The Age of Jackson: States’ Rights

States’ Rights versus Union: Daniel Webster's Union

Regional loyalties often outweighed national feelings. In 1830, South Carolina weighed nullification of the “Tariff of Abominations” and even secession from the United States. Daniel Webster, a Unionist, claimed that he could not envision life without the Union.

Jackson and Calhoun

Secretary of State Martin Van Buren and Vice President John C. Calhoun fought over who would be President after Jackson. Van Buren was easily elected while Calhoun became more extreme in his support of states’ rights.

Jackson and the Bank

Jackson came into office making threats against the centralized Bank of the United States. Backed by supporters in Congress, Bank President Biddle asked Congress to re-charter the Bank in 1832. Henry Clay hoped that congressional approval of the Bank would embarrass Jackson. Bank supporters thought that if Jackson vetoed the bank bill it would cost him the election.

After Jackson took office, he withdrew the government’s money from the Bank and deposited it into state banks. Biddle then used his powers to bring on a nationwide recession, which he hoped would be blamed on Jackson. That failed, but Jackson’s destruction of the Bank cost him support in Congress, where fears of a dictatorship emerged.

Jackson and the Tariff: The Nullification Controversy

The nullification controversy of 1832 was a major event in the national debate over federal versus state authority. Agitation was growing over slavery and other issues that tended to divide the country along sectional lines.

Jackson's supporters proposed a very high tariff bill that would allow Jackson to encourage manufacturing in the North, while in the South his supporters could claim that the proposed tariff was so high that it would never pass. But the tariff did pass. An anonymous “Exposition and Protest” of the Tariff of 1828 became known as the “Tariff of Abominations.” The Ordinance of Nullification claimed that the tariff was not enforceable in South Carolina, and any attempt to enforce it by state or federal officials would not be permitted within South Carolina.

Congress supported Jackson by passing a Force Bill which explicitly authorized him to use force to enforce the law in South Carolina. South Carolina relented and repealed its Ordinance.

Cherokee Indian Removal

The ugliest event in the Jackson years was the removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia to reservations located west of the Mississippi River.

An 1828 Georgia law declared that the state had jurisdiction over Indian Territory. When gold was discovered on Indian land, Indians sought to hold onto their property. The Supreme Court initially said that Georgia laws had no force on Cherokee land, but Jackson defied the court ruling.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Marshall claimed that the Cherokee did not have the legal right to sue, so the Cherokee were forced to leave Georgia and settle in Indian country, now the state of Oklahoma. Their journey is known as the “Trail of Tears.”

Source: The Age of Jackson: States’ Rights
© Created by Henry J. (Jud) Sage, 1996-2014,

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