The Tariff of 1832

Instructor: Molly Richards

Molly has ten years of middle school teaching experience and two master's degrees in teaching.

The Tariff of 1832 further divided the Northern and Southern United States over economic issues. This tariff, amongst other differences, laws, and compromises, would eventually lead to the Civil War.

Colonial Settlements

Colonial Regions of the US

When colonists came to the United States in the early 1700s, many were looking to begin their lives again, hopefully with more freedoms and less oppression than they experienced in England. Each of the original 13 colonies offered different ways of life based on the weather, location, and resources of the area. Due to these differences, the North became a location for manufacturing and business and industry, while the South focused primarily on farming, specifically cotton and tobacco. While these differences complimented each other, with each region providing something for the other, they would actually contribute to dividing the nation and eventually lead to the Civil War.

Cheap Imports

In the 1800s, the northern region of the United States was in the beginning stages of the Industrial Revolution, a time when machines began replacing the work of people at a much faster rate. However, the northern US was not alone and had some competition from Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution began. Great Britain was still producing goods at a faster, cheaper rate, making it difficult for many new American businesses to compete. Many Americans wanted to protect American-made goods by putting a tariff, or tax, on imported goods.

This made much sense for the North, as it would encourage Americans to buy domestic products as they would be cheaper, given that they were not subject to the tariff; however this idea hurt the South. The South was primarily an agricultural or farming region that produced and sold raw goods, the biggest being cotton. While they supplied cotton to the North, they also supplied cotton to Great Britain and bought goods from Great Britain as well. Because these tariffs would make it more expensive for Great Britain to export their finished products to the U.S., they would then have less money to spend on purchasing their needed raw materials, particularly cotton, from the South.

Series of Tariffs

Despite the concerns from the South, Congress passed a series of protectionist tariffs, taxes assessed on imports in order to protect US made goods. The first tariff was passed in 1816 and placed a 25% tax on all imported goods. The second tariff passed in 1824 and raised this percentage to 35% for certain raw goods, including cotton. A third tariff passed in 1828 and raised the tax to 50%. This third tariff angered the southerners so much that it became known as the Tariff of Abominations.

Tariff of 1832 and the Nullification Crisis

South Carolina was the state most affected by these series of tariffs and they took the lead for the Southern opposition and demanded that the tariffs be reduced. Vice President John C. Calhoun happened to be from South Carolina and took the lead in demanding tariff reduction from Congress. Many people from South Carolina wanted to secede, no longer be part of the Union, if the tariffs were not reduced. Calhoun thought this idea was a little drastic and instead called for nullification, the right for a state to declare a federal law unconstitutional.

Not wanting any problems, the 'Great Compromiser' of the 1800s, Henry Clay, urged Congress to reduce the tariff. Henry Clay was well known for his series of laws that tried to appease both the North and the South. In 1832, Congress listened to Clay and Calhoun and approved the Tariff of 1832, which brought the import taxes back down to 35%, but this was not enough for South Carolina. In November of 1832, South Carolina nullified the tariff, thereby making a formal declaration that the tariffs were 'null and void' in South Carolina. This act is known as the Nullification Crisis.

President Jackson

Not wanting to back down, President Andrew Jackson believed this to be treason, or betrayal against the United States, and ordered federal troops down to South Carolina. He had the support of Congress who passed the Force Bill in 1833 which allowed the federal government to use soldiers to enforce laws.

The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay
Henry Clay

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