The nullification crisis arose during the presidential term of Andrew Jackson. The nullification guaranteed numerous implications for the future of the union and the state of Southern Carolina. The nullification, its process, content and facilitators, brought to life questions on the nature of the constitution. It also raised eyebrows on the relationship of the national government and the individual states. John C. Calhoun, former vice president, argued that the state had every right to declare null and void a law passed by congress. However, this was only valid if the state considered such a law as unconstitutional. Although the key issue that prompted nullification was the tariffs, other determining factors such as The Union and the future of slavery were also strong determinants of the direction and process of nullification.
Daniel Webster said that the constitution being the supreme law of the land. With that, Webster argued that individual states had no authority to declare a law passed by congress null and void.
In this paper, we will look at the reasons behind the nullification and the processes involved in executing it. I will also tackle the area that concerns the difference in preference of tariffs between the southerners and the northerners. For instance, Southern Carolina did not support the protective tariffs which were high for the purpose of discouraging importation of goods which would have otherwise been manufactured in the country. This was unfavorable to the southerners who were essentially farmers. This is because they were experiencing great losses during importation of goods which was inevitable because of the circumstance.
The Nullification Crisis
The nullification crisis of 1832 was a sectional conflict between South Carolina and the federal government over several tariff acts. This happened at a time when Andrew Jackson was president of the United States. The crisis resulted from the ordinance of nullification created by South Carolina declaring the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 null and void within the boundaries of South Carolina on the claim that they were unconstitutional according to the law of South Carolina. The tariff of 1828 that was enacted during the rule of president John Quincy Adams was referred to as the “Tariff of Abominations” by its detractors. The state of Southern Carolina did not support the reason behind the high duty proposed on goods which could be produced in sufficient quantities in the United States.
The detractors felt that these tariffs favored the manufacturing interests of Northern states at the expense of the southern side with its agrarian economy. Southern Carolina refused to follow the provisions of these tariffs. They had expected President Jackson to address their concerns after coming to power which he did not. To defend their action against the possible reprisals of President Jackson, they voted troops to protect them. He did indeed react by requesting for a force bill which gave him the right to enforce the bill. This caused further resistance and action had to be taken immediately
The difference in economic status of the two states arose after the economic downturn that took place in the 1820’s. It affected the southern side more than the northern side. Back in Washington, President Jackson and his vice president, John C. Calhoun fell out because they did not share similar opinions concerning the bill. That was the reason Calhoun decided to resign from his vice presidency so that he could support the nullification more effectively as a senator. Robert Hayne also resigned (from the senate) to run for governor for the same reason
However, just before the vice president resigned, a compromise bill was brokered with the help of Henry Clay. President Jackson signed the 1833 tariff, the compromise tariff, into law. This action was fully supported by the northerners but partially accepted in the south. This was because the reductions were far too insignificant to make much of a difference.
Reasons for Opposition by Southern Carolina
A significant depression followed the period of prosperity and high prices in America after the war. The agrarian states had consistently opposed the tariffs, and when a bill in favor of protection of the tariffs was passed in 1828, the rift between the north and the south widened, and the fight became bitter. This was especially because the bills were passed by a majority few who had the power. The manufacturing interests of the north were favored by these tariffs at the expense of the free trade lifestyle that was practiced in the South. South Carolina was especially affected. It was at this point that they claimed they had a right to oppose laws which worked against their interests and welfare. They openly opposed the federal law declaring it null and void
The policy that Southern Carolina so strongly opposed had been produced with the support of statesmen on Southern Carolina such as Calhoun. The tariff of 1816 had supportive features for its state members, and it received support in both the north and south. They saw the benefits that manufacturing cotton for themselves would bring to the south. They thought that it would provide market for the south and replace cotton from India. In the North, manufacturers flourished, skills obtained and machinery upgraded, and the price of cotton fell. The people were well protected from fluctuations and incorrect invoices of foreign markets.
However, these provisions only provided for the north because in the south people were small scale farmers and manufacturers had not been established. Most fertile lands were found in the north, and they were drained of labor by the northern states. The southern states realized that they could not compete on equal grounds with the northern states because of their exhausted lands. The high tariffs, therefore, disadvantaged the south, and they opposed it.
Problems arose with the statement of the tariff of 1824. It was beneficial in that it provided protection of 35% as compared to the act of 1816 which had provided a general protection of 25%. However, it came with hiked duties for items such as wool, iron and hemp. In fact, the bill barely passed the federal House of Representatives. It won by 107 supporters against 102 non-supporters. Those who were in favor of the bill were the middle and north-west states. The south and south-west states were against it. Back in the 1820’s, there had been an adverse national economic decline in America. This decline affected Southern Carolina the most. The decline included a drastic reduction in the population. These were the whites who moved out with their slaves.
The Journey of the Ordinance of Nullification in South Carolina
Nullification is described as a constitutional theory that permits individual states the authority to declare any law passed by the United States Congress null and void. The two main parties are Andrew Jackson, the president, and John C. Calhoun, the vice-president. These two turn out to be the major antagonists in the nullification process with John C. Calhoun supporting the proposal of nullification, and the president, Andrew Jackson being against it. Congress passed the controversial tariff in 1828. Jackson worried that nullification would destroy the union whereas John C. Calhoun believed in fighting for the rights of the states. It was in 1832 that Henry Clay drafted a compromise. The compromise lowered the tariffs of Southern Carolina, and this made them satisfied. However, this was just a short term solution because the congress changed this to keep Southern Caroline happy. The issue on the right of a state to nullify a law that affected them adversely was never addressed
The nullification campaign was launched by James Hamilton Jr. Hamilton and McDuffie conducted a campaign around the state to call for a nullification convention in 1829. However, the legislature meeting that took place in South Carolina in 1828 overrode it. This is because the state was divided between radicals and conservatives. However, the radicals had more influence over the state than the conservatives did. This disunity was the reason the state’s intended railroad project did not materialize. The railroad was supposed to be constructed so as to promote internal trade. The failure was as a result of disagreement on financing arrangements.
The radicals gained momentum in 1831 clearly demarcating politics along nullifier and unionist lines. Despite these efforts, the margin still fell short of the majority necessary for a convention which should be two thirds. At one point, one of the radical leaders made a speech in Charleston which stirred up the possibility of confrontation with the federal government as well as civil war within the state. It was at this point that the then Vice President, Calhoun, decided to take action. Silence was no longer an alternative and to execute his support for nullification of the tariffs he had to resign.
Calhoun prepared the Fort Hill Address which was published in 1831 on the 26th of July. Most of the speech was consistent with the rights of the state, is still placed Calhoun on the side of nullifiers. From then on, the nullifiers intensified their rhetoric. The States Rights and Free Trade Association formed back in Charleston. This association rapidly expanded throughout the state. The state mobilized the nullification movement throughout the winter of 1831 and 1832. The elections of 1832 were those filled with tension and the possibility of violence. The competition lay between the nullifiers and unionists whereby the nullifiers won. It was after this that the nullification convention met on 20th October 1832.
It was during the convention that the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 were described as unconstitutional and deemed null and void. South Carolina also declared its intention not to succumb to pressure brought upon them by the federal government. This was especially made when the president reacted by acting on a provision that allowed him to enforce the policy, a strategy which did not succeed.
Confrontation and Negotiation
As a result of the pressure, President Jackson sent the Force Bill Message back to congress. The discussion settled at the agreement that custom houses that were located in Beaufort and Georgetown would be replaced by ships strategically placed at each port. Bonds were eliminated, and collection of cash was accepted. The federal jails would be specially constructed to accommodate violators whom the state refused to handle. All cases that came up from the state’s nullification act were to be moved to the US Circuit Court. The hardest part was the revision of the militia acts of 1795 and 1907 to ensure that the custom laws would be revised by the militia or the military of the United States.
The Force Bill was forwarded to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and it consisted of everything that Jackson wanted. It allowed Jackson to use the military to enforce the bill in South Carolina. This is because they had refused to heed any warning directed to them concerning the rebellion. However, they did not barge and later on, even the vice president joined in the movement after which he resigned from the vice presidency. Fortunately, on January 28, the motion was defeated by the senate. It did not receive much public support. In an attempt to make it more popular to the people, the use of force was limited within a specific time frame and instead of using force, suppression.
South Carolina was doing its best to avoid confrontation that was not necessary. However, they organized a sizeable number of troops who were supposed to provide protection in case the president got angry and retaliated. This did come in handy indeed. At the same time, the congress was working on a compromise tariff. It is then that the observation that the force Bill and the Compromise tariffs of 1833 were related. The force bill was then nullified on March 11th. This was because South Carolina had declared that they would not back out even when force was used to make them obey. President Andrew Jackson foresaw the potential impact of being hard headed. The possibility of a civil war was very predictable, and out of reason rather than will, Jackson did as the southerners wished to cool them down. He knew the economic implications a civil war would have on America’s economy.
Reaction to the Changes
People looked back at the nullification crisis and its aftermath and according to President Jackson, the tariff was nothing but a pretext. He declared or the question on slavery as the actual deal. By the end of the nullification crisis, the southerners started questioning the motivation of the Jacksonian democrats. They felt as that the Jacksonian Democratic Party was more against them than for them. A political alienation rose up, and, as a result, the Whig Party was formed. The end of the nullification crisis was the beginning of a new era. By the 1850’s, states’ rights were included in the constitution because the call for state equality had been heard.
The Webster Hayne Debate was among the important catalysts of the nullification process. Despite the president’s unwillingness to execute the nullification, such debates triggered a reaction from the public and ignoring them would have been more hazardous than addressing them. At one time, President Andrew Jackson claimed that he had no power to nullify because he was obliged to enforce laws of the United States and the reason that the state could not separate from the union. He warned against the consequences of nullification all of which fell on deaf ears because the pleas for nullification were backed by many reasons besides opposition to the tariffs. These were such as slavery which would under no circumstances end up in compromise
How President Jackson solved the Nullification Crisis
The gradual process of nullification followed by President Andrew Jackson was wise in that it prevented the outburst of civil war at that time which was a possibility. He proved to be a good leader who did not make drastic decisions. He also proved to be great at compromising. This is necessary for any leader who wishes to lead a democratic nation. His initial response to the proposal of nullification was negative, and he even went further to warn of possible consequences of the action. However, the nullifier supporters were not ready to barge in and as the discussions and supporter groups grew and intensified their campaign, President Andrew Jackson saw the need to come to an agreement at a central point. This is how he ended up signing the compromise bill which promised to reduce tariffs gradually over the decades
Measures were taken to avoid drastic changes, which would have brought further problems. Jackson’s patience with his fellow leaders is also evident in that he did not forcefully shut them up to avoid the complications that come with protests. They continued their campaigns, and whenever things heated up, there President Jackson intervened and took action to prevent damage. The action he took was supported by a reasonable number of parties and individuals, and it benefited the whole of America in the long run. He did value the union, but the nullification seemed necessary to maintain peace in America.
The end of the nullification crisis signified the beginning of a new era. Other factors such as the slave trade that were expected to arise did come up. The process through which the nullification process was taken proved to be necessary. This is especially so considering there existed supporters and non-supporters of the nullification act. Taking up drastic measures would have been a drastic reaction against one party, which would have led to discontentment and possible rebellion in the near future.
Nullification involved a series of decisions all of which were critical. The title given to the 1828 tariff, “tariff of abomination” was extreme. However, for the benefit of the supporters on nullification, the incitement was necessary so as to have a determined and active team. The leaders proved to be radical in their actions. Despite the few mistakes brought about by misrepresentation, the forums the hosted yielded reasonable results.
In my opinion, the cause of South Carolina’s problems was not the tariffs on their own. It was based on the leadership of the state. It is clear in the text that the two antagonist parties could not agree, even if for the good of the people only. This is seen in the way they could not reach an agreement concerning the railroad construction project. A decision was to be made on the method of financing that the project should be assigned. With the opposition of each party and unwillingness to reach a middle point, the decision was never made. This is to mean that the railroad was never constructed. The purpose of constructing the railroad was to improve the efficiency of internal trade. This also means that the goal of efficient internal trade was never achieved. These political struggles could be the reason that South Carolina lagged behind in development because no significant action was ever taken to achieve the goal.
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