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South Carolina Legislature meet.-Nullifying Acts.-Union Convention.-Crisis.-Course of Federal Government.-Military Preparations.-Meeting of Congress.-Proclamation of President.-Of Gov. Hayne.-Resignation of Vice President.— New Tariff Reported in House.-President's Message, asking new Powers. Mr. Calhoun's Speech.-Enforcing Bill Reported.-Mr. Calhoun's Resolutions as to Federal Powers. Mr. Grundy's.—Mr. Clayton's.-Resolutions of State Legislatures.
THE headlong course of South Carolina, during the year 1832, had placed the state government in such a hostile attitude towards the federal government, that a general expectation prevailed, that a violent collision would take place; and there was too much reason to apprehend a dissolution of the Union,--followed by civil war.
The convention which met in that state on the 19th of November, having passed the ordinance declaring the revenue laws of the Union void, adjourned-and enjoined the legislature to carry its decrees into effect. That body met directly after its adjournment, and with a promptitude and spirit which would have been beyond praise in a better cause, passed the laws necessary for that purpose.
The first act authorized the sheriff to replevy any goods
seized or detained under the U. States revenue laws, and to deliver them to the owner and consignee, and in case of a refusal to deliver them, or of their removal, to seize double the amount of the personal estate of the offender.
It also provided, that any person arrested under any judgment in the United States courts for duties, might bring an action for damages; that any sale of real estate under such judgment, should be held void; that any person paying duties might recover them back with interest; and for the punishment of all persons disobeying or resisting officers in the execution of the act. As it was not supposed that the federal government would quietly acquiesce in the destruction of its revenue system; the next act authorized the governor to resist the federal
government in any attempt to enforce the revenue laws, with the whole force of the state; and further provided for organizing the militia, and the purchase of munitions and ordnance. An act was also passed requiring all civil and military officers in the state to take an oath to execute and enforce the ordinance, and the laws passed in obedience thereto, and the state was thus placed in an attitude of opposition to the federal government; and striving to destroy the union. The gravity of history is somewhat disturbed, when we contemplate the small means that were relied upon to accomplish the overthrow of a government, based upon the general interest, and sustained by the affections of a nation consisting of thirteen millions.
Still, enough of strength was to be found on the side of the nullifying party, to render it the duty of the federal government to make timely preparations to enforce the laws which had been declared void.
The constitutional authorities of a state, were arrayed in opposition to the federal authorities; the legislature had enacted laws to arm and discipline the militia, and to impose oaths which compelled those taking them to act in violation of their allegiance to the United States.
The governor had manifested his earnest disposition to carry the designs of the legislature into effect; and while at home, he took steps to put the military force of the state in an efficient condition; he caused cannons
and other warlike munitions, to be imported from the northern states, for the more effectual nullification of the tariff.
On the other hand, the union party in South Carolina, showed equal determination to sustain the laws of the Union.
A convention of the union party, was held at Columbia, in December, where resolutions were passed protesting against the ordinance as unconstitutional and oppressive-disfranchising nearly one half of the citizens of the state, for a difference of opinion-violating the right of trial by jury,-subverting the independence of the judiciary,-and virtually destroying the Union.
The convention, in which were assembled many of the most distinguished sons of South Carolina, then declared, that while they disclaimed all intention of lawless or insurrectionary violence, they were determined to protect their rights, by all legal and constitutional means, and, "that in doing so, they would continue to maintain their character of peaceable citizens, unless compelled to throw it aside by intolerable oppression."
This resolution not to submit to the measures of the dominant party, was still more plainly expressed in the primary assemblies.
In Charleston, where they were as numerous, and in some of the mountainous districts, where they were more numerous than their opponents, meetings were held, in which it was resolved to sustain the federal government in its efforts to enforce
the revenue laws, and also to resist, by force if necessary, every attempt to carry into effect the laws passed by the state legislature, imposing unconstitutional oaths upon all civil and military officers.
An issue was now formed, which threatened an immediate resort to arms. A crisis had arrived, which could not be safely neglected.
The leading nullifiers were in possession of the state government, and acted under the imposing sanction of a state law, which, although unconstitutional, still carried a sort of authority with it. By their activity and talents, they had excited great enthusiasm among their followers, and were thus enabled to execute their measures with the cordial co-operation of a party, formidable both for its numbers and determination.
There was also no small degree of danger that should force be resorted to, the nullifiers would find supporters in some of the adjacent states.
The doctrines asserted by the nullifiers were not materially different from those of the celebrated resolutions prepared by Mr. Jefferson in 1798-9, for the Kentucky legislature: they had been directly asserted by the legislature of Virginia in 1829, and the state of Georgia had practically enforced them in relation to the Cherokee treaties, and the laws of congress passed to carry those treaties into effect.
How the citizens of those states would be disposed to act
in supporting those doctrines could not be foreseen.
There was a strong bond of sympathy between all the southern states; and although North Carolina and Alabama united in condemning nullification; there was too much reason to apprehend that any collision growing out of an attempt to enforce the tariff laws, would array a large portion of the population of the southern states on the side of South Carolina. The progress of events in that state, was consequently watched with much anxiety by the rest of the Union. With a strong conviction of the necessity of maintaining the supremacy of the federal government, there was joined a manifest reluctance to resort to force for that purpose.
The Union was, in the general opinion, too dear to be endangered, even by an adherence to a policy, which, although expedient, was not necessary. Still, those who, in defiance of the denunciations and violence of the dominant party in South Carolina, stood up for the constitution and the laws, could not be left without support in their hazardous position.
With the view of affording them the requisite aid, as well as to put down any open attempt to resist the execution of the revenue laws, a competent force was assembled at Charleston,that being the port where the commerce of the state is chiefly carried on.
The commander-in-chief of the military eastern department
(General Scott) was directed to repair to that place, to aid the civil officers of the government in the execution of the laws; and two vessels of war were ordered there for the same purpose.
Orders were also given to the commanders of the forts in the harbour, to defend them against any assault to the last extremity, and to be vigilant against all attempts to surprise them.
The forts were immediately put in a state of defence, and all the disposable force of the government was concentrated in that quarter, but in such a manner as not to render those movements obnoxious and offensive to the community.
Moderation and forbearance were inculcated on the part of the commanding officers, and they were directed to act entirely on the defensive. Equal activity was evinced by the state authorities, in making preparations to execute their designs. Depots were established for provisions and military munitions, and the volunteers who were organized in different parts of the state, to the number of 12,000 for the purpose of sustaining the system of nullification, were disciplined, as far as citizens could be, in the duties of soldiers; and orders were issued, directing them" to hold themselves in readiness to take the field at a moment's warning."
The blow seemed to be impending, which was to dissolve the Union, and to array the citizens of a state in deadly hostility against the federal government.
In this aspect of affairs con
gress assembled, and the nullifiers evinced a willingness to suspend their action against the tariff, until the termination of the session.
In the annual message, the state of affairs in South Carolina was alluded to, and an opinion was expressed that the laws were fully adequate to the suppression of all attempts which might be made to prevent the execution of the laws. If, however, any difficulty should occur, notice would be given to congress, with a suggestion of the the measures proper to remedy the evil.
A revision of the tariff laws was urged upon congress, and a reduction of duties to the standard of expenditure, was earnestly recommended. The public debt, the message stated, was about to be extinguished, and this event presented a proper occasion of reducing the duties. The system of affording a perpetual protection in the shape of high duties, never entered into the minds of but few of our statesmen, and the only protection anticipated, was that growing out of duties imposed for temporary purposes.
After stating that the protection afforded should not exceed what may be necessary to counteract the regulations of other nations, and to secure a supply of articles essential to the country in war, it was recommend ed that the protection afforded by duties higher than the ordinary revenue standard, should not be extended longer than was neces
sary for the extinguishment of the public debt.
Shortly after the assembling of congress, the president issued his proclamation, written, as is generally believed, by Mr. Livingston, the secretary of state, announcing his determination to enforce the revenue laws, and exhorting the citizens of South Carolina, as they valued the Union, or the fame of their ancestors, not to persist in their disorganizing designs.
In this proclamation, which is dated Dec. 10, 1832, he maintained that the government of the United States was a political association of one people, and not the confederation of distinct states-that it acted upon the people individually, and not upon the states-that the states had surrendered many of the essential rights of sovereignty, and that the constitution of the United States and the treaties and laws made under it, are the supreme law of the land, which no state is at liberty to disregard or to annul that if oppressive or unconstitutional laws are passed, the agrieved party may appeal to the people, who, in exercising the elective franchise, can afford a remedy to the former or to the Supreme Court of the United States, which will declare the latter to be invalid. There is also a remedy afforded in the power reserved to the people, of altering the constitution, with the assent of three fourths of the states.
All other interference with the laws of the United States, he declared to be unauthorized, and
if persisted in, as leading directly to a dissolution of the Union. It was virtually a revolution, and must end in breaking up the country into hostile sectional parties, in a state of continual war with each other.
Such were the grounds assumed by the president in his proclamation, and they were so diametrically opposite to those upon which his southern partisans had urged his election, that their publication produced great sensation throughout the country. the northern states, they were received with universal approbation, the principles being the same advocated by those, who had led the opposition to his administration; and his partisans fearing, in this crisis, to express their dissent to doctrines which every administration had felt itself obliged to act upon.
In the southern states, a different feeling was manifested.
The principles of the proclamation were so hostile to the political creed of that part of the Union, that those who revered the
sage of Monticello as the founder of their faith, and had deemed it the greatest praise to call the president a second Jefferson, paused in their adoration, and were obliged to confess that there was some difference in their views of the federal constitution.
The few dissenting voices, however, were lost in the general approbation of the country, which held itself ready to sustain those principles, as essentially necessary to the existence of the Union.
Upon South Carolina, this re