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The 1833 Force Bill would have given President Jackson an “authority (?)” to use force against the State of South Carolina, then threatening to secede if the 1828 tariff was not annulled by Congress. All of the states voluntarily ratified the Constitution in 1789. All of the states were sovereign by themselves by treaty with England.  

Virginia, New York, and Rhode Island specifically stated in their ratification paper that they would join the United States with the reservation that they could withdraw at any time of their own choosing.

The Articles of Confederation, Article 13, said that once you are in you cannot get out. To exclude a similar amendment in the “new” Constitution was not an oversight on the part of the framers. 

Did the 1833 Force Act remove the option of voluntary withdrawal? Did Lincoln ever refer to this act as legal justification to ask the state militias for 75,000 soldiers?  

Thank you, 

Arthur Germaine




Dear Mr. Germaine,

For all the controversy that transpired before, the 1833 Force Bill was President Andrew Jackson’s flat rejection of the Senator John C. Calhoun-sponsored Ordinance of Nullification regarding the enforcement of the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 within South Carolina’s borders, along with the option to secede from the Union. The bottom line is that it would authorize the use of military force, if necessary, against any state that resisted the protective tariff laws. On the same day the Force Bill was enacted on March 2, however, Congress also ratified the Compromise Tariff of 1833, proposed by Senators Calhoun and Henry Clay, which gradually reduced the tariff and, by so doing, defused the situation…for the time being.

            Although the principals involved in the Force Bill were undoubtedly known to him, President Abraham Lincoln made no specific reference to it in his call for 75,000 volunteers to suppress the secessionist states on April 15, 1861 (see below for a detailed parsing of his appeal).



Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History

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