America In the Early 19th Century

Topic: Nullification

Table of Contents
Vocabulary Terms and Identifications
Important Image
Biographies of Key Historical Figures

  Overview: Nullification Crisis

Nullification started when South Carolina refused to obey federal laws. A major person that was known during this crisis was John C. Calhoun. He was constantly arguing that a state should be able to nullify a federal law, if it was considered unconstitutional. On the other hand, Andrew Jackson thought otherwise. He believed that states shouldn't be able to take away federal laws. Before this crisis Calhoun and Jackson were friends, but while this was happening they both became enemies.

Vocabulary and Identifications

1) States' rights- the theory that states may nullify federal laws.

2) Nullify- to declare that a certain law will not be enforced.

3) Secede- to break away from the U.S.

4) Tariffs- taxes on imports.

5) Sovereignty- the power to control their affairs.

Important picture

Letter from Andrew Jackson

A Letter from Andrew Jackson to Martin Van Buren 
discussing his views on nullification.
Click for close up.

Biographies of Important People

John C. Calhoun 1782-1850

Calhoun had graduated from Yale College and after that he studied law. Calhoun was a leader of the War Hawks, which is a group of young nationalists who believed that the quarrel over American ships between Britain and America could only be settled by war. In 1817 Calhoun was elected vice president under John Quincy Adams. In 1829 when Andrew Jackson became president, Calhoun became vice president again. In 1828 Congress passed a tariff, tax on imported goods, that Southern planters didn't like. To protest this tariff, Calhoun wrote the South Carolina Exposition. It said that if the federal government overstepped its power in passing laws, the people could refuse to pay attention to it. This theory by Calhoun became known as nullification. Calhoun resigned from the position of vice president in 1832, because he wanted to be in the senate, he thought he could help his country more, if he was in the senate. He spent the rest of his life as a senator.

Andrew Jackson
Doctrine of Nullification

Andrew Jackson, our president during the nullification crisis, was surrounded by many problems.  It all began when a group got the idea of nullification.  So, Jackson, Calhoun, and the group got together in the white house for dinner, but the idea of nullification didn't work.  The election of 1832 was an anti-climax.  The nominees were Henry Clay from National Republicans and Andrew Jackson from the Democratic Republicans. Jackson got elected by beating Clay 31 electoral votes.  During this election Calhoun resigned and elected himself as senator of South Carolina.  Also a resistance group had formed in South Carolina during 1832.  They told Jackson that if the government forces them to pay the tariff, they will secede and make their own government.  South Carolina tried to fight the Union so, Jackson  countered the South Carolina Ordinance with a proclamation.  Then, in Congress Calhoun gave a speech but, Daniel Webster challenged him and won.  Andrew Jackson issued a call for action so, he sent a Force Bill to stop the rebellion in South Carolina, but they passed the Compromise Tariff instead.  On March 15, his birthday, the South Carolina Ordinance repealed and celebrated four days in Philadelphia. 
 Then, began the battle of the bank.  Jackson was convinced that the Bank can override his veto and put over anything they wanted.  In 1833 Jackson discussed to remove government funds from the bank.  In 1834 Jackson finally won.  Meanwhile his son Andrew Jackson, Jr. married a Quaker girl named Sarah Yorke.  Then, when he was attending a funeral, a man fired at him twice but, it was misfired.  On the last day of his term in 1836 his administration ended in triumph.  The Bank was destroyed, nullification was put down, Indians were herded west, and the Democrats were in control.  Also France paid their debt to the U.S.


1. What is nullification?

2. What did Calhoun think of nullification?

3. What did Jackson think of nullification?

4. What was a main issue during this crisis?

5. When was the election?

6. When did Jackson's term end?

7. In what year did the nullification crisis start?

8. What did Calhoun do after he resigned from vice presidency?

9. What was the resistance group from South Carolina?

10. Calhoun wrote __________________________________.







1. Nullification is to declare a certain law that will not be enforced.

2. He liked the idea of nullification.

3. He disliked nullification.

4. The Tariff of 1828 (Tariff of Abominations).

5. 1832

6. 1836

7. 1832

8. He got elected himself as senator from SC.

9. South Carolina Ordinance.

10. The South Carolina Exposition.


Student authors:  Helen W. & Maria M.

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