Wei S. Zhuang
Wei S. Zhuang
Impact of a State’s Right to Nullification
The impact of a state’s right to nullification can ultimately cause a great deal of damage to the country that it resides in. To describe the impacts one would need to take a look back into history when the Nullification Crisis took place. South Carolina had economic hard times after the war of 1812. Cotton prices started to drop and South Carolina was in a state of depression. Southerners however tend to blame their economic woes on the policies of the national government. (Goode 87). The Tariff of Abominations was a series of high taxes that was placed on incoming foreign goods. The South disagreed with this proposal because they thought that the federal government was trying to tax one part of the country to benefit the wealth of another which is the North. Thomas Cooper, the president of the South Carolina College said “Is it worth while to continue in this union of states, where the north demands to be our masters and we are required to be their tributaries.”(Goode 89) John C. Calhoun being Vice President and was from South Carolina strongly disagreed with this Tariff of Abominations. He even wrote “South Carolina Exposition” which used the constitution as an argument against the tariff. Then, there was the Haynes and Webster Debate. They both defended and attacked on the Nullification topic in congress. In 1832 Congress released another tariff that replaced the Tariff of Abominations, but the South Carolinians weren’t still happy. The climax of this nullification swirl happened at Jackson’s birthday dinner where everyone gathered to give speeches. Andrew told everybody in that room what he thought of State Nullification with one simple line: “Our Union, It must be preserved” (Goode 88). The Congress continued with passing a Force Bill that would allow President Jackson to use force to regulate the tariff laws. To clean this mess up and to avoid civil war, both sides decided to compromise due to a plan drawn up by Henry Clay
Hard times in South Carolina
South Carolina was a state that was hit hard by the depression of 1819. The overproduction of cotton made the cotton prices dropped. The price of cotton fell from almost 31 cents a pound in 1818 to less than 10 cents in 1828. The worn out fields produce fewer pounds per acre than did the new fields west of the mountains. South Carolina also had problems with slave conspiracies. Denmark Vesey a free black who lived in Charleston lead a rebellion that cause 36 blacks to be killed and many others exiled. (Internet Source 1) South Carolina said that if a strong federal government is allowed to take money from the South using a protective tariff to benefit the wealth of the north, then eventually they are going to try to abolish slavery which South Carolina lived on.
The Tariff of Abominations
The Tariff of Abominations or Tariff of 1828 was one of the more famous acts passed by Congress. Adams had been a strong advocate for a higher tariff. Andrew Jackson’s supporters in Congress modified Adam’s original tariff bill to include much higher taxes on imported raw materials as well. They believed that the northern legislators and Adams supporters would never vote for such legislation since it would mean that New England manufacturers would pay much higher prices for their raw materials. However the bill passed and consumer prices for a selection of goods increased a whole lot. (Benton 232).
South Carolina fights with the Tariff
When the Tariff of Abominations was passed in 1828, it was chaos in Charleston. South Carolinians wanted to boycott all the states that were profiting from this tariff. One of the biggest retaliation to this tariff came from the Vice President John C. Calhoun. He was one of the biggest supporters of states’ rights including Governor James Hamilton and Robert Barnwell Rheet who called a special convention on the tariff matter. Calhoun published two papers in order to support his position. The first reaffirmed and analyzed the doctrine of the concurrent majority, by which such divisive issues had be to approve by majorities from each section of the Union, not simply enacted through the majority representations of one section. The second argue that nullification was actually in the constitution, but it was in the reserved powers of the states. (Stamp 68) When the convention met in November, 1832 they nullifiers quickly made the decision. They quickly passed an ordinance nullifying the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832. The ordinance prohibited the federal government from collecting tariffs duties within the States of South Carolina after February 1, 1833. This ordinance also forbade any appeal to the Supreme Court. Finally if they government uses force to collect the tariffs, then secession from the union will be carried out.
The Webster and Haynes Debate
Many Easterners believe that the price of western land still owned by the government should be kept high so that the moving into the west would be slower. The westerners on the other side want land and cheap land too. The Southern farmer saw their chance to create an alliance with the west. They could join forces in congress, the westerners could get their cheap land and in return the southerners can keep slavery. On January 21, 1830 Senator Robert Y. Haynes of South Carolina deliver a long speech that demanded the opening of the lands. He also said that if the South Carolina wants to secede, she could because the states were made by the constitution so that they were free and sovereign. (Goode 90) Senator Daniel Webster said that the Constitution is no creature of the state government. The very chief end =, the main design of which the whole constitution was framed and adopted was to establish a government that should not depend on State opinion and State discretion. He declared that only they supreme court had the right to declare a law void. If states can just reject laws, then the government would be simply a joke.
The Jefferson Day Dinner
Later that year, the nullification crisis gave rise to a second significant exchange between national leaders. Some of Calhoun’s supporters decided to hold a special banquet at Brown’s Indian Queen Hotel to celebrate Jefferson’s birthday. Jackson knew of Calhoun’s plan to secede from the union and decided to keep a stabilize union he needed to do something. Before the dinner nobody knew of what position the president was in with the Nullification crisis. When Jackson said to Calhoun “Our nation: It must be Preserved”, it was without a doubt that the president was challenging Calhoun. After the devastation, Calhoun was shaking but he calmly said that: The Union next to our Liberties, most dear! (Goode 92).
The New Tariff
In 1832 Congress created a new tariff to replace the Tariff of Abominations because of the uprising controversy. Even though the rates were lower this time, it was still a high protective tariff. Many South Carolinians were outrage and scared because this tariff was passed with a big majority, so it won’t be changing anytime soon.
After the declaration of the nullification ordinance, Congress passed a Force Bill that gave the president the authority to use federal troops in South Carolina. Angry South Carolinians began to prepare to resist invasion. For a while it seemed like a Civil War was going to break out.
It was not until March 1, 1833 the South Carolinians agreed to withdraw the threat of nullification. At the same time the government agreed to a decrease of the tariff over a period of time. It was Henry Clay that did the magic for the Government. He drew up a new bill that reduced the tariff rates, but still preserved the protective system. Both sides went along with the plan because it benefited both sides. Then there was another South Carolinian Convention which voted for the new bill that Clay drew up. Both of the sides claimed victory because they each got what they wanted.
Nevertheless, the impact of a State’s right to nullification can be devastating. In this case, the Nullification controversy, it almost got turned into a civil war because one state did not agree with the government. If it wasn’t for Clay to draw up the bill, South Carolina would have seceded from the Union and Civil World would have come earlier. All these events will eventually lead to bloodshed and that’s the last thing we want.
Bassett, Joseph M. “Encyclopedia of American Government” Pasadena, California 1975: 671
Benton, William “The Annuls of America” New York 1968: 232
Goode, Stephen “The New Federalism” New York 1983: 87 – 92
MacDonald, William “The American Nation a History, the Jacksonian Democracy” New York 1909: 67 ? 88
National Urban League ? Quasi Judicial Agencies “Dictionary of American History” New York 1976: 125
Shaw, Ronald E. Bremer, Howard F. “Andrew Jackson 1767 ? 1845 ” Dobbs Ferry, New York 1969: 59
Schlesinger, Arthur M. “The Age of Jackson” Boston 1945: 15
Schlesinger, Arthur M. “The Age of Jackson” New York 1945: 34, 403, 95-96
Stamp, Kenneth M. “The Causes of the Civil War” New York 1959: 68