South Carolina‘s Ordinance Of Nullification [Nov. 1832] - History

South Carolina‘s Ordinance Of Nullification [Nov. 1832] - History


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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, hath exceeded its just powers under the Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and hath violated the true meaning and intent of the Constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burthens 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, hath 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, . .. [the tariff acts of I828 and I832] . 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 the said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affirmance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void. 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 Ist day of February next, and the duty 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 bow [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 in any respect competent to discharge the duties thereof, until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath; and no juror shall be empannelled 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 for 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; but 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 constituted 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 thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other states and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate government, and do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent states may of right do.


South Carolina‘s Ordinance Of Nullification [Nov. 1832] - History

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, hath exceeded its just powers under the Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection and hath 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, hath raised and collected unneccessary revenue for objects unauthorized by the Constitution.

We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina, in convention assembled, do declare and ordain . [That these acts] . 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 the said acts, and all judicial proceedings which shall be hereafter had in affimance thereof, are and shall be held utterly null and void.

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 within the limits of this State from and after the 1st day of February next, .

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 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 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, . until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath and no juror shall be empannelled 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 wil not submit to the application of force, on the part of the Federal Government, to reduce this State to obedience but that we will consider the passage, by Congress, of any act . 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 thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connexion 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 to do.

Return Documents of American History edited by Henry Steele Commager, pages 261-262
Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1949


Andrew Jackson and Nullification

In December 1832, Andrew Jackson issued his Nullification Proclamation, one of the most consequential actions of his presidency. Nullification—the authority for individual states to nullify federal laws they find unconstitutional within their borders—gathered great support in the southern states in the early 19 th century. Jackson’s leadership in this crisis forestalled succession by nearly 30 years.

The Nullification Proclamation inspired few tangible artifacts, so from a collections point-of-view, it is somewhat difficult to illustrate. Jackson hung this silk copy in his library in the Hermitage, one of the three documents framed in heavy gilt frames that Jackson displayed as mementos of his presidency.

In 1832, the dispute over tariffs and nullification had been brewing for some time. The federal government passed protectionist tariffs on foreign goods to guard emerging industries located primarily in the north. Some of the residents of southern states who sold their cotton on the world market wanted access to foreign goods at lower prices, so they greatly resented these tariffs. The tariff passed in 1828 was particularly odious and became known as the Tariff of Abominations. Support for nullification gained support from this resentment.

Jackson’s first term Vice President, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina, was the leading proponent of nullification. He had written the South Carolina Exposition and Protest in 1828, which argued strongly against the Tariff of 1828 and proposed nullification—the interpretation of the Constitution that the federal government was formed through a compact of the states and that this gave the individual states authority to nullify laws they saw as unconstitutional—as a solution. The pamphlet was published anonymously although Calhoun’s authorship was generally known. Because of his position as Vice President, he could not publicly support nullification.

The Webster-Hayne Debate in 1830 between New Hampshire Senator Daniel Webster and South Carolina Senator Robert Young Hayne highlighted the sectional nature of the controversy. Since as Vice President and President of the Senate, Calhoun could not take place in the debate, Hayne represented the pro-nullification point-of-view.

Virginia Ticket for 1828 Presidential Election

Jackson’s Jefferson birthday toast became one of the lasting reminders of the Nullification Crisis in the public mind. It is shown here on the base of the Jackson equestrian statue across from the White House.

Andrew Jackson, generally in favor of states’ rights, saw nullification as a threat to the Union. In his view, the federal government derived its power from the people, not from the states, and the federal laws had greater authority than those of the individual states. Jackson had not publicly stated his position, and many thought that, as a Southern cotton planter, he would side with the supporters of nullification. But in April 1830, at a dinner honoring Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, the nullifiers presented multiple lengthy toasts supporting their position. When President Jackson had his turn, he made the simple toast “Our Union, It Must be Preserved.” He had intended to say, “Our Federal Union. . . ,” and that is how the toast is quoted. In this way, Jackson told those who supported nullification that he would not allow the Union to be destroyed.

The issue simmered along until Congress passed the Tariff of 1832, which brought no relief to the South Carolina position. Calhoun resigned as Vice President during the summer of 1832, feeling that he could best support nullification as a Senator. South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification in November. That Ordinance declared the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 unconstitutional and null and void within the borders of the state.

President Andrew Jackson took immediate action. He outlined his position to Secretary of State Edward Livingston, who helped draft the text of the proclamation issued December 10, 1832:

“I consider, then, the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which It was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed…”

Later in the document he makes the stirring statement “Disunion by armed force is TREASON.”

Secretary of State Edward Livingston of New York and Louisiana

Former Senator Hayne, by then the governor of South Carolina, began to organize an armed resistance to the collection of the tariff. Congress passed the Force Bill in early 1833, which allowed the President to send armed troops to enforce tariff collections. At this delicate point, Senators Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun negotiated a compromise Tariff of 1833 which allowed both sides to back down. South Carolina repealed its Ordinance of Nullification.

One object The Hermitage does not have in our collections is this pro-Jackson political cartoon which shows what Jackson thought nullification might logically lead to–Despotism. The levels in the cartoon show the steps on the road to that end. The Constitution and E Pluribus Unum have already been stabbed, and Jackson desperately holds the coat tails of one of the men who want to rush up the steps.

Jackson’s handling of the Nullification Crisis influenced President Abraham Lincoln as he faced the Civil War. Jackson commented on the crisis to his cousin Andrew J. Crawford in May 1833: “I have had a laborious task here—but nullification is dead, and its actors & exciters will only be remembered by the people to be execrated for their wicked designs to sever & destroy the only good government on the Globe, and that prosperity and happiness we enjoy over every other portion of the world.” It is interesting to note that a copy of this letter was given to Abraham Lincoln.

L to R: President Andrew Jackson, Senator Daniel Webster and Senator Henry Clay


24c. The South Carolina Nullification Controversy


The Governor of South Carolina bought buttons like this one as a symbol of defiance to the U.S. government.

By the late 1820's, the north was becoming increasingly industrialized, and the south was remaining predominately agricultural.

In 1828, Congress passed a high protective tariff that infuriated the southern states because they felt it only benefited the industrialized north. For example, a high tariff on imports increased the cost of British textiles . This tariff benefited American producers of cloth &mdash mostly in the north. But it shrunk English demand for southern raw cotton and increased the final cost of finished goods to American buyers. The southerners looked to Vice President John C. Calhoun from South Carolina for leadership against what they labeled the " Tariff of Abominations ."


The Ordinance of Nullification issued by South Carolina in 1832 foreshadowed the state's announcement of secession nearly 30 years later.

Calhoun had supported the Tariff of 1816, but he realized that if he were to have a political future in South Carolina, he would need to rethink his position. Some felt that this issue was reason enough for dissolution of the Union. Calhoun argued for a less drastic solution &mdash the doctrine of " nullification ." According to Calhoun, the federal government only existed at the will of the states. Therefore, if a state found a federal law unconstitutional and detrimental to its sovereign interests, it would have the right to "nullify" that law within its borders. Calhoun advanced the position that a state could declare a national law void.


The members of the South Carolina legislature defended the rights of the states against the federal government.

In 1832, Henry Clay pushed through Congress a new tariff bill, with lower rates than the Tariff of Abominations, but still too high for the southerners. A majority of states-rights proponents had won the South Carolina State House in the recent 1832 election and their reaction was swift. The South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification was enacted into law on November 24, 1832. As far as South Carolina was concerned, there was no tariff. A line had been drawn. Would President Jackson dare to cross it?

Jackson rightly regarded this states-rights challenge as so serious that he asked Congress to enact legislation permitting him to use federal troops to enforce federal laws in the face of nullification. Fortunately, an armed confrontation was avoided when Congress, led by the efforts of Henry Clay, revised the tariff with a compromise bill. This permitted the South Carolinians to back down without "losing face."

In retrospect, Jackson's strong, decisive support for the Union was one of the great moments of his Presidency. If nullification had been successful, could secession have been far behind?


John C. Calhoun’s Theory of Nullification

A threat of secession that galvanized the country and helped to set the stage for the coming Civil War.

In 1828 Congress passed a new tariff that dramatically increased the rates on raw goods. The “tariff of abominations,” as it was labeled in the South, provoked an outcry demanding the repeal of the new rates. One of the most powerful responses to the congressional action was penned by John C Calhoun of South Carolina. When he wrote his Southern Exposition Calhoun was serving as the Vice-President of the country but had little affection for Andrew Jackson the President.

Ordinance of Nullification

In his anonymous Exposition Calhoun laid out an argument for action to be taken by the state. He argued that the Union was a compact between sates. The states had the power to nullify a federal law that exceeded powers given to Congress in the constitution. The law could then be declared null and void in that state. Congress could repeal the law or could pass a constitutional amendment giving it the powers in question. If the amendment passed the state could accept the law or secede from the Union. The state legislature adopted the Ordinance of Nullification in 1833 and declared both tariffs null and void. In the text of the ordinance they also made clear “that we are determined to maintain this, our ordinance and Declaration, at every hazard…”

Historical Precedent

There was little new in the arguments presented by Calhoun. The same concepts of nullification, states rights, and secession were presented to the nation for the first time in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions in 1789. In both James Madison and Thomas Jefferson put forth much the same argument Calhoun drafted but there was little action taken at the time. In the case of South Carolina nullification of laws were declared and secession was a very real possibility.

Arguments Against South Carolina

The Ordinance was a dangerous declaration in response Daniel Webster of Massachusetts argued that the Union was not a compact but rather a contract between the states entered into when the constitution was ratified. It could not be cast aside when one wished. The Supreme Court, he held, was the arbiter of such issues not the states which had been the case since Marbury v Madison (1803).

Jackson’s Response

A much stronger reply was from Andrew Jackson himself. Jackson was intent on preserving the Union and putting an end to the crisis. In his Proclamation on Nullification he argued that the Union was perpetual, there was no right to secession, adding that “disunion by armed force is treason.” Aware of the burden that the tariffs carried in the southern states he also urged Congress to act in reducing the rates. At the same time he was granted the power to collect the revenue in South Carolina by force if necessary when congress passed the Force Act in 1833.

Peaceful Resolution

The nation teetered on the brink of war but with the swift action of Congress and the reduction of rates South Carolina repealed its Ordinance of Nullification. There was a temporary restoration of peaceful interaction between the states but under the surface there burbled the tension that erupted into the Civil War. The question of perpetual Union and the right of secession would be decided in those dark days of the 1860s.


Introduction

On December 10, 1832, President Andrew Jackson issued a Proclamation to the People of South Carolina (also known as the &ldquoNullification Proclamation&rdquo) that disputed a states' right to nullify a federal law. Jackson's proclamation was written in response to an ordinance issued by a South Carolina convention that declared that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 "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." Led by John C. Calhoun, Jackson's vice president at the time, the nullifiers felt that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 favored Northern-manufacturing interests at the expense of Southern farmers. After Jackson issued his proclamation, Congress passed the Force Act that authorized the use of military force against any state that resisted the tariff acts. In 1833, Henry Clay helped broker a compromise bill with Calhoun that slowly lowered tariffs over the next decade. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 was eventually accepted by South Carolina and ended the nullification crisis.


Bibliography

Current, Richard N. 1963 John C. Calhoun. New York: Washington Square Press.

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South Carolina‘s Ordinance Of Nullification [Nov. 1832] - History

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, hath exceeded its just powers under the Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and hath 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, hath 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, on 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 void.

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 duty 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 he 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 judgements, 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 person 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 in any respect competent to discharge the duties thereof, until he shall, in like manner, have taken a similar oath and no juror shall be impannelled 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 but 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 constituted 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 harrass 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 thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connexion with the people of the other States, and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and to do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States may of right do.

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 America.

JAMES HAMILTON, JR. President of the Convention, and Delegate from St. Peter's


South Carolina Nullification Crisis 1828-1832


The Governor of South Carolina bought buttons like this one as a symbol of defiance to the U.S. government.

By the late 1820’s, the north was becoming increasingly industrialized, and the south was remaining predominately agricultural.

In 1828, Congress passed a high protective tariff that infuriated the southern states because they felt it only benefited the industrialized north. For example, a high TARIFF on imports increased the cost of British TEXTILES . This tariff benefited American producers of cloth — mostly in the north. But it shrunk English demand for southern raw cotton and increased the final cost of finished goods to American buyers. The southerners looked to Vice President John C. Calhoun from South Carolina for leadership against what they labeled the “ TARIFF OF ABOMINATIONS .”

The Ordinance of Nullification issued by South Carolina in 1832 foreshadowed the state’s announcement of secession nearly 30 years later.

Calhoun had supported the Tariff of 1816, but he realized that if he were to have a political future in South Carolina, he would need to rethink his position. Some felt that this issue was reason enough for dissolution of the Union. Calhoun argued for a less drastic solution — the doctrine of “ NULLIFICATION .” According to Calhoun, the federal government only existed at the will of the states. Therefore, if a state found a federal law unconstitutional and detrimental to its sovereign interests, it would have the right to “nullify” that law within its borders. Calhoun advanced the position that a state could declare a national law void.

The members of the South Carolina legislature defended the rights of the states against the federal government.

In 1832, Henry Clay pushed through Congress a new tariff bill, with lower rates than the Tariff of Abominations, but still too high for the southerners. A majority of states-rights proponents had won the South Carolina State House in the recent 1832 election and their reaction was swift. The SOUTH CAROLINA ORDINANCE OF NULLIFICATION was enacted into law on November 24, 1832. As far as South Carolina was concerned, there was no tariff. A line had been drawn. Would President Jackson dare to cross it?

Jackson rightly regarded this STATES-RIGHTS challenge as so serious that he asked Congress to enact legislation permitting him to use federal troops to enforce federal laws in the face of nullification. Fortunately, an armed confrontation was avoided when Congress, led by the efforts of Henry Clay, revised the tariff with a compromise bill. This permitted the South Carolinians to back down without “losing face.”

In retrospect, Jackson’s strong, decisive support for the Union was one of the great moments of his Presidency. If nullification had been successful, could secession have been far behind?



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