In this lesson, we will explore sectional tensions that emerged between the West, North, and South over land and tariffs, leading to confrontations in the Senate and a second nullification crisis.
Throughout the administration of Andrew Jackson, sectional tensions were pulling at the young nation. The Northern states, with their base in heavy industry and capital, contrasted dramatically with the agricultural base of the South, a region primarily fueled by slave labor, sharecroppers, and a small-but-powerful landed gentry. Thrown into the mix were the Western states, which, like the South, had economies built on agriculture and raw materials and needed to expand in order to grow economically. To facilitate this growth, land was needed, but buying land from the federal government wasn’t cheap, and Western interests sought an alliance with Southern states to reduce the cost of government land and lower protective tariffs – both moves that would strengthen their respective economies.However, the idea was adamantly opposed by Northern interests, who saw the protective tariffs as necessary to raise revenue for the government and protect America’s young industrial base. This disagreement over tariffs and land was an early rift between the interests of the North, the South, and the West.
It would not easily be mended.At first, President Jackson would not be pulled into it. He had spent too much of his life devoted to fighting for the entire United States, not simply for regional interests. Unfortunately for him, his Vice President, John C.
Calhoun, was not so disposed.
A native of South Carolina, Calhoun had designs on the presidency since his time as Secretary of War under President James Monroe, his time as a senator, and his time as Vice President under John Quincy Adams. Since 1818, there had been personal animosity brewing between him and Jackson, but they were quite close ideologically. Had it been any other time in our nation’s history, the two might have got along fine in public and private life. But given the tension rising among the sections of the country, the one area they differed on, states’ rights, just happened be the biggest crisis of Jackson’s presidency and the one that would ultimately doom the nation to civil war: nullification.But the war was still two decades away.
For now, the argument centered on a state’s right to declare null and void any federal mandate it did not wish to follow. The idea sprang from Calhoun’s own mind, as well as those who agreed with him. It would allow a state to interpret the Constitution as it saw fit, just as any social contract was open to interpretation by those who signed and agreed to it.
|Martin Van Buren, who had served loyally as Jackson’s Secretary of State and was not as troublesome as Calhoun. With Van Buren on board, Jackson was set to deal with any remaining crises that may erupt, strengthened by his resolve and the knowledge his administration had survived one of the greatest challenges of his presidency and to the Union itself.
After watching this lesson, you should be able to: