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South Carolina Exposition and Protest


SOUTH CAROLINA EXPOSITION AND PROTEST. In the fall of 1828, many South Carolinians were on the point of rebellion against the Tariff of Abominations and the perceived abuse of power by congressional majorities. Seeking redress, state legislators asked John C. Calhoun, then U.S. vice president, to write a justification for a state veto of the offending legislation. In his "draft," Calhoun expanded on the iniquities and dangers of the tariff, and argued that state constitutional conventions had the sovereign authority to declare a federal act unconstitutional. Such a declaration would halt the operation of the law within the state until the federal government secured passage—if it could—of a constitutional amendment confirming the disputed power. The South Carolina legislature did not formally adopt Calhoun's Exposition, but printed it with amendments, together with its own protest, in December 1828. Four years later, the state adopted Calhoun's nullification scheme, bringing on a national crisis that showed the impracticality and danger of the procedure, and it was never used again.


Freehling, William W. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816–1836. New York: Harper and Row, 1966.

Wilson, Clyde N., and W. Edwin Hemphill, eds. The Papers of John C. Calhoun, Vol. 10: 1825–1829. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1977.

Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun. 3 vols. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944–1951.

Donald J.Ratcliffe

See alsoNullification .

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