them, which was destined to be tried by political dissensions that divided parties, alienated friends, and came very near dissolving the bonds of the Union itself.
Leading statesmen of the South considered high rates of tariff upon foreign importations as destructive to the interests of the nonmanufacturing States. They regarded it as exceedingly unjust on the part of the General Government to institute such a policy. They conceived that no such imposition is authorized by the Constitution of the United States, and that any act of Congress, providing for the collection of excessive duties, is in violation of the true intent and meaning of that instrument, and is therefore "null and void, and no law."
Those who entertained these views regarded the cause in the fundamental law which acknowledges that all powers not delegated to the General Government are reserved to the States as one of the greatest importance; and that on its faithful observance depends the growth, development and welfare of the individual States, and the perpetuity of the Union.
In 1824, a vehement but ineffectual opposition was made in Congress to a protective tariff bill; and when that body passed a law increasing the rates of duty, as was done in 1828, the whole country became profoundly agitated. The delegation in Congress from South Carolina held a meeting, and discussed the question of resigning their seats; and also the question of declaring the law to be void, and of no effect within the State.
Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and other Southern States passed resolutions in their respective Legislatures, exhibiting their extreme opposition to the measure; and every where throughout the South there were indications of imminent danger of a disruption of the Union.
In neither of the States, however, was there such unanimity among the friends of nullification as to make it prudent in their judgment, to attempt to put it into practical effect.
The change, too, in the administration led them to expect a satisfactory modification of the obnoxious law; and during the summer of 1829 their efforts were directed towards influencing the public mind in opposition to it.
The opponents of the administration had a decided majority in Congress, and the President vetoed several bills that had been passed by that body, which were antagonistic to the views of the States Rights party; and for some time there was no open breach between General Jackson and his party friends, and to all appearances they were in harmony. But various disturbing elements were in existence and influences were at work which, by the end of the second session of the 21st Congress, the beginning of 1831, indicated plainly that there was a division among the friends of the administration.
In the election for members of Congress in 1831, Mr. Carson was again elected.
In the Presidential election which took place in 1832, the ultra States Rights men having lost confidence in General Jackson, refused to support him, and there were different parties, some of which possessed great strength, in opposition to him; but the elements of opposition were too incongruous to admit of any union between them, and General Jackson was re-elected.
Never had there been questions presented to the country which involved such interests.
On the 27th of November, of the same year, the Convention of South Carolina met, and soon after the Act of Nullification was passed.
Everywhere the feelings of the people were wrought up to the highest pitch of excitement. Passions were aroused in many places, almost to a state of frenzy, and to all appearances civil war was inevitable.
Index - Contents