Andrew Jackson had a couple of superb veto messages as President.

His veto of the bill re-chartering the Second Bank of the United States displayed cogency and a firm understanding of the powers of Congress.

He also was unwilling to concede the Constitutional question to the Supreme Court, regardless of McCullough v. Maryland.

The Maysville Road veto was equally great, and after reading it, you are left wondering how any future Congress authorized funds to build “internal improvements.”

And then we get to nullification and secession.

Jackson sympathized with South Carolina on the tariff. He thought it needed revision and was dangerous to the economic interests of the South.

But he could not tolerate South Carolina’s position on the Constitution, namely that a State could nullify a federal law and ultimately secede if force was used to collect the tariff.

Jackson often used the phrase “sovereignty” to describe the relationship of the States to the general government, which is what makes his statements on nullification and secession that much more confusing.

Contradictory would be a better term.

A State cannot be “sovereign” if it is controlled by a higher power. Jackson never understood this, ostensibly because he saw nullification as a threat to his authority.

He also despised John C. Calhoun, and once Calhoun came down on the side of the nullifiers, Jackson wasn’t going to give an inch.

Politics were personal.

The Jackson administration is a fun time to discuss in American history.

Which is why I produced my latest class at McClanahan Academy, Reading Andrew Jackson.

Brion McClanahan
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