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Primary Documents in American History

Nullification Proclamation

Andrew Jackson / drawn from life and engraved by J.B. Longacre Andrew Jackson / drawn from life and engraved by J.B. Longacre.
[between 1815 and 1845(?)].
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-117120

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.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

An American Time Capsule: 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.

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

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 Nullification.

Search this collection in the 22nd Congress using terms like nullification, tariff, and the force bill to find congressional debate on this topic, including Sen. John C. Calhoun's speech on January 16, 1833.

The following sections of Elliot's Debates, Volume 4, relate to the issue of nullification:

James Madison Papers, 1723-1836

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.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers, 1606-1827

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

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."

Today in History

January 13, 1833

President Andrew Jackson wrote Vice President Martin Van Buren expressing his opposition to South Carolina's defiance of federal authority during the Nullification Crisis.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Jackson Issues Nullification Proclamation–December 10, 1832, The Miller Center, University of Virginia

The South Carolina Nullification Controversy, ushistory.org

South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, November 24, 1832, Avalon Project at Yale Law School

Selected Bibliography

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 Record]

Freehling, William W. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. [Catalog Record]

Peterson, Merrill D. Olive Branch and Sword: The Compromise of 1833. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982. [Catalog Record]

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