but its passage was delayed until protectionists led by Clay agreed to a reduced Compromise Tariff. The Force Bill and Compromise Tariff passed on March 1, 1833, and Jackson signed both. The South Carolina Convention then met and rescinded its nullification ordinance. The Force Bill became moot because it was no longer needed.
When Jackson left office, he is quoted as saying "I have only two regrets: I didn't shoot Henry Clay and I didn't hang John C. Calhoun."


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 31st, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
"nullification" seems to be back. Re Arizona on immigration and the attempts to obliterate abortion rights
Mar. 31st, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
It seems to be a recurring theme. I'm reading about Eisenhower and the Little Rock 9 and how southern governors used the same arguments in support of segregation. At one point Ike remarks to one of his aids "do you suppose some one should remind them that the issue was decided in a civil war?" I was surprised in a recent poll I posted in this group that so many people felt that states' rights trumps a strong central government, leading me to conclude that nullification will always be with us.
Mar. 31st, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
awwww :'( Calhoun....
A while ago during the biography poll I said I was reading an amazing bio. on VP Calhoun, it was surprisingly quite good... he reminded me of myself--except I don't believe in slavery lol! xD (the author was really good at portraying everybody's personalities; Jackson, Van Buren, Webster, Clay, etc...), so I kind of had an attachment there lol. :P
Mar. 31st, 2011 07:01 pm (UTC)
I was tempted to write about Calhoun because he's such an interesting guy (not to mention how he looks so wild-eyed crazy in some of his pictures.) I think people like him will always be with us.
Apr. 2nd, 2011 07:52 pm (UTC)
yeah, he had quite an eventful life! (LOL! xD)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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