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What President Jackson Really Meant

October 28, 2014

When Andrew Jackson toasted the Union on April 13, 1830, he strongly implied he would enforce the laws of the United States even if they were unpopular at the state level.  President Washington had used a large military presence to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in western Pennsylvania.  If need be, President Jackson would send the army to South Carolina to collect the tariff.

The tariff had been passed by the people’s representatives and signed into law by the duly elected executive.  There was no moral equivalence to the British taxes of colonial days.  Therefore, there was no basis for rebellion or nullification.

In November 1832 South Carolina adopted an Ordinance of Nullification, stating they would no longer enforce the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 after February 1, 1833.  Since the U.S. Congress was scheduled to meet in December 1832, there would be time for them to repeal the tariffs and avoid nullification.

November 1832 was also the month when President Jackson was re-elected by a large majority.  He responded to South Carolina’s Ordinance by concentrating forces in North Carolina and sending additional troops to Charleston Harbor.  When Jackson toasted the Union and said “it must be preserved,” he meant exactly what he said.

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