Do you remember how manufacturing grew in the Northeastern states during the War of 1812? And how the South kept its interest in farming? This difference in occupations led to serious trouble when tariff laws were passed by Congress in 1816, 1824, and 1828. A tariff is a tax on goods imported from foreign countries. The 1828 tariff raised the price of imported goods. This meant that people would buy goods made in our own factories because these products were cheaper than foreign goods.
The tariff laws helped Northeastern manufacturers sell their products; in the South tariffs encountered opposition. Southerners had to buy much of the manufactured goods they used, and tariffs made manufactured goods more expensive. An imported woolen coat, for example, might cost one-half more than its price before the tariff was added. The 1828 law had pushed the tariff higher than ever. People in the South angrily called it the "Tariff of Abominations." (Abomination means something hateful.)
South Carolina Nullifies Tariffs
South Carolina led the South in opposing the tariff. Its legislature prepared a paper written by John Calhoun, Vice-President of the United States. This paper stated that when Congress passed a law that was unfair to a section of the country, individual states could nullify this law, so that it would not apply to them. Thus, through nullification, individual states could refuse to carry out laws passed by Congress.
No further move was made until a new tariff law was passed in 1832. Then, at a state convention called by the legislature, South Carolina nullified the tariff laws of 1828 and 1832. State spokesmen declared that they would not permit the tax to be collected in their state and that if the Federal Government tried to force South Carolina to adopt the tariff, the state would secede, or withdraw from the United States.
Jackson Puts the Nation First
Andrew Jackson, born in the South, understood the feelings of the southerners. Still, he believed in keeping the nation united. He issued a very important paper called the "Proclamation to the People of South Carolina." This paper said that no state could refuse to obey the laws of the land, nor could any state leave the Union. He asked the secretary of war to alert the forts in Charleston Harbor. "Old Hickory," as Jackson was called, believed that the laws of the land must be enforced.
Compromise Tariff of 1833
Henry Clay of Kentucky saved the day with a compromise bill that would gradually lower the tariff over a ten-year period. Congress passed it, and South Carolina was then willing to withdraw its nullification. Also, the Force Bill was passed, giving Jackson the power to use our military forces to collect the tariff if necessary. This satisfied Jackson. Thus, the nation was safe once again, and South Carolina felt that it had by no means lost the tariff fight. For the time being, people were content. But the future was to bring even more serious problems for the North and the South to solve.