Andrew Jackson's Presidency

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Why was the nullification crisis beneficial during Andrew Jackson's Presidency?

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There are reasons why the nullification crisis was a good thing. Going back to 1798, when the Federalists passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, there had constantly been some discussion by some states about the nullification of federal laws. These Acts were aimed at the Democratic-Republican Party. More immigrants were joining the Democratic-Republican Party than the Federalist Party. By passing the Alien Act, it lengthened the amount of time it took for an immigrant to become a citizen. This meant that the immigrants couldn’t vote until they became citizens, which now would have taken more years to occur. It increased the likelihood of the Federalists staying in power. The Sedition Act made it illegal to falsely criticize the government. The South, where the Democratic-Republicans had more power, threatened to nullify these laws. Specifically, the states of Virginia and Kentucky threatened to nullify these laws. Since the laws were repealed, the threat of nullification ended. However, the threat of nullification didn’t go away.

In 1828, the people of South Carolina were outraged by the high tariff that was placed on imported products. Led by John C. Calhoun, South Carolina insisted that it could nullify any federal law that helped one state or region at the expense of another state or region. President Andrew Jackson insisted the tariff would be enforced throughout the country, including South Carolina. President Jackson suggested military force would be used to enforce the tariff, if necessary. While this crisis faded when a compromise was reached gradually lowering the tariff over a ten-year period, President Jackson made it clear that federal laws were supreme and would be enforced. It sent a message that nullification wasn’t acceptable.

While this issue wasn't clearly put to rest until after the Civil War was fought, the nullification crisis reinforced the powerful of the federal government. It also made it clear the federal laws can’t be rejected by individual states. This nullification crisis reinforced the ideas about the federal government and the federal laws that are stated in the Constitution.

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