Calhoun and Nullification
THE GREAT nullification controversy of 1832 goes to the heart and soul of the constitutional doctrines advanced in this essay, and, as a consequence, must be treated at some length. In the interests of an orderly presentation, it is proposed first merely to chronicle what happened in this period, and to touch briefly upon the great personalities who figured in that drama; secondly, it is proposed to argue the essential soundness and constitutionality of nullification, when it is invoked as a last resort against dangerous and deliberate usurpations of authority by the Federal government.
The second act adopted by the First Congress of the United States, in 1789, was a tariff law which imposed duties on "goods, wares and merchandise imported." Significantly, the act recited that its purpose was not alone to raise revenues for the support of government and the discharge of public debts, but also "for the encouragement and protection of manufactures."104 From that day until comparatively recent times,105 students of the Constitution have vigorously debated the authority of Congress to utilize its taxing power beyond the aim of raising revenue. This first tariff law was so mild in its provisions, however, that few serious apprehensions were aroused; it was not until the tariff of 1816, imposing duties averaging about 20 per cent upon the covered imports, that a few cries of alarm began to be heard.106 Again, these protests were not loud--Calhoun himself supported the tariff of 1816 (in an impulsive speech he was to regret all his life), and later was agreeable to accepting it as the basis for a permanent law.107 But with the sharply increased tariff of 1824, which very nearly doubled the average rates of 1816, all the latent fears of free traders were aroused. The higher tariffs imposed a severe