Page images
PDF
EPUB

985

THE

CIVIL WAR IN THE UNITED STATES.

INTRODUCTION.

ORIGIN OF THE SOUTHERN REBELLION-CLASSIFICATION OF ITS SEVERAL CAUSES-THE ACT OF 1816 RESPECTING A TARIFF-AGENCY OF HENRY CLAY AND JOHN QUINCY ADAMSPOSITION OF JOHN C. CALHOUN-HE FIRST CONCEIVES HIS PROJECT OF NULLIFICATIONHIS MEMORIAL TO GOVERNOR HAMILTON-THE OPERATION OF A HIGH TARIFF THE LEGISLATURE OF SOUTH CAROLINA-OUTBREAK OF THE NULLIFICATION MOVEMENT-VIGOROUS MEASURES OF PRESIDENT JACKSON-MR. CALHOUN IN THE UNITED STATES SENATE-A MEMORABLE DEBATE-FINAL SETTLEMENT OF THE DIFFICULTY-AMERICAN SLAVERY-ITS ORIGIN-THE PROPOSITION OF THOMAS JEFFERSON-SLAVERY IN THE TERRITORIES-THE COMPACT OF 1787-COMPROMISE OF HENRY CLAY-ANNEXATION OF TEXAS-THE WILMOT PROVISO-COMPROMISE OF 1850-SLAVERY IN KANSAS-RISE OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY -ITS PRINCIPLES AND POLICY-ADMINISTRATION OF JAMES BUCHANAN-TREASON IN THE FEDERAL CABINET-PRELIMINARY OPERATIONS OF THE CONSPIRATORS-POLICY OF MR. BUCHANAN RESPECTING SECESSION-PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN OF 1860-ELECTION OF MR. LINCOLN THE DOCTRINE OF STATE SOVEREIGNTY AS OPPOSED TO FEDERAL CENTRALIZATION-DISCUSSION OF THE SUBJECT.

FROM the period of the establishment of the Federal Government, the people of South Carolina have been remarkable for their restive and troublesome temper. They were among the most tardy and reluctant of the States in announcing their approval and acceptance of the Federal Constitution. They have always entertained a false and exaggerated estimate of their own importance in the Union; and in all the troubles which have disturbed and alienated the opposite portions of the country, in all the conflicts in the National Legislature which have endangered the perpetuity of the Union, they and their leading statesmen have had an unenviable prominence. Their pernicious influence has been extended on various occasions to the communities immediately around them; and in some instances their disloyal example has been followed by not a few of the Southern States. Thus it was that they were gradually instrumental in fomenting a feeling extremely hostile to the Federal Government, which at length culminated in the outbreak of the Southern Rebellion. Although the censure due to the originators and chief perpetrators of that great crime does not belong exclusively to the people of South Carolina, it is but justice to ascribe to their agency a predominating

(3)

(32)

share of it. We may arrange all the controversies which contributed to the birth of this Rebellion, under the three following general heads:

I. The Free Trade Policy, which, under the influence of Mr. Calhoun, led to the experiment of Nullification.

II. The Advocacy of Slavery, both as already existing in the Southern States, and as proposed in the new territories of the Federal Union.

III. The Doctrine of State Sovereignty and Supremacy, in opposition to the policy of Federal Centralization and Power.

In discussing the various causes which led to the Southern Rebellion, we will treat of them as comprised under these three general topics, and in the order of their historical sequence.

I. In the year 1816 an act was passed by the Federal Congress, by which a reduction of five per cent. was made on imported woolen and cotton goods. The people and the statesmen of the country who were in favor of the policy of protection, were opposed to this reduction, and determined as soon as possible to secure the adoption of a higher tariff. Accordingly, in 1824, Henry Clay and John Quincy Adams succeeded in obtaining the passage of a law, by which the profits of certain kinds of manufactures were greatly increased. It was soon discovered that the manufacturers of the Eastern States, those engaged in the iron trade in Pennsylvania, and the producers of wool and hemp in the Northern and Western States, who constituted the most important portions of the mercantile community in the nation, were not sufficiently protected by this tariff. Accordingly, in the session of Congress of 1827-8, after a long and desperate conflict with the advocates of the interests of the single staple of the South-cotton-a bill was passed imposing a tariff of duties, the average rate of which was nearly fifty per cent. on imports. This act received the votes of all the Representatives of the nation except those of the more prominent Southern States. The latter condemed it in the most violent terms: stigmatized it as a "bill of abominations;" and began to mutter threats of future resistance and vengeance.

At that period the most distinguished member of Congress from the South, with the single exception of the patriotic Henry Clay, was John Caldwell Calhoun, of South Carolina. No man excelled him, among that high and brilliant galaxy of genius, in logical acuteness, in his power of close, clear, demonstrative reasoning, in his general knowledge of the principles of international and municipal law, and in the boldness and fearlessness of his character. He was even then the Magnus Apollo of Sectionalism; and as soon as the tariff of 1828 was passed, in spite of his opposition and that of his confederates, by which the interests of the cotton States were made secondary to the welfare of the whole nation, he commenced to revolve in his mind the desperate scheme of Nullification. If the National Government would not become subservient to the promo

CLASSIFICATION OF ITS CAUSES-THE ACT OF 1816.

35

tion of the interests of the South could it not be possible to resist and overpower that government, within the limits of the offended states? Calhoun's answer to this inquiry was an affirmative one.

Immediately after the adoption of this high tariff, meetings were held in several portions of South Carolina, in which the policy of Nullification was introduced, discussed, and finally commended. At the request of some of his constituents, Mr. Calhoun prepared a document, in July, 1831, which defended this policy under the existing state of affairs. This production was styled "The South Carolina Exposition and Protest on the subject of the Tariff," and was addressed to the Legislature of the State. That body ordered a large number of copies to be printed and distributed, and afterward passed a resolution which declared the Tariff Acts of Congress for the protection of the manufacturers of the North and East unconstitutional; asserted that they ought to be resisted, and invited other States of the South to unite with South Carolina in opposing the execution of those acts within their respective limits.

At that period Andrew Jackson and Mr. Calhoun were personal and political friends. But soon the latter became dissatisfied with the administration of the former, and was gradually alienated from him. The President did not condemn the high tariff, as Mr. Calhoun believed it his duty to do; and from the year 1831 Mr. Calhoun took the position of an open enemy to his policy and his person. One cause of the hostility which thenceforth existed between these remarkable men, was the fact, that at that period General Jackson discovered that Mr. Calhoun had, while a member of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet, advised that he should be reprimanded for his conduct during the Seminole war, in putting Arbuthnot and Armbruster to death. Thenceforth there was a bitter and implacable hostility between them, which endured without abatement till the end of their lives.

Mr. Calhoun continued his active agency in preparing the people of South Carolina for forcible resistance to the Federal Government, and in preparing the way for practical Nullification. In August, 1832, he addressed a memorial of great length and marked ability to James Hamilton, at that time Governor of South Carolina, presenting all the arguments which could be devised in favor of that policy. In this production, which the people of South Carolina regarded as their Magna Charta, he assumed and defended the position that the Federal Constitution was a mere compact, which had been made and ratified by the several States which had adopted it, and that they had done so in their capacity as sovereign and independent governments. He further contended, that in adopting the Federal Constitution, the several States regarded the General Government merely as their agent in the exercise of certain powers and functions which they had delegated to that government, of the extent and nature of which the States themselves were, and always must remain, the final and supreme

judges. He concluded by endeavoring to prove, that when the General Government abused the powers thus delegated to it by the several States, in the opinion of all or any of them, the State or States so regarding it, possessed the right to resist and nullify the illegal acts performed by the Federal Government, each within its own particular limits.

These positions Mr. Calhoun defended with great vigor of thought and force of reasoning. His views were, however, in opposition to those of Washington, Hamilton, and nearly all the founders of the Federal Government. They were condemned by the whole Whig party throughout the nation; and even the majority of the Democratic party throughout the South, with the exception of South Carolina, withheld their approval of them.

The results produced by the existence and operation of a high tariff were found to be most beneficial. The surplus of the revenue constantly increased. The public debt was rapidly melting away from the ample resources furnished by the duties on imports. President Jackson stated, in his annual message of December, 1831, that soon the public debt would by this process be entirely liquidated; and recommended that, inasmuch as so high a tariff would then be no longer necessary, it should be afterward reduced. Accordingly the act of 1832 was passed by Congress, which was declared by its supporters to be the ultimatum, the permanent proportion, of imposts which ought to exist and be retained in the country.

But this wise policy did not satisfy Mr. Calhoun and his confederates. He and they insisted that if the public debt had been liquidated by the public revenue, then there was no longer a necessity for any tariff whatever; and that the reduced tariff just adopted was entirely too high to remain as the permanent law of the land, after the exigencies of the nation and of the government had been met.

As no one except the people and representatives of South Carolina could discover the force or the conclusiveness of this reasoning they stood alone in the advocacy of their position. The rest of the nation contended and believed that the machinery of the National Government involved other expenses, and required other resources besides those connected with the public debt; and consequently they insisted that there should still remain a reasonable tariff, which might furnish a sufficient revenue to meet other inevitable expenditures. They therefore refused to adopt the free trade policy, as contended for by the people and the politicians of South Carolina.

This determination was the signal for an immediate resort to desperate measures by the disaffected. The Representatives in Congress from South Carolina issued an address to the people of that State, informing them that the Federal Government had at last adopted the protective system as its permanent and unalterable policy; asserting that no hope of future relief could be entertained from that source, and urging them to adopt

« PreviousContinue »