The idea of states resisting
Federal laws by nullifying them had simmered since 1798 when Kentucky protested
Congress enactment of the Alien and Sedition Acts. The subject flared up
briefly again in 1828 with the passage of the Tariff of 1828, but the issue
once again faded away. John C. Calhoun wrote, and published anonymously, a
pamphlet entitled “Exposition and Protest,” during the 1828 election while he
was the vice presidential nominee with Andrew Jackson. Calhoun was a staunch
backer of the nullification theory while Jackson was opposed. The issue would
cause a serious political divide between the two men in years to come.
John C. Calhoun's “Exposition
Calhoun used the pamphlet to
explain his theories of nullification and present his arguments against the
Tariff of 1828. He argued that since the federal government derived its power
with the consent of the states, then states had the right to nullify any law
Congress passed that the state deemed unconstitutional. He felt that the Tariff
of 1828 was unconstitutional because it was used to protect certain industries
in the United States, not to generate revenue. His opinion was that tariffs
were legal as a revenue generator, however using them to protect one product
while leaving others unprotected was unconstitutional. After publication, he
presented it to the South Carolina legislature. Though the legislature had 5000
copies of the pamphlet printed and distributed, it took no legislative action
on the ideas it expressed at the time. Even though he did not reveal that he
had authored it, word did leak out.
Effects of the Tariff of 1828
on the South
The Tariff of 1828, also called
the Tariff of Abominations, created an economic disaster for the southern
states. The tariff imposed high duties on imported manufactured goods, which
helped protect manufacturers in the north from foreign competition. For the
southern states it imposed higher prices on the goods they needed. Since they
sold the bulk of their cotton to foreign markets they found less demand for
their product. The higher tariff had resulted in less need for Southern cotton
for foreign mills because of the drop in their sales in the United States due
to the tariff. In addition to this, some nations instituted a boycott of United
States cotton in retaliation for the high tariffs. The economic decline led
many southern states, especially South Carolina, to revisit the Nullification
Theory after Calhoun, their chief ally, gained the vice presidency in 1832.
Tariff of 1832
Congress passed a new tariff
law in 1832, attempting to diffuse the smoldering revolt of the southern
states, especially hardest hit South Carolina. President Andrew Jackson signed
the act into law on July 13, 1832. The Tariff of 1832 did not repeal the
previous law, which the southern states found so odious. It merely reduced the
duties. The new tariff did nothing to alleviate the crises.
South Carolina's Ordinance of
Many in South Carolina were
still dissatisfied with the tariff. Resistance to it built in the state,
prompting the South Carolina Assembly to pass an Ordinance of Nullification on
November 24, 1832. In essence, the bill declared the tariff unconstitutional and
that the legislature deemed it null and void. With this legislation, South
Carolina threatened to secede from the Union over the tariff.
Jackson's Proclamation to the
People of South Carolina
President Andrew Jackson
responded to South Carolina's Ordinance of Nullification by issuing a proclamation
on December 10, 1832 that denied that states had a right to nullify any law
passed by Congress. In his Proclamation, he warned, "Should the nullifiers
succeed in their views of separation, and the Union be in consequence
Readers interested in reading
the full transcript will find it at this link:
The United States Congress
responded to South Carolina's affront to its authority by passing the Force
Bill on March 2, 1833. The Force Bill included eight sections, five of which
were the most important.
Section 1 authorized the
President to use whatever force was necessary to secure ports and harbors and
protect United States customs agents. It also provided authorization for the
President to detain vessels and cargoes in order to enforce the collection of
tariffs. Any attempt to obstruct the collection of tariffs was illegal and the
President could use whatever force was necessary to collect the revenue.
Section 2 expanded federal
court jurisdiction to cases involving the collection of import duties.
Section 3 allowed the President
to use military force to deal with states, or regions within states, that
resisted federal law or the federal courts.
Section 6 dealt with some
state's resistance to imprison persons convicted of federal charges. It
authorized United States Federal Marshals to arrest and confine these persons.
Section 8 was a sunset clause
that ended the Force Bill at the end of the next session of Congress.
Interested readers can find the
full legislation at this link: