Portrait of John C. Calhoun

Led by U.S. Vice-President John C. Calhoun, a special Convention of the People of South Carolina adopted the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, on November 24, 1832, declaring that both the Tariff of 1828 and the Tariff of 1832 were unconstitutional and that the citizens of South Carolina considered them to “be held utterly null and void.” The document sparked a confrontation between the federal government and the State of South Carolina known as the Nullification Crisis. [Wikimedia]

Nullification Crisis, Facts

1832–1833

The Nullification Crisis took place between 1832 and 1833. It was a political dispute between the Federal Government and South Carolina that nearly led to the outbreak of civil war. It shed light on the regional issues between the states in the North and South, and also laid the groundwork for the secession of the Southern States after the election of Abraham Lincoln.

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Definition of the Nullification Crisis

The Nullification Crisis is defined as a political dispute between the Federal Government and the government of South Carolina over tariffs that were designed to protect manufacturers in the Northern states who were competing with British manufacturers. South Carolina threatened to secede from the Union and President Andrew Jackson sent Federal troops to Charleston. With the nation on the brink of civil war, a compromise was brokered by Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, and hostilities were avoided.

Facts About the Nullification Crisis

Date and Location of the Nullification Crisis

  • Date Started: 1832
  • Date Ended: 1833
  • Location: South Carolina

Key Participants in the Nullification Crisis

  • U.S. President Andrew Jackson
  • U. S. Vice-President John C. Calhoun
  • U.S. Senator Robert Hayne
  • South Carolina Governor James Hamilton, Jr.
  • U.S. Senator Henry Clay

Timeline of the Nullification Crisis

October 25, 1832

The South Carolina legislature enacted a measure authorizing a statewide convention to consider a response to the enactment of the Tariff of 1832.

November 19, 1832

The Convention of the People of South Carolina convened in Columbia, South Carolina.

November 24, 1832

The delegates to the Convention of the People of South Carolina passed the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification by a vote of 136 to 26.

The official title of the proclamation was “An ordinance to nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws laying duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities.”

William Harper drafted the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification.

The South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification stated three important things:

  1. That Congress exceeded its constitutional authority to lay duties for the purpose of raising revenue by instead imposing duties “intended for the protection of domestic manufactures and . . . classes and individuals . . . . “
  2. That “the people of the State of South Carolina . . . do declare and ordain” that the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 “are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State.”
  3. That “we, the people of South Carolina . . . do further declare that we will not submit to the application of force on the part of the federal government, to reduce this State to obedience, but that we will consider the passage, by Congress, of any act authorizing the employment of a military or naval force against the State of South Carolina . . . as inconsistent with the longer continuance of South Carolina in the Union; and that the people of this State will henceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States; and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate government.”

November 24, 1832

The Convention of the People of South Carolina adjourned and distributed copies of the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification to President Andrew Jackson and the governor of each state in the Union.

December 10, 1832

President Andrew Jackson responded to the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification by issuing A Proclamation Regarding Nullification.

In his Proclamation Regarding Nullification, President Andrew Jackson made clear his determination “to execute the laws (and) to preserve the Union by all constitutional means,” including “recourse to force; and . . . the shedding of a brother’s blood” if necessary.

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In response to the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, President Andrew Jackson sent military reinforcements to the federal fortifications in Charleston Harbor.

December 20, 1833

The South Carolina legislature approved resolutions, including one that reaffirmed the state’s position, and threatened secession:

That each state of the Union has the right, whenever it may deem such a course necessary for the preservation of its liberties or vital interests, to secede peaceably from the Union, and that there is no constitutional power in the general government, much less in the executive department, of that government, to retain by force such state in the Union.”

The South Carolina legislature also voted to mobilize the state militia.

March 2, 1833

In response to the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, the U.S. Congress enacted “An Act further to provide for the collection of duties on imports,” commonly known as the Force Act.

The Force Act authorized “the president to use armed forces to protect customs officers and to prevent the unauthorized removal of untaxed vessels and cargo” in violation of the tariffs of 1828 and 1832.

Congress also enacted the compromise Tariff of 1833 that authorized the gradual reduction of many of the protective duties imposed by the tariffs of 1828 and 1832.

March 11, 1833

The Convention of the People of South Carolina was re-convened in Columbia.

March 15, 1833

The delegates to the Convention of the People of South Carolina voted 153-4 to rescind the South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification because Congress had enacted the compromise Tariff of 1833.

March 18, 1833

Delegates to the Convention of the People of South Carolina approved an ordinance nullifying the Force Act by a vote of 132-19.

Results of the Nullification Crisis

  1. The Nullification Crisis was the first time a dispute between the Federal Government and a state government teetered on the verge of civil war.
  2. It amplified regional differences between the North and the South.
  3. It failed to resolve the complex and controversial issue of state’s rights.
  4. South Carolina’s actions set a precedent for future disputes between the Federal Government and the Southern states.
  5. President Jackson’s handling of the Nullification Crisis led to his political opponents forming the Whig Party.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Nullification Crisis, Facts
  • Coverage 1832–1833
  • Author
  • Keywords Nullification Crisis, John C. Calhoun, South Carolina
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date August 16, 2022
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update June 9, 2022
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