Many South Carolinians opposed acts of Congress imposing tariffs—taxes on imports—in the decades following the War of 1812 (1812-1815), and a loud uproar followed the adoption of a very high tariff in 1828. This so-called Tariff of Abominations meant high prices for manufactured goods that the state’s planters had to buy. The planters also feared that European nations, where most of the state’s cotton and rice was sold, would retaliate for the U.S. tariff by levying higher tariffs on the state’s exports. In large part, however, the growing uproar over tariffs was due to developments for which the national government had little responsibility. With the opening of new cotton lands to the west, increases in the production of cotton were driving the price down, while an increasing demand for slaves drove their cost up. In South Carolina, where much of the land had eroded through poor farming methods, prosperity was becoming increasingly elusive for the planters.
Political factions in South Carolina, the so-called Nullifiers and Unionists, disagreed over the tariff issue. The Unionists believed in applying federal law, even the hated tariff, uniformly; the Nullifiers did not. Their position was expounded in 1828 by U.S. Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in a pamphlet he published, called South Carolina Exposition and Protest. Calhoun argued that the tariff violated the state’s rights and made it the slave of Northern manufacturing interests. More generally, he argued that a state had the right to nullify any federal law that infringed on the constitutional rights of its people. The Nullifiers did not attempt to put their theory into practice until they realized that the revised tariff act of 1832 offered little relief.
In November 1832 a state convention declared both tariff laws null and void, stopped their enforcement in South Carolina, and threatened secession from the federal Union if the federal government tried to enforce them. However, a compromise tariff bill was passed by Congress in 1833, largely through the efforts of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. The passage of this bill left the nullification issue unsettled. "South Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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