Tariff of Abominations

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The Tariff of 1828 was a very high protective tariff that became law in the United States in May 1828. It was a bill designed to not pass Congress because it hurt both industry and farming, but surprisingly it passed. The bill was vehemently denounced in the South and escalated to a threat of civil war in the Nullification crisis of 1832-1833. The tariff was replaced in 1833 and the crisis ended. It was called "Tariff of Abominations" by its Southern detractors because of the effects it had on the Southern economy. It set a 38% tax on some imported goods and a 45% tax on certain imported raw materials.[1]

The manufacturing-based economy in the Northeastern states was suffering from low-priced imported manufactured items from Britain. The major goal of the tariff was to protect the factories by taxing imports from Europe. Southerners from the cotton belt, particularly those from South Carolina, felt they were harmed directly by having to pay more for imports from Europe. Allegedly, the South was also harmed indirectly because reducing the exportation of British goods to the U.S. would make it difficult for the British to pay for the cotton they imported from the South.[2] The reaction in the South, particularly in South Carolina, led to the Nullification Crisis.[3]

Background[edit]

Average Tariff Rates in USA (1821-2016)

The 1828 tariff was part of a series of tariffs that began after the War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars, when the blockade of Europe led British manufacturers to offer goods in America at low prices that American manufacturers often could not match. The first protective tariff was passed by Congress in 1816; its tariff rates were increased in 1824. Southern states such as South Carolina contended that the tariff was unconstitutional and were opposed to the newer protectionist tariffs, as they would have to pay, but Northern states favored them because they helped strengthen their industrial-based economy.[4]

In an elaborate scheme to prevent passage of still higher tariffs, while at the same time appealing to Andrew Jackson's supporters in the North, John C. Calhoun and other Southerners joined Van Buren in crafting a tariff bill that would also weigh heavily on materials imported by the New England states. It was believed that President John Quincy Adams's supporters in New England would uniformly oppose the bill for this reason and that the Southern legislators could then withdraw their support, killing the legislation while blaming it on New England. The goal was to write a bill so bad—so "abominable"—that it would never pass but would help Van Buren and the Southerners while hurting the Adams-Clay coalition.[5]

Bill passage[edit]

The House committee drafted a bill that imposed very high duties on raw materials, including iron, hemp (for rope) and flax, but eliminated the protective features on woolen goods. The alliance organized by Van Buren that included the middle states and the south voted down every attempt by New Englanders to amend the bill. The alliance was confident the bill was so abominable that it would be defeated, and Adams and Clay would be hurt. To the astonishment of the alliance, New England voted for the final bill, on the grounds that the principle of protection was of enormous value. The bill passed the house 105 to 94 on 23 April and passed the Senate 26 to 21 on 13 May. President Adams signed it and the tariff became law. Adams became a hated man in the South.[6][7]

Farmers in Western states and manufacturers in the Mid-Atlantic States argued that the strengthening of the nation was in the interest of the entire country.[8] This same reasoning swayed two-fifths of U.S. Representatives in the New England states to vote for the tariff increase. In 1824, New England was on the verge of bankruptcy due to the influx of the use of European cloth. New England was in favor of the tariff increase for entering goods from Europe to aid in the country's economic success.[9]

House Vote on Tariff of 1828[10] For Against
New England (Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine) 16 23
Middle States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware) 56 6
West (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky) 29 1
South (South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Maryland) 4 64
Total 105 94
Free states 88 29
Slave states 17 65

A substantial minority of New England Congressmen (41%) saw what they believed to be long-term national benefits of an increased tariff, and voted for it; they believed the tariff would strengthen the manufacturing industry nationally (see table).[11]

The Democratic Party had miscalculated: despite the insertion by Democrats of import duties calculated to be unpalatable to New England industries, most specifically on raw wool imports, essential to the wool textile industry, the New Englanders failed to sink the legislation, and the Southerners' plan backfired.[11]

The 1828 tariff was signed by President Adams, although he realized it could weaken him politically.[12] In the presidential election of 1828, Andrew Jackson defeated Adams with a popular tally of 642,553 votes and an electoral count of 178 as opposed to Adams's 500,897 tally and 83 electoral votes.

Effects of the tariff in 1828[edit]

John C. Calhoun

Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina strongly opposed the tariff, anonymously authoring a pamphlet in December 1828 titled the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, in which he urged nullification of the tariff within South Carolina.[13] The South Carolina legislature, although it printed and distributed 5,000 copies of the pamphlet, took none of the legislative action that the pamphlet urged.[14]

The expectation of the tariff's opponents was that with the election of Jackson in 1828, the tariff would be significantly reduced.[15] Jackson in 1829 said the 1828 tariff was constitutional. In response the most radical faction in South Carolina began to advocate that the state itself declare the tariff null and void within South Carolina.[16][17]

In Washington, an open split on the issue occurred between Jackson and Vice-President Calhoun. On July 14, 1832, Jackson signed into law the Tariff of 1832 which made some reductions in tariff rates. Calhoun finally resigned.[16][18]

The reductions were too little for South Carolina--the abominations of 1828 were still there. In November 1832 the state called for a convention. By a vote of 136 to 26, the convention overwhelmingly adopted an ordinance of nullification drawn by Chancellor William Harper. It declared that the tariffs of both 1828 and 1832 were unconstitutional and unenforceable in South Carolina.[19] President Jackson could not tolerate the nullification of a federal law by a state. He threatened war and South Carolina backed down. The Nullification Crisis would be resolved with the Tariff of 1833, a compromise. [20][21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774 - 1875".
  2. ^ "1816–1860: The Second American Party System and the Tariff", Tax History Museum
  3. ^ Stamp, Kenneth. The Causes of the Civil War. 3rd ed. New York: Touchstone, 1991
  4. ^ [1] Taussig, F.W., The Tariff History of the United States, Part I, 5th ed. G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1910, pp. 70–74 (pp. 44–47 in .pdf format)
  5. ^ Remini, 1958.
  6. ^ Remini 1958.
  7. ^ Bemis, p 90.
  8. ^ "Tax History Project -- The Second American Party System and the Tariff". www.taxhistory.org. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  9. ^ "Tax History Project -- The Second American Party System and the Tariff". www.taxhistory.org. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  10. ^ "TO PASS H.R. 132. (P. 2471). -- House Vote #81 -- Apr 22, 1828".
  11. ^ a b Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant D.C. Heath and Co. (1971)
  12. ^ "Tariff of 1828".
  13. ^ McDonald, Forrest, States' Rights and the Union: Imperium in Imperio 1776–1876, pp. 104–05 (2000) ISBN 0-7006-1040-5
  14. ^ Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition. 1973 edition, p. 93
  15. ^ Remini, Robert V., Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833–1845, pp. 136–37, (1984) ISBN 0-06-015279-6
  16. ^ a b Niven, John. John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union, pp. 135–37./
  17. ^ Freehling, William W., Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Crisis in South Carolina 1816–1836, p. 143 (1965) ISBN 0-19-507681-8
  18. ^ Craven, Avery. The Coming of the Civil War, p. 65 (1942) ISBN 0-226-11894-0
  19. ^ "South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification, November 24, 1832". Yale Law School. Retrieved July 27, 2017.
  20. ^ Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House (2008) online p 239.
  21. ^ Cynthia Clark Northrup, and Elaine C. Prange Turney, eds. The Encyclopedia of Tariffs and Trade in U.S. History (2003) pp 364–366 online.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bemis, Samuel Flagg. John Quincy Adams and the union (1956). online
  • Bolt, William K. Tariff Wars and the Politics of Jacksonian America (2017) covers 1816 to 1861. PhD dissertation version
  • Ratcliffe, Donald J. "The nullification crisis, southern discontents, and the American political process." American Nineteenth Century History 1.2 (2000): 1-30.
  • Remini, Robert V. "Martin Van Buren and the Tariff of Abominations." American Historical Review 63.4 (1958): 903-917. online
  • Taussig, F. W. "The Early Protective Movement and the Tariff of 1828" Political Science Quarterly 3#1 (1888), 17-45. online