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Tariff Nullification

Page history last edited by Cher McDonald 1 month, 2 weeks ago

The Nullification Crisis

by Elise Stevens Wilson

BACKGROUND

The relationship between the North and the South was tenuous when Andrew Jackson came to office in 1828. Ever since the Constitutional Convention of 1787, northerners and southerners had fought over slavery and tariffs. Each region wanted to make sure their economies were protected in the new Union. Several times states threatened to leave the Constitutional Convention and abandon the writing of the Constitution. By the end of the Convention, both sides had made significant compromises to the Constitution such as the three-fifths clause, the fugitive slave clause, and Article 1, Section 8, which allowed Congress to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises. These compromises were shaky. Neither side was truly pleased with the results.

Forty-one years later, in 1828, the issue of tariffs surfaced again. Congress passed a high protective tariff on imported, primarily manufactured, goods. The South, being predominantly agricultural and reliant on the North and foreign countries for manufactured goods, saw this tariff as an affront to their economy. Vice President John C. Calhoun called it a “tariff of abominations” meant to favor the North. South Carolina declared that Congress was overstepping its power by offering such support of the North’s manufacturing industries. The confrontation quickly spun into a debate over the power of the federal government to decide the rights of states.

In 1832, after the passage of another tariff, South Carolina declared the tariffs null and void, and threatened to leave the Union in the Ordinance of Nullification. Jackson responded swiftly, calling the action treasonous. He asked Congress for the power to use military force to ensure that states adhered to federal law. While Congress debated the resulting Force Bill—which would grant the President his wish—Kentucky’s Henry Clay introduced a compromise tariff. Both bills passed in 1832. In the end, the North and South compromised, but not without revealing how fragile the relationship was. The Nullification Crisis foreshadowed the eventual secession of the South in 1860–1861.

 

 

House Vote on the Force Bill

 

Excerpts from the Tariff of 1828

Sec. 5. And it be further enacted, That, from and after the thirtieth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, there shall be levied, collected, and paid, in lieu of the duties now imposed by law, on window glass, of the sizes above ten inches by fifteen inches, five dollars for one hundred square feet: Provided, That all window glass imported in plates or sheets, uncut, shall be chargeable with the same rate of duty. On vials and bottles not exceeding the capacity of six ounces each, one dollar and seventy-five cents per groce.

Sec. 6. And it be further enacted, That from and That, from and after the thirtieth day of June, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, there shall be levied, collected, and paid, in lieu of the duties now imposed by law, on all imported roofing slates, not exceeding twelve inches in length, by six inches in width, four dollars per ton; on all such slates exceeding twelve, and not exceeding fourteen inches in length, five dollars per ton; on all slates exceeding fourteen, and not exceeding sixteen inches in length,

six dollars per ton; on all slates exceeding sixteen inches, and not exceeding eighteen inches in length, seven dollars per ton; on all slates exceeding eighteen, and not exceeding twenty inches in length, eight dollars per ton; on all slates exceeding twenty inches and not exceeding twenty-four inches in length, nine dollars per ton. And that, in lieu of present duties, there be levied, collected, and paid, a duty of thirty-three and a third per centum, ad valorem, on all imported ciphering slates.

Sec 8. And it be further enacted, That, in all cases where the duty which now is, or hereafter may be, imposed, on any goods, wares, or merchandises, imported into the United States, shall, by law, be regulated by, or be directed to be estimated or levied upon the value of the square yard, or of any other quantity or parcel thereof; and in all cases where there is or shall be imposed any ad valorem rate of duty on any goods, wares, or merchandises, imported into the United States, to be appraised, estimated, and ascertained, and the number of such yards, parcels, or quantities, and such actual value of every of them, as the case may require.

 

South Carolina Protest (December 19, 1828)

The Senate and House of Representatives of South Carolina, now met and sitting in General Assembly-through the Honorable William Smith, and the Honorable 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:

 

1. 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. [Congress cannot extend its constitutional authority]

 

2. 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 is not at once justified by public necessity, and clearly within the scope and purview of the social compact, and since the right of confining appropriations of the public money to such legitimate and constitutional objects, is as essential to the liberties of the people, as their unquestionable privilege to be taxed only by their own consent. [Congress cannot enact tariffs that are not for revenue, but protect the interests of just part of the nation]

 

3. Because they believe that the Tariff Law, passed by Congress at its 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 be 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 high powers vested in the Federal Government for Federal purposes only. [The tariff is therefore unconstitutional]

 

4. Because such acts considered in the light of a regulation of commerce are 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 nomine , 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 industry 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. [The tariff to protect domestic manufacture goes against the framework of the national government]

 

5. 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. [The tariff actually was not enacted to regulate commerce, a Constitutional power of Congress, but to prohibit foreign trade, which hurts the South]

 

6. Because that whilst the power to protect manufactures is no where 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. [The power to protect manufacture is not a Constitutional power]

 

7. Because even admitting Congress to have a constitutional right to protect manufactures by the imposition of the 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. [Even if the tariff does regulate commerce, as it is too oppressive, it is an abuse of power]

 

8. Finally, because South Carolina, from her climate, situation, and peculiar institutions, is, and must ever continue to be, wholly dependant 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. [Due to South Carolina’s dependence on foreign trade, the state will be affected so severely by the tariff that the state would be destroyed]

 

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 States and the liberties of which it is the surest pledge-but feeling it to be their bounden duty to expose and to 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 to enter upon the Journals of the [U.S.] Senate, their protest against it as unconstitutional, oppressive, and unjust.

 

[Summaries of the points in plain English, rather than South Carolinese]

 

http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/age-jackson/resources/nullification-crisis

https://digital.scetv.org/teachingAmerhistory/lessons/expositionandprotest1828.htm

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