RCC Honors History Project

Nullification and the Bank War, 1831

Posted by ga2008bby on November 20, 2008

Mr. Calhoun’s Sentiments

It would be in vain to conceal that it [the tariff] has divided the country into two great geographical divisions, and arrayed them against each other, in opinion at least, if not interests also, on some of the most vital of political subjects; on its finance, its commerce, and its industry; subjects calculated above all others…[to place] the sections in question in deep and dangerous conflict…. If there be any point to which the…weaker of the two sections is unanimous, it is that its prosperity depends, in a great measure, on free trade, light taxes, economical and as far as possible, equal disbursements of the public revenue, and an unshackled industry, elevating them to pursue whatever may appear most advantageous to their interests….

The stronger [states], in order to maintain their superiority, giving a construction to the instrument [the Constitution] which the other believes would convert the General Government into a consolidated, irresponsible government, with the total destruction of liberty; and the weaker, seeing no hope of relief from such assumption of powers, turning its eye to the reserved sovereignty of the States, as the only refuge from oppression….

We are fast approaching a period very novel in the history of nations, and bearing directly and powerfully on the point under consideration–the final payment of a long standing funded debt… When it arrives, the Government would find itself in possession of a surplus revenue of 10,000,000 or 12,000,000 of dollars, if not previously disposed of….

The honest and obvious course is, to prevent the accumulation of the surplus in the treasury, by a timely and judicious reduction of the imposts; and thereby leave the money in the pockets of those who made it, and from whom it cannot be honestly nor constitutionally taken unless required by the fair and legitimate wants of the Government….

Every duty imposed for the purpose of protection, is not only unequal, but also unconstitutional.


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