The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina/Chapter 4
A YEAR OF CAMPAIGNING (1831)
The leaders of the State Rights party, although defeated in their attempt to procure a convention, had interpreted the legislature's vote on the resolutions, especially the sixth, to mean that the legislature would be prepared to act as soon as the members then in doubt had lost all hope of redress from Congress. Thenceforward their program was to draw from the work of Congress lessons of misplaced confidence, preach against the tariff with renewed vigor, and thus to try to prepare the people for positive action. By this process many recruits were gained.
To Calhoun it appeared certain that the general government would not relax its hold unless compelled to do so; and it could not be forced to this action unless the South should unite in earnest and vigorous pressure, which he thought it almost hopeless to expect so long as Jackson maintained his popularity and his straddle on the tariff, unless one of the states should nullify the tariff acts. He therefore concluded that South Carolina, the only state which could possibly be brought to "put herself on her sovereignty," must make every effort to do so. Nullification seemed at times to have hearty support in the neighboring states of Georgia and North Carolina, and it was believed by some that the doctrine would surely spread throughout the plantation states; but while in some states there seemed to be a party ready to support it, in no state did this party show prospects of influencing the state to act immediately. Meanwhile, from Virginia there came distinctly adverse reports.
Thus during the first half of 1831, while Congress was in session, the Nullification presses in South Carolina kept pounding away, first on the tariff and then on nullification, painting that remedy in ever more beautiful colors. Calhoun was forced to take an open stand on the question of the relation of the states to the general government before he had expected to do so. In July he issued a long public letter which at once appeared in most of the State Rights papers. It amounted to little more than a restatement of the Exposition; but this time his authorship was published. He did not expect that his statement or any force of argument could change public opinion in the North, but he did feel assured that the "coming confusion and danger," which he had "for years foreseen," would do so. Then he hoped to see the government restored to one based on the republican principles of 1798.
Another event which the State Rights press exploited was an attempt by I. E. Homes and Alexander Mazyck to bring a case into court in order to get a decision upon the constitutionality of the tariff. The judge, however, would entertain only such evidence as related to the mere execution of the bond and would not admit the point of constitutionality for consideration.
To promote its cause the party took occasion to give a State Rights ball for Governor James Hamilton, Jr., on March 3, in Charleston, at which the decorations were exclusively "emblematic of the cause of the South" and of the "Carolina Doctrines." In the center of the floor was placed a huge palmetto tree eighteen feet high, in perfect foliage, to enkindle state pride and loyalty in the heart of every guest the moment he entered the hall. It was encircled with colored lamps and bore around it a transparency labeled Noli me tangere, below which was coiled a rattlesnake. This reptile was often associated with the palmetto as an emblem of the state to hint that while South Carolina, like the rattlesnake, would give a warning, the stroke which followed would be fatal.
When the State Rights and Free Trade party met in Charleston on June 25 to appoint delegates to the Philadelphia free-trade convention, it proceeded to complete the organization of a State Rights association, for which a committee to frame a constitution had been appointed at a previous meeting. This constitution provided for a president, six vice-presidents, a secretary, a treasurer, and a standing committee of nine to carry on correspondence with other committees, publish tracts, and call meetings. There was to be a regular meeting every month, and extra meetings might be called at discretion. The initiation fee was fixed at one dollar and the dues at twelve and a half cents a month. The constitution furthermore contemplated the holding of semiannual conventions of all such associations in the state, at Columbia in December and at Charleston in March. The state-wide movement for federated associations made such rapid progress that before the end of August as many as twenty-two meetings had been held in different parts of the state, at nearly all of which associations were formed. The constitutions were all modeled after that of the Charleston association, the central association of the state. The party press made much of , and took great hope from, the movement.
On November 7 the Charleston Association recommended that the auxiliary associations scattered over the state appoint delegates to a convention to be held at Columbia in December to adopt a more efficient plan of publishing and distributing among the people information in regard to the American system, the interests of the South, and its constitutional and confederate rights. During the fall the state seems to have given itself up to the business of politics. Dinners and meetings were reported from all quarters. The convention met at Columbia on December 5. The roll showed a representation of from one to nine delegates from each of thirty associations. A committee was appointed to prepare an address to the people of the state on the object of the associations, and provision was made for the printing of ten thousand copies. A committee on tracts and one on contributions were put to work. Preparations to distribute tracts were discussed and an enthusiastic proprietor of stage lines offered to transmit gratuitously all packages sent by the State Rights associations.
The Union men were equally active. They promptly denoimced the State Rights associations as Jacobinical, and compared the officers of the Charleston association to Marat and Robespierre. The whole movement was called an imperium in imperio designed to subvert all law and government, and was spoken of, indeed, as the actual commencement of civil war and revolution. The Union papers teemed with articles against the heresy of nullification. As to the famous sixth resolution of the last session of the legislature, passed by a vote of 90 to 24, of which the State Rights men were making so much, some of the Unionists contended that there was no warrant for nullification in it and that three-fourths of those who voted for it would deny that they had voted for nullification or sanctioned it as a constitutional means of redress. Others, however, as they reflected upon the legislature's transactions and upon the work of Congress, admitted that the outlook was gloomy.
While Joel R. Poinsett believed that the Nullification or Convention party was not as strong as had been thought, William Drayton was of the opposite view. It appeared to him that many members of the legislature who voted against the calling of a convention were not against that measure upon principle, but were merely averse to it at that time, and that the addition of their group to those who favored the immediate call would have made a constitutional majority. The Union presses, however, continuing to keep up a bold front, answered the Nullifiers now with argument, now with irony and sarcasm. Each party, thinking that nothing succeeds like success, claimed that it was in the ascendant and that the other was dead or dying.
It was pointed out that a Union which had flourished for half a century was rudely menaced with dissolution for an alleged palpable violation of the national Constitution; but when it was recollected that a Calhoun, a McDuffie, a Hayne, and a Hamilton had been the alternate defenders and defamers of the national Constitution, the sober-minded patriot should solemnly pause and distrust the views of such men, who would now demolish the political accomplishments of a Washington, a Madison, a Jefferson, and a Franklin, to furnish speculative statesmen with materials and opportunities for uprearing a more splendid structure on their ruins. The editor who reasoned thus thought that the excitement in regard to the tariff could be allayed by a little sound reasoning and concession on both sides. He thought that the South was not suffering under the tariff as much as she imagined, and that the most of the protection afforded was pmrely incidental — a sort the South admitted to be constitutional.
The Charleston City Gazette took delight in agreeing with the suggestion of a New Haven paper, that the names of a large number of distinguished individuals in South Carolina should be printed along with those of the members of the Hartford convention, when the latter list appeared on the yearly anniversary of that event — an attention provided for by the gift of some patriotic individual in order to effect the uncomfortable immortality of the Hartford participants. The same paper held that there was probably as much to be apprehended from a too frequent discussion of revolutionary doctrines as from the general apathy which was supposed to precede despotism. This editor's greatest consolation was his belief that the clamors against the usurpations of a corrupt majority came, not from sound patriarchs, the men of matured intelligence, virtue, and acknowledged patriotism, but solely from the discontented place-seekers. He was so firmly convinced of this that, though he admitted that it was possible for men of talents and honor to talk deliberately and philosophically upon a subject of this kind, he doubted the patriotism and integrity of any man who would openly or covertly advocate disunion on account of any pretended usurpations or inequalities in legislation that had ever occurred under the Constitution.
Other men, too, who were apparently in a position to know, ascribed evil motives to the Nullifiers. William Smith wrote from Washington that though the Calhoun party men professed to be opposed to the tariff, they pursued no regular system to bring about a reduction of it. They allowed a feeble effort to be made against the tariff, so feeble that they knew it must fail, and then exulted over the failure as argument against the Union men. He believed that they wanted, not a reduction of the tariff, but grievances. He reported that the doctrine of "Nullification and Convention" was as odious at Washington as its most ardent opponents could wish; that those who supported it realized their situation, were uneasy, and hoped yet to see Georgia embroiled with the general government over the Cherokee Indian case, in which event they might join and make common cause with that state.
One of the most bitter opponents of nullification was the able and sarcastic editor of the Columbia Free Press and Hive. It was such a disgrace in South Carolina to have any connection with manufacturing interests that men would fight if accused of it. In the course of his campaign the Free Press and Hive editor appears to have printed a list of John Preston's property to show that the latter was interested in some manufacturing enterprises. It was thought that this would reflect disadvantageously upon his brother, William Preston, who was a candidate. The result was a visit to the editor's office by John Preston and a lively fisticuff. About the same time a fight occurred between James H. Hammond, a Columbia editor, and C. F. Daniels, editor of the Camden Journal. This affair grew out of some comments on an election, in response to which Hammond made a special trip to Camden to chastise the editor. The contest waxed hot, and although Union men seemed to be in personal danger if they became too offensive to their opponents, champions were not wanting. Especially did they resent the charge of being "Submission men."
The Greenville Mountaineer, in contrast to some papers referred to above, did not impugn the motives of such men as John C. Calhoun, Robert Y. Hayne, George McDuffie, and James Hamilton, Jr., but its editor professed to feel certain that the leaders and advocates of nullification did not apprehend the dangers which he foresaw would result from these doctrines. They, no doubt, thought the doctrines not only constitutional, but wise and judicious. But was it not enough to make them pause and reflect when Judge Daniel E. Huger, Judge William Smith, Colonel William Drayton, Judge J. P. Richardson, Chancellor Desaussure, Judge David Johnson, Judge William Johnson, Judge J. B. O'Neall, Judge Lee, Governor Richard I. Manning, Governor Bennett, Colonel Taylor, Joel R. Poinsett, James L. Petigru, Hugh S. Legaré, and many others, distinguished alike for their virtues, talents, patriotism, and public services, not only regarded them as dangerous political heresies, but as the very seeds of disunion, discord, and revolution? Why was it, he asked, that the South must get rid of the tariff at all hazards? Was it more oppressive or more unconstitutional than other laws to which they had submitted?
The embargo was at one time, and the existing system of internal improvements was now, more ruinous to the country than the tariff. The purchase of Louisiana and the establishment of the National Bank were more glaring infractions of the Constitution than the encouragement of manufactures by protective duties. The Alien and Sedition laws were infinitely more alarming and more odious to the feelings of freemen than any measures Congress had passed before or since. And yet these oppressive and unconstitutional acts of the general government had been submitted to by the people of South Carolina with no thought of disunion or nullification. The general tendency, he thought, was for these excesses to cure themselves by natural reaction. The Sedition law had expired amidst the execrations of the people; and the Alien law remained a dead letter on the statute books. The purchase of Louisiana was considered the noblest act of Jefferson's administration. The system of internal improvements had been checked and stopped by the wisdom and firmness of Jackson, and the National Bank would probably soon receive its death blow from the same hand. Things had gone wrong before and had become right; they might do so again. The blessings the people enjoyed in spite of their alleged grievances were so great that they should "rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of."
John C. Calhoun and George McDuffie were singled out by the Unionists for especially vigorous attack during the summer. The people who were quoting these men were reminded that they had erred before on some of the most important measures adopted by the government, and that they might be erring again; and that, at any rate, the mere mention of their names was not to be regarded as proof of the rectitude of a policy. Early in the summer a dinner was given in McDuffie's honor at Charleston, at which, in a three hours' speech, he spoke strongly for nullification, and rehearsed his argument that the producer and not the consumer paid the duty on importations and that the southern planter annually gave to the government or to the northern manufacturers forty out of every one hundred bales of cotton he raised. McDuffie's speech attracted much attention and was attacked generally by the Union press of the state as well as by that of the North. The editor of the Camden Journal averred that McDuffie's tariff theories could be proved unsound by a schoolboy of ordinary intelligence. He praised McDuffie, however, for admitting that nullification was not a constitutional or pacific measure, while he denounced him for trying to persuade the people to hazard their all in resisting the tariff.
Calhoun's public letter of July 26, 1831, to the Pendleton Messenger—his "Exposé," as it was called—was widely printed throughout the state, and was as widely attacked by the Union men, who tried to show that he had a wrong conception of the federal system. The editor of the Columbia Free Press and Hive in particular, not at all chastened by Preston's assault, indulged in elaborate rodomontade against Calhoun and his theories.
Of course during all this controversy the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions were repeatedly spoken of by the Nullifiers as justifying their theories. Many Unionists, on the other hand, denied that nullification of the South Carolina brand could be found in those resolutions. William Drayton, in an oration on July 4, 1831, gave the explanation of those resolutions which circulated widely as the platform of most of the Union party. He regarded them in a twofold aspect, as offering two modes of resistance, one constitutional and the other revolutionary; the former including all the legal means of arresting a political evil under the federal system, such as declarations, remonstrances, and joint protests by the states; the latter, extra-constitutional in character, recognizing the right of a state to secede when all these regular and constitutional means had failed. This explanation was said to be in exact conformity with James Madison's letter of August, 1830, interpreting those oft-cited resolutions.
In the same oration Drayton took special delight in tearing the Exposition to pieces. In the first place, he supported the Exposition, by an elaborate argument, in its assertion that the tariff acts of 1824 and 1828 were unconstitutional, but he did not agree that previous to these acts there was no case in point of similar unconstitutional legislation.
As to the enumeration of the evils resulting from the tariff, he felt that the Exposition was greatly in error. He attacked the position that the southern people as producers of the great export staples bore the bulk of the burden of the tariff. Only in so far as they were consumers of articles upon which there were import duties were they bearers of the tariff burden. Therefore, since the computation of the share of the contributions of the two sections to the general treasury was based upon the assumption that protective duties fell upon exports, the calculation was wrong.
As for the remedy recommended to prevent the operation of the tariff acts upon the state of South Carolina — nullification — he had no sympathy with it, because if such a doctrine were reduced to practice the Union could not subsist. He agreed that the states were sovereign in many respects, but emphatically denied that these included, by "clear implication," a veto on the action of the general government on contested points of authority. That the Constitution sanctioned such a remedy to prevent the encroachment of the general government on the reserved rights of the states, he would by no means admit, because if a state regarded a law as unconstitutional and could effectively interpose its veto, the very tribunal authorized by the Constitution to decide finally whether a law was constitutional would be ousted from its jurisdiction, and the judicial power of the United States would be nugatory where it was most essential.
Furthermore, he could not understand how the supporters of the Exposition could, with it, admit that the Supreme Court had an indispensable and constitutional power to nullify the acts of state legislatures which, in its opinion, conflicted with the powers delegated to the general government, and yet claim, with the Exposition, that a state had a constitutional right to "control the action of the general government on contested points of authority," whenever, in the opinion of the state, the action of the general government conflicted with the powers delegated to it. The sovereign states entered into a compact, which was the federal Constitution; the powers which they reserved they might still exercise unhindered; but such as they granted to the federal government they could not exercise nor resume, as long as that government lasted.
The argument that the Exposition recommended not an unqualified but a suspensive veto, until the power in question should be sanctioned by an amendment to the Constitution, Drayton pronounced meaningless. If a state could control the action of the general government on contested points of authority under the Constitution, it could do so also under an amendment. Even though an amendment were passed for a specific purpose, difference of interpretation might arise, as had happened in the case of the Eleventh Amendment. The state veto must end in civil war, and could not be a peaceful remedy, unless the President should fail to perform his duty. As to secession and a dissolution of the Union, he believed it not only impossible but unworthy of contemplation.
There was even a lingering defense of the tariff in the state, both as to its constitutionality and as to its expediency. The Union and State Rights Gazette, which was established in Charleston in the early fall of 1831, was an avowed pro-tariff paper. The Southern Patriot denied that this sheet printed the doctrines of the Union party, but a Mercury writer said that it looked very much as though it must be an orthodox Union paper. "A Party Concerned" answered the Patriot's hasty denial and contended that the paper was what it purported to be, a collection of essays from the daily Union papers, reprinted for convenient circulation in the country to combat the heresy of nullification; and that the Patriot was apparently yielding more credence to the exaggerated misstatements of the Nullifiers about the evils of the tariff than the Union party would admit. This writer felt positive that half of the party regarded these exaggerated misstatements as mere humbug.
For instance, he asked, who believed the nonsense that the planters were plundered by the government of forty bales of cotton out of every hundred ? Who believed that the hard times of 1823 were caused by the tariff of 1824? "Who but a gull" believed that the tariff had reduced the price of cotton from 20 cents to 10 cents? Surely not as many as one-fourth of the Union party believed such nonsense, for they knew that it was a trick of the Nullifiers to say that the citizens of the state were unanimous as to the evil and differed only as to the remedy. Surely the Union party would not yield this point, for that meant the yielding of the whole question and the precipitation of civil war. If it were true that the tariff was palpably unconstitutional and that it had reduced the South to hopeless ruin, what mattered it whether the remedy was constitutional or not? The only question a sensible man would then ask. would be as to its effectiveness.
The truth as to the constitutionality of the tariff was that the best and wisest men differed; but as to the evil results of the present tariff the adherents of the Union party unanimously agreed that the results had been grossly exaggerated and that when they were compared to the evil effects of disunion they were as "the dust in the balance." The Union men therefore were opposed to nullification because it was a remedy worse than the disease, and every man who would make the disease out to be worse than the remedy justified the remedy. This was a fair statement of the position of the majority of the Union party as to what they believed to be misstatements about the evils of the tariff. The pro-tariff complexion of the Union and State Rights Gazette represented only a small minority of the Union party.
In preparation for the Fourth of July the Union men at Charleston held a meeting on May 30 in "Seyle's Long Room," their usual gathering place, and made plans for festivities of their own separate from those of the State Rights party. At once the papers on both sides were flooded with a discussion of this new departure from the usual custom of having one imited celebration. The Courier, Gazette, and Patriot of course supported the Union project, but the Mercury denounced the idea of making the celebration of that day a mere party measure, and pleaded for the continuance of the custom by which on "the glorious Fourth" the various societies and military corps of every political complexion, repaired to the churches after the parade, accompanied by their fellow-citizens, to offer prayers and hear orations in celebration of the achievements of the fathers. The Union press answered that the new departure meant simply that the people had resolved no longer to be insulted at every recurrence of the Fourth of July by orations and toasts violative of every national and historic principle. On the last two anniversaries of Independence Day, they declared, the nullification orators had poured out expressions of their hatred for the Union party, and their toasts and speeches had teemed with the most rancorous abuse. The supporters of the Union party had simply determined that they would no longer be abused to their faces and that Carolina was no longer to be thus misrepresented.'
As the day of celebration approached, party spirit ran so high that there was talk of the possibility of July 4 being a bloody day; but such idle talk was confined mainly to the Mercury. Adherents of the State Rights party, not to be outdone, made as extensive preparations as their opponents, and invited all the societies and volunteer corps of the city to celebrate with them. The three leading societies of the city were the Revolutionary, Cincinnati, and '76 societies. The State Rights party had gained control of the last two and refused the Union men a chance to be heard. These societies now became strictly partisan.
When the day arrived, each party had its parade, prayers, orations, reading of original odes, etc., and each ended the day with a dinner. That of the Union party lasted from 4:00 to 10:00 p.m., with speeches and toasts of such length and number as to testify to great devotion to the cause on the part of those who would sit through to the end. No clash of arms occurred, but from this day forth party lines were most severely drawn. Even the ladies had a chance to express their party affiliations at a "soirée" given for them on July 6 by the Union party in its "Bower"; and the State Rights party, also recognizing the feminine influence, had an affair for its own ladies.
All over the state the customary festivities of July 4 were characterized by much party feeling. The toasts, both "regular" and "volunteer," dealt with the political situation. The Charleston celebration attracted much attention and the speeches were widely quoted. As an example of what political capital was made of some of these speeches, the Camden Beacon held that because Hugh S. Legaré said that the tariff was not oppressive, and because Petigru said that it was constitutional, the Submission party of the state was one with Daniel Webster, New England, Tariff, Federal party. All this was deduced from Legaré's assertion that the decay of the lower country, the fall of the price of cotton, and the comparative unproductiveness of slave labor had no connection with the tariff. The Journal immediately and justly denied that he and his party were in favor of the tariff.
The committee in charge of the Union celebration in Charleston had invited President Jackson to be present on the Fourth. The President replied to the invitation on June 14 in a letter commending the party. He made some reference to those who might pursue a course not so trustful in the justice of the national councils, which was interpreted by the State Rights party as a threat of coercion to intimidate the people and render them less disposed to "execute their most sacred duty." Accordingly, the State Rights men, after the publication of this letter, held meetings all over the state to reprimand the President and to refute his insinuation that the State Rights and Free Trade party opposed the Union. Colleton district, which eagerly seized such opportunities, at a meeting at Walterboro denounced Jackson's threat of coercion as a gross assertion of tyrannical power. Thereafter most of the meetings held to form State Rights associations took occasion to censure the President.
As late as October 15, 1830, the general impression appears to have been that the Jackson administration was entirely in sympathy with the Nullifiers. Some of the Union men saw, however, that though the Nullifiers were thus confident and called themselves the only true Jackson men, their doctrines, if ever put into practice, would bring disgrace to his name; this he must see before long, and then the delusion of the Nullifiers would be banished. The idea, however, that the Unionists were not in favor at Washington and that the Nullifiers were supported by the President and the Secretary of State, paralyzed the strength of the Union well-wishers for a time. A letter from Jackson under date of October 26, 1830, shows that at that very time he supposed that everyone acquainted with him knew that he was opposed to the nullification doctrine, as he had repeatedly declared himself so. Other assurances soon came to the Union party that the President was in sympathy with it, and by the end of February the press began to reflect the true position of the President.
There were slight beginnings of the presidential campaign early in 1830, but the campaign began more in earnest in the next year, after the publication of the Jackson-Calhoun correspondence over the Seminole affair. It was then not long before some State Rights papers showed coldness toward the General, and after his letter of June 14 nearly all were his openly avowed opponents. The Union papers, of course, were all his admirers and supporters.
The rupture between Jackson and Calhoun was caused by the story of an incident which occurred in a cabinet meeting in 1818, after Jackson had seized some Spanish posts in Florida and had placed the United States government in an embarrassing situation. Calhoun had suggested that Jackson had transcended his orders in conducting the campaign and that in all such cases a court of inquiry was indispensable to preserve the discipline of the army and maintain the dignity of the government. The proposal was not sustained and Jackson did not know until near the middle of 1830 that Calhoun had made it. When Calhoun admitted that he had suggested the court of inquiry, Jackson became at once and forever the foe of the man whom he had toasted at a public dinner not long before as the "noblest work of God." Even after the split between Jackson and Calhoun, however, some State Rights men tried to show that friendship to Calhoun did not necessitate hostility to Jackson, for they feared an evil even worse than the General in the person of Henry Clay.
Jackson's letter of June 14 marks an important point in the relations of the President to the South Carolina factions. It will be remembered that the State Rights party in October of 1828 added to its name that of Jackson and called itself the State Rights and Jackson party. In May, 1831, the use of Jackson's name in its title was discontinued by this party and the term Free Trade substituted; this dropping of the name of Jackson, it was alleged, had nothing to do with the trouble between Jackson and Calhoun over the Seminole campaign, nor did it mean that the party was unwilling to support the General for the presidency; but it was done simply because the party had concluded that it was idle to look to any President or to anything but "the undaunted spirit of the state." At any rate, whereas the State Rights men had been loud in praise of Jackson, after the publication of the letter of June 14 they became his most persistent foes.
While the State Rights party was so active in forming its associations during the latter half of 1831, the Union party held meetings almost as numerous, though it did not organize societies as did the Nullifiers. The Unionists took great delight in denouncing the Nullification clubs as even worse than the original Jacobin Club. Their resolutions expressed complete faith in Jackson, opposition to the tariff, and the determination to stand by the Union until the only alternative should be dissolution or the loss of civil liberty. They incidentally expressed the hope and belief that the Philadelphia anti-tariff convention would lead to results and show the value of constitutional opposition to the tariff.
The fall city elections in Charleston were eagerly anticipated as a test of party strength. Each party nominated a complete ticket, of intendant and twelve wardens, and the election was declared the most exciting ever held. The result proved to be a decisive victory for the State Rights ticket. This was hailed by the State Rights party men as a great triumph, and perhaps with reason, in view of the elections of the previous year. In their natural jubilation they interpreted this victory to mean that the people would no longer be gulled by theUnionist 'prophecies of a disastrous result of this plan. They did not consider that the election proved that the people advocated nullification, as the Union party had said such a result would declare, but they rejoiced that Charleston had intimated a refusal to condemn nullification or any other measure which the state might find it expedient to adopt. The State Rights committee itself published a plea for moderation on the part of the members of that party, to show a love of peace and order, that they might keep the confidence of the people. The Union party immediately held a rally, resolved never to cease to oppose nullification, and claimed that Charleston was by no means ready to sanction an act of nullification by the legislature, which it was said was being projected. Some of the Union men excused their defeat by saying that they were simply caught napping, overconfident of their majority. It was admitted, too, that they needed an improved organization.
Although elections for the state legislature came only in the even years, the death of William Aiken caused a vacancy in the Charleston delegation which was to be filled in October. Both parties made strong efforts to win this place. The Union party succeeded in rallying its forces somewhat, for they were beaten this time by the small majority of eight.
Politics was by no means a clean business even in that day, for there were charges of election frauds on both sides, and both parties by resolutions asked the state legislature to take measures to promote the purity of elections. Both were guilty, but each thought the other more so. Since the membership of the legislature would not be altered in the coming session, there was little expectation that there would be any change in the state's position. Before the legislature met there was some talk of bringing up the convention question again, and some few, bolder than others, even suggested that the State Rights majority of the legislature go ahead without the call of a convention and nullify the tariff law by legislative act; but the folly of either of these procediures was admitted by most of the State Rights or Convention party.
Again the cry was raised of hope for relief from the next session of Congress. There was a possibility, as even some Conventionists admitted, that a dispute as to the division of the spoils might cause the American-system supporters of the new Congress to split and to yield somewhat on the tariff. The Conventionists insisted, however, that even that would furnish no guaranty against the future, whenever a combination of interests should again arise and push it forward. By the time the legislature met, late in November, the Nullification party as a whole seemed to have determined, perhaps "in some solemn convocation of the Club," to await the action of the next Congress. The governor's message, more moderate than the Union party had expected, recommended the wait-awhile policy, and this immediately quieted what little fear there was of imminent conflict with the general government.
On the evening of November 29 there was held in the Senate room a meeting "of the members of the legislature friendly to the re-election of General Jackson." It was a Union party move, but the State Rights party members attended. Daniel E. Huger presided, and James L. Petigru offered resolutions nominating Jackson for re-election, thus causing a heated debate. Many of the State Rights men spoke against the resolutions, on the ground that they were premature, in view of the struggle in which South Carolina was engaged with the general government. They admitted that they preferred Jackson to Clay or Wirt, but they wanted South Carolina to keep aloof for a time. Finally the meeting agreed to adjourn, so that those favorable to the nomination could remain, while those who opposed the nomination could assemble at another place. The opponents went to the hall of the House, organized, and adopted a resolution that it was inexpedient for South Carolina to participate in the presidential campaign. The sixty-six who remained and voted for the Jackson resolutions authorized the appointment of eleven delegates to the Baltimore convention of the next May. The ninety-six of the opposition asserted that their chief reason for objection was that the Submission men were trying to use the presidential campaign as a means of diverting attention from the crucial issue.
A plot of the two caucuses shows a distribution virtually the same as that of the previous year on the convention question. With but few exceptions in the state it is quite probable that the party division as to nullification applied also to the question of the presidency.
The State Rights men had planned to issue a stinging rebuke to the President in the form of a set of resolutions denouncing his June 14 letter, and the reports of the committees on federal relations were made according to this understanding. But the President's message, satisfactory to the South Carolina statesmen as to tariff reform, was received in time to gain for the President a commendatory resolution along with his condemnation. The Union men attempted to have the
Map IV.—Jackson and Anti-Jackson caucuses, 1831
whole course of the President approved, but failed. During the debates on these resolutions the doctrine of nullification was often discussed. On the whole, the Union men were glad that the legislature adjourned without doing anything more rash than to pass resolutions in relation to the President's letter.
South Carolina was thus left where she had stood the year before, awaiting the results of the congressional session. The State Rights men made much of their display of forbearance, and justified it on the ground that South Carolina was in duty bound to await the outcome of the memorial of the Philadelphia anti-tariff convention, since she had been so active in that convention and since one of her sons, Judge William Harper, was to be one of its special messengers to Congress. The State Rights men were probably honest in professing that the state's position was what they desired. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the State Rights party had practically no other position open to its choice. Until a new legislature was elected in which the State Rights party should control the two-thirds majority required for calling a convention, the state was not likely to be forced into a more advanced position. Before leaving Columbia the Union members of the legislature got together and published an address stating anew and in a concise form the position of that party. As usual they admitted that nullification was a revolutionary right, but denied its constitutionality; they admitted the oppressions of the tariff, but denied that they were enough to justify revolution.
- Messenger, January 5, 1831.
- Calhoun Correspondence: Calhoun to Hammond, January 15, 1831.
- Mercury, January 26, 1851.
- Hammond Papers: John S. Preston to Hammond, dated Abingdon, Virginia, April 17, 1831: " … The nullification doctrine of South Carolina being not at all understood is looked upon in this section of the state with horror. When, however, the doctrine is explained in the least, all admit that it is but the carrying out of the boasted Virginia principles upon which they so much pride themselves. Any attempt to discuss the subject in the papers of this region would be useless and unprofitable. The people will not listen to it. They do not feel the weight of the oppressions of the general government, and when they are told of it and the ultimate tendency of the 'System,' they stun you with all the slangwhangery of Fourth of July patriotism, the greatness of the Union, and the blood and thunder of civil war. The selfishness of the Scotch-Irish and the phlegmatism of the Germans can never be roused to feeling and action until their own firesides are invaded."
- Mercury, March 11, April 13, May 28, 1831; Camden and Lancaster Beacon, March 15, 23; Messenger, July 6, 20, August 3; Charleston State Rights and Free Trade Evening Post, October, 1831. The Nullifiers saw the need of another paper in Charleston besides the Mercury, and established the Post on October 1, 1831. The editors took pains to answer any and all objections raised against the nullification doctrine (Camden and Lancaster Beacon, March 15, 1831; Pendleton Messenger, September 38). For example, some persons asked: Since in the state of South Carolina the majority claimed the right to govern the minority, must it not be granted that the majority of the Union should govern the minority? By no means, it was answered, for the cases were absolutely dissimilar. The Post, October 31, 1831, presented such an answer. The state was a single consolidated government, which, being democratic, must be ruled by the majority; but the general government was a federal government and must be governed strictly by the terms of confederation. These nowhere prescribed that a majority of the states should govern a minority. When a state disputed the authority of the federal government to perform certain acts, it was not a question between a majority and a minority. It was a question between two parties—the protesting state being one party and the other states the other party. In a single state the governing power might safely be left with the majority, as their interests and those of the minority must in all cases of importance be identical; but not so in the confederation of states, differing in climate, productions, and the character of their population. Here it was necessary that there be provided, as had been done, some protection for those states a sacrifice of whose interests and safety might be attempted in the federative council. The right of interposition was therefore left,
- Calhoun Correspondence: Calhoun to Ingham, June 16, 1831.
- Messenger, August 3, 1831; Calhoun's Works, VI, 59 to 94; Calhoun Correspondence: Calhoun to Christopher Van Deventer, August 5; Calhoun to S. L. Gouverneur, August 18; Calhoun to Armistead Burt, September 1, 1831.
- Mercury, September 24, 1831.
- Mercury, March 5, 1831.
- Mercury, July 27, 1831.
- Messenger, August 10, 1831; Mercury, August 26. That these were looked upon as associations for the more perfect organization of the party in the face of local opposition, is shown by the resolutions adopted by a Pendleton meeting, which asserted that the people of the district were so thoroughly united that it was unnecessary to form a Free Trade and State Rights association. Though the Pendleton meeting expressed sympathy with the spirit of the movement and wished the associations success, yet the people of Pendleton seemed to be in favor of delaying any further action until the next Congress had met, in view of the work of the anti-tariff convention at Philadelphia and of the fact that the entire public debt would soon be paid, which made it likely that Congress would act then, if ever. See Messenger, August 24, November 9.
- Messenger, October 19, November 23, 1831; Beacon, October 25; Post, November 25; Mercury, November 9.
- Mercury, December 9, 1831; Messenger, December 14.
- The State Rights press replied that the opposition was equally active if not so aboveboard in its work (Mercury, August 3, 1831; Messenger, December 14).
- Camden Journal, March 26, 1831.
- Poinsett Papers: Drayton to Poinsett, January 29, 1831.
- Camden Journal, May 14, 1831; Camden Beacon, May 20.
- Columbia Free Press and Hive, February 5, 1831.
- Gazette, January 6, 10, 14, 1831.
- Poinsett Papers: William Smith to D. E. Huger, February 16, 1831.
- The following is a good sample of his style, from the issue of February 12, 1831: "This disorganizing demon [party spirit] loves to appear clad in the robes of patriotism and breathing the language of disinterested public spirit; often, ere the unsuspecting are aware, he insinuates himself into public favor, and when he finds his grasp on the popular feeling sufficiently firm he indites a vocabulary of his , own, in which innovation signifies reform and reform revolution; laughing with demoniac pleasure to see the friends of order and constitutional reform startled at the development of his frightful stratagems, he kindly attempts to soothe their fears by an appeal to their chivalry, telling them of their womanish nerves and offering them the insolvents' security by kindly offering to eat all the bodies which may fall in a war of his exciting." The editor then denounced these "political blacklegs" and "gamblers."
- The same thing had been alleged against Judge William Smith for a similar purpose. Another example of this occurred the next year when the "Nullies" accused Colonel James Chesnut, the Union candidate for the state Senate in Kershaw district, of being a tariff man because he was interested in a cotton factory. The editor of the Camden Journal defended him by saying that he had an interest of just $1,300 in a cotton manufactory established by the late David R. Williams at Society Hill. The interest on this $1,300 was just about three bales of cotton, an article of which Chesnut raised 600 bales annually. One of the wealthiest men in the upper country, the owner of three or four hundred negroes, with an immense landed estate, was on this ground accused of being a "d — d Federalist." "Ridiculous!" said the editor (Journal, September 29, 1832).
- Free Press and Hive, April 2, 1831.
- Shots were fired by the Journal editor, but a clinch made him miss his mark (Journal, June 4, 1831).
- One of the best answers to this charge appeared in the Camden Journal, April 9, 1831, as an editorial on "Submission Men": "For a year or two past it has appeared to afford great comfort to the advocates of nullification, war, bloodshed, and brimstone to call people who have little relish for a tournament with windmills submission men, and they keep it up with undiminished zeal and good sense. … We are submission men. … We profess to submit to the Constitution of our country. We submit to the laws framed under the forms of that Constitution. We submit to the voice of a majority of the nation. We submit to government in preference to submission to anarchy, and we finally submit to the oaths we have taken to support all these things in their integrity. This is what we submit to; and now tell us whether these are any of the items to which you do not submit." It is but a subterfuge to say one submits to the Constitution, but since it has been violated one is absolved from allegiance. "We do ourselves believe the spirit of the Constitution to have been violated; but a violation of the Constitution must be constitutionally remedied. Because A has cheated B out of his lawful rights, is B at liberty to knock A's brains out for the offense? The national legislature has enacted an unconstitutional law. Who says so? A state, a town, an individual. Does the state, the town, or the individual set itself up for judge upon the question, or does it submit to the expounders provided by the Constitution? The Nullifiers tell us that it is a base and cowardly 'submission' to obey the government when its requirements militate with their own notions of individual 'sovereignty.' Is there anything but Jacobinism, sheer, rank, unadulterated anarchy and opposition to every well-settled notion of government in this? Nothing under Heaven! And in this sense we glory in the name of submission men."
In answer to the question, "What do you propose?" the editor said that such a question was unbecoming to the opposition, when its own followers differed as to what policy to follow, and he added: "We propose to hate the tariff and the internal improvement system as we hate the devil. We propose to fight against them both in all constitutional ways and with all constitutional energy. We propose to urge against them every argument that can be mustered. We propose to give every vote against them which the Constitution allows us to send into the national legislature. And finally, we propose when this kind of opposition proves unavailing, to ask the people of South Carolina whether they prefer secession to a longer continuance in the confederacy, and if they answer in the affirmative, to go with them and die in the last ditch! These are our propositions."
- Mountaineer, May 14, 1831. By the middle of the year several of the papers on both sides had received such additional patronage and had such pressing demand made upon their columns by political material, that they felt that an increase of size was warranted (Mercury, May 27, 1831).
- The dinner was given on May 19. See Mercury, June, 1831; Journal, June 4; Mountaineer, June 4; Courier, May 30, June 9, 10.
- Other Union editors eagerly seized upon that part of his speech in which he admitted that the doctrine of nullification could not be derived from anything in the Constitution; this, they said, placed the question in its true light (Mountaineer, June 4, 1831; Patriot, June; Journal, June 4). Many other writers picked his arguments to pieces, and one of them took occasion to point out the absurdities connected with the practice of giving such political dinners (Courier, June 9, "Cato"; June 10, "One of the People"). "The practice of giving dinners for the actual purpose of political excitement and influence, under the pretense of hospitality to distinguished strangers, is the vulgar machinery of party management. A few, so few as to amount to a mere fraction of the community, get up and attend this eating caucus. The guest, who is always a violent partisan, takes leave to say a few words, and to a toast of a line or two gives a preface of three hours. Heated by zeal and wine, the audience d^ hands, beat the table, rattle the glasses, and at the hint of the manager, spontaneously rise up and shout aloud, upon the conclusion of some inflated partisan grandiloquence, especially abusive of the great majority of the people, who do not attend, and are unrepresented. It is thus that the great managers of the party create matter enough to keep the columns of a nullifying paper full for a day or two … " (Courier, May 30). leave these points to be settled by some greater name, which derives celebrity from a learned title. It shall be our task to mark with care and precision its effects upon the human system or the symptoms of that alarming disease which is the inevitable result of its inspiration. …
"Whether nullification be a demoniacal spirit or an exhilarating gas, it may be impossible to determine; but the disease it produces is established by the clearest principles of nosology; it belongs to the class Neurosis, order Vesania, and genus Amentia. It is chiefly confined to the brain, producing slight fever with extreme thirst for blood, and occasional prostration of appetite for Kentucky hogs and mules and Yankee manufactures, and a perfect loathing of wooden nutmegs." He fears that the disease is "moveable" and may produce cholera morbus or sweating sickness if it falls upon the bowels or skin. "But should it continue a fixed Neurosis, an adequate enlargement of our already spacious lunatic asylum may be all that is requisite.
"The distemper arising from nullification is manifestly an epidemic, and although it spends its force almost exclusively on the brain, the great sympathy which exists between that important organ and the liver causes the latter function to become so far perverted as to throw a sufficiency of gall into the circulation to produce a jaundiced eye and optical illusion, and hence we may account for a political phenomenon which has perfectly confounded to all intents and purposes the uninfected portion of the citizens of our own and other states. Thus to an eye to which the tariff and internal improvements appear perfectly constitutional and expedient, after a paroxysm of nullification, these laws appear so palpably unconstitutional and oppressive that the most perfect patriotism consists in resisting them. This strange, and to our state novel, disease appears to exert a pantomimic influence upon its victims; hence whenever one becomes nullified he recognizes in his most perfect previous likeness a capapie tory."
- Mountaineer, August 20, 1831; Patriot, August 11; Free Press and Hive, September 3.
- The issue of September 3, 1831, contains a choice example. The following appeared on November 5 and is typical: "Whether nullification is a spirit, some goblin damned, or a highly ethereal dementating gas, we confess our knowledge too limited in the abstruse sciences of metaphysics and materialism to decide; we must
- Patriot, July 39, 1831; also published in pamphlet form.
- There was a tendency on the part of most of the Union men to ascribe to the Exposition the assertion that nullification was provided for in the Constitution, and to ascribe to the Constitution the statement that the federal courts were to settle all questions of constitutionality.
- Gazette, August 33, 1831.
- Mercury, August 27, 1831.
- Charleston Gazette (not to be confused with this Union and State Rights Gazette), August 29, 1831.
- Gazette, May 31, June 1, 1831.
- Mercury, May 31, June 1, 1831.
- Courier, June 2, 29, 1831; Gazette, June 6, 14.
- Courier, July 27, 1831; Gazette, June 14.
- Life and Times of C. G. Memminger, by H. D. Capers, has a reprint of the proceedings of the celebration by the Union party.
- The Bower was a special building 100 by 150 feet, built by the party for its celebration; see Courier, July 8, 1831.
- The regular toasts appeared on the printed program.
- Beacon, July 19, 1831. Legaré's speech is given in The Writings of Hugh Swinton Legaré, edited by his sister.
- Mercury, July 7, 20, August 4, 26, 1831; Messenger, July 20, August 24.
- Poinsett Papers; letter with this notation: "Confidential-Copy of a letter from a Gentleman dated Charleston, October 15, 1830."
- Poinsett Papers: Jackson to Robert Oliver, October 26, sent to Poinsett on October 28 by R. M. Gibbes, of Baltimore.
- Poinsett Papers: Drayton to Poinsett, January 29, February 12, 1831. Courier, January 22, February 23.
- Mountaineer, April 10, 1830; Mercury, April 22.
- Journal, January 8, May 14, July 16, November 12, 1831; Mercury, February 24, March 29; Messenger, March 9; Mountaineer, August 27, September 3.
- William J. Grayson's Memoirs. MSS.
- Mercury, April 16, 1831. There were also a few sporadic efforts to push forward the ticket of Jackson and Calhoun. See Beacon, May 10, 1831.
- In the Mercury of June 31, 1831, Phocion" wrote a review of party history.
- A writer, Furioso," in the Courier'', August 10, 1831, thus characterized the way this system of clubs worked: "What a fine thing is a well organized party. How beautifully its different parts play into each other. The big Nullifiers in Charleston have a meeting; organize a club; pass resolutions and huzzah; they then send circulars to the little Nullifiers in the interior and beg them to make haste and kick up a dust at the country Court Houses. The circular arrives; the lawyers at the Court House dash off and bring together the constables, the hangers-on at the taverns, and a dozen others; they meet in the court room and flourish a resolution or two; denounce General Jackson; organize a political club; get some old fellow to come out; call him a Revolutionary worthy; vote thanks to one another; and send their proceedings to the Mercury, countersigned by Tom, the Pres., and Jack Copias, the Sec. And now behold the columns of the Mercury, the day after the receipt of the proceedings. Oh, what congratulations! What rejoicings it pretends to make! Pieces appear, headed with the words 'Glorious News,' and 'Interesting Proceedings,' and all that kind of thing, and the people are gravely told that these are evidences of public opinion. O tempora! O mores! how this world is given to gulling; what authentic evidences of public opinion!!"
Another writer, in the Mountaineer, May 26, 1832, satirized the workings of the association thus: "Already we have a selected body
- 'Courier, August 1, 10, September 15, 16, 30, November 10, 18, 35, 183 1; Journal, August 13, December 3; Mercury, August 20, 22; Mountaineer, September 10, 24, October 8; Gazette, September 15.
- The vote the year before was thought large, with about 1,600, but this year it reached 1,978.
- The vote on intendant was typical of the respective average party votes on all the offices. Pinckney, heading the State Rights and Free Trade ticket, received 1,040; Pringle, heading the State Rights and Union ticket, received 932 (Courier, August 30, September 7, 12, 1831; Mercury, September 6, 7).
- Mercury, September 7, 1831; Patriot, September 6.
- Courier, September 7, 13, 1831 ; Gazette, September 9, October 13.
- Courier, October 4, 13, 1831; Patriot, October 12, 13; Gazette, October 13.
- Patriot, October 13 , 1831 ; Courier, October 21. The legislature, when it met, passed a resolution declaratory of the qualifications of electors within the election district of Charleston which would exclude quite a number of northern and eastern merchants who carried on their business in Charleston, the great majority of whom were attached to the Union party (Poinsett Papers: Drayton to Poinsett, December 27, 1831).
- Mercury, November 28, 1831; Messenger, July 27, October 5.
- Journal, November 26, 1831 ; Courier, December 5, 10. Poinsett Papers: Drayton to Poinsett, December 27.
- Mercury, December 3, 9, 1831; Courier, December 13, 28: Beacon, December 6.
- See Map IV and p. 107, n. 3.
- The vote was State Rights 63, Union 56 (Mercury, December 17, 1831).
- Mountaineer, December 31, 1831. Poinsett Papers: Drayton to Poinsett, December 27.
- Mercury, January 4, 1832.
- Mercury, January 6, 1833; Post, January 10.
whose resolutions are law, and whose measures are conceived and dictated by a half dozen men. The Association was not elected by the people, but selected by the agents of a few leaders. Their resolutions are always the work of the chiefs and only submitted after full consideration to the adoption of the Association. When adopted, they are the law of the land, in a community which has always subjected law and legislation to public opinion. This process is wonderfully efficient. The leaders resolve; the Association propagates; and the people follow. Who in the Association dare oppose Pompey, Caesar, and Crassus? If there be one so disposed, he must fed that opposition would be suicidal. And who so bold among the people as to oppose the views of the Association? If there be any, they are damned as submission men …"
not to the minority as a minority, but to each of the several states for itself; and when a state exercising that right resisted in its sovereign capacity, the question became one between equals, between sovereigns, to which it would be absurd to apply the terms "minority" and "majority," since the sovereignty of a small state was equal to that of a large state and the sovereignty of one state equal to that of many states. How absurd, it was urged, to draw a parallel between the resistance of a sovereign state against the unauthorized acts of the agents of the league and the resistance of a parish or corporation against its own state government. Had England resisted the decrees of the Holy Alliance the case would certainly not have been parallel to that of Manchester or Liverpool resisting England. And yet some politicians persisted in attempts to "mystify truth by confounding cases equally dissimilar."
But it must be added that those who argued thus never thought that it might be equally absurd to liken the American government to the Holy Alliance. See W. W. Willoughby, The Nature of the State; J. W. Garner, Introduction to Political Science.