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JANUARY 16, 1833.
my annual message, at the commencement of your present session, I adverted to the opposition to the revenue laws in a particular quarter of the United States, which threatened not merely to thwart their execution, but to endanger the integrity of the Union. And, although I then expressed my reliance that it might be overcome by the prudence of the officers of the United States, and the patriotism of the people, I stated that, should the emergency arise rendering the execution of the existing laws impracticable from any cause whatever, prompt notice should be given to Congress, with the suggestion of such views and measures as might be necessary to meet it
Events which have occurred in the quarter then alluded to, or which have come to my knowledge subsequently, present this emergency.
Although unknown to me at the date of the annual message, the convention which assembled at Columbia, in the state of South Carolina, passed, on the 24th of November last, an ordinance declaring certain acts of Con gress therein mentioned within the limits of that state to be absolutely null and void, and making it the duty of the legislature to pass such laws as would be necessary to carry the same into effect, from and after the 1st of February next. A copy of that ordinance has been officially transmitted to me by the governor of South Carolina, and is now communicated to Congress.
The consequences to which this extraordinary defiance of the just autho rity of the government might too surely lead were clearly foreseen, and it was impossible for me to hesitate as to my own duty in such an emergency. The ordinance had been passed, however, without any certain knowledge of the recommendation, which, from a view of the interests of the nation at large, the executive had determined to submit to Congress, and a hope was indulged that by frankly explaining his sentiments and the nature of those duties which the crisis would devolve upon him, the authorities of South Carolina might be induced to retrace their steps. In this hope I determined to issue my proclamation of the 11th of December last, a copy of which I now lay before Congress.
I regret to inform you that these reasonable expectations bave not been realized, and that the several acts of the legislature of South Carolina, which I now lay before you, and which have all and each of them finally passed, after a knowledge of the desire of the administration to modify the laws complained of, are too well calculated, both in their positive enactments and in the spirit of opposition which they obviously encourage, wholly to obstruct the collection of the revenue within the limits of that state.
Up to this period, neither the recommendation of the executive in regard to our financial policy and impost system, nor the disposition manifested by Congress prompily to act upon that subject, nor the unequivocal expression of the public will in all parts of the Union, appears to have produced any relaxation in the measures of opposition adopted by the state of South Carolina; nor is there any reason to hope that the ordinance and laws will be abandoned.
I have no knowledge that an attempt has been made, or that it is in contemplation, to re-assemble either the convention or the legislature; and it will be perceived that the interval before the first of February is too short to admit of the preliminary steps necessary for that purpose. It appears, moreover, that the state authorities are actively organizing their military resources, and providing the means, and giving the most solemn assurances of protection and support to all who shall enlist in opposition to the revenue laws. A recent proclamation of the present governor of South Carolina, has openly defied the authority of the executive of the Union, and general orders from the head quarters of the state announced his determination to accept the services of volunteers, and his belief that should their country need their services they will be found at the post of honor and duty, ready to lay down their lives in her defence. Under these orders, the forces referred to are directed to “hold themselves in readiness to take the field at a moment's warning;” and in the city of Charleston, within a collection district and a port of entry, a rendezvous has been opened for the purpose of enlisting men for the magazine and municipal guard. Thus, South Carolina presents herself in the attitude of hostile preparation, and ready even for military violence, if need be, to enforce her laws for preventing the collection of the duties within her limits. Proceedings thus announced and matured must be distinguished from measures of unlawful resistance by irregular bodies of people, who, acting under temporary delusion, may be restrained by reflection, and the influence of .. opinion, from the commission of actual outrage. In the present instance, aggression may be regarded as committed when it is officially authorized, and the means of enforcing it fully provided. Under these circumstances, there can be no doubt that it is the determination of the authorities of South Carolina, fully to carry into effect their ordinance and laws after the first of February. It therefore becomes my duty to bring the subject to the serious consideration of Congress, in order that such measures as they in their wisdom may deem fit, shall be seasonably provided; and that it may be thereby understood that, while the government is disposed to remove all just cause of complaint, as far as may be practicable consistently with a proper regard to the interests of the community at large, it is nevertheless determined that the supremacy of the laws shall be maintainted. In making this communication, it appears to me to be proper, not only that I should lay before you the acts and proceedings of South Carolina, but that I should also fully acquaint you with those steps which l have already caused to be taken for the due collection of the revenue, and with my views of the subject generally, that the suggestions which the constitution requires me to make in regard to your future legislation, may be better understood. This subject having early attracted the anxious attention of the executive, as soon as it was probable that the authorities of South Carolina seriously meditated resistance to the faithful execution of the revenue laws, it was deemed advisable that the secretary of the treasury should particularly instruct the officers of the United States in that part of the Union, as to the nature of the duties prescribed by the existing laws. Instructions were accordingly issued on the 6th of November to the collectors in that state, pointing out their respective duties, and enjoining upon
each a firm and vigilant, but discreet performance of them in the emergency then apprehended. I herewith transmit copies of these instructions and of the letter addressed to the district-attorney, requesting his co-operation.
These instructions were dictated in the hope that as the opposition to the laws by the anomalous proceeding of nullification was represented to be of a pacific nature, to be pursued substantially according to the forms of the constitution, and without resorting, in any event, to force or violence, the measures of its advocates would be taken in conformity with that profession; and, on such supposition, the means afforded by the existing laws would have been adequate to meet any emergency likely to arise.
It was, however, not possible altogether to suppress apprehension of the excesses to which the excitement prevailing in that quarter might lead; but, it certainly was not foreseen that the meditated obstruction to the laws would soon openly assume its present character.
Subsequently to the date of those instructions, however, the ordinance of the convention was passed, which, if complied with by the people of that state, must effectually render inoperative the present revenue laws within her limits.
That ordinance declares and ordains “that the several acts, and parts of acts, of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws for the imposing of duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, and now having operation and effect within the United States ;” and more especially, “ An act in alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports," approved on the 19th of May, 1828; and also an act entitled " An act to alter and amend the several acts imposing duties on imports,' approved on the 14th of July, 1832, are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true intent and meaning thereof, and are null and void, and no law, nor binding upon the state of South Carolina, its officers, and citizens; and all promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose w secure the duties imposed by the said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void."
It also ordains," that it shall not be lawful for any of the constituted authorities, whether of the State of South Carolina, or of the United States, to enforce the payment of duties imposed by the said acts within the limits of the state, but that it shall be the duty of the legislature to adopt such measures, and pass such acts, as may be necessary to give fuil effect to this ordinance, and to prevent the enforcement and arrest the operation of the sand acts, and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States, within the limits of the state, from and after the first of February next; and it shall be the duty of all other constituted authorities, and of all persons residing or being within the limits of the state, that they are hereby required and enjoined to obey and give effect to this ordinance, and such acts and measures of the legislature as may be passed or adopted in obedience thereto."
It farther ordains, "that in no case of law or equity, decided in the courts of the state, wherein shall be drawn in question the authority of this ordinance, or the validity of such act or acts of the legislature as may be passed for the purpose of giving effect thereto, or the validity of the aforesaid acts of Congress imposing duties, shall any appeal be taken or allowed to the Supreme Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the record be permitted or allowed for that purpose; and the person or persons attempting to take such appeal may be dealt with as for a contempt of court."
It likewise ordains, “that all persons holding any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military, under the states, shall, within such time, and in such manner as the legislature shall prescribe, take an oath well and truly to obey, execute, and enforce this ordinance, and such act or acts of the legis. lature as may be passed in pursuance thereof, according to the true intent and meaning of the same; and on the neglect or omission of any such person or persons so to do, his or their office or offices shall be forthwith vacated, and shall be filled up as if such person or persons were dead, or had resigned; and no person hereafter elected to any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military, shall, until the legislature shall otherwise provide and direct, enter on the execution of his office, or be, in any respect, competent to discharge the duties thereof, until he shall in like manner have taken a similar oath; and no juror shall be empannelled in any of the courts of the state, on any cause in which shall be in question this ordinance, or any act of the . passed in pursuance thereof, unless he shall first, in addition to his usual oath, have taken an oath that he will well and truly obey, execute, and enforce this ordinance, and such act or acts of the legislature as may be passed to carry the same into operation and effect, according to the true intent and meaning thereof.”
The ordinance concludes: “And we, the people of South Carolina, to the end that it may be fully understood by the government of the United States, and the people of the co-states, that we are determined to maintain this ordinance and declaration at every hazard, do farther declare that we will not submit to the application of force on the part of the federal government to reduce this state to obedience; but that we will consider the passage by Congress, of any act authorizing the employment of a military or naval force against the state of South Carolina, her constituted authorities, or citizens, or any act abolishing or closing the ports of this state, or any of them, or otherwise obstructing the free ingress and egress of vessels to and from the said ports; or any other act on the part of the federal government to coerce the state, shut up her ports, destroy or harass her commerce, or to enforce the acts hereby declared to be null and void, otherwise than through the civil tribunals of the country, as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union; and that the people of this state will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all farther obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other states, and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate government, and do all Other acts and things which sovereign and independent states may of right do.”
This solemn denunciation of the laws and authority of the United States has been followed up by a series of acts on the part of the authorities of that state, which manifest a determination to render inevitable a resort to those measures of self-defence which the paramount duty of the federal government requires; but upon the adoption of which that state will proceed to execute the purpose it has avowed in this ordinance, of withdrawing from the Union.
On the 27th of November, the legislature assembled at Columbia; and, on their meeting, the governor laid before them the ordinance of the conwention. In his message on that occasion, he acquaints them that “this ordinance has thus become a part of the fundamental law of South Carolina;" that “the die has been at last cast, and South Carolina has at length appealed to her ulterior sovereignty as a member of this confederacy, and
has planted herself on her reserved rights. The rightful exercise of this power is not a question which we shall any longer argue. It is sufficient that she has willed it, and that the act is done; nor is its strict compatibility with our constitutional obligation to all laws passed by the general government, within the authorized grants of power, to be drawn in question, when this interposition is exerted in a case in which the compact has been palpably, deliberately, and dangerously violated. That it brings up a conjuncture of deep and momentous interest, is neither to be concealed nor denied. This crisis presen:s a class of duties which is referable to yourselves. You have been commanded by the people, in their highest sovereignty, to take care that, within the limits of this state, their will shall be obeyed.” “ The measure of legislation," he says, “which you have to employ at this crisis, is the precise amount of such enactments as may be necessary to render it utterly impossible to collect within our limits the duties imposed by the protective tariffs thus nullified.” He proceeds: “ that you should arm every citizen with a civil process by which he may claim, if he pleases, a restitu'tion of his goods, seized under existing imposts, on his giving security to abide ihe issue of a suit at law, and, at the same time, define what shall constitute treason against the state, and, by a bill of pains and penalties, compel obedience and punish disobedience to your own laws, are points too obvious to require any discussion. In one word, you must survey the whole ground. You must look to and provide for all possible contingencies
. In your own limits, your own courts of judicature must not only be supreme, but you must look to the ultimate issue of any conflict of jurisdiction and poiver between them and the courts of the United States."
The governor also asks for power to grant clearances, in violation of the laws of the Union; and to prepare for the alternative which must happen unless the United States shall passively surrender their authority, and the executive, disregarding his oath, refrain from executing the laws of the Union, he recommends a thorough revision of the militia system, and that the governor“ be authorized to accept, for the defence of Charleston and its dependencies, the services of two thousand volunteers, either by companies or files;" and that they be formed into a legionary brigade, consisting of infantry, riflemen, cavalry, field and heavy artillery; and i hat they be "armed and equipped, from the public arsenals, completely for the field; and that appropriations be made for supplying all deficiencies in our munitions of war.” In addition to these volunteer drafts, he recommends that the governor be authorized to accept " the services of ten thousand volunteers from the other divisions of the state, to be organized and arranged in regiments and brigades; the officers to be selected by the commander-in-chief; and that his whole force be called the State Guard."
A request has been regularly made of the secretary of state of South Carolina, for authentic copies of the acts which have been passed for the purpose of enforcing the ordinance; but, up to the date of the latest advices, that request had not been complied with; and, on the present occasion, there. fore, reference can only be made to those acts as published in the newspapers of that state.
The acts to which it is deemed proper to invite the particular attention of Congress, are,
1st. An act to carry into effect, in part, an ordinance to nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws laying du