President Andrew Jackson's Proclamation Regarding South Carolina's
Nullification, December 10, 1832
Nullification Crisis, Nullification Proclamation
Whereas a convention, assembled in the State of South Carolina, have passed
an ordinance [South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification: November 24, 1832], by which they declare that the several acts and parts of acts
of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign
commodities, and now having actual operation and effect within the United States, and more especially "two acts for the same
purposes, passed on the 29th of May, 1828, and on the 14th of July, 1832, are unauthorized by the Constitution of the United
States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof, and are null and void, and no law," nor binding on the citizens of
that State or its officers, and by the said ordinance it is further declared to he unlawful for any of the constituted authorities
of the State, or of the United States, to enforce the payment of the duties imposed by the said acts within the same State,
and that it is the duty of the legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to give full effect to the said ordinances:
And whereas, by the said ordinance it is further ordained, that, in no case
of law or equity, decided in the courts of said State, wherein shall be drawn in question the validity of the said ordinance,
or of the acts of the legislature that may be passed to give it effect, or of the said laws of the United States, no appeal
shall be allowed to the Supreme Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the record be permitted or allowed for that
purpose; and that any person attempting to take such appeal, shall be punished as for a contempt of court:
And, finally, the said ordinance declares that the people of South Carolina
will maintain the said ordinance at every hazard, and that they will consider the passage of any act by Congress abolishing
or closing the ports of the said State, or otherwise obstructing the free ingress or egress of vessels to and from the said
ports, or any other act of the Federal Government to coerce the State, shut up her ports, destroy or harass her commerce,
or to enforce the said acts otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as inconsistent with the longer continuance
of South Carolina in the Union; and that the people of the said State will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further
obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States, and will forthwith proceed
to organize a separate government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do.
And whereas the said ordinance prescribes to 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 instruction of the Union-that Union, which, coeval with our
political existence, led our fathers, without any other ties to unite them than those of patriotism and common cause, through
the sanguinary struggle to a glorious independence-that sacred Union, hitherto inviolate, which, perfected by our happy Constitution,
has brought us, by the favor of Heaven, to a state of prosperity at home, and high consideration abroad, rarely, if ever,
equaled in the history of nations; 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, 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.
Strict duty would require of me nothing more than the exercise of those powers
with which I am now, or may hereafter be, invested, for preserving the Union, and for the execution of the laws. But the imposing
aspect which opposition has assumed in this case, by clothing itself with State authority, and the deep interest which the
people of the United States must all feel in preventing a resort to stronger measures, while there is a hope that anything
will be yielded to reasoning and remonstrances, perhaps demand, and will certainly justify, a full exposition to South Carolina
and the nation of the views I entertain of this important question, as well as a distinct enunciation of the course which
my sense of duty will require me to pursue.
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, it may be asked why it is not deemed a
sufficient guard against the passage of an unconstitutional act by Congress. There is, however, a restraint in this last case,
which makes the assumed power of a State more indefensible, and which does not exist in the other. There are two appeals from
an unconstitutional act passed by Congress-one to the judiciary, the other to the people and the States. There is no appeal
from the State decision in theory; and the practical illustration shows that the courts are closed against an application
to review it, both judges and jurors being sworn to decide in its favor. But reasoning on this subject is superfluous, when
our social compact in express terms declares, that the laws of the United States, its Constitution, and treaties made under
it, are the supreme law of the land; and for greater caution adds, "that the judges in every State shall be bound thereby,
anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." And it may be asserted, without fear of
refutation, that no federative government could exist without a similar provision. Look, for a moment, to the consequence.
If South Carolina considers the revenue laws unconstitutional, and has a right to prevent their execution in the port of Charleston,
there would be a clear constitutional objection to their collection in every other port, and no revenue could be collected
anywhere; for all imposts must be equal. It is no answer to repeat that an unconstitutional law is no law, so long as the
question of its legality is to be decided by the State itself, for every law operating injuriously upon any local interest
will be perhaps thought, and certainly represented, as unconstitutional, and, as has been shown, there is no appeal.
If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day, the Union would have
been dissolved in its infancy. The excise law in Pennsylvania, the embargo and non-intercourse law in the Eastern States,
the carriage tax in Virginia, were all deemed unconstitutional, and were more unequal in their operation than any of the laws
now complained of; but, fortunately, none of those States discovered that they had the right now claimed by South Carolina.
The war into which we were forced, to support the dignity of the nation and the rights of our citizens, might have ended in
defeat and disgrace instead of victory and honor, if the States, who supposed it a ruinous and unconstitutional measure, had
thought they possessed the right of nullifying the act by which it was declared, and denying supplies for its prosecution.
Hardly and unequally as those measures bore upon several members of the Union, to the legislatures of none did this efficient
and peaceable remedy, as it is called, suggest itself. The discovery of this important feature in our Constitution was reserved
to the present day. To the statesmen of South Carolina belongs the invention, and upon the citizens of that State will, unfortunately,
fall the evils of reducing it to practice.
If the doctrine of a State veto upon the laws of the Union carries with it
internal evidence of its impracticable absurdity, our constitutional history will also afford abundant proof that it would
have been repudiated with indignation had it been proposed to form a feature in our Government.
In our colonial state, although dependent on another power, we very
early considered ourselves as connected by common interest with each other. Leagues were formed for common defense, and before
the Declaration of Independence, we were known in our aggregate character as the United Colonies of America.
That decisive and important step was taken jointly. We declared ourselves a nation by a joint, not by several acts; and when
the terms of our confederation [Articles of Confederation: The United States of America] were reduced to form, it was in that of a solemn league of several
States, by which they agreed that they would, collectively, form one nation, for the purpose of conducting some certain domestic
concerns, and all foreign relations. In the instrument forming that Union, is found an article which declares that "every
State shall abide by the determinations of Congress on all questions which by that Confederation should be submitted to them."
Under the Confederation,
then, no State could legally annul a decision of the Congress, or refuse to submit to its execution, but no provision was
made to enforce these decisions. Congress made requisitions, but they were not complied with. The Government could not operate
on individuals. They had no judiciary, no means of collecting revenue.
But the defects of the Confederation
need not be detailed. Under its operation we could scarcely be called a nation. We had neither prosperity at home nor consideration
abroad. This state of things could not be endured, and our present happy Constitution
was formed, but formed in vain, if this fatal doctrine prevails. It was formed for important objects that are announced in
the preamble made in the name and by the authority of the people of the United States, whose delegates framed, and whose conventions
The most important among these objects, that which is placed first in rank,
on which all the others rest, is "to form a more perfect Union." Now, is it possible that, even if there were no express
provision giving supremacy to the Constitution and laws of the United States over those of the States, it can be conceived
that an Instrument made for the purpose of "forming; a more perfect Union" than that of the confederation, could be
so constructed by the assembled wisdom of our country as to substitute for that confederation a form of government, dependent
for its existence on the local interest, the party spirit of a State, or of a prevailing faction in a State? Every man, of
plain, unsophisticated understanding, who hears the question, will give such an answer as will preserve the Union. Metaphysical
subtlety, in pursuit of an impracticable theory, could alone have devised one that is calculated to destroy it.
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
After this general view of the leading principle, we must examine the particular
application of it which is made in the ordinance.
The preamble rests its justification on these grounds: It assumes as a fact,
that the obnoxious laws, although they purport to be laws for raising revenue, were in reality intended for the protection
of manufactures, which purpose it asserts to be unconstitutional; that the operation of these laws is unequal, that the amount
raised by them is greater than is required by the wants of the Government; and, finally, that the proceeds are to be applied
to objects unauthorized by the Constitution. These are the only causes alleged to justify an open opposition to the laws of
the country, and a threat of seceding from the Union, if any attempt should be made to enforce them. The first virtually acknowledges
that the law in question was passed under a power expressly given by the Constitution, to lay and collect imposts, but its
constitutionality is drawn in question from the motives of those who passed it. However apparent this purpose may be in the
present case, nothing can be more dangerous than to admit the position that an unconstitutional purpose, entertained by the
members who assent to a law enacted under a constitutional power, shall make that law void; for how is that purpose to be
ascertained? Who is to make the scrutiny? How often may bad purposes be falsely imputed ? In how many cases are they concealed
by false professions? In how many is no declaration of motive made? Admit this doctrine and you give to the States an uncontrolled
right to decide, and every law may be annulled under this pretext. If, therefore, the absurd and dangerous doctrine should
be admitted, that a State may annul an unconstitutional law, or one that it deems such, it will not apply to the present case.
The next objection is, that the laws in question operate unequally. This objection
may be made with truth to every law that has been or can be passed. The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation
that would operate with perfect equality. If the unequal operation of a law makes it unconstitutional and if all laws of that
description may be abrogated by any State for that cause, then, indeed, is the federal Constitution unworthy of the slightest
effort for its preservation. We have hitherto relied on it as the perpetual bond of our Union. We have received it as the
work of the assembled wisdom of the nation We have trusted to it as to the sheet-anchor of our safety, in the stormy times
of conflict with a foreign or domestic foe. We have looked to it with sacred awe as the palladium of our liberties, and with
all the solemnities of religion have pledged to each other our lives and fortunes here, and our hopes of happiness hereafter,
in its defense and support. Were we mistaken, my countrymen, in attaching this importance to the Constitution of our country?
Was our devotion paid to the wretched, inefficient, clumsy contrivance, which this new doctrine would make it? Did we pledge
ourselves to the support of an airy nothing-a bubble that must be blown away by the first breath of disaffection? Was this
self-destroying, visionary theory the work of the profound statesmen, the exalted patriots, to whom the task of constitutional
reform was intrusted? Did the name of Washington sanction, did the States deliberately ratify, such an anomaly in the history
of fundamental legislation? No. We were not mistaken. The letter of this great instrument is free from this radical fault;
its language directly contradicts the imputation, its spirit, its evident intent, contradicts it. No, we did not err. Our
Constitution does not contain the absurdity of giving power to make laws, and another power to resist them. The sages, whose
memory will always be reverenced, have given us a practical, and, as they hoped, a permanent constitutional compact. The Father
of his Country did not affix his revered name to so palpable an absurdity. Nor did the States, when they severally ratified
it, do so under the impression that a veto on the laws of the United States was reserved to them, or that they could exercise
it by application. Search the debates in all their conventions-examine the speeches of the most zealous opposers of federal
authority-look at the amendments that were proposed. They are all silent--not a syllable uttered, not a vote given, not a
motion made, to correct the explicit supremacy given to the laws of the Union over those of the States, or to show that implication,
as is now contended, could defeat it. No, we have not erred! The Constitution is still the object of our reverence, the bond
of our Union, our defense in danger, the source of our prosperity in peace. It shall descend, as we have received it, uncorrupted
by sophistical construction to our posterity; and the sacrifices of local interest, of State prejudices, of personal animosities,
that were made to bring it into existence, will again be patriotically offered for its support.
The two remaining objections made by the ordinance to these laws are, that
the sums intended to be raised by them are greater than are required, and that the proceeds will be unconstitutionally employed.
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. Congress may undoubtedly abuse this discretionary power, but the
same may be said of others with which they are vested. Yet the discretion must exist somewhere. The Constitution has given
it to the representatives of all the people, checked by the representatives of the States, and by the executive power. The
South Carolina construction gives it to the legislature, or the convention of a single State, where neither the people of
the different States, nor the States in their separate capacity, nor the chief magistrate elected by the people, have any
representation. Which is the most discreet disposition of the power? I do not ask you, fellow-citizens, which is the constitutional
disposition-that instrument speaks a language not to be misunderstood. But if you were assembled in general convention, which
would you think the safest depository of this discretionary power in the last resort? Would you add a clause giving it to
each of the States, or would you sanction the wise provisions already made by your Constitution? If this should be the result
of your deliberations when providing for the future, are you-can you-be ready to risk all that we hold dear, to establish,
for a temporary and a local purpose, that which you must acknowledge to be destructive, and even absurd, as a general provision?
Carry out the consequences of this right vested in the different States, and you must perceive that the crisis your conduct
presents at this day would recur whenever any law of the United States displeased any of the States, and that we should soon
cease to be a nation.
The ordinance with the same knowledge of the future that characterizes a former
objection, tells you that the proceeds of the tax will be unconstitutionally applied. If this could be ascertained with certainty,
the objection would, with more propriety, be reserved for the law so applying the proceeds, but surely cannot be urged against
the laws levying the duty.
These are the allegations contained in the ordinance. Examine them seriously,
my fellow-citizens-judge for yourselves. I appeal to you to determine whether they are so clear, so convincing, as to leave
no doubt of their correctness, and even if you should come to this conclusion, how far they justify the reckless, destructive
course which you are directed to pursue. Review these objections and the conclusions drawn from them once more. What are they!
Every law, then, for raising revenue, according to the South Carolina ordinance, may be rightfully annulled, unless it be
so framed as no law ever will or can be framed. Congress have a right to pass laws for raising revenue, and each State has
a right to oppose their execution-two rights directly opposed to each other; and yet is this absurdity supposed to be contained
in an instrument drawn for the express purpose of avoiding collisions between the States and the general government, by an
assembly of the most enlightened statesmen and purest patriots ever embodied for a similar purpose.
In vain have these sages declared that Congress shall have power to lay and
collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises-in vain have they provided that they shall have power to pass laws which shall
be necessary and proper to carry those powers into execution, that those laws and that Constitution shall be the "supreme
law of the land; that the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any State
to the contrary notwithstanding." In vain have the people of the several States solemnly sanctioned these provisions, made
them their paramount law, and individually sworn to support them whenever they were called on to execute any office..
Vain provisions! Ineffectual restrictions! Vile profanation of oaths! Miserable
mockery of legislation ! If a bare majority of the voters in any one State may, on a real or supposed knowledge of the intent
with which a law has been passed, declare themselves free from its operation-say here it gives too little, there too much,
and operates unequally-here it suffers articles to be free that ought to be taxed, there it taxes those that ought to be free-in
this case the proceeds are intended to be applied to purposes which we do not approve, in that the amount raised is more than
is wanted. Congress, it is true, are invested by the Constitution with the right of deciding these questions according to
their sound discretion. Congress is composed of the representatives of all the States, and of all the people of all the states;
but WE, part of the people of one State, to whom the Constitution has given no power on the subject from whom it has expressly
taken it away-we, who have solemnly agreed that this Constitution shall be our law-we, most of whom have sworn to support
it-we now abrogate this law, and swear, and force others to swear, that it shall not be obeyed-and we do this, not because
Congress have no right to pass such laws; this we do not allege; but because they have passed them with improper views. They
are unconstitutional from the motives of those who passed them, which we can never with certainty know, from their unequal
operation; although it is impossible from the nature of things that they should be equal-and from the disposition which we
presume may be made of their proceeds, although that disposition has not been declared. This is the plain meaning of the ordinance
in relation to laws which it abrogates for alleged unconstitutionality. But it does not stop here. It repeals, in express
terms, an important part of the Constitution itself, and of laws passed to give it effect, which have never been alleged to
be unconstitutional. The Constitution declares that the judicial powers of the United States extend to cases arising under
the laws of the United States, and that such laws, the Constitution and treaties, shall be paramount to the State constitutions
and laws. The judiciary act prescribes the mode by which the case may be brought before a court of the United States, by appeal,
when a State tribunal shall decide against this provision of the Constitution. The ordinance declares there shall be no appeal;
makes the State law paramount to the Constitution and laws of the United States; forces judges and jurors to swear that they
will disregard their provisions; and even makes it penal in a suitor to attempt relief by appeal. It further declares that
it shall not be lawful for the authorities of the United States, or of that State, to enforce the payment of duties imposed
by the revenue laws within its limits.
Here is a law of the United States, not even pretended to be unconstitutional,
repealed by the authority of a small majority of the voters of a single State. Here is a provision of the Constitution which
is solemnly abrogated by the same authority.
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 represented. 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 vote shall be given. The candidates having the majority of all the
votes are chosen. The electors of a majority of States may have given their votes for one candidate, and yet another may be
chosen. The people, then, and not the States, are represented in the executive branch.
In the House of Representatives there is this difference, that the people
of one State do not, as in the case of President and Vice President, all vote for all the members, each State electing only
its own representatives. But this creates no material distinction. When chosen, they 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 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 ale 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 such 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 offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from
the Union, is to say that the United States are not a nation
because it would be a solecism to contend that any part of a nation might
dissolve its connection with the other parts, to their injury or ruin, without committing any offense. Secession, like any
other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right, is
confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error, or to deceive those who are willing to assert
a right, but would pause before they made a revolution, or incur the penalties consequent upon a failure.
Because the Union was formed by compact, it is said the parties to that compact
may, when they feel themselves aggrieved, depart from it; but it is precisely because it is a compact that they cannot. A
compact is an agreement or binding obligation. It may by its terms have a sanction or penalty for its breach, or it may not.
If it contains no sanction, it may be broken with no other consequence than moral guilt; if it have a sanction, then the breach
incurs the designated or implied penalty. A league between independent nations, generally, has no sanction other than a moral
one; or if it should contain a penalty, as there is no common superior, it cannot be enforced. A government, on the contrary,
always has a sanction, express or implied; and, in our case, it is both necessarily implied and expressly given. An attempt
by force of arms to destroy a government is an offense, by whatever means the constitutional compact may have been formed;
and such government has the right, by the law of self-defense, to pass acts for punishing the offender, unless that right
is modified, restrained, or resumed by the constitutional act. In our system, although it is modified in the case of treason,
yet authority is expressly given to pass all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect, and under this grant provision
has been made for punishing acts which obstruct the due administration of the laws.
It would seem superfluous to add anything to show the nature of that union
which connects us; but as erroneous opinions on this subject are the foundation of doctrines the most destructive to our peace,
I must give some further development to my views on this subject. No one, fellow-citizens, has a higher reverence for the
reserved rights of the States than the magistrate who now addresses you. No one would make greater personal sacrifices, or
official exertions, to defend them from violation; but equal care must be taken to prevent, on their part, an improper interference
with, or resumption of, the rights they have vested in the nation.
The line has not been so distinctly drawn as to avoid doubts in some cases
of the exercise of power. Men of the best intentions and soundest views may differ in their construction of some parts of
the Constitution, but there are others on which dispassionate reflection can leave no doubt. Of this nature appears to be
the assumed right of secession. It rests, as we have seen, on the alleged undivided sovereignty of the States, and on their
having formed in this sovereign capacity a compact which is called the Constitution, from which, because they made it, they
have the right to secede. Both of these positions are erroneous, and some of the arguments to prove them so have been anticipated.
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 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 vested in Congress.
This last position has not been, and cannot be, denied. How then, can that State be said to be sovereign and independent whose
citizens owe obedience to laws not made by it, and whose magistrates are sworn to disregard those laws, when they come in
conflict with those passed by another? What shows conclusively that the States cannot be said to have reserved an undivided
sovereignty, is that they expressly ceded the right to punish treason-not treason against their separate power, but treason
against the United States. Treason is an offense against sovereignty, and sovereignty must reside with the power to punish
it. But the reserved rights of the States are not less sacred because they have for their common interest made the general
government the depository of these powers. The unity of our political character (as has been shown for another purpose) commenced
with its very existence. Under the royal government we had no separate character; our opposition to its oppression began as
UNITED COLONIES. We were the UNITED STATES under the Confederation, and the name was perpetuated and the Union rendered more
perfect by the federal Constitution. In none of these stages did we consider ourselves in any other light than as forming
one nation. Treaties and alliances were made in the name of all. Troops were raised for the joint defense. 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 is it that the most perfect of these several modes of union should now be considered as a mere league
that may be dissolved at pleasure ? It is from an abuse of terms. Compact is used as synonymous with league, although the
true term is not employed, because it would at once show the fallacy of the reasoning. It would not do to say that our Constitution
was only a league, but it is labored to prove it a compact (which, in one sense, it is), and then to argue that as a league
is a compact, every compact between nations must, of course, be a league, and that from such an engagement every sovereign
power has a right to recede. But it has been shown that in this sense the States are not sovereign, and that even if they
were, and the national Constitution had been formed by compact, there would be no right in any one State to exonerate itself
from the obligation.
So obvious are the reasons which forbid this secession, that it is necessary
only to allude to them. The Union was formed for the benefit of all. It was produced by mutual sacrifice of interest and opinions.
Can those sacrifices be recalled? Can the States, who magnanimously surrendered their title to the territories of the West,
recall the grant? Will the inhabitants of the inland States agree to pay the duties that may be imposed without their assent
by those on the Atlantic or the Gulf, for their own benefit? Shall there be a free port in one State, and enormous duties
in another? No one believes that any right exists in a single State to involve all the others in these and countless other
evils, contrary to engagements solemnly made. Everyone must see that the other States, in self-defense, must oppose it at
These are the alternatives that are presented by the convention: A repeal
of all the acts for raising revenue, leaving the government without the means of support; or an acquiescence in the dissolution
of our Union by the secession of one of its members. When the first was proposed, it was known that it could not be listened
to for a moment. It was known if force was applied to oppose the execution of the laws, that it must be repelled by force-that
Congress could not, without involving itself in disgrace and the country in ruin, accede to the proposition; and yet if this
is not done in a given day, or if any attempt is made to execute the laws, the State is, by the ordinance, declared to be
out of the Union. The majority of a convention assembled for the purpose have dictated these terms, or rather this rejection
of all terms, in the name of the people of South Carolina. It is true that the governor of the State speaks of the submission
of their grievances to a convention of all the States; which, he says, they ''sincerely and anxiously seek and desire." Yet
this obvious and constitutional mode of obtaining the sense of the other States on the construction of the federal compact,
and amending it, if necessary, has never been attempted by those who have urged the State on to this destructive measure.
The State might have proposed a call for a general convention to the other States, and Congress, if a sufficient number of
them concurred, must have called it. But the first magistrate of South Carolina, when he expressed a hope that "on a review
by Congress and the functionaries of the general government of the merits of the controversy,' such a convention will be accorded
to them, must have known that neither Congress, nor any functionary in the general government, has authority to call such
a convention, unless it be demanded by two-thirds of the States. This suggestion, then, is another instance of the reckless
inattention to the provisions of the Constitution with which this crisis has been madly hurried on; or of the attempt to persuade
the people that a constitutional remedy has been sought and refused. If the legislature of South Carolina "anxiously desire"
a general convention to consider their complaints, why have they not made application for it in the way the Constitution points
out? The assertion that they "earnestly seek" is completely negatived by the omission.
This, then, is the position in which we stand. A small majority of the citizens
of one State in the Union have elected delegates to a State convention; that convention has ordained that all the revenue
laws of the United States must be repealed, or that they are no longer a member of the Union. The governor of that State has
recommended to the legislature the raising of an army to carry the secession into effect, and that he may be empowered to
give clearances to vessels in the name of the State. No act of violent opposition to the laws has yet been committed, but
such a state of things is hourly apprehended, and it is the intent of this instrument to PROCLAIM, not only that the duty
imposed on me by the Constitution, '` to take care that the laws be faithfully executed," shall be performed to the extent
of the powers already vested in me by law or of such others as the wisdom of Congress shall devise and Entrust to me for that
purpose; but to warn the citizens of South Carolina, who have been deluded into an opposition to the laws, of the danger they
will incur by obedience to the illegal and disorganizing ordinance of the convention-to exhort those who have refused to support
it to persevere in their determination to uphold the Constitution and laws of their country, and to point out to all the perilous
situation into which the good people of that State have been led, and that the course they are urged to pursue is one of ruin
and disgrace to the very State whose rights they affect to support.
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 a certain ruin. In that paternal language, with that paternal feeling, let me tell you,
my countrymen, that you are deluded by men who are either deceived themselves or wish to deceive you. Mark under what pretenses
you have been led on to the brink of insurrection and treason on which you stand! First a diminution of the value of our staple
commodity, lowered by over-production in other quarters and the consequent diminution in the value of your lands, were the
sole effect of the tariff laws. The effect of those laws was confessedly injurious, but the evil was greatly exaggerated by
the unfounded theory you were taught to believe, that its burdens were in proportion to your exports, not to your consumption
of imported articles. Your pride was aroused by the assertions that a submission to these laws was a state of vassalage, and
that resistance to them was equal, in patriotic merit, to the opposition our fathers offered to the oppressive laws of Great
Britain. You were told that this opposition might be peaceably-might be constitutionally made-that you might enjoy all the
advantages of the Union and bear none of its burdens. Eloquent appeals to your passions, to your State pride, to your native
courage, to your sense of real injury, were used to prepare you for the period when the mask which concealed the hideous features
of DISUNION should be taken off. It fell, and you were made to look with complacency on objects which not long since you would
have regarded with horror. Look back to the arts which have brought you to this state-look forward to the consequences to
which it must inevitably lead! Look back to what was first told you as an inducement to enter into this dangerous course.
The great political truth was repeated to you that you had the revolutionary right of resisting all laws that were palpably
unconstitutional and intolerably oppressive-it was added that the right to nullify a law rested on the same principle, but
that it was a peaceable remedy! This character which was given to it, made you receive with too much confidence the assertions
that were made of the unconstitutionality of the law and its oppressive effects. Mark, my fellow-citizens, that by the admission
of your leaders the unconstitutionality must be palpable, or it will not justify either resistance or nullification
! What is the meaning of the word palpable in the sense in which it is here used? that which is apparent to everyone,
that which no man of ordinary intellect will fail to perceive. Is the unconstitutionality of these laws of that description?
Let those among your leaders who once approved and advocated the principles of protective duties, answer the question; and
let them choose whether they will be considered as incapable, then, of perceiving that which must have been apparent to every
man of common understanding, or as imposing upon your confidence and endeavoring to mislead you now. In either case, they
are unsafe guides in the perilous path they urge you to tread. Ponder well on this circumstance, and you will know how to
appreciate the exaggerated language they address to you. They are not champions of liberty emulating the fame of our Revolutionary
fathers, nor are you an oppressed people, contending, as they repeat to you, against worse than colonial vassalage. You are
free members of a flourishing and happy Union. There is no settled design to oppress you. You have, indeed, felt the unequal
operation of laws which may have been unwisely, not unconstitutionally passed; but that inequality must necessarily be 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 caused
a considerable reduction, and that, too, on some articles of general consumption in your State. The importance of this change
was underrated, and you were authoritatively told that no further alleviation of your burdens was to be expected, at the very
time when the condition of the country imperiously demanded such a modification of the duties as should reduce them to a just
and equitable scale. But as apprehensive of the effect of this change in allaying your discontents, you were precipitated
into the fearful state in which you now find yourselves.
I have urged you to look back to the means that were used to burly you on
to the position you have now assumed, and forward to the consequences they will produce. Something more is necessary. Contemplate
the condition of that country of which you still form an important part; consider its government uniting in one bond of common
interest and general protection so many different States-giving to all their inhabitants the proud title of AMERICAN CITIZEN-protecting
their commerce-securing their literature and arts-facilitating their intercommunication--defending their frontiers-and making
their name respected in the remotest parts of the earth! Consider the extent of its territory its increasing and happy population,
its advance in arts, which render life agreeable, and the sciences which elevate the mind! See education spreading the lights
of religion, morality, and general information into every cottage in this wide extent of our Territories and States! Behold
it as the asylum where the wretched and the oppressed find a refuge and support! Look on this picture of happiness and honor,
and say, WE TOO, ARE CITIZENS OF AMERICA--Carolina is one of these proud States her arms have defended-her best blood has
cemented this happy Union! And then add, if you can, without horror and remorse this happy Union we will dissolve-this picture
of peace and prosperity we will deface-this free intercourse we will interrupt- these fertile fields we will deluge with blood-the
protection of that glorious flag we renounce-the very name of Americans we discard. And for what, mistaken men! For what do
you throw away these inestimable blessings-for what would you exchange your share in the advantages and honor of the Union?
For the dream of a separate independence-a dream interrupted by bloody conflicts with your neighbors, and a vile dependence
on a foreign power. 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? But the dictates
of a high duty oblige me solemnly to announce that you cannot succeed. 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, hut be not deceived by names; disunion, by armed force, is TREASON. Are you really ready to incur its guilt?
If you are, on the head of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences-on their heads be the dishonor, but on
yours may fall the punishment-on your unhappy State will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict you force upon the
government of your country. It cannot accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the first victims-its first
magistrate cannot, if he would, avoid the performance of his duty-the consequence must be fearful for you, distressing to
your fellow-citizens here, and to the friends of good government throughout the world. Its enemies have beheld our prosperity
with a vexation they could not conceal--it was a standing refutation of their slavish doctrines, and they will point to our
discord with the triumph of malignant joy. It is yet in your power to disappoint them. There is yet time to show that the
descendants of the Pinckneys, the Sumpters, the Rutledges, and of the thousand other names which adorn the pages of your Revolutionary
history, will not abandon that Union to support which so many of them fought and bled and died. I adjure you, as you honor
their memory--as you love the cause of freedom, to which they dedicated their lives--as you prize the peace of your country,
the lives of its best citizens, and your own fair fame, to retrace your steps. Snatch from the archives of your State the
disorganizing edict of its convention-hid its members to re-assemble and promulgate the decided expressions of your will to
remain in the path which alone can conduct you to safety, prosperity, and honor-tell them that compared to disunion, all other
evils are light, because that brings with it an accumulation of all-declare that you will never take the field unless the
star-spangled banner of your country shall float over you--that you will not be stigmatized when dead, and dishonored and
scorned while you live, as the authors of the first attack on the Constitution of your country!-its destroyers you cannot
be. You may disturb its peace-you may interrupt the course of its prosperity-you may cloud its reputation for stability- but
its tranquillity will be restored, its prosperity will return, and the stain upon its national character will be transferred
and remain an eternal blot on the memory of those who caused the disorder.
Fellow-citizens of the United States! the threat of unhallowed disunion-the
names of those, once respected, by whom it is uttered--the array of military force to support it-denote the approach of a
crisis in our affairs on which the continuance of our unexampled prosperity, our political existence, and perhaps that of
all free governments, may depend. The conjuncture demanded a free, a full, and explicit enunciation, not only of my intentions,
but of my principles of action, and as the claim was asserted of a right by a State to annul the laws of the Union, and even
to secede from it at pleasure, a frank exposition of my opinions in relation to the origin and form of our government, and
the construction I give to the instrument by which it was created, seemed to be proper. Having the fullest confidence in the
justness of the legal and constitutional opinion of my duties which has been expressed, I rely with equal confidence on your
undivided support in my determination to execute the laws-to preserve the Union by all constitutional means-to arrest, if
possible, by moderate but firm measures, the necessity of a recourse to force; and, if it be the will of Heaven that the recurrence
of its primeval curse on man for the shedding of a brother's blood should fall upon our land, that it be not called down by
any offensive act on the part of the United States.
Fellow-citizens! the momentous case is before you. On your undivided support
of your government depends the decision of the great question it involves, whether your sacred Union will be preserved, and
the blessing it secures to us as one people shall be perpetuated. No one can doubt that the unanimity with which that decision
will be expressed, will he such as to inspire new confidence in republican institutions, and that the prudence, the wisdom,
and the courage which it will bring to their defense, will transmit them unimpaired and invigorated to our children.
May the Great Ruler of nations grant that the signal blessings with which
he has favored ours may not, by the madness of party or personal ambition, be disregarded and lost, and may His wise providence
bring those who have produced this crisis to see the folly, before they feel the misery, of civil strife, and inspire a returning
veneration for that Union which, if we may dare to penetrate his designs, he has chosen, as the only means of attaining the
high destinies to which we may reasonably aspire.
In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto
affixed, having signed the same with my hand.
Done at the City of Washington, this 10th day of December, in the year of
our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, and of the independence of the United States the fifty-seventh.
By the President
EDW. LIVINGSTON, Secretary of State.
*Written by Edward Livingston
Ford, Paul Leicester, The Federalist : A commentary on the Constitution of the United States by Alexander Hamilton,
James Madison and John Jay edited with notes, illustrative documents and a copious index by Paul Leicester Ford. New York : Henry Holt and Company, 1898
Advance to: President Andrew Jackson: Nullification Proclamation and the Nullification