The Nullification Crisis Essay

The Nullification Crisis was a revolt by the citizens against Andrew Jackson and the Union, whereby they sought liberty and the state of being free, including various social, political, and economic privileges. This attempt to revolt against Jackson failed, and their seceding from the country was not granted. In these efforts to secede, they sought liberty and worked together as a state to gain what they believed to be free and include various privileges they rightfully have. The Nullification Crisis displayed the attempt of the citizen’s to achieve the securing of the blessings of liberty, yet the citizen’s attempt failed.

In 1819, Andrew Jackson was elected as President of the United States. In 1824, during his attempt of re-election, John Quincy Adams’ won the election over him. Supporters of Jackson were upset by this election, so they attempted to sabotage Adam’s presidency. Jacksonian’s pushed a proposal through Congress, which would raise tariffs significantly on manufactured items. Adams was a New Englander, therefore he would support this tariff and it would be supported in New England.

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Jackson’s supporters hoped this would make it seem like Adams was favoring his home region over the south and west. Yet, in 1828 Jackson ran for President and won. The tariff was not passed until that year, and it backfired on Jackson. When it went into effect, the South was enraged about it and the economy was failing. The tariff they originally proposed was no longer supported by Jacksonian’s, and they did not support Jackson himself. South Carolina rallied heavily against the tariff, and supported their arguments with principles taken from the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions.

Also, they supported their case by arguing that the Constitution allowed them individually as a state to nullify federal laws for the whole union. They published “The South Carolina Exposition” which was written by John C. Calhoun, the Vice President of the United States at the time. He was raised in South Carolina, therefore he supported the efforts of South Carolina to nullify the tariff. Supporters of the nullification of the tariff attempted to pass the nullification through the South Carolina state legislature, but the Unionists obstructed their efforts.

They were a group of men who did not believe the states held a nullification right. Other states discussed joining South Carolina in this nullification, yet none did, so South Carolina attempted to nullify the tariff alone. South Carolina’s defiance to nullify the Tariff of 1828 was alarming to President Jackson; therefore he believed an intervention was necessary. Calhoun encouraged Jackson to discuss with Congress the enactment of the Tariff of 1832, which Jackson agreed with. The Tariff of 1832 lowered the rate of the Tariff of 1828.

The high tariffs were still present; therefore producers in the south remained troubled over this. Hence, their request for the South Carolina state legislature to nullify the new tariff. They agreed, and chose Robert Y. Hayne as South Carolina’s new governor, and making Calhoun replace Hayne’s spot in the Senate. They threatened to secede from the Union if the tariffs were not lowered. Jackson was upset by these threats and the fact that one state could nullify a federal law, and then secede from the Union. Jackson sent an army to South Carolina in response to their threats.

Soon after his re-elections, he stated that his intentions were to enforce the tariff, and he was encouraging Congress to reduce the tariff rates. Shorter than a week after this speech, Jackson presented the Nullification Proclamation. The army was still in South Carolina, ready to enforce the tariff if needed, and Jackson called out South Carolina on their bluff. He instructed Congress to create a “Force Bill” which allows his army to enforce the tariff. Although he was already allowed to do this, he wanted to create a bill to strengthen his case.

South Carolina was hopeless, and Calhoun was all they had left. He resigned his vice presidency to help aid the nullification crisis. He pleaded Henry Clay, an old friend, to draft a solution with him. Clay developed a compromise proposal, which lowered the high tariffs by ten percent over eight years. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 barely passed through Congress, but it significantly changed the tariff. These new rates were not nearly as low as the Southerners had hoped they would be, but it was a better compromise than the Force Bill had offered.

South Carolina’s legislature voted to recede their efforts to nullify the tariff acts, but they did attempt to nullify the Force Bill. Even though their nullification of the Force Bill was insignificant, it allowed South Carolina to feel slightly victorious. Therefore, it is apparent that it is the citizen’s job to secure the blessings of liberty. The citizen’s began to take action to secure their blessings of liberty prior to the Nullification Crisis, when they attempted to pass the Tariff of 1828 through Congress in hopes to aid Jackson’s re-election.

Due to Jackson’s popularity, he was re-elected even without the help of the tariff. Yet the tariff was passed in 1828, and the citizen’s made a firm effort to nullify the tariff as soon as it was enacted. They believed they had the right to nullify the tariff, which sought their own privileges in liberty. The citizens further pushed for the nullification by trying to pass this though South Carolina’s legislature, but another group of citizens seeking to secure their blessings of liberty, the Unionists, obstructed this.

The citizen’s attempts to secure their blessings of liberty alarmed the government, thus the government acting against the citizen’s efforts. The government was not securing the citizen’s blessings of liberty, or hampering these freedoms. They were simply responding to the citizen’s efforts to revolt against the Union and gain liberty. The government solely wanted to keep the Union together, they had little interest in the actual liberty of the citizens, as a whole or individually. The government passed the Tariff of 1832, which did lower the rates of the Tariff of 1828, yet South Carolina’s citizens were still not pleased.

The citizens reacted and tried to gain South Carolina’s state legislature’s approval on nullifying the new tariff, and their efforts were successful. The legislature nullified the tariff, chose Hayne as South Carolina’s governor, and appointed Calhoun to fulfill Hayne’s position in the Senate. The citizens enacted all of these efforts, yet they needed the aid of their own state’s government to enforce their plan. Therefore, the government did not set forth to secure the blessings of liberty, it was merely the citizens exertions and notions.

The actions of the citizens provoked Jackson’s anger, to the point in which he sent an army to control South Carolina. Once again, the citizen’s efforts to secure their blessings of liberty aggravated the government to reprimand and control South Carolina’s revolt. South Carolina’s citizens were upset by the government’s action, so Calhoun and South Carolina called upon Clay to develop a compromise to the Force Bill. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 was the citizen’s effort to secure their blessings of liberty, and they finally succeeded as the government passed the compromise.

Works Cited

Aboukhadijeh, Feross. “Nullification Crisis.” AP U.S. History. N.p., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

Ford, Paul L. “The Avalon Project : President Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832.” The Avalon Project : President Jackson’s Proclamation Regarding Nullification, December 10, 1832. New York : Henry Holt and Company, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2013.

Ratcliffe, Donald J. “The Nullification Crisis, Souther Discontents, and the American Political Process.” American Nineteenth Century History 1.2 (2000): 1+. Print.

“The South Carolina Nullification Controversy.” The South Carolina Nullification Controversy [ushistory.org]. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2013.

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