From: Chris McAtee
Time: 3:43:16 AM
Remote Name: 188.8.131.52
Chris McAtee Prof. William Cutler History 67
Week Nine: Primary Source Assignment (Andrew Jackson to Martin Van Buren, January 13, 1833)
Who was Martin Van Buren and why did President Andrew Jackson write him this letter at this time? At this time (1833), Van Buren was serving as vice-president in the second term of the Jackson administration. Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 1821, Martin Van Buren had constantly fought for the ideals of the Democratic Party and also played a key role in Jackson’s securing the Presidency in 1828. During the same year as the Presidential election, Van Buren won the election for governor of New York state, but then resigned a few months later. As a reward for helping the Democrats win the presidency and fighting for the ideals of the party, Jackson appointed him as Secretary of State during his first term. Van Buren later resigned willingly from this position as part of a plan by President Jackson to restructure the Cabinet. In 1832 at the Democratic convention in Baltimore, the party unanimously voted to put Van Buren on the ticket with Jackson during the next election. Around this same time, Senator John Calhoun (vice-president during Jackson’s first term) of South Carolina was advocating the nullification of a federal import tariff in Charleston. As a Senator in 1828, Martin Van Buren had been a key force in passing these tariffs. In his letter, Jackson explains that he hopes by sending troops into Charleston to demonstrate the government’s intolerance for nullification and secession in South Carolina. He views the prospects of further attempts of nullification or secession by the state as a serious threat to the strength and principles of the federal government, and is willing to support his belief by sending troops if necessary.
Why was the President angry with some of the leaders of South Carolina? For several years, politicians from South Carolina including Senator and former Vice-President, John C. Calhoun and Sen. Daniel Webster argued for the right of nullification that would allow the state to effectively suspend a federal law from operating in that state. In 1832, a South Carolina state convention declared federal import tariffs as null and void within the state. After President Jackson threatened to send troops to enforce the tariff in Charleston, South Carolina leaders negotiated with the federal government. In a move that both sides touted as a victory, South Carolina repealed the original nullification and a compromised tariff was passed. This debate on nullification rights did not go away until 30 years later when South Carolina and other states seceded from the Union and began the Civil War, a war in which the South fought to establish a system of government that recognized states as the basis for power.