Thursdays seem to be the days I’m updating right now. Work has gotten busy with tax season starting. I’ve been reading a couple of books on the Nullification Crisis involving South Carolina in the early 1800s. I haven’t gotten far enough in my reading to write a detailed report right now, so I’ll just give a brief introduction into the situation.
After the War of 1812 the American government needed to raise some money to pay the debts it accumulated during that conflict. A number of tariffs were created to collect funds and to protect American industry. All of the tariffs appeared to favor the North over the South; protecting Northern industry while hindering Southern agriculture. Additional tensions from the slavery issue as well as the growing power of the West were making for a volatile situation.
While most of the tariffs did seem to hurt the South, there were other items contributing to the decline of some of their fortunes: Many of their population was moving out to new land in the West and many farmers failed to rotate their crops, planting nothing but cotton and hurting their own fields.
The situation gave rise to a number of colorful figures including Vice-President Calhoun, who believed that each State had the right to Nullify any act of the Federal Government that they felt was unconstitutional. They claimed that the Constitution was an agreement between the States and the Federal Government was just an agent of the States. They claimed that the only way a Nullified law could be forced upon an unwilling State was for three-quarters of all States to force the law (basically amending the Constitution).
Of course, no such power is in the Constitution. But the arguments of the Nullifiers are quite interesting. I’ll give some more details as I complete my reading.
On a side note; John C. Calhoun’s hair is wild. The mad scientist in me loves his hairstyle. I wonder how he got it that way with the lack of modern styling gels…
1) Frederic Bancroft, Calhoun and the South Carolina Nullification Movement (Gloucester, Mass.; copyright 1928 by Frederic Bancroft, reprinted 1966 by permission of The John Hopkins Press)
2) William W. Freehling, The Nullification Era (Harper Torchbooks, New York; 1967)