Federal Nullification by a Sovereign State is not specifically shown in the constitution; but neither is it specifically precluded and thus is penumbrally retained and reserved under both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.
South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification of Federal Unconstitutionality, November 24, 1832:
(I) This ordinance is to nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws laying duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufacturers and the bestowal of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense, injury, and oppression of other classes and individuals.
As a sovereign state, we protest the wholesale exempting from taxation of certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected. We take affront at the exceedence of the Federal Congress’ just powers under the constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and have instead violated the true meaning and intent of the constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burdens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the confederacy.
We thusly act to ensure that said Federal Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue will no longer be permitted to continue in breach.
We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain that the several tariff actions 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 currently having actual operation and effect within the
United States, as approved on the 14th day of July, 1832, are unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are therefore are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens. All promises, contracts, and obligations, made or entered into, or to be made or entered into, with purpose to secure the duties imposed by said acts, shall be hereafter held to be utterly null and void.
It is further ordained, that it shall not be lawful for any of the constituted authorities, whether of this State or of the United States, to enforce the payment of duties imposed by the said acts within the limits of the State of Carolina; but it shall be the duty of the legislature to adopt such measures and pass such acts as may be necessary to give full effect to this ordinance, and to prevent the enforcement and arrest the operation of the said acts and parts of acts of the Congress of the United States within the boundaries of this State, from and after the first day of February 1833.
And it is further ordained, that all persons now holding any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military, under this State of South Carolina, 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 legislature 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 until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath.
We, the people of South Carolina, in order that it may be fully understood by the government of the United States, and the people of the co-States, establish herein that we are determined to maintain this our ordinance and declaration, at every hazard, do further 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 rather 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 constitutional 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 henceforth hold themselves absolved from all further 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.
Executed in convention at Columbia, South Carolina, the 24th day of November, 1832, and in the 57th year of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States of America.
(II) On December 10, 1832, President Andrew Jackson issued a proclamation to the people of South Carolina that disputed their protected right to nullify a federal law. Jackson’s proclamation was written in response to a nullification ordinance previously issued by a South Carolina convention that declared that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 to be unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and in violation of its true meaning and intent and therefore null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State.
Led by John C. Calhoun, Andrew Jackson’s Vice President at the time, the nullifiers were incensed that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 illegally subsidized Northern-manufacturing interests at the expense of Southern farmers. In tandem with this proclamation, Congress passed the Force Act that authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts.
The Force Act
(III) The Force Act was enacted on March 2, 1833 in violation of the constitution and purported to authorize President Andrew Jackson to use of whatever force he felt was necessary to enforce Federal tariffs. Jackson’s Bloody War Bill as it was commonly called, acted to suppress South Carolina’s right of refusal to collect unconstitutional tariffs. The Act cynically elevated the President into an absolute dictator possesed of the authority to close ports or harbors at his own tyrannical will. Andrew Jackson deployed the Navy to institute a total naval blockade, free trade was prevented, and the states were left with no recourse but to respond violently against the oppressive union or no longer exist as a sovereign state.
The Force Act was the first piece of legislation to publicly abrogate the previously held right of secession by individual sovereign states. Its issuance assured that the exercise of the right of secession would be met with unlimited violence and aggression, and thus the idea of the states being a part of a national union was completely eviscerated.