South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832)

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South Carolinians' objections to the expansion of federal authority focused on protective tariffs enacted in 1828 and 1832. They were most concerned, however, about potential external threats to the security of slavery, including threats from the federal government. Inspired by constitutional theories of john c. calhoun, the South Carolina legislature called a convention to nullify the tariff.

On November 24, 1832, the convention adopted the Ordinance of Nullification, which declared that Congress lacked power to adopt a protective tariff. The tariff measures were therefore "null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens." The ordinance voided all contracts and judicial proceedings designed to collect the tariff, prohibited state officials from enforcing it, required the state legislature to enact legislation that would "prevent the enforcement and arrest the operation" of the tariffs, prohibited appeals of tariff-related cases to the Supreme Court, required all public officials and jurors to take an oath to support the ordinance and supportive legislation, and warned that any coercive federal act would trigger the state's secession. South Carolina also subsequently nullified the federal force act that empowered President andrew jackson to collect the tariff. Though the Nullification Ordinance produced a major constitutional crisis in 1832, it was a short-term failure. President Jackson and all the Southern states denounced it, and South Carolina never found occasion to put its requirements to the test. But the Ordinance was a major step in implementing the theory of nullification and, as such, pointed to secession.

William M. Wiecek


Current, Richard N. 1963 John C. Calhoun. New York: Washington Square Press.

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South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832)

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South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification (1832)