South Carolina: A Short History, 1520-1948

By David Duncan Wallace | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XLIII
TARIFFS, BANKING, AND THE TEXAS QUESTION, 1833-1846

THE BITTER generation from 1832 to 1860: a generation of brilliant and swift absorbing drama with half a continent for its stage; for South Carolina a generation in which her aristocracy reached its highest splendor and her poor a deep degradation, and the proudest society in America desperately staked its all on an obsolete economic order against the power of modern life constantly upbuilding a mighty North; a period of large illiteracy, of absolutely or relatively declining commerce, of a ceaseless drain of population and capital to the West, of wasting soil; a period in which the intellect of South Carolina had ceased to grow. Such were the results of South Carolina's binding herself to slavery and committing her mind to the support of impossible ideas.

The hatred between Nullifiers and Unionists lasted into the 1840's, when it rapidly fused into common hatred of abolitionism. Poinsett in 1836 resented the strict partisanship of elections by the South Carolina legislature. A Mercury correspondent denounced the removal of Nullifiers by the Charleston Council as worse than the despotism of Russia or Algiers. F. W. Pickens told Congress on May 26, 1836, that Jackson's appealing to the heterogeneous mass of the people implied a brutal tyranny such as Janissaries sometimes found freedom from by bowstringing the Sultan; and Governor McDuffie in November warned the legislature that no South Carolinian could hold office under the Federal administration without being an accomplice in overthrowing his State's vital interests.

The Dictatorship of Calhoun. --Calhoun, all but dictator of South Carolina because he so truly and powerfully expressed her views, was becoming more and more the central figure of Southern politics. Yet, "when Calhoun took snuff, South Carolina sneezed," was only half true, for he perceived when he fell into the little irregularity of approving the Federal government's improving the Mississippi River that he must be careful to take the right brand. His power in Congress was greater than ever, because he was ready, unattached to party, to throw himself to either side. He was in effect an eclectic Democrat although professing to belong to that nonexistent thing, "the Republican party of 1799."

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