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South Carolina Exposition

John Quincy Adams

South Carolina Exposition: John Quincy Adams was the 6th American President who served in office from March 4, 1825 to March 4, 1829. One of the important events during his presidency was the 1828 South Carolina Exposition.

Definition and Summary of the South Carolina Exposition
Summary and definition:
The 1828 South Carolina Exposition was an explanation written by John C. Calhoun that reinforced the doctrine, or principle, of Nullification. The 1828 South Carolina Exposition was written in response to the 1828 Tariff of Abominations that favored the commercial interests of the North at the expense of the South.

Facts about South Carolina Exposition
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on South Carolina Exposition.

Who wrote the South Carolina Exposition?
The South Carolina Exposition was written in secret by John C. Calhoun in December 1828. At the time the South Carolina Exposition was written, John C. Calhoun was a powerful politician, vice president under John Quincy Adams
with future ambitions to become president. He would continue his role of vice president under Andrew Jackson. John C. Calhoun did not publicly admit authorship of the South Carolina Exposition until 1832, during the Nullification Crisis, when he resigned in protest against Jackson's continuing support of the 1828 Tariff of Abominations.

South Carolina Exposition for kids: Definition of a Tariff
What is a tariff? A Tariff is a tax placed on goods imported from foreign countries. Tariffs enable a nation to raise money from these taxes and at the same time protect a nation's goods from cheaper priced foreign items - hence the term protective, or protectionist, tariffs. The 1828 Tariff of Abominations was the third protective tariff implemented by the government.

  • The Tariff of 1816 placed a 20-25% tax on all foreign goods

  • The Tariff of 1824 was the second protective tariff. It raised the duties still higher. There was 35% duty on imported iron, wool, cotton, and hemp.

  • The Tariff of 1828 (the Tariff of Abominations) was the third protective tariff and taxes increased to nearly 50%

The South, being predominantly agricultural and reliant on the North and foreign countries for manufactured goods, saw this tariff as damaging to their economy. The Southern states contended that their livelihoods were being harmed firstly by having to pay higher prices on goods the South did not produce, and secondly because increased taxes on British imports made it difficult for Britain to pay for the cotton they imported from the South.

What was the Purpose of the South Carolina Exposition?
The purpose of the 1828 South Carolina Exposition was to introduce a document that reinforced the principle of Nullification in relation to the series of protectionist tariffs (taxes) that were passed to give protection to the Industrialists and manufacturers in the North at the expense of the South. The South Carolina legislature asked John C. Calhoun to prepare a report on the tariff situation. His 35,000 word draft would become his "Exposition and Protest".
However, as John C. Calhoun was Vice-President, and presided over the debates of the Senate, the ideas contained in the South Carolina Exposition document were conveyed in a series of speeches by Senator Robert Hayne of South Carolina. 

South Carolina Exposition for kids: The Doctrine of Nullification
What is Nullification? What does Nullification mean? Definition: Nullification relates to the act of nullifying, canceling or making null and void. The principle of Nullification is the term used to encompass the states' rights doctrine in that a state can refuse to recognize, or to enforce, a federal law passed by the United States Congress. Nullification is used as a reason to counteract or override the effect or force of something and John C. Calhoun used the Doctrine of Nullification in his 1828 South Carolina Exposition protesting against the laws passed in relation to protective tariffs (taxes).

South Carolina Exposition: The Constitution
The South Carolina Exposition, written by John C. Calhoun in response to the Tariff of Abominations,  contended that the tariff was unconstitutional. John C. Calhoun's Doctrine of nullification explained the idea that a state has the right to reject federal law. This Doctrine (principle) was  first introduced by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in their 1798 and 1799 Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. The argument was based on the belief that:

  • The Constitution was a compact (meaning a formal agreement or contract) between the states

  • It therefore followed that a state could determine whether any act of Congress was constitutional or not

  • It therefore followed that any state could refuse to permit an Act of Congress to be enforced within its limits.

The 1828 South Carolina Exposition expressed the belief that the Constitution protected all economies in the union. Article 1, Section 8. Clause 1 of the Constitution states that "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States."

South Carolina Exposition argues the Tariff of 1828 is Unconstitutional
In his South Carolina Exposition document John C. Calhoun raised the arguments that:

  • The 1828 Tariff of Abominations was unconstitutional because it favored manufacturing over agriculture and commerce

  • Tariff power could only be used to generate revenue, not to provide protection from foreign competition for U.S. industries

  • The people of a state, or several states, had the power to veto any act of the federal government which violated the Constitution

The power of veto was the essence of the Doctrine of Nullification in the South Carolina Exposition. Calhoun believed the 1828 tariff would bring "poverty and utter desolation to the South."

Significance and Importance of the South Carolina Exposition
The Significance of the South Carolina Exposition was that it caused the Nullification Crisis bringing the
sectional interests of the North and the South into conflict for the first time. The conflicts between the North and South would ultimately lead to the American Civil war (1861-1865). South Carolina eventually became First State to Secede from the Union on December 20th, 1860. This event was one of the Causes of the Civil War.

Protective Tariffs
For additional facts and a timeline refer to Protectionism and Tariffs.

US American History
1801-1828: Evolution Era

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