Andrew Jackson's Pernicious Doctrine
Andrew Jackson may have been another “fire-bell in the night” warning to Americans of presidential power in the hands of someone with independent views of their authority. The grave of Jefferson was barely cold before the Founders’ barriers to democracy had eroded and presidential power predictably increased under vain men; another twenty-eight years beyond Jackson’s Force Bill found a new American republic forming at Montgomery, Alabama.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Andrew Jackson’s Pernicious Doctrine
“But when it came right down to the legality of nullifying the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 [Senator John] Tyler was far less sure of himself. What he attempted to do was discover and occupy a middle ground on an issue which had no detectable middle. On one extreme of the question Calhoun maintained the legality of both nullification and secession and the unconstitutionality of Jackson’s Force Bill.
[Daniel] Webster, on the other hand, consistently upheld the illegality of secession and nullification and argued the propriety of using force in the circumstance. Tyler upheld the right of secession while denying the right of nullification. But he also denied the right of the federal government to employ force against nullification when it occurred.
Even firm States’ rights Virginians like St. George Tucker could not accept this peculiar dichotomy in Tyler’s thinking. It was a question of either submitting or seceding, and since South Carolina had not seceded, the federal government had no alternative but to compel the State to comply with federal legislation.
. . . Tyler informed Virginia’s Governor John Floyd on January 16, the day Jackson asked for a congressional authorization of force, that:
“If S. Carolina be put down, then may each of the States yield all pretensions to sovereignty. We have a consolidated govt. and a master will soon arise. This is inevitable. How idle to talk of me serving a republic for any length of time, with an uncontrolled power over the military, exercised at pleasure by the President . . . What interest is safe if the unbridled will of the majority is to have sway?”
By February 2 Tyler had warmed further to the theme that General Jackson was seeking to establish a military dictatorship in American. The old 1819 vision of the Man on Horseback returned. “Were men ever so deceived as we have been . . . in Jackson?” He asked Littleton Tazewell. “His proclamation has swept away all the barriers of the Constitution, and given us, in place of the Federal government, under which we fondly believed we were living, a consolidated military despotism . . . I tremble for South Carolina. The war-cry is up, rely upon it . . . The boast is that the President, by stamping like another Pompey on the earth, can raise a hundred thousand men.”
A few days later, on February 6, 1833, Tyler delivered his Senate speech against the Force Bill.
“Everything, Mr. President, is running into nationality. The government was created by the States, and may be destroyed by the States; yet we are told this is not a government of the States . . . The very terms employed in the Constitution indicate the true character of the government. The pernicious doctrine that this is a national and not a Federal Government, has received countenance from the late proclamation and message of the President.
The people are regarded as one mass, and the States as constituting one nation. I desire to know when this chemical process occurred . . . such doctrines would convert the States into mere petty corporations, provinces of one consolidated government. These principles give to this government authority to veto all State laws, not merely by Act of Congress, but by the sword and bayonet.
They would pace the President at the head of the regular army in array against the States, and the sword and cannon would come to be the common arbiter . . . to arm him with military power is to give him the authority to crush South Carolina, should she adopt secession.”
(And Tyler Too. A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler, Robert Seager, II, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963, pp. 92-93)