Saturday, December 25, 2010

Andrew Jackson to Martin Van Buren on the Nullification Crisis


Washington, January 13th, 1833.

My dear Sir:

Yours of the 9th instant was handed to me by Mr. Wright last night, with whom I had some conversation on our general concerns, and I congratulate your state and my country for sending us a man of his integrity, talents and firmness, at the present crisis. It will give me pleasure to consult him on all your local concerns; and here I would remark that the Secretary of State and many of your friends in New York were the cause of the selection of Mr. Dewit.

I have received several letters from you which remain unanswered. You know I am a bad correspondent at any time, lately I have been indisposed by cold, and surrounded with the nullifiers of the south and the Indians in the south and west; that has occupied all my time, not leaving me a moment for private friendship, or political discussion with a friend.

I beg you not to be disturbed by any thing you may hear from the alarmists of this place; many nullifiers are here under disguise, working hard to save Calhoun and would disgrace their country and the Executive to do it. Be assured that I have and will act with all the forbearence to do my duty and extend that protection to our good citizens and the officers of our Government in the south who are charged with the execution of the laws; but it would destroy all confidence in our government, both at home and abroad, was I to sit with my arms folded and permit our good citizens in South Carolina who are standing forth in aid of the laws to be imprisoned, fined, and perhaps hung, under the ordinance of South Carolina and the laws to carry it into effect, all which, are probable violations of the constitution and subversive of every right of our citizens. Was this to be permitted the Government would loose the confidence of its citizens and it would induce disunion every where. No my friend, the crisis must be now met with firmness, our citizens protected, and the modern doctrine of nullification and secession put down forever, for we have yet to learn whether some of the eastern states may not secede or nullify, if the tariff is reduced. I have to look at both ends of the Union to preserve it. I have only time to add, that as South Carolina, has by her replevin and other laws, closed our courts, and authorized the Governor to raise 12,000 men to keep them closed, giving all power [to the] sheriffs to use this army as the posse comitatus, I must appeal to Congress to cloth our officers and Marshall with the same power to aid them in executing the laws, and apprehending those who may commit treasonable acts. This call upon Congress must be made as long before the 1st of February next as will give Congress time to meet before that day, or I would be chargeable with neglect of my duty, and as congress are in session, and as I have said in my message, which was before the So. C. ordinance reached me, if other powers were wanted I would appeal to Congress was I therefore to act without the aid of Congress, or without, communicating to it, I would be branded with the epithet, tyrant. From these remarks you will at once see the propriety of my course, and be prepared to see the communication I will make to Congress on the 17th instant, which will leave Congress ten days to act upon it before the 1st of February after it is printed. The parties in S. C. are arming on both sides, and drilling in the night and I expect soon to hear that a civil war of extermination has commenced. I will meet all things with deliberate firmness and forbearence, but wo to those nullifiers who shed the first blood. The moment I am prepared with proof I will direct prosecutions for treason to be instituted against the leaders, and if they are surrounded with 12,000 bayonets our Marshall shall be aided by 24,000 and arrest them in the midst thereof — nothing must be permitted to weaken our Government at home or abroad.

Virginia, except a few nullifiers and politicians, is true to the core. I could march from that state 40,000 men in forty days, nay, they are ready in N. C, in Tennessee, in all the western states, and from good old democratic Pennsylvania I have a tender of upwards of 50,000, and from the borders of S. C. and N. C. I have a tender of one entire Regt. — The Union shall be preserved. I write as usual in great haste.

Yr friend,
Andrew Jackson.

P.S. I will be happy to hear from you often, and see you as early as a just sense of delicacy will permit. My whole household salute thee affectionately.  A.J.

Martin Van Buren, Esqr.

SOURCES: Samuel Gordon Heiskell, Andrew Jackson And Early Tennessee History, Vol. 3, p. 500-2; Words and Deeds in American History: Selected Documents Celebrating the Manuscript Division's First 100 Years: Letter, Andrew Jackson to Martin Van Buren discussing the nullification crisis, 13 January 1833.

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