Resist Federal Tyranny

Saturday, August 7, 2010
By Paul Martin

The Origins of Nullification

by Thomas J. DiLorenzo

The defenders of centralized governmental power (a.k.a. tyranny) despise the Jeffersonian idea that the citizens of the states have a right to nullify what they believe to be unconstitutional federal laws. They hate it so much that they falsify history whenever they are forced to discuss it when it becomes news, as it has in recent months. Their favorite falsehood is the myth that nullification was the idea of U.S. Senator John C. Calhoun, the principal architect of South Carolina‚Äôs nullification of the federal “Tariff of Abominations” in 1832. This tariff, sponsored by Henry Clay, raised the average tariff rate to 45% with tariffs on some items exceeding 100%. Since almost all of the items covered by the tariff were manufactured in the Northern states, only Northern manufactures would benefit from them by charging higher prices once international competition was prohibited by the tariff on imports. South Carolinians, Virginians, and other Southerners correctly believed that the tariff was a break with the constitutional compact that outlawed discriminatory taxation. They were correct to interpret the Tariff of Abominations as an attempt by the neo-Puritanical New England “Yankees” to use the power of the central state to plunder them (and all consumers for that matter). That was a trend they sought to nip in the bud with their nullification law.

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