Posts Tagged ‘andrew’
Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (HBO, 2015) aired to the public on 29 March 2015. My students in alternative religions this semester were quite in tune with the controversy surrounding the Church of Scientology and Gibney’s documentary, which had premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015. News reports say that when the film finished at Sun Dance, it received a standing ovation. A quick Google search of “Going Clear” immediately makes the controversy clear: the top two links (paid ads by the Church of Scientology) that attempt discredit the film. The Third link is also paid ad bought by HBO trying to pedal its wares. My students tell me that the film trended on Twitter. All of us who teach alternative religions or new religious movements will have to contend with this documentary for some time, if for no other reason because of its popularity and/or notoriety.
Gibney’s film is based upon Lawrence Wright’s book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Knopf, 2013; paperback Vintage, 2013). [Reviewed by Jonathan Den Hertog here] Wright’s credentials as a journalist are impeccable, having won numerous awards for journalism including a Pulitzer Prize for his book Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, 2006). Going Clear was a finalist for both the National Book Award and National Book Critics Award. The documentary condenses much of Wright’s research, but, on the screen it packs a visual punch. This is not to mention that a video documentary very likely reached a younger demographic Wright’s book ever did. (At least, I can say that none of my students had read Wright’s book, even though it was a New York Times Best Seller, but they knew about the documentary.) Wright is interviewed to lay out the goal of the film. He notes that he has studied Jonestown and radical Islam and wished to ask the question about religious individuals: “Why do they believe one idea rather than another?” He continues:
There are often good-hearted people, idealistic, but full of a crushing certainty that eliminates doubt. My goal was not to write an exposé. It was to understand Scientology, to try to understand what people got out of it. Why did they go into it in the first place?
These questions are the heart of the documentary as they were for Wright’s book. Wright, in fact, is a guiding presence throughout the documentary. He explains and interprets the footage and interviews the viewer sees. In this sense it is better to understand him as a collaborator with Gibney rather than simply a “talking head.”
The documentary begins with ex-Scientologists, Paul Haggis, Jason Beghe, and Sylvia “Spanky” Taylor explaining why they became interested in Scientology. Their introductions are juxtaposed with David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church, John Travolta and Tom Cruise. Haggis, Beghe, and Taylor come across as naïve inquirers in the face of Miscavige’s inspiring 2013 declaration:
We’re out to make every life extra ordinary. And, if by chance, it ever seems laborious or a sacrifice, then you are looking at the off ramps instead of the highway. You’re missing the signpost the one that reads: Next Stop Infinity!
Following Miscavige’s speech, we see a clip with John Travolta, paraphrasing L. Ron Hubbard, stating that his favorite ideas in Scientology are ” a world without criminality; a world without war; and a world without insanity.” Then Tom Cruise proclaims, “These are the times we will all remember. Were you there? What did you do? … To RLH!”
Why did they join? As a young man, Haggis wanted to save his marriage. Jason Beghe said he had a transcendent experience using the techniques of Scientology. Spanky Taylor was in high school and wanted superpowers. All noted that auditing sessions made them feel better, even euphoric. During the first half of the documentary, the story of ex-Scientologists are woven throughout the story of the Church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard. Gibney portrays Hubbard as energetic, prolific (he is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of books ever published–over a thousand), and enterprising, while unstable, prone to violence, and paranoid with illusions of grandeur. This profile is primarily created using available news footage intertwined with critical and negative recollections about Hubbard from Sara Northrup, his second wife. The Northrup material was not used in Wright’s book, so it is hard to evaluate this source in the documentary. Hubbard’s wish to make Dianetics into a religion is investigated as well as his trouble with the IRS. (Oddly, no mention is made of the FDA, where Hubbard’s documented problems with the government began). Wright notes that Hubbard’s science of Dianetics was dismissed by the American Psychological Association as “psychological folk art,” while Northrup’s recollections say the Church’s founder surrounded himself with sycophants, saw himself as a god-figure, and hoodwinked gullible people. This, of course, raises the question again: why do good-hearted people get involved with beliefs that Gibney and Wright make clear are so problematic?
Beghe: “You get stuck into it. It is so strong that it sticks to you like glue. And there’s no way you can get away from it.”
Hana Eltringham Whitfield (an ex-member of the Sea Org): “Spellbound” … “He had us emotionally captured and held, right there in the palm of his hand where he wanted us.”
With each step into the documentary, it becomes clear that whatever attempt to “understand” Scientology becomes secondary to the “problem” of Scientology.
As the documentary introduces the secret, esoteric doctrines of the Church (which I will not detail out of respect for a religion, which wants its doctrine to remain secret), the ex-members universally become incredulous, which raises the question: why did they stay? Upon learning the secret doctrine, Haggis exclaims, “What the fuck is this?” Whitfield uses terms like “mind control” and “cultic manipulation.” At different points, Wright evaluates the thought of L. Ron Hubbard: “He had the ability to fabricate those amazing tales [in his science fiction writing] and transported those imaginary stories into his theology.” Or again, the creation of Scientology was a “form of self-therapy” for Hubbard. Wright’s conclusion: “Scientology really is a journey into the mind of L. Ron Hubbard. And the further you get into it, the more like L. Ron Hubbard you become.” This statement would surely have agreement with any practicing Scientologist, except that the Hubbard is portrayed by Gibney and Wright less as religious visionary, entrepreneur, and bricoleur than a paranoid and delusional tyrant.
Not surprisingly, the second half of film turns to David Miscavige, the current leader of the Church, John Travolta, and Tom Cruise. From this point, Gibney’s film becomes less a documentary than an exposé. We meet ex-Scientologists Tom DeVocht, Mark “Marty” Rathbun, Mike Rinder, all once in top positions within the Church. These individuals allege abuses within the Church at the hands of a ruthless Miscavige. The audience is introduced to terms like SP (suppressive person), PTS (potential trouble spot), fair game, and disconnection. Ex-Scientologists claim to have been held prisoner in “The Hole,” something the Church denies. Sea Org members allegedly work for slave wages. The Church is accused of participating in illegal child labor, human trafficking, and aggressive character assassination.
A particular spotlight is placed on the Church’s tax exemption from IRS as a religious organization. In the film, Wright considers “how do you define a religion?” Rather than thoughtfully consider what is at stake in such a question, a question that it crucial and compelling, he stops short of any penetrating analysis, simply noting that the IRS is the only opinion that matters. There is no acknowledgement that the IRS could never define “religion” without almost certainly raising First Amendment issues. The IRS’s guidelines, therefore, are necessarily loose. Worse, says Wright, accountants and lawyers, who are not theologians, are ill-equipped to answer these questions. Yet Gibney does not introduce to the viewer any scholars of religion, theologians, or legal experts on church and state. One suspects that the reason behind this can be found in Wright’s book: “serious academic study of his [Hubbard's] writing has also been constrained by vindictive reputation of the church” (445). Tom DeVocht claims “it is a crime” that Scientology can hide behind First Amendment protections. In the end, Gibney notes that the IRS “surrendered,” and Marty Rathbun claims the tax exemption allowed the Church to amass and extort a tax-free fortune from its members. Travolta is given a similar assessment. Spanky Taylor claims that he knew about her alleged abuse at the hands of church officials, yet, in the words of Wright, Travolta “was the Church’s captive. … He had the opportunity to affect the behavior of the Church and chose not to.” Tom Cruise is the focus of particular invective. “No one,” says Wright, “has benefitted more from his membership” than Cruise.
By the end of the film, the intent is clearly no longer a documentary to understand Scientology but a spotlight on a religious organization which the film maker claims has “no checks and balances.” Wright makes clear to the viewer what can be hoped: “The IRS could reconsider its tax exemption,” or “some of these celebrity megaphones could turn against the Church. And Tom Cruise should be leading that chorus.” The film ends with ex-Scientologists expressing their regrets and embarrassments for being part of the Church with Theremin music in the background to leave the viewer with a zany feel.
This film has merits. The footage, none of which, I presume, was provided by the Church, is stunning in its breadth. One should watch the film for this reason alone. Watching Hubbard speak in his own words is quite compelling. Seeing the filmed victory celebration after the Church received its tax exemption from the IRS (although it has been posted on the web for years) is thrilling to see, as is watching David Miscavige salute the portrait of LRH and exclaim, “Sir, Done!” Gibney scrupulously noted when John Travolta’s or Tom Cruise’s publicists denied allegations made in the film or when Church members refused comment or interviews. One is also certainly drawn into the pathos of ex-members stories, and it is hard to ignore their obvious pain and regret. One should also not miss the courage it took Wright and Gibney to write and film their projects, when the Church has a well-known and public reputation for litigiousness.
However, one should not confuse compelling stories and courage for depth of understanding. One also need not ignore allegations of abuse to recognize lack of balance. Journalistic approaches to religion, while they can be penetrating and interesting, often do not have the type of analysis necessary to explore what is at stake for the academic study of religion or a particular religion’s intersection with the legal, political, and social contexts in which it functions. Alas, while the film gives us the raw material for such a discussion, it does not provide it. So, while Gibney and Wright certainly need not take the Church of Scientology’s self presentation at face value, they ought to have looked at the testimony of ex-members with an equally critical eye. The film ultimately lacks a sophisticated critical lens along the lines of Hugh Urban’s recent The Church of Scientology: A History of a New Religion (Princeton, 2011). Urban’s book has been reviewed several times on this blog, and my goal here is not to review it again. Suffice to say, it is remarkably even-handed, and does what we all hope to do in our research and in our classes: contextualize a religion historically and culturally; balance a hermeneutics of respect with a hermeneutics of suspicion; weigh the ethics of studying Scientology’s intentionally secret doctrine, even though it is widely available; and, perhaps most important, determine what is at stake in being called a religion or not in our culture. I wish the film had done more along the lines of Urban’s book. I was left longing to see what the film intimated it would explore: to try to understand Scientology and why people went into it in the first place. Instead, we are left with an exciting film more like an extended A&E Biography piece with a moral charge to the IRS, Travolta and Cruise, rather than a careful discussion or balanced approach to the sorts of issues I would expect to cover in my classes.
In his 1789 History of the American Revolution, the South Carolina physician and historian David Ramsay (1749-1815, shown here) wrote that the crowd at the Boston Massacre was “armed with clubs, sticks, and snowballs covering stones.”
I believe that’s the first printed statement that Bostonians packed snow around rocks to throw at the soldiers. Earlier I’ve said that the earliest place I’d found that detail stated was in Sgt. Roger Lamb’s Journal, published twenty years later. It appears Lamb picked up the detail from Ramsay.
Or from intervening authors. The “snowballs covering stones” also appeared in Jedidiah Morse’s The American Geography (London: 1794), “History of the Rise and Fall of the British Empire in America” in The Britannic Magazine (1795), and William Winterbotham’s An Historical, Geographical, Commercial and Philosophical View of the American United States (London: 1795).
The snowballs with stony cores became a standard detail of descriptions of the Massacre in the nineteenth century. Even though that detail can’t be traced back to anyone who was at the event. Following the standards of his time, Ramsay didn’t specify his source, and the many authors who copied his language (at much greater length) didn’t even cite him.
A lot of eyewitnesses to the Massacre left testimony about it, and none described people packing snow around rocks. Lots of people said there was snow and ice on the ground, and in the air. Thomas Hall and Daniel Cornwall testified to seeing people throw oyster shells at the soldiers. An enslaved man named Andrew testified that people threw “pieces of sea coal” (i.e., coal imported from Cape Breton). So there’s better evidence that the locals didn’t even bother padding their stones with snow.
Andrew Jackson is seen as the first president elected due to the “common man.” After losing in 1824 to John Quincy Adams due to the election being thrown into the house and the “Corrupt Bargain” being struck, Jackson came back and ran in 1828 to win the presidency. Called “King Andrew” by his enemies, Jackson’s time in office had its share in scandals and controversies.
This article talks about the long process Major Ridge and John Ross fought to save the Cherokees, but lost to Andrew Jackson. They tried every strategy and knew how to use the system, but could not get around the very stubborn Jackson:
By 1813, Ridge had seen enough of politics to understand the diplomatic advantage to be gained from joining the Tennesseans against the Red Sticks. The Cherokees might even have realized that advantage had it not been for the militia leader they fought under: Andrew Jackson.
As a boy in the 1770s, Jackson had listened to stories of Indian violence toward settlers, and with no apparent understanding of their motives, he developed prejudices that he—like many Americans of his day—held throughout his life. He routinely called Indians “savages” and people of mixed heritage “half-breeds,” and he was unshakable in his conviction that Indians should be removed from the South. When news that the Red Sticks were attacking settlers reached him in Nashville, he asked: “Is a citizen of the United States, to remain under the barbarous lash of cruel and unrelenting savages?”
In March 1814, Jackson tracked the Red Sticks to Horseshoe Bend, a peninsula formed by the Tallapoosa River in what is now Alabama, and launched a frontal assault on their breastworks. His troops might have been repulsed had the Cherokees not crossed the river and attacked from the rear. Caught between two attacking forces, the Red Sticks lost nearly 900 warriors in what proved to be the decisive battle of the war.
That day, a Cherokee named Junaluska saved Jackson from an attacker, prompting the Tennessean to declare, “As long as the sun shines and the grass grows, there shall be friendship between us.” But in the peace treaty he negotiated with the Creeks, Jackson confiscated 23 million acres of land in Alabama and Georgia—some of which belonged to the Cherokees.
The list of the methods Ross and Ridge tried are impressive and should have worked - the courts even agreed with them. Jackson did not, though, and Jackson won, albeit unfairly (yes, yes, I’m siding with them, not Jackson…I usually don’t takes sides, but I’m sorry….Jackson was clearly in the wrong and this is not a stellar moment for him or the US).
On January 30, 1835, Andrew Jackson became the first president who someone attempted to assassinate while in office. He was attending a funeral when Richard Lawrence, a painter with delusions of grandeur (or at least who believed himself to be Richard III), tried to shoot him with two separate derringers that both misfired. Jackson subsequently beat Lawrence into submission with his cane. Lawrence was later found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed in an asylum for the rest of his life. Ironically, the guns that Lawrence used were later tested and found to be in proper working order. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the odds that two derringers in perfect working order would both misfire as in this instance are 125,000 to one.
Andrew Jackson is seen as the first president elected due to the “common man.” After losing in 1824 to John Quincy Adams due to the election being thrown into the house and the “Corrupt Bargain” being struck, Jackson came back and ran in 1828 to win the presidency. I’ve collected ten key facts that are important to know when looking at Jackson’s time as president. Enjoy!
On May 16, 1868, President Andrew Johnson was a lucky man. The Senate failed by just one vote to convict Andrew Johnson of attempting to undermine Congress. As a result …
In the history of the United States, two presidents has been impeached. The first impeachment occurred on February 24, 1868. Andrew Johnson, the president who succeeded Abraham Lincoln after his assassination, was impeached due to his firing of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton which violated the recently passed Tenure of Office Act. This act forbade the president from removing an official that had been confirmed by the Senate from office before they had approved a successor. Similar to President Clinton, the other president to be impeached, Johnson was not removed from office. President Nixon, while not impeached, was the only President to leave office early due to resignation.
In early April 2010, the U.S. Army War College held a workshop on teaching strategy in a professional military education environment. It focused on the question, “Is the Senior Service College Approach in Need of Radical Reform in Order to Serve Effectively in the Post-9/11 Environment?” John Nagl, president of the Center for a New [...]
Never say one vote won’t make a difference. On May 16, 1868, President Andrew Johnson was a lucky man. The Senate failed by just one vote to convict Andrew …
Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian. By Michael Paul Rogin. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1975. Pp. [xxii], 373, xii. $16.95.) ISBN: 0887388868
Book Review by Jared Frederick
Michael Paul Rogin’s study of the Jacksonian Era in Fathers and Children is a mixture of social, political, and psychoanalytic history that attempts to explain the reasoning for Andrew Jackson’s governmental mentalities in general and his seemingly vindictive policies against Native Americans in particular. Using Freudian analysis as a method to measure Old Hickory’s actions, the heart of Rogin’s message rests in the idea of Jackson as a tool and a symbol of American expansion and all the capitalistic opportunities entailed within. In this context, Rogin claims Jackson viewed himself as the replacement for the legacies of the deceased Founding Fathers. Here, the removal of the American Indian from his lands would prove to be Jackson’s presidential litmus test in the process of advancing his national agendas including the destruction of the National Bank.
In the years that American began to mature, national expansion became a centerpiece of politics and business. At the center of this topic was the issue of Indian removal. This endeavor was a major policy of the Andrew Jackson administration yet few historians, Rogin contends, have placed Indians at the center of Jackson’s life and have failed to see the Jacksonian Era as one of native genocide and subjugation. Entwined with this notion is the long-held perspective, also held toward blacks, that paternalistic approaches were implemented to coerce another race in order to attain white advancement. For some Americans, it was initially difficult to reconcile the destruction of Native Americans with that of the American self-image. However, paternalistic instincts eventually compensated for this seeming contradiction in the minds of many citizens. Jackson’s vice president Martin Van Buren echoed the sentiments of his president in stating that there “was perhaps in the beginning unjustifiable aggressors [against natives], but of whom, in the progress of time and events, we have become the[ir] guardians and . . . benefactors” (4). In this sense, Indians were viewed in a childlike manner. The family-centered structure of native life was one that Jackson himself was denied in the wake of his parents and brothers deaths by the time he was fifteen. Rogin claims that by placing national identity within the context of Jackson’s own personal loss, Jackson became a replacement patriarchal figure for Americans mourning the loss of father figures. In other words, the psychoanalytic excavation of Jackson’s life came to embody the society he rose to lead. In this sense and many more, the author argues, Jackson became the first modern American president. One could claim that the story of early America is the story of Andrew Jackson. As Rogin contends, this “history of westward expansion and psychic regression, of regeneration through violence and flawed maturity, is the biography of Jackson” (13). In this sense, Rogin shatters romanticized consensus interpretations of Jackson’s life by revealing him as a leader with a troubled past, an irascible temper, and an extremely protective and removed manner of conducting business.
As the sons of those who led the Revolution came to power, their domination over the “childish” natives symbolized America’s growth from childhood to maturity. Andrew Jackson was the embodiment of this idea. As a son of the Revolution who rose from rags to riches, his personal story encapsulated the essence of the self-made man while inspiring his fellow expansionist Americans to follow in his footsteps of domination and capitalization. Conquering Indian lands reunited whites with the natural landscape and further ingrained them in the increasingly popular notions of Manifest Destiny. Leaders such as Jackson argued that only a paternal-like government could save native nations from themselves or extinction. As Rogin makes clear, however, paternalism better accommodated the needs of whites than it ever did for Indians. Thousands would be dispossessed from their homes in the wake of the broader market economy which replaced more localized household economies.
The quest for capital was an undeniable goal in the Manifest Destiny Jackson helped to initiate. The seizing of land was perhaps one of the greatest international economic implications of the 19th Century. Indian removal allowed for the planting of cotton and additional crops, which eventually increased the production of northern industry as well as foreign exports. Also within this framework, black slaves were judged with paternal instinct similar to that of Native Americans. Their fate in this “new” west, too, would ignite sectional disharmony and a subsequent fratricidal civil war. In these western territories, Indians and then slaves became the victims of a broader capitalist agenda to attain land and all its resources located therein. The inherent weakness is in Rogin’s argument is also his strength. While the author’s use of psychoanalytic method to uncover Jackson’s ideological roots is beneficial in many cases, Rogin nevertheless makes over-reaching claims in comparing instances of Jackson’s adult behavior to stages of infancy and childhood. One cannot argue that this claim does not add to the historiographical discussion of Jackson’s legacy, however. All in all, Rogin concludes that Jackson’s rise (as well as America’s), embodied the notion that the young republic was no longer childlike, but was growing and evolving “from nature to a capitalist civilization” (13).
On February 24, 1868, Andrew Johnson became the first president to be impeached. This happened because Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton thereby violating the recently passed Tenure of …
January 31, 1835, President Andrew Jackson was almost assassinated by Richard Lawrence. Luckily for the President, the gun misfired twice before Lawrence was disarmed. It is said that …
Army Green Berets fighting the enemy in Afghanistan on 15 November 2001 had discovered a hornet’s nest as Taliban tanks and armored vehicles rumbled up to within two miles of the special operators. They obviously intended to attack at any moment, and the men did not have the heavy weapons to stop tanks. They needed [...]
I am not sure how good it may be but Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson is the official site for the Broadway production of Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman’s, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. It takes a sharp, irreverent look at America’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson.
From the site:
In BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON, rising star BENJAMIN WALKER reprises his role as America’s first political maverick. A.J. kicked British butt, shafted the Indians and smacked down the Spaniards all in the name of these United States-who cares if he didn’t have permission? An exhilarating and white-knuckled look at one of our nation’s founding rock stars, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON recreates and reinvents the life of “Old Hickory,” from his humble beginnings on the Tennessee frontier to his days as our seventh Commander-in-Chief. It also asks the question, is wanting to have a beer with someone reason enough to elect him? What if he’s really, really hot?
December 10, 1832
Whereas a convention assembled in the State of South Carolina have passed an ordinance by which they declare “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 actual operation and effect within the United States, and more especially” two acts for the same purposes passed on the 29th of May, 1828, and on the 14th of July, 1832, “are unauthorized by the Constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof, and are null and void and no law,” nor binding on the citizens of that State or its officers; and by the said ordinance it is further declared to be unlawful for any of the constituted authorities of the State or of the United States to enforce the payment of the duties imposed by the said acts within the same State, and that it is the duty of the legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary to give full effect to the said ordinance; and
Whereas by the said ordinance it is further ordained that in no case of law or equity decided in the courts of said State wherein shall be drawn in question the validity of the said ordinance, or of the acts of the legislature that may be passed to give it effect, or of the said laws of the United States, no appeal shall be allowed to the Supreme Court of the United States, nor shall any copy of the record be permitted or allowed for that purpose, and that any person attempting to take such appeal shall be punished as for contempt of court; and, finally, the said ordinance declares that the people of South Carolina will maintain the said ordinance at every hazard, and that they will consider the passage of any act by Congress abolishing or closing the ports of the said State or otherwise obstructing the free ingress or egress of vessels to and from the said ports, or any other act of the Federal Government to coerce the State, shut up her ports, destroy or harass her commerce…and that the people of the said State will thenceforth 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; and
Whereas the said ordinance prescribes to the people of South Carolina a course of conduct in direct violation of their duty as citizens of the United States, contrary to the laws of their country, subversive of its Constitution, and having for its object the destruction of the Union–that Union which, coeval with our political existence, led our fathers, without any other ties to unite them than those of patriotism and a common cause, through a sanguinary struggle to a glorious Independence; that sacred Union, hitherto inviolate, which, perfected by our happy Constitution, has brought us, by the favor of Heaven, to a state of prosperity at home and high consideration abroad rarely, if ever, equaled in the history of nations:
To preserve this bond of our political existence from destruction, to maintain inviolate this state of national honor and prosperity, and to justify the confidence my fellow-citizens have reposed in me, I, Andrew Jackson, President of the United States, have thought proper to issue this my proclamation, stating my views of the Constitution and laws applicable to the measures adopted by the convention of South Carolina and to the reasons they have put forth to sustain them, declaring the course which duty will require me to pursue, and, appealing to the understanding and patriotism of the people, warn them of the consequences that must inevitably result from an observance of the dictates of the convention…
If this doctrine had been established at an earlier day, the Union would have been dissolved in its infancy. The excise law in Pennsylvania, the embargo and nonintercourse law in the Eastern States, the carriage tax in Virginia, were all deemed unconstitutional, and were more unequal in their operation than any of the laws now complained of; but, fortunately, none of those States discovered that they had the right now claimed by South Carolina. The war into which we were forced to support the dignity of the nation and the rights of our citizens might have ended in defeat and disgrace, instead of victory and honor, if the States who supposed it a ruinous and unconstitutional measure had thought they possessed the right of nullifying the act by which it was declared and denying supplies for its prosecution. Hardly and unequally as those measures bore upon several members of the Union, to the legislatures of none did this efficient and peaceable remedy, as it is called, suggest itself… To the statesmen of South Carolina belongs the invention, and upon the citizens of that State will unfortunately fall the evils of reducing it to practice.
If the doctrine of a State veto upon the laws of the Union carries with it internal evidence of its impracticable absurdity, our constitutional history will also afford abundant proof that it would have been repudiated with indignation had it been proposed to form a feature in our Government.
In our colonial state, although dependent on another power, we very early considered ourselves as connected by common interest with each other. Leagues were formed for common defense, and before the declaration of independence we were known in our aggregate character as the United Colonies of America. That decisive and important step was taken jointly. We declared ourselves a nation by a joint, not by several acts, and when the terms of our Confederation were reduced to form it was in that of a solemn league of several States, by which they agreed that they would collectively form one nation for the purpose of conducting some certain domestic concerns and all foreign relations. In the instrument forming that Union is found an article which declares that “every State shall abide by the determinations of Congress on all questions which by that Confederation should be submitted to them.”
Under the Confederation, then, no State could legally annul a decision of the Congress or refuse to submit to its execution; but no provision was made to enforce these decisions. Congress made requisitions, but they were not complied with. The Government could not operate on individuals. They had no judiciary, no means of collecting revenue.
But the defects of the Confederation need not be detailed. Under its operation we could scarcely be called a nation. We had neither prosperity at home nor consideration abroad. This state of things could not be endured, and our present happy Constitution was formed, but formed in vain if this fatal doctrine prevails. It was formed for important objects that are announced in the preamble, made in the name and by the authority of the people of the United States, whose delegates framed and whose conventions approved it. The most important among these objects–that which is placed first in rank, on which all the others rest–is “to form a more perfect union.” Now, is it possible that even if there were no express provision giving supremacy to the Constitution and laws of the United States over those of the States, can it be conceived that an instrument made for the purpose of “forming a more perfect union” than that of the Confederation could be so constructed by the assembled wisdom of our country as to substitute for that Confederation a form of government dependent for its existence on the local interest, the party spirit, of a State, or of a prevailing faction in a State? Every man of plain, unsophisticated understanding who hears the question will give such an answer as will preserve the Union. Metaphysical subtlety, in pursuit of an impracticable theory, could alone have devised one that is calculated to destroy it.
I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.
The preamble rests its justification on these grounds: It assumes as a fact that the obnoxious laws, although they purport to be laws for raising revenue, were in reality intended for the protection of manufactures, which purpose it asserts to be unconstitutional; that the operation of these laws is unequal; that the amount raised by them is greater than is required by the wants of the Government; and, finally, that the proceeds are to be applied to objects unauthorized by the Constitution. These are the only causes alleged to justify an open opposition to the laws of the country and a threat of seceding from the Union if any attempt should be made to enforce them. The first virtually acknowledges that the law in question was passed under a power expressly given by the Constitution to lay and collect imposts; but its constitutionality is drawn in question from the motives of those who passed it. However apparent this purpose may be in the present case, nothing can be more dangerous than to admit the position that an unconstitutional purpose entertained by the members who assent to a law enacted under a constitutional power shall make that law void. For how is that purpose to be ascertained? Who is to make the scrutiny? How often may bad purposes be falsely imputed, in how many cases are they concealed by false professions, in how many is no declaration of motive made? Admit this doctrine, and you give to the States an uncontrolled right to decide, and every law may be annulled under this pretext. If, therefore, the absurd and dangerous doctrine should be admitted that a State may annul an unconstitutional law, or one that it deems such, it will not apply to the present case…
The wisdom of man never yet contrived a system of taxation that would operate with perfect equality. If the unequal operation of a law makes it unconstitutional, and if all laws of that description may be abrogated by any State for that cause, then, indeed, is the Federal Constitution unworthy of the slightest effort for its preservation. We have hitherto relied on it as the perpetual bond of our Union; we have received it as the work of the assembled wisdom of the nation; we have trusted to it as to the sheet anchor of our safety in the stormy times of conflict with a foreign or domestic foe; we have looked to it with sacred awe as the palladium of our liberties, and with all the solemnities of religion have pledged to each other our lives and fortunes here and our hopes of happiness hereafter in its defense and support. Were we mistaken, my countrymen, in attaching this importance to the Constitution of our country? Was our devotion paid to the wretched, inefficient, clumsy contrivance which this new doctrine would make it? Did we pledge ourselves to the support of an airy nothing — a bubble that must be blown away by the first breath of disaffection? Was this self-destroying, visionary theory the work of the profound statesmen, the exalted patriots, to whom the task of constitutional reform was intrusted? Did the name of Washington sanction, did the States deliberately ratify, such an anomaly in the history of fundamental legislation? No; we were not mistaken. The letter of this great instrument is free from this radical fault. Its language directly contradicts the imputation; its spirit, its evident intent, contradicts it. No; we did not err. Our Constitution does not contain the absurdity of giving power to make laws and another to resist them. The sages whose memory will always be reverenced have given us a practical and, as they hoped, a permanent constitutional compact. The Father of his Country did not affix his revered name to so palpable an absurdity. Nor did the States, when they severally ratified it, do so under the impression that a veto on the laws of the United States was reserved to them or that they could exercise it by implication. Search the debates in all their conventions, examine the speeches of the most zealous opposers of Federal authority, look at the amendments that were proposed; they are all silent, not a syllable uttered, not a vote given, not a motion made to correct the explicit supremacy given to the laws of the Union over those of the States, or to show that implication, as is now contended, could defeat it. No; we have not erred. The Constitution is still the object of our reverence, the bond of our Union, our defense in danger, the source of our prosperity in peace. It shall descend, as we have received it, uncorrupted by sophistical construction, to our posterity; and the sacrifices of local interest, of State prejudices, of personal animosities, that were made to bring it into existence, will again be patriotically offered for its support…
The Constitution has given, expressly, to Congress the right of raising revenue and of determining the sum the public exigencies will require. The States have no control over the exercise of this right other than that which results from the power of changing the representatives who abuse it, and thus procure redress. Congress may undoubtedly abuse this discretionary power; but the same may be said of others with which they are vested. Yet the discretion must exist somewhere. The Constitution has given it to the representatives of all the people, checked by the representatives of the States and by the Executive power. The South Carolina construction gives it to the legislature or the convention of a single State, where neither the people of the different States, nor the States in their separate capacity, nor the Chief Magistrate elected by the people have any representation. Which is the most discreet disposition of the power? I do not ask you, fellow-citizens, which is the constitutional disposition; that instrument speaks a language not to be misunderstood. But if you were assembled in general convention, which would you think the safest depository of this discretionary power in the last resort? Would you add a clause giving it to each of the States, or would you sanction the wise provisions already made by your Constitution? If this should be the result of your deliberations when providing for the future, are you, can you, be ready to risk all that we hold dear, to establish, for a temporary and a local purpose, that which you must acknowledge to be destructive, and even absurd, as a general provision? Carry out the consequences of this right vested in the different States, and you must perceive that the crisis your conduct presents at this day would recur whenever any law of the United States displeased any of the States, and that we should soon cease to be a nation…
On such expositions and reasonings the ordinance grounds not only an assertion of the right to annul the laws of which it complains, but to enforce it by a threat of seceding from the Union if any attempt is made to execute them.
This right to secede is deduced from the nature of the Constitution, which, they say, is a compact between sovereign States who have preserved their whole sovereignty and therefore are subject to no superior; that because they made the compact they can break it when in their opinion it has been departed from by the other States. Fallacious as this course of reasoning is, it enlists State pride and finds advocates in the honest prejudices of those who have not studied the nature of our Government sufficiently to see the radical error on which it rests.
The people of the United States formed the Constitution, acting through the State legislatures in making the compact, to meet and discuss its provisions, and acting in separate conventions when they ratified those provisions; but the terms used in its construction show it to be a Government in which the people of all the States, collectively, are represented. We are one people in the choice of President and Vice-President. Here the States have no other agency than to direct the mode in which the votes shall be given. The candidates having the majority of all the votes are chosen. The electors of a majority of States may have given their votes for one candidate, and yet another may be chosen. The people, then, and not the States, are represented in the executive branch.
In the House of Representatives there is this difference, that the people of one State do not, as in the case of President and Vice-President, all vote for the same officers. The people of all the States do not vote for all the members, each State electing only its own representatives. But this creates no material distinction. When chosen, they are all representatives of the United States, not representatives of the particular State from which they come. They are paid by the United States, not by the State; nor are they accountable to it for any act done in the performance of their legislative functions; and however they may in practice, as it is their duty to do, consult and prefer the interests of their particular constituents when they come in conflict with any other partial or local interest, yet it is their first and highest duty, as representatives of the United States, to promote the general good.
The Constitution of the United States, then, forms a government, not a league; and whether it be formed by compact between the States or in any other manner, its character is the same. It is a Government in which all the people are represented, which operates directly on the people individually, not upon the States; they retained all the power they did not grant. But each State, having expressly parted with so many powers as to constitute, jointly with the other States, a single nation, can not, from that period, possess any right to secede, because such secession does not break a league, but destroys the unity of a nation; and any injury to that unity is not only a breach which would result from the contravention of a compact, but it is an offense against the whole Union. To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States are not a nation… Secession, like any other revolutionary act, may be morally justified by the extremity of oppression; but to call it a constitutional right is confounding the meaning of terms, and can only be done through gross error or to deceive those who are willing to assert a right, but would pause before they made a revolution or incur the penalties consequent on a failure.
Because the Union was formed by a compact, it is said the parties to that compact may, when they feel themselves aggrieved, depart from it; but it is precisely because it is a compact that they can not. A compact is an agreement or binding obligation. It may by its terms have a sanction or penalty for its breach, or it may not. If it contains no sanction, it may be broken with no other consequence than moral guilt; if it have a sanction, then the breach incurs the designated or implied penalty. A league between independent nations generally has no sanction other than a moral one; or if it should contain a penalty, as there is no common superior it can not be enforced. A government, on the contrary, always has a sanction, express or implied; and in our case it is both necessarily implied and expressly given. An attempt, by force of arms, to destroy a government is an offense, by whatever means the constitutional compact may have been formed; and such government has the right by the law of self-defense to pass acts for punishing the offender, unless that right is modified, restrained, or resumed by the constitutional act. In our system, although it is modified in the case of treason, yet authority is expressly given to pass all laws necessary to carry its powers into effect, and under this grant provision has been made for punishing acts which obstruct the due administration of the laws.
It would seem superfluous to add anything to show the nature of that union which connects us, but as erroneous opinions on this subject are the foundation of doctrines the most destructive to our peace, I must give some further development to my views on this subject. No one, fellow-citizens, has a higher reverence for the reserved rights of the States than the Magistrate who now addresses you. No one would make greater personal sacrifices or official exertions to defend them from violation; but equal care must be taken to prevent, on their part, an improper interference with or resumption of the rights they have vested in the nation. The line has not been so distinctly drawn as to avoid doubts in some cases of the exercise of power. Men of the best intentions and soundest views may differ in their construction of some parts of the Constitution; but there are others on which dispassionate reflection can leave no doubt. Of this nature appears to be the assumed right of secession. It rests, as we have seen, on the alleged undivided sovereignty of the States and on their having formed in this sovereign capacity a compact which is called the Constitution, from which, because they made it, they have the right to secede. Both of these positions are erroneous, and some of the arguments to prove them so have been anticipated.
The States severally have not retained their entire sovereignty. It has been shown that in becoming parts of a nation, not members of a league, they surrendered many of their essential parts of sovereignty. The right to make treaties, declare war, levy taxes, exercise exclusive judicial and legislative powers, were all of them functions of sovereign power. The States, then, for all these important purposes were no longer sovereign. The allegiance of their citizens was transferred, in the first instance, to the Government of the United States; they became American citizens and owed obedience to the Constitution of the United States and to laws made in conformity with the powers it vested in Congress. This last position has not been and can not be denied. How, then, can that State be said to be sovereign and independent whose citizens owe obedience to laws not made by it and whose magistrates are sworn to disregard those laws when they come in conflict with those passed by another?…
The unity of our political character (as has been shown for another purpose) commenced with its very existence. Under the royal Government we had no separate character; our opposition to its oppressions began as united colonies. We were the United States under the Confederation, and the name was perpetuated and the Union rendered more perfect by the Federal Constitution. In none of these stages did we consider ourselves in any other light than as forming one nation. Treaties and alliances were made in the name of all. Troops were raised for the joint defense. How, then, with all these proofs that under all changes of our position we had, for designated purposes and with defined powers, created national governments, how is it that the most perfect of those several modes of union should now be considered as a mere league that may be dissolved at pleasure? It is from an abuse of terms. Compact is used as synonymous with league, although the true term is not employed, because it would at once show the fallacy of the reasoning. It would not do to say that our Constitution was only a league, but it is labored to prove it a compact (which in one sense it is) and then to argue that as a league is a compact every compact between nations must of course be a league, and that from such an engagement every sovereign power has a right to secede. But it has been shown that in this sense the States are not sovereign, and that even if they were, and the national Constitution had been formed by compact, there would be no right in any one State to exonerate itself from its obligations.
So obvious are the reasons which forbid this secession that it is necessary only to allude to them. The Union was formed for the benefit of all. It was produced by mutual sacrifices of interests and opinions. Can those sacrifices be recalled? Can the States who magnanimously surrendered their title to the territories of the West recall the grant? Will the inhabitants of the inland States agree to pay the duties that may be imposed without their assent by those on the Atlantic or the Gulf for their own benefit? Shall there be a free port in one State and onerous duties in another? No one believes that any right exists in a single State to involve all the others in these and countless other evils contrary to engagements solemnly made. Everyone must see that the other States, in self-defense, must oppose it at all hazards…
Fellow-citizens of my native State, let me not only admonish you, as the First Magistrate of our common country, not to incur the penalty of its laws, but use the influence that a father would over his children whom he saw rushing to certain ruin. In that paternal language, with that paternal feeling, let me tell you, my countrymen, that you are deluded by men who are either deceived themselves or wish to deceive you. Mark under what pretenses you have been led on to the brink of insurrection and treason on which you stand. First, a diminution of the value of your staple commodity, lowered by overproduction in other quarters, and the consequent diminution in the value of your lands were the sole effect of the tariff laws. The effect of those laws was confessedly injurious, but the evil was greatly exaggerated by the unfounded theory you were taught to believe, that its burthens were in proportion to your exports, not to your consumption of imported articles. Your pride was roused by the assertion that a submission to those laws was a state of vassalage and that resistance to them was equal in patriotic merit to the opposition our fathers offered to the oppressive laws of Great Britain… Look back to the arts which have brought you to this state; look forward to the consequences to which it must inevitably lead! Look back to what was first told you as an inducement to enter into this dangerous course. The great political truth was repeated to you that you had the revolutionary right of resisting all laws that were palpably unconstitutional and intolerably oppressive. It was added that the right to nullify a law rested on the same principle, but that it was a peaceable remedy. This character which was given to it made you receive with too much confidence the assertions that were made of the unconstitutionality of the law and its oppressive effects… Let those among your leaders who once approved and advocated the principle of protective duties answer the question; and let them choose whether they will be considered as incapable then of perceiving that which must have been apparent to every man of common understanding, or as imposing upon your confidence and endeavoring to mislead you now. In either case they are unsafe guides in the perilous path they urge you to tread. Ponder well on this circumstance, and you will know how to appreciate the exaggerated language they address to you. They are not champions of liberty, emulating the fame of our Revolutionary fathers, nor are you an oppressed people, contending, as they repeat to you, against worse than colonial vassalage. You are free members of a flourishing and happy Union…
Contemplate the condition of that country of which you still form an important part. Consider its Government, uniting in one bond of common interest and general protection so many different States, giving to all their inhabitants the proud title of American citizen… See education spreading the lights of religion, morality, and general information into every cottage in this wide extent of our Territories and States. Behold it as the asylum where the wretched and the oppressed find a refuge and support. Look on this picture of happiness and honor and say, We too are citizens of America… For what do you throw away these inestimable blessings? For what would you exchange your share in the advantages and honor of the Union? For the dream of a separate independence, a dream interrupted by bloody conflicts with your neighbors and a vile dependence on a foreign power? If your leaders could succeed in establishing a separation, what would be your situation? Are you united at home? Are you free from the apprehension of civil discord, with all its fearful consequences? Do our neighboring republics, every day suffering some new revolution or contending with some new insurrection, do they excite your envy? But the dictates of a high duty oblige me solemnly to announce that you can not succeed. The laws of the United States must be executed. I have no discretionary power on the subject; my duty is emphatically pronounced in the Constitution. Those who told you that you might peaceably prevent their execution deceived you; they could not have been deceived themselves. They know that a forcible opposition could alone prevent the execution of the laws, and they know that such opposition must be repelled. Their object is disunion. But be not deceived by names. Disunion by armed force is treason. Are you really ready to incur its guilt? If you are, on the heads of the instigators of the act be the dreadful consequences; on their heads be the dishonor, but on yours may fall the punishment. On your unhappy State will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict you force upon the Government of your country. It can not accede to the mad project of disunion, of which you would be the first victims. Its First Magistrate can not, if he would, avoid the performance of his duty…
Fellow-citizens of the United States, the threat of unhallowed disunion, the names of those once respected by whom it is uttered, the array of military force to support it, denote the approach of a crisis in our affairs on which the continuance of our unexampled prosperity, our political existence, and perhaps that of all free governments may depend… I rely with equal confidence on your undivided support in my determination to execute the laws, to preserve the Union by all constitutional means, to arrest, if possible, by moderate and firm measures the necessity of a recourse to force; and if it be the will of Heaven that the recurrence of its primeval curse on man for the shedding of a brother’s blood should fall upon our land, that it be not called down by any offensive act on the part of the United States.
Fellow-citizens, the momentous case is before you. On your undivided support of your Government depends the decision of the great question it involves — whether your sacred Union will be preserved and the blessing it secures to us as one people shall be perpetuated. No one can doubt that the unanimity with which that decision will be expressed will be such as to inspire new confidence in republican institutions, and that the prudence, the wisdom, and the courage which it will bring to their defense will transmit them unimpaired and invigorated to our children…
In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be hereunto affixed, having signed the same with my hand.
[Seal] Done at the city of Washington, this 10th day of December, A. D. 1832, and of the Independence of the United States the fifty-seventh.
Andrew Jackson, by the President: Edw. Livingston, Secretary of State.
Andrew Jackson was called “Old Hickory” by the soldiers he commanded. Like the hickory tree, he was strong and tough. But his soldiers loved him, and so did the American people.
Born in the backwoods log cabin. Jackson fought in the Revolutionary War when he was only 13. When he was 14, Andrew Jackson refused to shine the boots of a British officer. The officer slashed him with his sword, leaving a permanent scar on Jackson’s head.
As a young lawyer he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where he became a cotton planter, a Congressman, and a militia officer. During the War of 1812 against Britain, he commanded the victorious American troops at the Battle of New Orleans. That triumph made Jackson a national hero. Although he narrowly lost the presidential election of 1824, he won easily four years later.
During his eight years in the White House, Jackson used his powers to strengthen the national government and improve the lives of ordinary Americans. He firmly opposed those who believed that individual states could nullify (cancel) laws they didn’t like. He fought against the Bank of the United States, which he thought favored the rich. And he vetoed many bills that seemed to him to be undemocratic. Because he fought for the average man against the wealthy, Andrew Jackson was known as “the people’s president.”