How did Andrew Jackson refute South Carolina’s justification for secession?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Jackson's response to the Ordinance of Nullification issued by South Carolina in late 1832 was on the one hand swift and forceful. He claimed that the doctrine of nullification was illegal and inconsistent with the maintenance of the federal republic, and that secession was treason, and not a right granted under the Constitution:

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 contende that any part of a nation might dissolve its connection with the other parts...

having refuted the theoretical and the constitutional basis for nullification, Jackson asked for, and received, the authority to act militarily against South Carolina, in case of secession, through a Force Bill passed by Congress. He privately threatened to hang the leaders of the nullification movement, and demanded that they renounce the Ordinance of Nullification.

On the other hand, Jackson also wanted to avoid conflict, and backed up his tough talk with compromise gestures. He promised to secure lower tariffs in the same message where he condemned South Carolina's actions. Throughout the crisis, he worked with congressional leaders to obtain passage of a compromise tariff, which actually passed Congress at the same time as the Force Bill. When South Carolina responded by accepting the compromise tariff and nullifying the Force Bill in 1833, Jackson ignored the latter action. This combination of force and conciliation helped defuse the crisis, and more importantly, to isolate South Carolina from other southern states  which may otherwise have offered more support to the renegade nullificationists.

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