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“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War?... Why could that one not have been worked out?” Trump said in an interview 30 April 2017 with the satellite radio carrier Sirius XM. Trump seemed ill-informed about the timing of President Andrew Jackson’s life. “I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” Trump claimed about the president who at his death owned 150 slaves. “He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said. ‘There’s no reason for this.’”

But Jackson, who was president from 1829 to 1837, died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War erupted. And the Nullification Crisis was resolved by capitulating to the demands of South Carolina.


1830-33 - Nullification Crisis

Toward the end of his first term in office, Andrew Jackson faced the "nullification" crisis. Jackson was forced to confront the state of South Carolina, the most important of the emerging Deep South cotton states, on the issue of the protective tariff. The difficulty was ended by the compromise tariff introduced by Henry Clay, providing for the gradual reduction of duties (1833).

After the War of 1812, the North American States entered on their course of Protection. The Northern States of the Union resolved to make the Southern States, the great producers of the continent, subservient to themselves. They established a tariff which threw the whole carrying power of the continent into their own hands and compelled the Southern States to be the purchasers of all manufactured commodities from the North. Henceforth, there grew up a dispute between the Northern and Southern portion of the Union.

In 1827 an attempt was made by the South to relieve themselves from the yoke of the tariff, which failed by a very small number in the House of Representatives and a still smaller number in the Senate. Then sprang up in the mind of the Southern States a hope of making slavery the means of relieving themselves from that burden. They determined in every case to make slavery and slave States the point to which they would direct their attention, their object being to free themselves from the thraldom of the North, and to acquire the rights of free trade.

In 1828 a new protective tariff had been passed, which was regarded in the South, especially in South Carolina, as extremely unjust and injurious. Business and farming interests in the state had hoped that the president would use his power to modify the 1828 act that they called the Tariff of Abominations. In their view, all its benefits of protection went to Northern manufacturers, leaving agricultural South Carolina poorer. In 1828, the state’s leading politician — and Jackson’s vice president until his resignation in 1832 — John C. Calhoun had declared in his South Carolina Exposition and Protest that states had the right to nullify oppressive national legislation.

The New England States had been averse to protection; and in 1816 Daniel Webster opposed the tariff measure as specially hurtful to the Eastern States, whose capital was so largely invested in commerce. After the protective policy had been adopted, and when, under its shield, manufacturing had been extensively established in the North, the former adversaries of protection, with Webster, as well as Clay, who had been a protectionist before, thought it unfair and destructive to do away with the tariff.

Its adversaries denounced it as unconstitutional. Calhoun and his followers, moreover, contended that nullification was legal and admissible; in other words, that a law of Congress may be set aside by a State within its own limits, provided it is considered by that State a gross infraction of the Constitution. There was a memorable debate on this subject in 1830, in the United States Senate, when the State-rights theory was advocated by Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, and the opposite doctrine defended by Webster. In 1832, Congress passed and Jackson signed a bill that revised the 1828 tariff downward, but it was not enough to satisfy most South Carolinians. In 1832 South Carolina passed an Ordinance of Nullification, which declared both the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 null and void within state borders. Its legislature also passed laws to enforce the ordinance, including authorization for raising a military force and appropriations for arms. Nullification was a long-established theme of protest against perceived excesses by the federal government. Jefferson and Madison had proposed it in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, to protest the Alien and Sedition Acts. The Hartford Convention of 1814 had invoked it to protest the War of 1812. Never before, however, had a state actually attempted nullification. The young nation faced its most dangerous crisis yet.

President Jackson issued a spirited proclamation in which the nullification doctrine was repudiated, and the opposite, or national, theory was affirmed, and the President's resolute intention to execute the laws of the United States was announced. In response to South Carolina’s threat, Jackson sent seven small naval vessels and a man-of-war to Charleston in November 1832. On December 10, he issued a resounding proclamation against the nullifiers. South Carolina, the president declared, stood on “the brink of insurrection and treason,” and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to the Union. He also let it be known that, if necessary, he personally would lead the U.S. Army to enforce the law.

Andrew Jackson was elevated to the presidency in 1829. He was a fearless man, an ardent patriot, with a choleric temper and an imperious will. He carried to an unexampled extent a custom, which had begun with Jefferson, of supplanting office-holders of the opposite political party by supporters of the administration. This came to be called the "spoils system," from the maxim once quoted in defense of it, that "to the victors belong the spoils."

In a letter to President James Monroe in September of 1819, Andrew Jackson referred to the international slave trade as an "inhuman and illegal traffic." But Jackson actively supported pro-slavery policies during his presidency in an attempt to keep the nation together. Jackson wrote a letter to the Postmaster General on August 9, 1835, suggesting that antislavery tracts "be delivered to none but who will demand them as subscribers; and in every instance the Postmaster ought to take the names down, and have them exposed thro the publik journals as subscribers to this wicked plan of exciting the negroes."

"How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?” This question of English author Samuel Johnson strikes at the core of the slavery controversy in the American quest for self-government. Americans affirmed their independence with the ringing declaration that “all men are created equal.” But some of them owned African slaves, and were unwilling to give them up as they formed new federal and state governments. In 1787, certain compromises were made in the Constitution regarding slavery in hopes that they would eventually be able to wean themselves off the “peculiar institution.” This settled the slavery controversy for the first few decades of the American republic.

This situation changed with the application of Missouri for statehood in 1819. It changed the political landscape so dramatically that when former president Thomas Jefferson heard about the enactment of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, he wrote, “This momentous question, like a firebell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union.”

No difference was so potentially divisive as the South's insistence on the right to hold slaves and the North's growing aversion to it. The newly acquired territory to the West, resulting from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, brought the issue of the extension of slavery to a slow boil in 1819. Both sides, North and South, were concerned about the balance of power in the Senate being disrupted by the admission of new states carved out of the Louisiana Territory.

When Maine requested admission as a free state in 1820, Congress agreed to a compromise where Missouri was permitted to come into the union with a constitution of its own choosing, which meant no restriction regarding slavery. In addition to Maine's admission in 1820 as a free state and Missouri's eventual admission as a slave state (in 1821), Illinois Senator Jesse B. Thomas suggested that in the balance of the Louisiana Territory north of the 36º30' parallel (which ran along Missouri's southern border) slavery would be prohibited forever. The Missouri Compromise thereby maintained an equal number of free and slaveholding states in the American union. But it proved only a temporary settlement of the slavery controversy.

The question of tariffs (or taxes) on foreign imports proved so volatile that one state tried to nullify an act of Congress and threatened to secede from the Union. South Carolina saw tariffs imposed by the national government on foreign imports not for general revenue purposes, but to help domestic, manufacturing industries located mainly in the North. With depressed cotton prices and reduced foreign demand for raw goods from the South, the 1828 and 1832 tariffs eventually provoked South Carolina to desperate measures.

South Carolina's attempt to nullify federal tariffs she deemed unconstitutional was not the first time a disgruntled state considered rejecting specific federal laws. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, which countered the federal Alien and Sedition Acts, maintained that the federal government was a compact of sovereign states and could only act according to powers specifically delegated by the states. Any broad interpretation and exercise of federal authority beyond the express grant of authority could therefore be considered null and void by individual states. In late 1814, five New England states also showed they could find enough reasons to complain of federal actions that appeared to favor one section of the Union over another. The Hartford Convention, called in response to the War of 1812 and its associated economic measures, debated (but rejected) secession from the United States and recommended amendments to reduce what they saw as a disproportionate southern influence in the Congress.

John C. Calhoun was undoubtedly very much disturbed by the prospect of a collision between his State and the central government, and on this account was disposed to compromise. But the principal reason why he threw his influence in favor of the compromise measure was that it approximated very closely to what he had desired. . But the principal fact was that Jackson by means of his Proclamation had drawn round him Clay's supporters. Jackson and Webster were then in combination, and all the advantage would have accrued to Webster if the controversy had ended without a compromise.

South Carolina went so far as to call a state convention that declared the Tariff Acts of 1828 and 1832 "null, void, and no law, nor binding upon" the state. Whereupon President Andrew Jackson rebuked South Carolina and threatened to invade the state. Jackson introduced the “Force Bill” [or "Bloody Bill"] which empowered the military to collect the tariffs.

Jackson met head-on the challenge of John C. Calhoun, leader of forces trying to rid themselves of a high protective tariff. Jackson, in his message of 04 December 1832, devoted more space to the tariff. He recommended a cautious reduction of the whole range of duties to a revenue standard. The public debt would practically be extinguished by January 1, 1833, and thus a considerable burden on the revenue would be taken off.

Historians of a certain sort make a great to-do over Jackson's threats to hang Calhoun, over his toast at the Jefferson-day banquet, ("The Union: it must be preserved!") and over the consternation and dismay of Calhoun and his following. In all of this, there isn't a scintilla of truth, beyond the fact that Jackson did send, or propose, such a toast. Authorities differ as to his being present at the banquet. In the book, "Great Senators," it is stated that Jackson was too unwell to attend.

It is possible that the old General, who had shown such a readiness to unlawfully hang prisoners, may have threatened, in some wild talk at the White House, to hang a United States Senator, but if any such silly explosion took place, it had no effect whatever on Calhoun. He never flinched one iota throughout the crisis. His speeches ring with the fiery determination of Patrick Henry. Time and again, he told the Senate that any attempt to enforce that abominable "law," would be resisted with all the armed force of South Carolina.

Before the South Carolina convention of 1832, which passed the ordinance of nullification, met, Jackson sent for General Scott and asked his advice as to what should be done to carry out his determination that "The Union must and shall be preserved." The counsel of Scott was: Garrison strongly Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney (" Sumter was not quite above ground"); have a sloop-of-war and some revenue - cutters in Charleston "to enforce the collection of duties." "Proceed at once," was the prompt reply of President Jackson, "and execute these views. You have my carte blanche in respect to troops; the vessels shall be there."

On February 15 and 16, 1833 Calhoun delivered an elaborate speech on the Force Bill. It placed at the Calhoun disposal of the President, he maintained, the army, the navy, and the entire militia of the nation to make war against a sovereign State, not as a State, but as an aggregation of outlaws.

Addressing the Senate, Calhoun said: "I consider the bill as far worse, and more dangerous to liberty, than the tariff. It has been most wantonly passed, when its avowed object no longer justified it. I consider it as chains forged and fitted to the limbs of the States, and hung up to be used when occasion may require. We are told in order to justify the passage of this fatal measure, that it was necessary to present the olive branch with one hand and the sword with the other. We scorn the alternative. Yet have no right to present the sword. The Constitution never put the instrument in your hands to be employed against a State; and as to the olive branch, whether we receive it or not will not depend on your menace but on our own estimate of what is due to ourselves and the rest of the community in reference to the difficult subject on which we have taken issue."

In another speech, he declared: "* * * It has been said that the bill declares war against South Carolina. No. It decrees a massacre of her citizens! War has something ennobling about it, with all its horrors, brings into action the highest qualities, intellectual and moral. It was, perhaps, in the order of Providence that it should be permitted for that very purpose. But this hill declares no war, except, indeed, it be that which avenges a war, not against the community, but the citizens of whom that community is composed. But I regard it as worse than savage warfare — as an attempt to take away life under the color of law, without the trial by jury, or any other safeguard which the Constitution has thrown around the life of the citizen! It authorizes the President, or even his deputies, when they may suppose the law to be violated, without the intervention of a court or Jury, to kill without mercy or discrimination!

" It is to South Carolina a question of self-preservation; and I proclaim it that, should this bill pass, and an attempt be made to enforce it, it will be resisted, at every hazard — even that of death itself. Death is not the greatest calamity; there are others still more terrible to the free and brave, and among them may be placed the loss of liberty and honor. There are thousands of her brave sons who, if need be, are prepared cheerfully to lay down their lives in defense of the State, and the great principles of constitutional liberty for which she is contending. God forbid that this should become a necessity! It never can be, unless this Government is resolved to bring the question to extremity, when her gallant sons will stand prepared to perform the last duty — to die nobly."

When the question of tariff duties again came before Congress, Jackson’s political rival, Senator Henry Clay, a great advocate of protection but also a devoted Unionist, sponsored a compromise measure. Clay’s tariff bill, quickly passed in 1833, specified that all duties in excess of 20 percent of the value of the goods imported were to be reduced year by year, so that by 1842 the duties on all articles would reach the level of the moderate tariff of 1816. At the same time, Congress passed a Force Act, authorizing the president to use military power to enforce the laws.

Congress passed the Force Bill on 01 March 1833, and it was signed into law the next day. But Senator Henry Clay fashioned a compromise that revised the tariff to South Carolina's satisfaction. This kept the tariff on the books and South Carolina in the Union. There was a disposition on the part of Congress and the President to go to some length to appease South Carolina; but there was also a determination that the supremacy of the federal government should in any case be recognized and sustained. In fact, there were those who, like Webster, would have preferred first to compel submission to the federal laws, and then to make whatever alterations in those laws expediency might dictate. But as it was, concession and compulsion went hand in hand: the Compromise Measure and the Force Bill received the President's signature on the same day.

South Carolina had expected the support of other Southern states, but instead found itself isolated. (Its most likely ally, the state government of Georgia, wanted, and got, U.S. military force to remove Native American tribes from the state.) Eventually, South Carolina rescinded its action. Both sides, nevertheless, claimed victory. Jackson had strongly defended the Union. But South Carolina, by its show of resistance, had obtained many of its demands and had demonstrated that a single state could force its will on Congress.

It was generally claimed that South Carolina had obtained substantially what she had contended for during the ten preceding years. Some extreme members were inclined to deny that any triumph worth speaking of had been achieved; but the majority echoed the sentiments of Turnbull, who declared that it was no little victory to have "foiled the barbarian fury". They were convinced that the attitude of South Carolina had been the one factor in bringing about the reform of the tariff, and that therefore a glorious victory had been won. South Carolina, said Governor Hayne, had not obtained all she had a right to demand; but such an opportunity was offered for adjusting the controversy that, consistently with her previous representations, she could not do otherwise than take advantage of it.

1854 - Ostend Manifesto

During the years between the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, the United States became increasingly involved in Central America and the Caribbean. While U.S. Government officials attempted to acquire territorial possessions in that region, private citizens (known as “filibusterers”) also organized armed expeditions to various places in Mexico, Central America, and Cuba. Filibustering and official U.S. diplomacy were equally unsuccessful in acquiring permanent and significant territorial gains, and also tended to incite local antagonism against U.S. actions in the region.

Many pro-slavery Southerners sought to expand southwards, allowing for more territory where slavery could continue to grow and expand. Some even imagined the United States as a great slave-owning republic that would stretch across the Caribbean to Brazil.

These expansionist dreams were aided at first by a Venezuelan-born resident of Cuba, Narciso López, who, like some wealthy Cuban slave-owners, was wary of shaky Spanish rule over the island, and thus sought to have it annexed by the United States in order to ensure slavery’s preservation in Cuba. Cuban property owners were concerned that Spain would give in to British pressure to abolish slavery in Cuba. López organized several failed expeditions to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule, the last resulting in his capture and execution in Havana in 1851. The American public condemned Spanish actions, especially López’s execution without trial, but U.S. President Millard Fillmore did not issue a denunciation. Public anger against Fillmore’s seemingly lukewarm support for expansion contributed to a Whig defeat in 1852.

In 1852 Franklin Pierce, then a youthful 48, won the Presidency. His expansionism in foreign affairs further incensed northerners, who resented his attempts to extend slavery by means of territorial acquisition or diplomatic maneuver. They were particularly upset when he persuaded the British to reduce their involvement in Central America and recognized the apparently proslavery government set up in Nicaragua by an American soldier of fortune. By one means or another, Pierce sought to acquire Hawaii, Santo Domingo, and Alaska. But by far Pierce's strongest quest was the purchase of Cuba from Spain.

In an attempt to mollify the Democratic Party’s staunch proslavery wing, the new President, Franklin Pierce, appointed the proslavery politician Pierre Soulé as Minister to Spain. Soule was appointed Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Spain on April 7, 1853. Soule was born in Castillon-en-Couserans, near Bordeaux, France, August 31, 1801; he was exiled to Navarre at the age of fifteen for anti-Bourbon activity and worked as a shepherd boy in the Pyrennes for a year. Soule was pardoned in 1818 and imprisoned for publishing revolutionary articles in 1825. He escaped to England and went to Haiti in 1825, and then to the United States; after travelling around the nation, commenced the practice of law in New Orleans, LA. He became a member of the State senate 1846, and was elected as a Democrat in 1846 to the United States Senate.

In foreign affairs, Spain did not move without consulting France or England. The influence of France was at present the more powerful of the two, and she was as much opposed to our acquisition of Cuba as was Great Britain; "and she will remain our enemy as long as she bends her neck under the yoke of the man who now holds the rod over her" [Napoleon III had assumed the throne on 2 December 1852]. The Cuban officials played into Soule's hands by committing an outrage on the Black Warrior, an American merchant steamer. She plied between Mobile and New York, stopping at Havana for passengers and mail. She had made thirty-six such voyages, almost always having a cargo for the American port, and never being permitted to bring freight to Havana.

She had always been permitted to sail unmolested until, when bound from Mobile to New York, she was stopped on the 28th of February, 1854, by order of the royal exchequer, for having violated the regulations of the port. The agent was informed that the cargo was confiscated and the captain fined, in pursuance of the custom-house regulations. The cargo was cotton, valued at one hundred thousand dollars; the captain was fined six thousand dollars. A gang of men with lighters were sent to the ship, under the charge of the comcmdante, who ordered the captain of the Black Warrior to discharge her cargo. This he refused to do. The comandante then had the hatches opened, and his men began to take out the bales of cotton. The captain hauled down his flag and abandoned the vessel to the Spanish authorities.

The President sent a message to the House of Representatives, stating that indemnity for the injury to our citizens had been demanded from Spain. He suggested that Congress should strengthen his hands by provisional legislation adapted to the emergency, promising that if the negotiations should fail, he would not hesitate to use the authority and means which Congress might grant, "to insure the observance of our just rights, to obtain redress for injuries received, and to vindicate the honor of our flag."

The average American deemed the seizure of the Black Warrior a moderate wrong; to Soule it appeared a gross indignity. His eagerness to obtain Cuba colored every thought and prompted every action. He believed that the man who should be instrumental in acquiring the island would be the leader of the Democratic party, and while, being foreign-born, he could not aspire to the presidency, he relished the idea of being President-maker.

It cannot be denied that the imperious words of Soule justified this dignified reply and severe reprimand. It has a noble ring when we consider it the answer of a weak, degenerate nation to a strong, energetic people; for the senders of this message thought that they had thrown down the gauntlet to the United States, and they expected that the next communication from the American minister would be a demand for his passports.

In the official circles of Madrid, war with the United States was now considered as very probable, and the chances of it were seriously discussed. The most sensible men in Spain were convinced that Cuba must sooner or later belong to the United States, but no one would have dared to propose its sale.' Such a project would have displaced any ministry and more than likely overturned the dynasty. In the event of hostilities with the United States, none but the proud Spaniards had a shadow of doubt as to what would be the fate of Cuba, but that conquest would be a very different affair from the conquest of Mexico.

The Americans would find that to win the " Queen of the Antilles " was a difficult task. The forts and the city would be obstinately defended. Nor would the Spaniards confine themselves to a defensive warfare. By the time that Havana was taken the magnificent merchant marine of the United States would be swept from the seas by privateers issuing from the ports of Spain. Nor would the fall of the capital city end the contest. The slaves would be given their freedom on condition of fighting the invaders; and when the Americans had finally obtained possession of Cuba, they might find it, as to waste and ruin and social conditions, a very St. Domingo, instead of the fair, fruitful island they had set out to conquer.'

The ministry were certain of the sympathy of England and France, but, in the event of hostilities with the United States, material aid from these two countries was hardly to be hoped for, as they were now engaged in a fierce war with Russia. The Spaniards did not know that a more efficient force than England and France was working for them — public sentiment in the northern half of the Union.

Minister to Spain from 1853 until his resignation in 1855, Soule was the author of the Ostend Manifesto, outlining the attitude the United States should take in regard to Cuba. In October 1854 the Ostend Manifesto was signed in Belgium by three United States diplomats (Pierre Soulé, John Mason, and James Buchanan, who was President from 1857 to 1861) that discussed the United States taking Cuba from Spain. The Ostend Manifesto advocated the use of force if necessary to take over Cuba and stressed its importance as a base to revivify slavery. This action was seen as another southern attempt to gain more slave states.

Once the documents were publicly released, they proved embarrassing for the Pierce Administration, and U.S. Secretary of State William Marcy implied that Soulé had instigated the meeting. In the meantime, the Spanish Government began to take countermeasures against U.S. interest in Cuba. The Spanish Minister to the United States, Angel Calderón de la Barca, gathered intelligence on planned filibustering expeditions to Cuba. In Cuba, officials took steps to free slaves who had arrived on the island after 1835 and planned to organize a free black militia that would oppose any proslavery invaders. Growing antislavery sentiment in the northern United States and Spanish determination to hold on to Cuba eventually forced U.S. leaders to end attempts to acquire the island.



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Page last modified: 03-12-2017 19:13:15 ZULU