Tariff of Abominations  Background: 

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Tariff of Abominations  Background: 
Tariff of Abominations Background: 1824: The U.S. Congress began using its constitutional authority to levy tariffs to protect the newly emerging
industries of the northeast (e.g. textiles).
Protective tariffs were also a component of Clay's "American System," which aimed to tie disparate U.S. regions
together through internal improvements.
The federal power to impose tariffs was originally based on the constitutional power to raise revenue.
Starting in 1824, tariffs were intended to protect burgeoning domestic industries through the elimination of
foreign competition in those industries by either making the sale of those products less profitable or the
purchase of them less affordable (i.e. make it more expensive through taxation).
Jackson’s view(s): Jackson ambiguously claimed during election of 1828 that he favored a “judiciary” tariff 1828: Congress passed a highly protective tariff, which its opponents dubbed the “Tariff of Abominations”.
Did the Constitution authorize this new tax purpose?
In addition, the Constitution expressly states that taxation must be levied equitably—southerners argued any
tariff used to protect industries in the northeast at the expense of southern agricultural interests was
For instance, if the British were selling less cotton fabric in the U.S. as a result of protective tariffs,
they were purchasing less cotton fibers from southern planters (a basic law of supply and demand).
Furthermore, countries such as Britain would retaliate by leying their own high tariffs making it more
expensive for southern planters (as agricultural exporters) to export their cash crops, thus making
foreign sales less profitable and reducing the volume of southern exports.
Southerners objected to the fact that the protective tariff raised the costs of their purchases of
finished f and manufactured goods due to reduced competition.
Southerners also understood that a federal government that could impose an unacceptable law had the
potential to impose the most unacceptable of all, an outlawing of slavery.
Southerners like South Carolina senator Robert Y. Hayne and Calhoun promptly raised questions
about the tariff's constitutionality and claimed the right of a state to nullify an unacceptable federal law, citing
James Madison's Virginia Resolution and Thomas Jefferson's Kentucky Resolution.
Origin(s) of doctrine of nullification:
Assumption that the federal government was a subordinate creation of the states, which
reserved the power to render null and void any federal law (assumption resulted from the
fact that ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 left unresolved the issue of whether
the federal or state governments were sovereign).
John C. Calhoun:
At the beginning of his congressional career, Calhoun was a militant nationalist—once
declaring that "our true system is to look to the country… to advance the general interest."
As an militant nationalist, he fought for implementation of Henry Clay's American System,
which consisted of federal funding for internal improvements, a national bank, and protective
Also served as Monroe’s Secretary of War and both John Quincy Adams’ and Andrew
Jackson’s Vice President.
Originally, Calhoun hoped the vice presidency under Jackson would serve as a
stepping stone to the Presidency—a number of factors, however, such as Calhoun’s
vocal support of the doctrine of nullification, led to his falling out of Jackson’s political
The primary reasons why Calhoun became an ardent proponent of states' rights, and
supported the doctrines of interposition and nullification were he had come to believe that the
high tariffs imposed in 1828 and the growing antislavery sentiment in the North posed dire
threats to the South's economy.
As a states’ rights advocate, Calhoun advanced the right of the South to nullify those laws
passed by the national legislature that were viewed as harmful to its sectional interests.
Despite his ardent defense of the South, however, he was also a firm believer in the federal
Union and repeatedly worked to forge a compromise to alleviate sectional strife.
His essay "South Carolina Exposition," published in 1828 at the request of the South Carolina
legislature, argued that because the nation was composed of states that had originally been sovereign
and independent, any state could refuse to obey (nullify) a federal law it believed unconstitutional.
Therefore, if the tariff of 1828 was not reduced, South Carolina, along with any other states that wished
to do so, could ignore the law.
How/why were the ties that had once bound Jackson and Calhoun formed/permanently severed by end of Jackson’s first term? Their conflicting interpretation of the nature of the union (e.g. John C. Calhoun’s “Exposition and Protest” and the doctrines of nullification, interposition, and secession vs. Jackson’s adherence to Webster’s view in support of liberty AND union as expressed by Daniel Webster of Massachusetts during his debate against Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina in 1830—the Webster‐Hayne debates) Jackson hated the idea of nullification and secession (he viewed it as a “most pernicious doctrine”) Calhoun urged the SC governor to nullify Tariff of 1832 (which removed some admonitions from 1828 tariff, though not enough for southern radicals) Even though the somewhat milder tariff (Compromise Tariff of 1832) was intended to lower the tariff rates included in the Tariff of Abominations (1828), the 1832 Tariff still retained the protective principles Calhoun asserted that the federal government did not have the authority to coerce the states into obeying a law regarded as a violation of their rights At one time, Calhoun was restrained in his radicalism by the hope he would succeed Jackson to the presidency—this hope was frustrated, however, when Jackson chose Martin Van Buren instead (Jackson felt Calhoun’s views were too radical, and thus, were unacceptable). When Congress declared protective tariffs essential to the economic well-being of the nation in 1832, the
nullification crisis peaked.
South Carolina proclaimed federal tariffs not "binding upon this State."
After Jackson signed the modified Tariff Act of 1832 and he issued a proclamation stating that
nullification would not be tolerated, Calhoun, who by this time had placed defending the interests of the
South ahead of party politics, resigned the vice presidency in protest.
Calhoun then went to South Carolina to interpose the state against federal enforcement of the tariff.
Calhoun sought to resist the enactment of a protective tariff and to affirm states' rights, leading the charge
in South Carolina to nullify the tariff.
Infuriated, Jackson threatened to hang him from the highest tree in South Carolina.
Calhoun was immediately appointed a senator from South Carolina and, amid threats of violence from both
sides, led the fight (along with Henry Clay) to lower the tariff in the Senate.
Calhoun's future role as the defender of states' rights had been cast.
Following passage of Tariff of 1832, SC governor, James Hamilton, Jr. (pressured by public outrage over the tariff), called a special session of the legislature which, in turn, ordered an elected convention to meet 11/19/1832 to take appropriate action “nullies” (those who favored/supported nullification) controlled the convention and comprised most of the delegates. November 24, 1832: the convention voted 136‐26 in favor of passing South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification regarding tariffs of 1828 and 1832 The South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification declared both tariffs (1828; 1832) null and void (collection of the tariff duties within the state of SC would be unlawful after 02‐01‐
1833) The South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification stated that even though Congress “purports” that the tariff was a duty/impost (intended to raise $), in reality the tariff was intended to protect domestic manufactures (“giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments at the expense, injury, and oppression of [others].”) If the duties were intended to raise $. Then why weren’t foreign goods not produced/manufactured in the U.S. subject to the same tax? In doing so, “the Congress of the U.S….hath exceeded its just powers under the Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection. On the contrary, the Constitution provides for equality in imposing the [burdens of taxation] upon the several States and portions of the Confederacy Essentially, Congress “hath raised and collected unnecessary revenues for unauthorized objects Therefore, the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 are null and void The Ordinance finally stated that any application of force by the U.S. Government to compel SC to obey the tariffs would result in SC absolving its political connection with the rest of the Union (i.e. SC asserted its sovereignty and independence). Interestingly, the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification denied any case of law or equity that drew into question the validity of the Ordinance to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Ordinance also assigned the legislature with the duty of “adopting such measures and passing such acts as may be necessary to give full effect” to the Ordinance. It was also the responsibility of the legislature to prevent the enforcement and arrest the operation of any acts or parts of the acts of the U.S. Congress intended to compel obedience to the tariffs. Every SC public official would be compelled to take an oath “to obey, execute, and enforce” the Ordinance as well as any act passed by the state legislature intended to carry into effect the Ordinance. Any official who refused to take the oath would be denied their office (members of the legislature excepted). In addition, no juror shall be empanelled in any court of the state in regard to any cause or act that would call into question the Ordinance unless that juror first took an oath that they would “truly obey, execute, and enforce the Ordinance” Jackson responded to Ordinance of Nullification by issuing a “Proclamation to the People of South Carolina” on December 10, 1832 bluntly rejecting nullification and proclaiming the tariff laws would be enforced. Jackson’s Secretary of State, Edward Livingston, provided the proclamation’s constitutional arguments Jackson asserted that the Ordinance of Nullification was prescribing a course of conduct to the citizens of SC in direct violation of their duty as U.S. citizens. Furthermore, the Ordinance ran contrary to the laws of the U.S., wase subversive to the Constitution, and destructive to the Union. Jackson reminded the citizens of SC of his duty to preserve the Union and to execute the nation’s laws (by force if necessary). Jackson appealed to “the understanding and patriotism” of the citizens of SC. Jackson also warned of the consequences if they proceeded to enforce/implement the ordinance of nullification. Jackson’s tone was more forgiving and understanding than unyielding and unduly menacing. As is usually the case, the traitors and enemies were the leaders not the followers. Jackson alleged that the citizens of SC were “victims” of mad instigators—that they were “misled”. Such instigators, he accused of being “evil,” “enemies,” “slavish,” “unhallowed,” and “offensive”. Nonetheless, Jackson also wanted the citizens of SC to know/realize he wouldn’t tolerate defiance of a federal law (it was his duty to enforce the law). Reminded them their object is disunion and that disunion by armed force is treason (a guilty/dishonorable act). Jackson reminded the citizens of SC that “on [their] unhappy State will inevitably fall all the evils of the conflict [they] force upon the Government of [their] Country.” Jackson charged that the power and right to annul (nullify) a federal law was incompatible with the existence of the Union. I.E. nullification supposed a State could retain its place in the Union yet not be bound by any acts of the federal government. To give a State the right to decide what laws are constitutional, while giving it the right to resist those laws, would be tantamount to giving the State(s) the power to resist all laws; “for there is by the theory, no appeal”. For this reason, any reason (good or bad) provided by a State for the unconstitutionality of an act would prevail. If one state was given the power to declare an act of the U.S. Congress unconstitutional and prevent its enforcement in that state, there could clearly be a constitutional objection to that act in any/every other state “It is no answer to repeat that an unconstitutional law is no law so long as the question of its legality is to be decided by the state itself, for every law operating injuriously upon any local interest will be perhaps thought and certainly represented as unconstitutional.” The ultimate result would be the dissolution of the Union b/c no law would be binding on any state. Jackson added that SC would be at fault for this Jackson’s interpretation of the nature of the Union was that it was formed through an act of “the People of the United States,” not through a compact between the sovereign States. To Jackson, the Constitution forms a government, not a league. I.E. A single nation was formed to which States surrendered “essential parts of sovereignty” in “becoming parts of a nation and the parts are not/cannot be greater than the whole. The people are sovereign; not the States and the Union is perpetual/indissoluble—that is, once the states ratified the Constitution and joined the Union, they surrendered their sovereignty and could not voluntarily dissolve their connection with the other parts of the Union (this is what Daniel Webster argued in the Webster‐Hayne debates). The Preamble to our Constitution clearly states as an objective (placed first in rank) of our government was “to form a more perfect union This was made in the name and by the authority of the people through delegates at the Philadelphia Convention who wrote the Constitution as well as through the approval of the Constitution in State ratifying conventions comprised of delegates chosen by the authority and in the name of the people. Jackson asked: Why would an instrument (the Constitution) intended to form a more perfect union substitute a confederal form of government (the Articles of Confederation) with a form of government dependent for its existence on the local interest and/or party spirit of a state or of a prevailing faction within a state? IT WOULDN’T Jackson asserted that, if the tariffs are in fact unconstitutional (and he wasn’t admitting they were), then our system of government offers two appeals: Judicial review The Federal Courts have both original and appellate jurisdiction over cases and controversies arising under the laws of the U.S. The Judiciary Act prescribes the mode by which said cases and controversies may be brought before the federal courts. Public opinion (the ballot box) Other constitutional arguments presented by Jackson: The Supremacy Clause expressly states the sovereignty of the federal government over the states: This expression was never challenged until SC introduced the doctrine of nullification. The Constitution also contains provisions whereupon state court judges and magistrates shall be bound oath to uphold, support, and defend the Constitution. The Full Faith and Credit Clause adds that the judges in every State shall be bound to the laws of any other state. I.E. if everyone agrees with the object of a law, then why pass the law since no one’s behavior would have to be regulated since everyone agrees anyway? Jackson addressed the arguments being made that the law in and of itself was unfair in its object and purpose as well as those arguments that the tariffs were unfair on the basis of their unequal operation: Jackson replied “this objection may be made with truth to every law that has been or can be passed”. Therefore, every law would be unconstitutional, so why have a Constitution? In response to the objection to the tariffs on the grounds that the proceeds would be used “for unauthorized objects” (proceeds), Jackson stated that this objection has nothing to do with the “laws levying the duty” (thus, SC still has to obey the law) Jackson alleged that the South Carolina convention was declaring the tariffs unconstitutional on the basis of their purposes, thus assuming the U.S. Congress had unconstitutional motives. How, Jackson asked, could the delegates at the South Carolina convention (or anyone else for that matter) decide what the motives were since motives are seldom expressed? If the doctrine of nullification holds, than a state would be given, in effect, the power of deciding the motives behind federal acts‐‐any and every law may be annulled under this pretext. Jackson asked: do the end(s) (nullifying the tariffs) justify the means (secession)? Obviously not, because the remedy is greater than the crime! Jackson showed the consequences of nullification and secession: The object of nullification and secession is disunion and disunion by armed force is treason When referring to the “nullies” and secessionissts, Jackson used phrases such as “guilt,” “dreadful,” “dishonor,” “punishment,” “unhappy,” “fearful,” “distressing,” “misery,” and “civil strife”. For this reason, a forcible opposition to the laws of the U.S. must be repelled Jackson then personally appealed to the citizens of SC—he called them to action: “the momentous case is before you…” “I rely…on your undivided support….” “It is yet in your [citizens of South Carolina] hands to disappoint….” Jackson’s proclamation was greeted with scorn and contempt in SC. In conjunction with this warning, Jackson took other, more forceful, measures: Alerted naval forces in Norfolk, VA to prepare a squadron to proceed to Charleston if called upon Garrison commanders in SC notified to prepare for possible attack Military equipment rushed to FT Pinckney Several thousand troops were sent to the Carolina border under the command of General Winfield Scott SC unionists were appealed to and reassured: “fear not, the union will be preserved and treason and rebellion put down when and where it may shew [sic.] its monster head” Jackson sought to “cloath” [sic.] federal officers and marshals with necessary authority to enforce the law” Force Bill: message formally proposed/sent to Congress (January 16, 1833) to pre‐empt the cutoff date for collection of the tariff duties (February 1, 1833) If passed, the bill would authorize the President to deploy the military to put down armed rebellion (aka “collection bill” or “war bill”) As the danger of secession and war escalated, responsible statesmen on both sides worked to diffuse the crisis and prevent a confrontation that could produce violence Result: Compromise Tariff 1833 (shepherded by Henry Clay) The bill provided a 10 year truce in which rates would slowly fall with a sharper drop in the final years until the rate would stand at a uniform 20% ad valorem l Both the Force Bill and Compromise Bill passed at about the same time and both were signed by Jackson on March 2, 1833. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 along with Jackson’s forceful actions helped cool the nullification crisis At a subsequent convention re‐convened in SC, delegates declared their satisfaction with the compromise tariff by repealing the Ordinance of Nullification; but in a show of defiance, the convention nullified the Force Bill (i.e. SC still asserted the right to nullify federal acts by nullifying a federal act). Sectional tension remained and would eventually culminate in the Civil War, the victory of the Jackson-Webster
definition of the Union, and the domination of the industrial region over the agricultural sector.
Until then, Calhoun worked both with and against senators Daniel Webster (NH) and Henry Clay (KY) to forge
compromises as the “Great Triumvirate.”
Collectively, their general regard for the Union, despite regional interests, usually helped them forged
compromises for the political problems they faced.
States’ rights doctrine
A constitutional position adopted by different interests at different times in American history to defend state and local government from perceived encroachment by the national government. Advocates of this doctrine have employed (depending on time and circumstance) a variety of arguments, including:
the compact theory of the Union
the confederated elements in American federalism
the strict construction of the Constitution
the importance of the 10th Amendment
the rights of nullification or secession
The formal act of withdrawing from membership in a union or group, especially a state or nation. In 1860‐61, 11 southern states withdrew from the United States and formed their own government, the Confederate States of America. This act of secession led to the Civil War (1861‐65).
• States' rights advocates used the term “compact” before the Civil War to characterize the nature of the federal union. • A compact is a covenant or contractual agreement between two or more parties. • States’ rights advocates regarded the national government as a compact between the several states of the union—a compact created by the ratification of the Constitution in 1788.
State sovereignty:
The capacity of separate and sovereign states to form a union that derives its authority and legitimacy from the states that compose it (rather than from another source, such as the people). The philosophy of state sovereignty is at the heart of confederal forms of government (e.g. the national government formed under the Articles of Confederation was based on state sovereignty). Antifederalists such as Patrick Henry criticized the new constitution for substituting the confederal form of government established under the Articles of Confederation with a federal form in which a separate and sovereign national government was created. In contrast, the U.S. Constitution created a form of government based on popular sovereignty in which national government derives its authority from the people rather than from the state governments.
Antifederalists believed the federal system created under the Constitution would threaten the legitimacy, authority, and sovereignty of the states. • Once the Constitution was ratified, the debate over state sovereignty was transformed into a debate over states' rights. • Various factions believed that states had the capacity to interpret the Constitution for themselves, to tax the national government, and to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. • The secession of southern states at the start of the Civil War was based on the belief in state sovereignty‐that the states could withdraw from the union at any time they chose as an exercise of their separate and sovereign existence apart from the national government.
A political doctrine that claims the right of states to nullify or abolish federal laws that the states determine are unconstitutional. It was first proposed by Thomas Jefferson in the second Kentucky Resolution (1799). It became a highly refined theory in the 1830s when John C. Calhoun of South Carolina used the doctrine of nullification to object to tariffs on South Carolina goods. After Congress passed the Tariff Act of 1832, South Carolina held a convention to declare the law unconstitutional. Calhoun, then vice president of the United States, resigned his office to enter the Senate so he could fight against the loss of states' rights.
Nullificationists (“Nullies”)
Nullification was an early manifestation/ example of acting on the idea that the State was sovereign. What people who believed in nullification said was that since it was the states that created the union, if there was a disagreement about whether or not the central government had a right to do something, the proper people to decide were the people who had ratified the Constitution, who had brought it into effect (that meant the people of each of the states). What the “Nullies” argued was that in a case where the federal/central government did something that exceeded its powers, I was up to the people of each State to decide whether or not the federal/central government had exceeded its powers, again, in a very formal way (i .e. by holding a convention—the same kind of gathering that had ratified the Constitution in the first place) and by having the people pronounce in a very formal way that the federal/central government had exceeded its powers and to instruct their state legislatures to take appropriate action to counteract what the federal/central government had done. This early example of State sovereignty would ultimately justify secession. Nullificationists had a concise philosophy of secession in the sense that the believed that they could legally justify secession on the grounds that the federal/central government could not do anything that is not specified in the Constitution. If there were individual pieces of legislation that some found obnoxious, and particularly a dominant force within an individual State, then that piece of legislation could be nullified (i.e. that State opted out of enforcing/applying/executing that particular law). This position was one maintained early in the history of the republic when states were loosely connected/tied together for mutual advantage.
• Believed that if a law was passed by the U.S. Congress, that it was the law unless/until proven to be unconstitutional by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. • No state had the right to nullify a national law—only the U.S. Supreme Court could do that.
Historical precedents for secession
• Albany Plan of Union (1754) – On the eve of the French and Indian War, delegates met in Albany, NY to consider a “plan of union” that would enable the colonies to more effectively meet the challenges of war with France.
• Declaration of Independence (1776)
• Articles of Confederation (1781)
– First Constitution of the U.S. that established a relatively weak national government precipitating their replacement by the U.S. Constitution less than a decade later.
• John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government (1690)
• What many states’ rights advocates feared was a “tyranny of the majority”—a phrase used by James Madison, Alexis de Tocqueville, John C. Calhoun, and others to describe one of the greatest dangers and challenges of democracy: the potential tyranny imposed on minorities by majority rule or influence. • Tyranny is a government in which absolute power is exercised oppressively by an individual or group. • Tyrannical government does not respect the civil liberties of its subjects.
• Such tyranny could be realized formally through majority rule in the deliberations of the democratic process or, as Tocqueville noted, informally through peer pressure to conform to majority opinion in religion, language, culture, and other mores.
This pro‐Confederate banner (ca. 1860‐’61) by Isaac B. Alexander depicts various stones representing the southern states on the ground and assembled into an arch with South Carolina as the keystone. The caption reads ”Built from the Ruins.”
This ca. 1861 Currier and Ives lithograph, captioned “The Secession Movement,” depicts the folly of secession in the form of various states riding toward a cliff.
This 1861 Currier and Ives print is captioned “the Folly of Secession” and it depicts a cow representing the Union being pulled at both ends by President Buchanan and Governor Pickens of South Carolina. A man representing the state of Georgia milks the cow.
In March 1861 Oliver Wendell Holmes—the distinguished Massachusetts physician,
essayist, and poet (and father of the man of the same name who would fight in the Civil
War and eventually become an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court)—wrote the
following poem. "Brother Jonathan" refers to the United States or the Union (much as
"Uncle Sam" personifies the United States today). "Sister Caroline" is South Carolina.
She has gone,—she has left us in passion and pride
Our stormy‐browed sister, so long at our side!
She has torn her own star from our firmament's glow,
And turned on her brother the face of a foe!
Oh Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
We can never forget that our hearts have been one,—
Our foreheads both sprinkled in Liberty's name,
From the fountain of blood with the finger of flame!
You were always too ready to fire at a touch;
But we said: "She is hasty,—she does not mean much."
We have scowled, when you uttered some turbulent threat;
But Friendship still whispered, "Forgive and forget!"
Has our love all died out? Have its altars grown cold?
Has the curse come at last which the fathers foretold?
Then Nature must teach us the strength of the chain,
That her petulant children would sever in vain.
They may fight till the buzzards are gorged with their spoil,
Till the harvest grows black as it rots in the soil,
Till the wolves and the catamounts troop from their caves,
And the shark tracks the pirate, the lord of the waves;
In vain is the strife! When its fury is past,
Their fortunes must flow in one channel at last,
As the torrents that rush from the mountains of snow
Roll mingled in peace through the valleys below.
Our Union is river, lake, ocean, and sky:
Man breaks not the medal when God cuts the die!
Though darkened with sulphur, though cloven with steel,
The blue arch will brighten, the waters will heal!
Oh Caroline, Caroline, child of the sun,
There are battles with Fate that can never be won!
The star‐flowering banner must never be furled,
For its blossoms of light are the hope of the world!
Go , then, our rash sister! Afar and aloof, Run wild in the sunshine away from out roof;
But when your heart aches and your feet have grown sore,
Remember the pathway that leads to our door?
This print by Oliver Evans Woods, called “The Pending Conflict,” was created in 1864. It resembles the 1863 print with the same title, only this time the figure representing the Union is on the offensive. The two figures were sashes denoting the competing sources of sovereignty. Once again figures representing Britain and France look on.
This work by an unidentified cartoonist appeared in Cosmopolitan magazine in 1906, accompanying David Graham Phjillips’ series called “The Treason of the Senate.” It depicts the ghosts of senators John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster.
This 1861 lithograph by E.B. and E.C. Kellogg depicts an eagle tending her nest of eggs representing various states, some of which are hatching. The eagle has in its beak a banner featuring the words “Annihilation to Traitors.”
This print, called “The Pending Conflict,” was created by Oliver Evans Woods in 1863.
Jefferson Davis, standing on the American flag, prepares to club a man representing the Union whose arms are bound by a banner labeled “Constitution.” Two figures representing Britain and France look on.
Who are the traitors?
An offense against the state to which one owes allegiance. This mainly means an attempt to overthrow the government by conducting war against it or by supporting its enemies. Article III, Section 3, of the U.S. Constitution specifies that a person can be convicted of treason only on the testimony of two witnesses to the same act or by confession in open court.
The issue of tariffs
• 1828 and 1832: Congress set tariffs intended to protect northern manufacturers from foreign competition.
Resulted in an increase in the cost of domestic goods in the south while stifling trade.
• SC legislature passed the Ordinance of Nullification, declaring the tariffs null and void within SC
The ordinance was a direct violation of the federal government’s authority to impose tariffs
Jackson’s response: issued a proclamation declaring the tariffs would be paid and that no state had the right to defy the federal government.
SC refused to pay until a compromise was reached in 1833.
Webster‐Hayne Debate(s) contd.
Daniel Webster’s second reply to Robert Y. Hayne (January 26‐27, 1830)
Nat Turner’s Revolt
1831: a VA slave minister (Nat Turner) declared he was receiving messages from God instructing him to rise up against the white slave holders of the South.
Turner started out with 5 men and soon attracted over 75 followers
Over 60 whites were killed before Turner and his captors were captured and executed
The revolt intensified the fear(s) of revolt among southerners and controls over slaves were tightened.
Manifest Destiny
• Phrase coined by John L. Sullivan, editor of two Democratic party magazines.
• Sullivan believed it was an American right to expand and grow
Annexation of Texas
• 1820s: white settlers moved into TX (some bringing slaves with them)
• 1829: Mexican government banned slavery while imposing taxes that triggered resistance among white settlers.
• 1836: Texans (white and Mexican) declared independence—the Lone Star Republic.
• 1837: Texans petitioned the U.S. for annexation as the 28th state (15th slave state)
• The annexation of TX again dredged up the issue of admitting slave states and created sectional (North‐South) conflict in government
• For that reason, the issue of admitting/annexing another slave state was stalled until 1845.
Annexation of Texas (1845); Mexican Cession
• Mexico never acknowledged independence of TX
• Annexation of TX by the U.S. was seen as an act of war
• General Zachary Taylor was sent to TX to help protect the U.S. border
• 1846: Taylor was ordered to move across the disputed territory of the Nueces River to the Rio Grande River
• Set off a border dispute as Mexico still claimed the territory between the two rivers.
• Mexican troops attacked Taylor’s scouts
• President James K. Polk asked Congress to declare war on the grounds that Mexico had invaded the U.S.
• U.S. Representative, Abraham Lincoln (R, Illinois) opposed the war—he demanded that Taylor prove that Mexico invaded the U.S. and that the area(s) where the Mexican invasion occurred were indeed part of the U.S.
• Result of U.S. victory over Mexico: more territory added to U.S., including CA (admitted as a free state)
Manifest Destiny and slavery
• John L. Sullivan supported admission of TX, proposing it would help alleviate the growth of slavery by draining off that labor southwardly and that it would hasten the end of slavery.
• Sullivan also proposed that each state cut from the newly‐acquired territory of TX would create a free state and that Mexico would eventually absorb slavery.
• The idea that expansion would eventually end slavery did not catch on while the idea that Americans had the right to grow and expand did catch on.
• Slavery was banned in the Oregon Territory in 1848
• Slavery was banned in California in 1849
• **Political power seemed to be tipping in favor of the abolitionists
• The South threatened to secede from the Union
• Henry Clay again stepped forward:
• Clay introduced resolutions that offered an equitable compromise that would keep the balance of political power in check.
• Momentarily soothed the South’s fears while delaying war.
Prelude to Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act
Fugitive Slave Law (1850)
Passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 angered abolitionists and stiffened their resolve to end slavery.
The law enforced the right of slave owners to pursue fugitive slaves across state lines, capture them, and retrieve/return them to captivity.
The services of slave catchers were often engaged to capture runaways.
Under the Fugitive Slave Law, any African American (free or slave) could be accused of being a runaway.
As they had no rights, they were not entitled to a trial or to speak in their own defense.
Slave owners could prove ownership by appearing before a magistrate and offering oral testimony that the slave was theirs without providing any documented proof.
The law also declared that anyone assisting a runaway and/or interfere with an arrest of a runaway was subject to fines/jail.
Opposition to Fugitive Slave Law (1850)
• Massachusetts retaliated by passing the Personal Liberty Act (1850)
• Made enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act difficult
It gave rights to runaways
It raised the standard of proof for ownership
Made it impossible for state officers to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law by stripping the commissions of lawyers who represented slave owners.
It also forbade militias from enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law
Banned the use of any state‐owed building (including prisons) to detain fugitive slaves.
• **Passage of this act convinced southerners that northern abolitionists were determined to find a means of refusing to return runaway slaves to their former masters/mistresses and that they were bent on ending slavery.
• This was yet another burning log of discontent thrown upon the fire of animosity.
Daniel Webster, “Constitution and the Union” speech (1850)
Henry Clay speech on preserving the Union (1850)
Kansas‐Nebraska Act (1854)
Kansas‐Nebraska Act (1854)
As the U.S. contd. to define itself as an independent nation, the changes brought in by government added to the discord between the two sections of the country (North‐South):
• Kansas‐Nebraska Act (1854)
Gave each new state the right to decide the issue of slavery by right of sovereignty.
The concept of “states rights” became a battle cry second only to abolition.
• It increased tension and became the cause of those who supported the South, but not slavery.
The two states were left with the decision of which side to take (slavery vs. free soil)
• Supporters of both sides of the issue flocked to Kansas (therein followed four years of intermittent violence • “Border ruffians” from Missouri would cross into Kansas and attack opponents of slavery before scurrying back to Missouri.
• After such an assault on Lawrence, Kansas (1856), abolitionist John Brown led his own series of attacks against supporters of slavery and peacekeepers alike in what is known as known as “Bleeding Kansas”
• January 29, 1861: Kansas finally entered the Union as a free state.
May 22, 1856 caning of Senator Charles Sumner
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852), subtitled Life Among the Lowly, whipped both abolitionists and slave owners into a frenzy.
Uncle Tom was a slave who moves among the various characters that portray life in the South.
His owners fall on hard times and are forced to sell some of their slaves.
One of the slaves, Eliza Harris, flees to prevent being separated from her child.
The slave hunter who pursues Eliza is injured and is nursed back to health by members of the Underground Railroad.
For his part, Uncle Tom is sold to a kind owner and joins a household where Little Eva (a white child) and Topsy (a slave child) don’t seem to recognize the difference in their skin color, or their stations in life.
• After little Eva dies, Uncle Tom is sold again and has the misfortune of becoming the property of a brutal man (Simon Legree)
• Legree is determined to break Uncle Tom’s spirit, so he decides to beat Tom to get him to give up Christianity (he kills Tom when his efforts fail).
• Some historians suggest Uncle Tom’s Cabin triggered the Civil War—regardless of whether or not this is true, the publication of the book certainly exacerbated the tensions between the North and the South.
• One story tells of a meeting between Lincoln and Stowe where Lincoln greeted her with the words “so you are the little lady who started this great big war”.
• The book is also blamed for forestalling the acceptance of African Americans as equals in the U.S. because of the negative stereotypes its characters portray.
• Fictional tale that supposedly exposed the reality of slavery.
• The impact of this best‐selling novel was felt all over the country.
• Galvanized abolitionists in the North
• Infuriated southerners to the point that the book was banned.
• Stowe was an outspoken Abolitionist
Dred Scott
• Missouri slave who filed a lawsuit (along with his wife Harriet)
• Scott was purchased by U.S. Army Major John Emerson (Dr. Emerson was an Army surgeon)
• During his time as a soldier, Emerson took Scott along on some of his postings to places such as Fort Armstrong, Ill and Fort
Snelling, Wisconsin Territory.
• Following Emerson’s death and a failed attempt to purchase freedom, Scott sued Emerson’s widow.
• The lawsuit was filed on the basis of their residence on free soil and it alleged that by taking him into a free state (Illinois) and free territory (Wisconsin), that Scott was entitled to emancipation, even though he was taken back to Missouri (a slave state) afterward.
• There were several attempts to sue for Scott’s liberty.
First attempt was dismissed
Second attempt: both Scott and his family were granted freedom
• Emerson’s widow (who was unwilling to lose four slaves) turned the matter over to her brother, John F.A. Sanford (his name was incorrectly spelled by the Court reporter as Sandford).
• Sanford was also the executor of Emerson’s estate.
• Sanford appealed to the case to federal court and the case eventually made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The decision would affect not only Dred Scott and his family, but also the larger question of whether Congress could regulate the
spread of slavery.
• The court found that Scott was property and not a citizen (therefore, he could not sue)
• The court decision also upheld the Fugitive Slave Law
• The case inflamed the abolitionists
Dred Scott
On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney announced in a 7‐2 ruling against Dred Scott that Congress had no right to prohibit slavery in the territories, that slaves were property, and that slave owners could not be deprived of their property without due process. With this decision, the Court supported the idea that there could be “property” in people.
The ruling stood in sharp contrast to The "Amistad" decision, which marked the first time that the United States recognized Africans not as property, but as free human beings.
Few cases in American history have stirred more controversy than the majority opinion written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney in Scott v.
Sanford (a.k.a. the “Dred Scott decision”), which declared that only white people could be citizens of the United States.
John Brown and Harper’s Ferry
• John Brown was an Immediatist abolitionist
• He was certain that a revolt of major proportions was the only way to end slavery.
• 10/16/1859: Brown led his final assault along with 21 men against the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, VA
• 3 free African Americans were among the men along with 3 freed slaves and 1 fugitive slave
• Attempt to attain weapons to arm abolitionists and African Americans to begin an uprising that would end slavery
• Why the raid failed:
• At some point a shot was fired that alerted a neighbor who then rode out to raise an alarm.
• A unit of 86 Marines lead by Lieutenant Israel Greene dispatched to quell the uprising—Greene, needing a higher ranking officer found one in Brevet Colonel, Robert E. Lee (Lee happened to be on leave in the area).
• Lee took along with him a soldier named J.E.B. Stuart as his aide de camp
• October 18th: after a failed attempt to negotiate with Brown, the Marines stormed the building where Brown and his followers were trapped.
• Some were killed including two of Brown’s sons.
• Brown was tried/convicted for treason against the state of VA and was hanged 12/02/1859.
Abraham Lincoln
• The earliest hint of Lincoln's attitude toward slavery came in 1837 when he and one other member of the Illinois state legislature protested for the record against a previously approved resolution condemning abolitionism. • They objected, not out of sympathy for the abolitionists, whom they conceded did more harm than good, but because the original resolution had not made it clear that slavery was an evil institution, "founded on both injustice and bad policy ....”
Abraham Lincoln contd.
In 1841, Lincoln described privately his direct impression of a coffle (a line of slaves fastened or driven along together) of south‐bound slaves encountered on an Ohio riverboat. Contrary to his later recollection of the incident, he was struck at the time by the apparent happiness of the slaves rather than by their misery. Rather than draw an obvious racist conclusion by generalizing about the peculiarities of the black temperament, Lincoln’s perception was based on a general observation about human nature. According to Lincoln, the slaves' contentment was "a fine example.. for contemplating the effect of condition upon human happiness“ and it illustrated the supposedly universal truth that God "renders the worst of human conditions tolerable, while He permits the best, to be nothing better than tolerable.“
Lincoln’s observation was based on the assumption, increasingly rare in the 1840s, that blacks responded to conditions in a way that could be understood in terms of a common humanity and not as the result of peculiar racial characteristics.
Abraham Lincoln contd.
• Lincoln's position in the 1850s: antislavery in principle while steering clear of abolitionism Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln proclaimed that he was no abolitionist, but admitted that he opposed slavery.
1830s: Lincoln entered politics as a member of the Whig party.
1846: Lincoln was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
As a U.S. Representative:
Lincoln opposed the Mexican‐American War
Developed a gradualist plan to free slaves in Washington, D.C.
When his two year term ended, Lincoln returned to his law practice in Illinois.
1854: Lincoln was again elected and opposed the Kansas‐Nebraska Act
When dissension over the act split the Whig party, Lincoln helped form the new Republican party.
After the passage of the Kansas‐Nebraska Act in 1854 Lincoln emerged as an important spokesman for free‐soil principles. In his well‐known speeches during the half‐dozen years before his election to the Presidency he promulgated a racial philosophy that combined the following principles:
moral opposition to slavery
acceptance of the basic humanity of blacks
a conservative position on the prospects for racial equality in the United States
Abraham Lincoln:
• Lincoln strongly disagreed with the Dred Scott decision, but deferred to the Supreme Court ruling.
• 1858: Nominated as Republican candidate to the U.S. Senate at the Illinois Republican convention.
• He gave a speech at the close of the convention (June 16, 1858) where he quoted a Bible passage from the Mark 3:25: “A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand” and he went on to declare that the nation cannot endure half slave and half free (full quote next slide).
• Lincoln lost his U.S. Senate bid to the Democratic incumbent, Stephen Douglas.
• In a speech at Cooper Station, NY (February, 1860), Lincoln so impressed party leadership that he was propelled to position within the party that led to his election for President as a Republican candidate.
Lincoln’s “House Divided” analogy:
“In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved ‐‐ I do not expect the house to fall
‐‐ but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new ‐‐ North as well as South.” Lincoln:
• To Lincoln, slavery was not a national issue—at least not as it existed and was practiced in the Old South. • As far as the extension of slavery into the territories, Lincoln expressed his belief on earlier occasions that the Supreme Court was charged with the responsibility of deciding the issue. • Lincoln also expressed on numerous occasions that he was not in favor in either social or political racial equality. • Lincoln was convinced that when majorities and minorities divided on certain issues and controversies, “if the minority will not acquiesce, the majority must, or the government must cease.” • According to Lincoln, one of the foundational principles of the Constitution was the protection of minorities—southern defenders of slavery and not the slaves. • One of the main reasons Lincoln was critical of the Taney court’s decision in the Dred Scott
case was that Taney permitted his racist views to affect his ruling that the U.S. Constitution was a proslavery document—in other words, “Lincoln correctly charged Taney with trying to ‘nationalize slavery’ by his twisted and tortured reading of the Constitution.” Election of 1860
3 issues of the Republican Party platform
• Preservation of the Union
• Re‐affirmation of the sovereign rights of individual states
• Abolition of slavery in all federal territories
• Lincoln advocated that existing slave states (that is, states where slavery already existed) could keep their slaves if they chose to and that states applying for admission could make the decision for themselves, but that there would be new restrictions on slavery.
• Southern slave holders worried that this would/could lead to the eventual abolition of slavery
• When the Democratic Party nominated Stephen Douglas as their candidate, eleven slave state delegates walked out in protest, choosing their own candidate, John C. Breckinridge.
• Some southern states refused to include Lincoln on their election ballots
• Those states that supported secession cited the Republican platform as reason enough to secede.
• Following Lincoln’s election (November 1860), secessionists again threatened to leave the Union.
“Secession Winter” (1860‐1861)
12/20/1860: SC declared itself a sovereign nation (Confederate States of America was born)
Other states soon followed:
By February, 1861, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas seceded.
As part of their declaration of the causes for secession, SC cited Article IV of the U.S. Constitution: “no person held to service or labor in one state under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall in consequence of any law or regulation therein be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up upon claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
SC saw the Constitution as a contract and blamed the North for violating it, declaring that such a pact is null and void if/when one of the parties to it failed to meet their obligation(s) under it.
Slavery was the issue that led to secession.
What created the conflict was not the matter of the rights of slaves themselves, but, rather, the rights of those who owned the slaves.
• A total of 11 slave states seceded from the Union—8 other slave states gave consideration to the move, but for various reasons either could not or did not join the CSA.
• Missouri voted for secession but was prevented from acting upon it when Lincoln declared martial law.
• The U.S. refused to recognize the CSA as a sovereign country and declared secession illegal.
• No European power ever officially recognized the sovereignty of the CSA either, despite continuing to trade with them.
• Only the Indian territory and some Indian tribes aligned themselves with the CSA.
• February, 1861: Jefferson Davis was elected President of the CSA
• When southern states began seceding, Union troops began taking possession of what defenses they could.
• Fort Moultrie: fort in Charleston harbor occupied by federal troops under the command of Major Robert Anderson (right)
• Following secession of SC, Anderson moved to nearby Fort Sumter as it would be easier to defend (surrounded by water—commanded the entrance to Charleston harbor)
President‐Elect James Buchanan’s (elected in 1856) hope was to end the building controversies about the spread of slavery. . In secret consultation with Justice James Grier, Buchanan had learned that the Supreme Court would hand down a pro‐Southern decision in Dred Scott, and the new president hoped to put to rest permanently the controversy regarding the spread of slavery. While Buchanan personally opposed slavery on moral grounds, he believed that the Constitution supported slavery. Buchanan endorsed the Court’s decision before it was even announced in his Inaugural Address on March 4th (remember, the court’s decision wasn’t handed down until March 6th)). In his Address, Buchanan endorsed “popular sovereignty,” the idea that the spread of slavery would be determined by the voters in each territory. Referring to the Kansas‐Nebraska Act of 1854, he supported Congress’ “simple rule that the will of the majority shall govern … the question of domestic slavery in the Territories. “ Buchanan went on to pre‐approve the Supreme Court’s upcoming action concerning the future of slavery: “To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit, whatever this may be… (A)ll agree that under the Constitution slavery in the States is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective States themselves.” As President, Buchanan urged his fellow citizens to respect the Supreme Court’s ruling. President Buchanan’s understanding of the protection of slavery in the Constitution, while consistent with that of the majority both in Congress and in the Supreme Court, was inconsistent with the nation’s highest principles.
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South Carolina Exposition and Protest (1828)
After Congress passed a high tariff in 1828, which Southerners designated the Tariff of Abominations, South
Carolina drew up an Exposition and Protest. It was secretly authored by John C. Calhoun, who was then serving
as vice president under Andrew Jackson. In the Exposition and Protest, Calhoun laid the groundwork for the
doctrine of nullification, which he would develop at greater length from 1845 to 1850 in his Disquisition on
Government and Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States. In 1832, a South Carolina
convention adopted a nullification ordinance, but after a lower tariff was adopted the following year, the state
repealed the ordinance. Over time, the doctrine of nullification developed into the doctrine of secession, by which
the Southern states asserted their right to leave the Union after President Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860,
leading to the outbreak of the Civil War. Below is an excerpt of the two pieces.
The committee have bestowed on the subjects referred to them the deliberate attention which their importance
demands; and the result, on full investigation, is a unanimous opinion that the act of Congress of the last session,
with the whole system of legislation imposing duties on imports—not for revenue, but the protection of one
branch of industry at the expense of others—is unconstitutional, unequal, and oppressive, and calculated to
corrupt the public virtue and destroy the liberty of the country; which propositions they propose to consider in the
order stated, and then to conclude their report with the consideration of the important question of the remedy.
The committee do not propose to enter into an elaborate or refined argument on the question of the
constitutionality of the Tariff system. The General Government is one of specific powers, and it can rightfully
exercise only the powers expressly granted, and those that may be necessary and proper to carry them into
effect, all others being reserved expressly to the States or the people. It results, necessarily, that those who claim
to exercise power under the Constitution, are bound to show that it is expressly granted, or that it is necessary
and proper as a means to some of the granted powers. The advocates of the Tariff have offered no such proof. It
is true that the third section of the first article of the Constitution authorizes Congress to lay and collect an impost
duty, but it is granted as a tax power for the sole purpose of revenue—a power in its nature essentially different
from that of imposing protective or prohibitory duties. Their objects are incompatible. The prohibitory system must
end in destroying the revenue from imports. It has been said that the system is a violation of the spirit, and not
the letter of the Constitution. This distinction is not material. The Constitution may be as grossly violated by acting
against its meaning as against its letter; but it may be proper to dwell a moment on the point in order to
understand more fully the real character of the acts under which the interest of this, and other States similarly
situated, has been sacrificed. The facts are few and simple. The Constitution grants to Congress the power of
imposing a duty on imports for revenue, which power is abused by being converted into an instrument of rearing
up the industry of one section of the country on the ruins of another. The violation, then, consists in using a power
granted for one object to advance another, and that by the sacrifice of the original object. It is, in a word, a
violation by perversion—the most dangerous of all, because the most insidious, and difficult to resist. Others
cannot be perpetrated without the aid of the judiciary—this may be by the Executive and Legislative departments
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alone. The courts cannot look into the motives of legislators. They are obliged to take acts by their titles and
professed objects, and if these be constitutional, they cannot interpose their power, however grossly the act may,
in reality, violate the Constitution. The proceedings of the last session sufficiently prove that the House of
Representatives are aware of the distinction, and determined the avail themselves of its advantage. . . .
The Senate and House of Representatives of South Carolina, now met and sitting in General Assembly, through
the Hon. William Smith and the Hon. Robert Y. Hayne, their Representatives in the Senate of the United States,
do, in the name and on behalf of the good people of the said Commonwealth, solemnly protest against the
system of protecting duties, lately adopted by the Federal Government, for the following reasons:
1st. Because the good people of this commonwealth believe, that the powers of Congress were delegated to it, in
trust for the accomplishment of certain specified objects which limit and control them, and that every exercise of
them, for any other purposes, is a violation of the Constitution as unwarrantable as the undisguised assumption
of substantive, independent powers not granted, or expressly withheld.
2d. Because the power to lay duties on imports is, and in its very nature can be, only a means of effecting objects
specified by the Constitution; since no free government, and least of all a government of enumerated powers,
can, of right, impose any tax, any more than a penalty, which not at once justified by public necessity and clearly
within the scope a purview of the social compact; and since the right of confining appropriations of the public
money to such legitimate and constitutional objects is essential to the liberties of the people, as their
unquestionable privileges be taxed only by their own consent.
3d. Because they believe that the Tariff Law passed by Congress at the last session, and all other acts of which
the principal object is the protection of manufactures, or any other branch of domestic industry, if they considered
as the exercise of a supposed power in Congress to tax the people at its own good will and pleasure, and to
apply the money raised to objects not specified in the Constitution, is a violation of these fundamental principles,
a breach of a well-defined trust, and a perversion of the humble powers vested in the Federal Government for
federal purposes only.
4th. Because such acts, considered in the light of a regulation of commerce, as equally liable to objection—since,
although the power to regulate commerce, may like other powers be exercised so as to protect domestic
manufactures, yet it is clearly distinguishable from a power to do so, eo nomie, both in the nature of the thing and
in the common acceptation of the terms; and because the confounding of them would lead to the most
extravagant results, since the encouragement of domestic industries implies an absolute control over all the
interests, resources, and pursuits of a people, and is inconsistent with the idea of any other than a simple,
consolidated government.
5th. Because, from the contemporaneous exposition of the Constitution in the numbers of the Federalist (which is
cited only because the Supreme Court has recognized its authority), it is clear that the power to regulate
commerce was considered by the Convention as only incidentally connected with the encouragement of
agriculture and manufactures; and because the power of laying imposts and duties on imports, was not
understood to justify, in any case, a prohibition of foreign commodities, except as a means of extending
commerce, by coercing foreign nations to a fair reciprocity in their intercourse with us, or for some other bona fide
commercial purpose.
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6th. Because, whilst the power to protect manufactures is nowhere expressly granted to Congress, nor can be
considered as necessary and proper to carry into effect any specified power, it seems to be expressly reserved to
the States, by the tenth section of the first article of the Constitution.
7th. Because, even admitting Congress to have a constitutional right to protect manufactures by the imposition of
duties or by regulations of commerce, designed principally for that purpose, yet a Tariff, of which the operation is
grossly unequal and oppressive, is such an abuse of power, as is incompatible with the principles of a free
government and the great ends of civil society—justice, and equality of rights and protection.
8th. Finally, because South Carolina, from her climate, situation, and peculiar institutions, is, and must ever
continue to be, wholly dependent upon agriculture and commerce, not only for her prosperity, but for her very
existence as a State—because the valuable products of her soil—the blessings by which Divine Providence
seems to have designed to compensate for the great disadvantages under which she suffers in other respects—
are among the very few that can be cultivated with any profit by slave labor—and if, by the loss of her foreign
commerce, these products should be confined to an inadequate market, the fate of this fertile State would be
poverty and utter desolation; her citizens, in despair, would emigrate to more fortunate regions, and the whole
frame and constitution of her civil polity, be impaired and deranged, if not dissolved entirely.
Deeply impressed with these considerations, the representatives of the good people of this commonwealth,
anxiously desiring to live in peace with their fellow-citizens and to do all that in them lies to preserve and
perpetuate the union of the State and the liberties of which it is the surest pledge—but feeling it to be their
bounden duty to expose and resist all encroachments upon the true spirit of the Constitution, lest an apparent
acquiescence in the system of protecting duties should be drawn into precedent—do, in the name of the
commonwealth of South Carolina, claim enter upon the journals of the Senate, their protest against it as
unconstitutional, oppressive, and unjust.
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South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832)
Although support for states' rights was previously expressed in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and at the
Hartford Convention, the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification was the strongest declaration of that sentiment
prior to the period immediately preceding the Civil War. On November 24, 1832, after Congress instated two tariffs
that South Carolina found unacceptable, the state put into practice its Exposition and Protest of 1828. After calling
a convention, South Carolina adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, which pronounced the federal tariffs void.
Foreshadowing future events, the ordinance also stated that South Carolina would consider any act of force by the
national government a just cause for secession. While Congress did pass a bill asserting the national
government's authority to use force against the states, it also adopted a less onerous tariff in 1833. South Carolina
subsequently repealed its Ordinance of Nullification, but the state denied the constitutionality of the Force Bill.
An ordinance 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.
Whereas the Congress of the United States by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on
foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and the giving of bounties to
classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of
other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation 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, bath exceeded its just powers under the constitution, which
confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and bath 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: And whereas the said Congress, exceeding its just power to impose taxes and collect revenue
for the purpose of effecting and accomplishing the specific objects and purposes which the constitution of the
United States authorizes it to effect and accomplish, bath raised and collected unnecessary revenue for objects
unauthorized by the constitution.
We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain and it is
hereby declared and ordained, 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, an act entitled "An act in
alteration of the several acts imposing duties on imports," approved on the nineteenth day of May, one thousand
eight hundred and twenty-eight and also an act entitled "An act to alter and amend the several acts imposing
duties on imports," approved on the fourteenth day of July, one thousand eight hundred and thirty-two, are
unauthorized by the constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof and are null,
void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens; and 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, and
all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and
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And 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 this State; 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 limits of this State, from and after the first day of February next,
and the duties of all other constituted authorities, and of all persons residing or being within the limits of this State,
and 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.
And it is further ordained, that in no case of law or equity, decided in the courts of this 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 if any such appeal shall be attempted to be taken, the courts of this
State shall proceed to execute and enforce their judgments according to the laws and usages of the State, without
reference to such attempted appeal, and the person or persons attempting to take such appeal may be dealt with
as for a contempt of the court.
And it is further ordained, that all persons now holding any office of honor, profit, or trust, civil or military, under this
State (members of the legislature excepted), 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 (members of the legislature excepted), shall, until the
legislature shall otherwise provide and direct, enter on the execution of his office, or be he any respect competent
to discharge the duties thereof until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath; and no juror shall be
impaneled in any of the courts of this State, in any cause in which shall be in question this ordinance, or any act of
the legislature passed in pursuance thereof, unless he shall first, in addition to the 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.
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 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, hut 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.
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Done in convention at Columbia, the twenty-fourth day of November, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight
hundred and thirty-two, and in the fifty-seventh year of the Declaration of the Independence of the United States of
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"South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832)." American Government. ABC-CLIO, 2013. Web. 5 Feb. 2013.
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Entry ID: 210843
http://americangovernment.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/210843?sid=210843&cid=0&view... 2/5/2013
(January26‐27,1830) . . . It is, Sir, the people's Constitution, the people's government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people. The people of the United States have declared that the Constitution shall be the supreme law. We must either admit the proposition, or dispute their authority. The States are, unquestionably, sovereign, so far as their sovereignty is not affected by this supreme law. But the State legislatures, as political bodies, however sovereign, are yet not sovereign over the people. So far as the people have given the power to the general government, so far the grant is unquestionably good, and the government holds of the people, and not of the State governments. We are all agents of the same supreme power, the people. The general government and the State governments derive their authority from the same source. Neither can, in relation to the other, be called primary, though one is definite and restricted, and the other general and residuary. The national government possesses those powers which it will be shown the people have conferred upon it, and no more. All the rest belongs to the State governments, or to the people themselves. So far as the people have restrained State sovereignty, by the expression of their will, in the Constitution of the United States, so far, it must be admitted. State sovereignty is effectually controlled. I do not contend that it is, or ought to be, controlled farther. The sentiment to which I have referred propounds that State sovereignty is only to be controlled by its own "feeling of justice": that is to say, it is not to be controlled at all, for one who is to follow his own feelings is under no legal control. Now, however men may think this ought to be, the fact is, that the people of the United States have chosen to impose control on State sovereignties. There are those, doubtless, who wish they had been left without restraining; but the Constitution has ordered the matter differently. To make war, for instance, is an exercise of sovereignty; but the Constitution declares that no State shall make war. To coin money is another exercise of sovereign power, but no State is at liberty to coin money. Again, the Constitution says that no sovereign State shall be so sovereign as to make a treaty. . . .I must now beg to ask, Sir, Whence is this supposed right of the States derived? Where do they find the power to interfere with the laws of the Union? Sir the opinion which the honorable gentleman maintains is a notion founded in a total misapprehension, in my judgment, of the origin of this government, and of the foundation on which it stands. I hold it to be a popular government, erected by the people; those who administer it, responsible to the people; and itself capable of being amended and modified, just as the people may choose it should be. It is as popular, just as truly emanating from the people, as the State governments. It is created for one purpose; the State governments for another. It has its own powers; they have theirs. There is no more authority with them to arrest the operation of a law of Congress, than with Congress to arrest the operation of their laws. We are here to administer a Constitution emanating immediately from the people, and trusted by them to our administration. It is not the creature of the State governments. It is of no moment to the argument, that certain acts of the State legislatures are necessary to fill our seats in this body. That is not one of their original State powers, a part of the sovereignty of the State. It is a duty which the people, by the Constitution itself, have imposed on the State legislatures; and which they might have left to performed elsewhere, if they had seen fit. So they have left the choice of President with electors; but all this does not affect the proposition that this whole government, President, Senate, and House of Representatives, is a popular government. It leaves it still all its popular character. The governor of a State (in some of the States) is chosen, not directly by the people, but by those who are chosen by the people, for the purpose of performing, among other duties, that of electing a governor. Is the government of the State, on that account, not a popular government? This government, Sir, is the independent offspring of the popular will. It is not the creature of State legislatures; nay, more, if the whole truth must be told, the people brought it into existence, established it, and have hitherto supported it, for the very purpose, amongst others, of imposing certain salutary restraints on State sovereignties. The States cannot now make war; they cannot contract alliances; they cannot make, each for itself, separate regulations of commerce; they cannot lay imposts; they cannot coin money. If this Constitution, Sir, be the creature of State legislatures, it must be admitted that it has obtained a strange control over the volitions of its creators. The people, then, Sir, erected this government. They gave it a Constitution, and in that Constitution they have enumerated the powers which they bestow on it. They have made it a limited government. They have defined its authority. They have restrained it to the exercise of such powers as are granted; and all others, they declare, are reserved to the States or the people. But, Sir, they have not stopped here. If they had, they would have accomplished but half their work. No definition can be so clear, as to avoid possibility of doubt; no limitation so precise, as to exclude all uncertainty. Who, then, shall construe this grant of the people? Who shall interpret their will, where it may be supposed they have left it doubtful? With whom do they repose this ultimate right of deciding on the powers of government? Sir, they have settled all this in the fullest manner. They have left it with the government itself, in its appropriate branches. Sir, the very chief end, the main design, for which the whole Constitution was framed and adopted, was to establish a government that should not be obliged to act through State agency, or depend on State opinion and State discretion. The people had had quite enough of that kind of government under the confederation. Under that system, the legal action, the application of law to individuals, belonged exclusively to the States. Congress could only recommend; their acts were not of binding force, till the States had adopted and sanctioned them. Are we in that condition still? Are we yet at the mercy of State discretion and State construction? Sir, if we are, then vain will be our attempt to maintain the Constitution under which we sit. But, Sir, the people have wisely provided, in the Constitution itself, a proper, suitable mode and tribunal for settling questions of Constitutional law. There are in the Constitution grants of powers to Congress, and restrictions on these powers. There are, also, prohibitions on the States. Some authority must, therefore, necessarily exist, having the ultimate jurisdiction to fix and ascertain the interpretation of these grants, restrictions, and prohibitions. The Constitution has itself pointed out, ordained, and established that authority. How has it accomplished this great and essential end? By declaring, Sir, that "the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof, shall be the supreme law of the land, anything in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." This, Sir, was the first great step. By this the supremacy of the Constitution and laws of the United States is declared. The people so will it. No State law is to be valid which comes in conflict with the Constitution, or any law of the United States passed in pursuance of it. But who shall decide this question of interference? To whom lies the last appeal? This, Sir, the Constitution itself decides also, by declaring, "That the judicial power shall extend to all cases arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States." These two provisions cover the whole ground. They are, in truth, the keystone of the arch! With these it is a government; without them it is a confederation. In pursuance of these clear and express provisions, Congress established, at its very first session, in the judicial act, a mode for carrying them into full effect, and for bringing all questions of constitutional power to the final decision of the Supreme Court. It then, Sir, became a government. It then had the means of self‐protection; and but for this, it would, in all probability, have been now among things which are past. Having constituted the government, and declared its powers, the people have further said, that, since somebody must decide on the extent of these powers, the government shall itself decide; subject always, like other popular governments, to its responsibility to the people. . . . In 1850, Henry Clay delivered a speech on preserving the union, excerpted here. Clay expresses his
feelings towards the doctrine of nullification and the powers of the president.
Mr. President, I have said that I want to know whether we are bound together by a rope of sand or an
effective capable government competent to enforce the powers therein vested by the Constitution of the
United States. And what is this doctrine of Nullification, set up again, revived, resuscitated, neither enlarged
nor improved, nor expanded in this new edition of it, that when a single state shall undertake to say that a
law passed by the twenty-nine states is unconstitutional and void, she may raise the standards of resistance
and defy the twenty-nine. Sir, I denied that doctrine twenty years ago—I deny it now—I will die denying it.
There is no such principle. . . .
The Honorable Senator speaks of Virginia being my country. This Union is my country. The thirty states is
my country. Kentucky is my country. And Virginia no more than any of the other states of this Union. She
has created on my part obligations and feelings and duties toward her in my private character which nothing
upon earth could induce me to forfeit or violate. But even if it were my own state—if my own state, contrary
to her duty, should raise the standard of disunion against the residue of the Union, I would go against her, I
would go against Kentucky in that contingency as much as I love her.
Nor am I to be alarmed or dissuaded from any such course by intimations of the spilling of blood. If blood is
to be spilt by whose fault is it to be spilt. Upon the supposition, I maintain it would be the fault of those who
raised the standard of disunion and endeavored to prostrate this government, and, Sir, when that is done, as
long as it please God to give me voice to express my sentiments, or an arm, weak and enfeebled as it may
be by age, that voice and that arm will be on the side of my country, for the support of the general authority,
and for the maintenance of the power of this Union.
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