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The 1833 Nullification Crisis
Date January, 1833 - May, 1837
Location The United States of America and the Confederate States of America
Casus belli The United States Congress’ failure to pass a compromise tariff and Andrew Jackson’s enforcement of the Force Bill.
Result Independence of the Confederate States of America.
United States of America Confederate States of America

The Initial Crisis[]

On January 16, 1833, Andrew Jackson presented the Force Bill to Congress. The bill was designed to suppress any South Carolinian intentions of nullifying the Tariff of 1828. Custom houses in Beaufort and Georgetown would be closed and replaced by ships located at each port. In Charleston, the custom house would be moved to either Castle Pinckney or Fort Moultrie in Charleston harbor. Direct payment rather than bonds would be required, and Federal jails would be established for violators that the state refused to arrest and all cases arising under the state’s nullification act could be removed to the United States Circuit Court. In the most controversial part, the militia acts of 1795 and 1807 would be revised to permit the enforcement of the custom laws by both the militia and the regular United States military.

After an extremely heated debate, the House Judiciary Committee authorized Jackson to use force to suppress the nullification movement. In outrage at the Committee's decision, senators from the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama left Washington and returned to their respective states. Efforts to create a compromise tariff stalled. Angered by the Southern senators' behavior, the Force Bill was quickly passed by an overwhelming Northern majority.
On February 1, John C. Calhoun, former Vice President of Andrew Jackson, addressed the Nullification Convention in Columbia. He demanded "the immediate secession of the great State of South Carolina" from a Union "determined to destroy our livelihoods by economic and military suppression." Without a compromise tariff, the Convention not only nullified the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, but also declared the secession of South Carolina.

Once news of South Carolina's Declaration of Secession reached Washington, Andrew Jackson immediately ordered the assembly of 50,000 volunteers in Washington to prepare for a full-scale invasion of South Carolina.

Jackson's insistence on denying the right to secession rankled throughout the South, particularly in Virginia and Kentucky, where the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions still formed central pillars in their philosophy of federalism. Despite James Madison's insistence that Virginia remain in the union, the Virginian legislature voted to secede shortly after Jackson's declaration. Kentucky followed shortly thereafter on February 22.
In the next few months, North Carolina, Jackson's home state of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi all voted to secede from the Union. Although Henry Clay had been a bitter political opponent of Jackson, he attempted to find a compromise in Congress. The Compromise of 1833 included a repeal of the tariff and a constitutional amendment preventing the government from instituting tariffs "that unnaturally favored a select group of states," but was immediately rejected by Northern legislators.

The First Year of War[]