South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification of 1832

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  • 0:02 Nullification Crisis of 1832
  • 0:45 Tariffs and Tensions
  • 3:08 Nullification
  • 5:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Daniel Vermilya
The South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification in 1832 was a moment where sectional tensions between the North and South nearly boiled over into conflict and disunion. While the crisis was diffused by compromise, it was a sign of things to come.

Nullification Crisis of 1832

No doubt, most Americans are familiar with the American Civil War. In 1860, South Carolina became the first Southern state to secede from the Union, and numerous other Southern states followed suit, joining the Confederate States of America. This struggle led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of men, and it occurred because of deep tensions that had been boiling under the surface of American politics for decades. Perhaps no other time before the Civil War saw those tensions come closer to creating a catastrophe than the Nullification Crisis of 1832. Let's learn more about this moment of sectional tension that occurred thirty years before the American Civil War.

Tariffs and Tensions

In the first half of the 19th century, the northern and southern parts of the United States became increasingly divided over many issues. In the North, the economy became heavily based in industrialization. Throughout the North, rail lines were built, along with roads, canals, and factories. The industrialization of the North came along with a growing population. The Northern economy was diversified and led to massive production of many goods. Production of goods required raw materials, many of which were imported. In the early years of the 19th century, to fund internal improvement projects such as the construction of roads and canals, Congress relied heavily on tariffs, or taxes imposed on imported or exported goods. In 1828, Martin Van Buren, a senator at the time, crafted a tariff that would levy high taxes on those goods imported to New England and some Southern states. The tariff became known as the Tariff of Abominations, and it set off great anger in the South.

During this time when the North was increasingly industrialized, the South became increasingly reliant upon agriculture. Primarily, Southern states thrived on cotton. Slavery was at the center of the Southern economy, and it enabled a planter class to rise in wealth and political power. High tariffs, such as the Tariff of 1828, affected many goods imported and exported with other nations, such as England. Much of the Southern crop of cotton was sent to England, so the Southern states resisted high tariffs that hurt their trade with the British. At the same time, the South had to pay high taxes on items that it could not produce on its own, which cost Southern planters in numerous ways and made the tariff quite unpopular with them. In addition, the planters did not approve of such a tariff coming from a centralized government in Washington, which they believed was not representing their best interests.

In 1828, Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States. While many Southerners hoped that Jackson, himself a Southerner, would oppose this tariff and work to lessen its effects, they were wrong. Jackson did not work to mitigate the tariff's effects. Southerners, especially South Carolinians, then turned their hopes to Jackson's vice president and native South Carolinian, John C. Calhoun.

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