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Today, November 24, 1832, will be exactly 190 years since civil war would break out between the United States and the state of South Carolina. Was that because of a crusade to free the slaves, no. Was it a political fight, not really. In fact, there was a word everywhere that instilled fear in some, a tariff! I know you’re shocked and trembling, but wait, what’s a tariff? In summary, a tariff is a tax imposed by a government on goods imported into the nation, usually to protect that home country’s product. In fact, during his first inaugural address, Lincoln stated that it was primarily the dispute over tariffs that led to the Civil War, not actually slavery. Lincoln, like many Northerners, was pro-tariff, even then-President Andrew Jackson was pro-tariff, even though he was a Southern president.

In 1828, under President John Quincy Adams, the USA passed a very strict protective tariff, which was intended to help build up US industry. However, this hurt the economy of the South, which relied on exports to other countries. Of course, when foreigners had to pay high tariffs, they retaliated and forced the South to pay high tariffs on their products. President Andrew Jackson is one of the biggest populist presidents and was a Southerner so many in the South hoped he would abolish tariffs. It shouldn’t be, because although Jackson was from the south, he was a nationalist who recognized the need to protect the northern factories.

Vice President John C. Calhoun was an ardent opponent of such tariffs and was also from South Carolina. Calhoun resigned from office and became a senator, openly repealing or essentially ignoring the tariff. This brings with it the right of states to ignore a federal law, something that is still debated today. Jackson decided to help both sides and created a new tariff of 1832, this was not as strong and received support from both sides.

Still, South Carolina was not happy, and so the nullification crisis struck that day when South Carolina said it would not comply with the two tariffs. The nullification crisis didn’t last long, however, as President Andrew Jackson told South Carolina he would kill anyone who resisted the new tariffs, telling a friend from that state.

“I will hang the first man I can get my hands on who has committed such treacherous behavior from the first tree I can reach.”

President Andrew Jackson was not a man to mess with and the nullification crisis soon resolved and peace reigned for now and it all started 190 years ago today.

What happened yesterday, November 23?


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