JACKSON, Andrew. Autograph letter signed ("Andrew Jackson") as President, to Hardy M. Cryer, Washington. D.C., 18 August 1831. 5 pages, 4to (9¾ x 7 7/8 in.), integral address leaf on second sheet, last four letters of signature smeared, otherwise fine.
JACKSON PROCLAIMS THE "NULLIFICATION" OF VICE PRESIDENT JOHN C. CALHOUN AND THE DISMISSED MEMBERS OF HIS CABINET: "WAS THERE EVER SUCH DISHONORABLE CONDUCT BEFORE?"
A colorful and impassioned letter to a friend Cryer during a period when the greatest crisis of Jackson's presidency--Nullification--was brewing. Jackson believed that his success in the election of 1828 constituted a mandate to pursue his political objectives with vigor. Wielding executive power with a new authority, Jackson's agenda gained substantial national support, but alienated many. A serious rift developed within Jackson's own administration over the Peggy Eaton Affair and Vice-President John C. Calhoun's widely publicized espousal of the doctrine of nullification in reference to the tariff.
Here, Jackson comments on recent elections with a particularly sharp attack upon recently re-elected Tennessee Congressman Thomas Arnold (1798-1870): "a vile character & worthy of the name he bears, Arnold." Glorying in the success of his party, in Tennessee and Kentucky, in spite of the opposition's having drawn support from "the corrupting influence of the Bank," Jackson blusters: "[Thomas] Chilton beaten, & [Davey] Crockett left at home, the character of Tennessee & Kentucky, will be relieved from the foul stain of being represented by such men."
Jackson had become convinced that a conspiratorial cadre led by Calhoun existed within his administration. Many members of his cabinet had ostracized Jackson's friend and Secretary of War, John Eaton, out of disapproval of his wife. John C. Calhoun had first formulated the doctrine of nullification in a treatise known as the South Carolina Exposition (1828) and had become a champion of states' rights. Jackson is contemptuous of Calhoun's treatise: "Mr. Calhoun's nullifying expose has just made its appearance. This of itself nullifys him, forever, if his duplicity has not done it." He then charges various members of his cabinet with duplicity: "The hypocritical & judas like conduct of [Secretary of the Treasury Samuel] Ingham, [Secretary of Navy John] Branch, & [Attorney General John] Berrien, is receiving its reward. Col Johnstons letter has nullified them compleatly [sic], & Berrien's own contradictions has prostrated him, in the oppinion [sic] of all honorable & good men." In April of 1831, Jackson had asked and obtained the resignation of these appointees, and vindicates his purge: "So you see, that the servile attempt by Calhoun, thro' his tools, Ingham, Branch & Berrien, with all their notes & note books, has done me no injury, but has recoiled upon the combination...What must honorable men think when they are told by the expose of Ingham & Berrien that they come into the Cabinet to drive Eaton out, whilst they...were professing the strongest attachment to him, & to me! Was there ever such dishonorable conduct before?...They have fell into the pitt [sic] dug for me, as all hypocrites & judases ought, and the scripture says will."
When Congress voted a protective tariff, signed by Jackson in July 1832, Jackson faced the most serious crisis of his presidency. The state of South Carolina, putting Calhoun's theories of nullification into practice, adopted the Ordinance of Nullification. Calhoun himself became the de facto leader of the nascent states' rights movement in direct opposition to the President. Jackson, unequivocally asserted the primacy of the Federal government, and obtained from Congress authorization to use the armed forces to collect the tariff in South Carolina. Finally, in December 1832, Calhoun resigned as Vice President.
Provenance: New Jersey Historical Society (sale, Sotheby's, 26 October 1983, lot 62).