Study Guide

Proclamation Regarding Nullification Main Idea

By Andrew Jackson

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  • Main Idea

    President Jackson gets all up in the face of the South when South Carolina threatens to act in its own self-interest by nullifying a federal law (about taxes, natch) and threatening to secede if the feds try to stop them.

    Simple as that.

    Jackson writes a very, very long letter, proclaiming that the nullifiers are a bunch of cowards and basically threatens to send in the troops all Incredible Hulk style if the Nullies don't back down.

    Questions About Main Idea

    1. What is Jackson's problem? Why does he have such a hard time letting South Carolina have their way on this one issue?
    2. The Constitution is kind of like the ball in a tennis match between Jackson and the Nullifiers. How is each side putting spin on the Constitution to their own advantage?
    3. How does Jackson justify his own presidential authority, especially in relation to the states?
    4. Put on your nullification hat and put yourself in the place of those reading Jackson's proclamation. How do you think the Nullies felt about his arguments?

    Chew on This

    Andrew Jackson's "Proclamation Regarding Nullification" proved to South Carolina that he was willing to stick to his guns on the states' versus federal rights debates plaguing the nation.

    Jackson's role in the Nullification Crisis is a classic case of the playground bully.

  • Brief Summary


    The Set-Up

    In 1832, when President Andrew Jackson passed another tariff hoping to fix the Tariff of 1828 "Tariff of Abomination," South Carolina responded with, "this whole place is an abomination— we're outta here." But Jackson just couldn't let the state leave the union without giving his two cents first. Actually, it was more like a ton of cash.

    The Text

    To: South Carolina
    Cc: Everyone in the U.S.
    Subject: Nullification LOL

    I am the President. I know that you and I haven't always seen eye-to-eye. I also know that you're really angry about this whole "Tariff of Abominations" thing—I've read your Ordinance of Nullification cover to cover. The tariff's unconstitutional, states have a right to nullify unconstitutional laws, you're not paying it, you'll leave the Union if we try to force you, yadda yadda yadda.

    No offense, but you're totally wrong on every count.

    Plus, it's boring. Could have used more exclamation points.

    Like it or not, you're part of a Union, so give up the ridiculous idea that you can legally secede from it. What's the point of even having a country and a Constitution if everyone can just up and leave whenever they want? Any idiot can see that. It's not up to you to interpret the Constitution. It's mine.

    Did I mention I'm the president?

    If you try to leave the Union, I—the president—am coming after you. And your family. And your pets. I will stop at nothing to preserve this Union of ours. Because it's the greatest country in the world and, oh yeah, I'm its president.

    I know you patriots will make the virtuous decision and not rain down shame on your own heads and go down in history as the people who destroyed the greatest country God ever created—of which I'm the president, in case you forgot. If you don't, all our enemies will be jumping for joy because they can't stand it that we live here and they don't.

    Peace and Love, God bless the USA, and let me hear from y'all.

    Andrew Jackson
    (President of the U.S.)


    Andrew Jackson threatens to bring a baseball bat to a fistfight if South Carolina doesn't stop nullifying federal laws.

  • Questions

    1. Tensions were high and tempers were raging, but what do you think would have happened if South Carolina hadn't backed down in the end? Would Jackson have made good on his threat to use the military?
    2. What kind of issues today might get the president so angry that he'd threaten to use the military on its own citizens?
    3. This is a critical moment in constitutional history. How was Jackson adding meaning and context to the constitution in the text?
    4. What got Jackson most angry when South Carolina threatened to secede?
    5. Using what you already know about Jacksonian Democracy, how do you see Jackson's ideas about political participation and the role of the government being expressed in this document?
    6. Which of Jackson's arguments did you find most persuasive?
    7. Was there a way South Carolina could have gone about opposing the tariff that Jackson might have found acceptable?
    8. How did Jackson managed to present himself as relatively uneducated when he'd been a practicing attorney? (No lawyer jokes, please.)
    9. Donald Trump has been frequently compared to Andrew Jackson. What similarities do you see? Differences?
    10. A week before issuing his Proclamation, Jackson delivered an annual address to Congress that was aggressively pro-states' rights. How do your square that with his Proclamation?

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