The People, Places, Events, History, Businesses, and Music of Upstate SC

HISTORY 101: The Tariff of Abominations

"The Tariff of Abominations"

Grant was the slave owner and did not free his slave until after the war when slavery was abolished for the entire country . Lee had freed his slaves at the beginning of the war. So did Grant fight to free slaves ? Seems unlikely.



The War between the States has been recorded in history and taught to us in school as a bloody struggle to end slavery. Around 630,000 soldiers and civilians died in what was our most violent conflict. Certainly slavery was a part of the conflict as well as States Rights over the powers of the Federal Government. But I have a couple of questions concerning the slavery issue. First, South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20th 1860 and actual hostilities did not begin until 1861 . Why was the Emancipation Proclamation 2 years later in 1863  and only freed the slaves in the 13 seceding states? Was it an attempt by Lincoln to gain support for a war no one wanted? Second, there were two Generals at Appomattox Courthouse in April of 1865 when the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered ending the war. Who were the 2 Generals and which one owned a slave ? Answer .... Union General Ulysses S Grant and Confederate General Robert E Lee.  Grant was the slave owner and did not free his slave until after the war when slavery was abolished for the entire country . Lee had freed his slaves at the beginning of the war. So did Grant fight to free slaves ? Seems unlikely.

So lets look at The Tariff of Abominations.

"The Tariff of Abominations  was a protective tariff passed by the Congress of The United States on May 19, 1828, designed to protect industry in the northern United States. Enacted during the presidency of John  Quincy Adams, it was labeled the Tariff of Abominations by its southern detractors because of the effects it had on the antebellum Southern economy. It set a 62% tax on 92% of all imported goods.

Industries in the northern United States were being driven out of business by low-priced imported goods; the major goal of the tariff was to protect these industries by taxing those goods. The South, however, was harmed directly by having to pay higher prices on goods the region did not produce, and indirectly because reducing the exportation of British goods to the U.S. made it difficult for the British to pay for the cotton they imported from the South.[1] The reaction in the South, particularly in South Carolina, would lead to the Nullification Crisis that began in late 1832.

The resulting tax on foreign goods would raise the cost of living in the South and would cut into the profits of New England's industrialists. Nevertheless, President John Quincy Adams approved the bill on May 19, 1828, helping to seal his loss to Andrew Jackson in the 1828 presidential election. Later that year in response to the tariff, Vice President John C. Calhoun of South Carolina anonymously penned the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, articulating the doctrine of nullification. The doctrine emphasized a state’s right to reject federal laws within its borders and questioned the constitutionality of taxing imports without the explicit goal of raising revenue. Calhoun later took credit for the doctrine in 1832 to the detriment of his presidential ambitions. Following their statesman’s lead, the South Carolina legislature used Calhoun's reasoning to nullify the Tariff of 1832, which had earlier replaced the Tariff of Abominations. While other southern states disagreed with the tariff, South Carolina was the only state to invoke nullification. Following a few tense months, South Carolina eventually accepted a compromise tariff in the winter of 1833. The constitutional crisis was only temporarily averted, as tensions remained throughout the Union." -- WIKIPEDIA

The Tariff of 1833

"John C. Calhoun of South Carolina served as Representative, Senator, and Vice President. Calhoun resigned his position as Vice President to return to the Senate in 1832.

Shortly after the Force Bill was passed through Congress, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun proposed The Tariff of 1833, also known as the Compromise Tariff, to resolve the Nullification Crisis. The bill was very similar to the Tariff of 1832, but with a few exceptions. Most importantly, the Tariff of 1833 guaranteed that all tariff rates above 20% would be reduced by one tenth every two years with the final reductions back to 20% coming in 1842. This essentially forced import tariffs to gradually drop over the next decade, pleasing South Carolina and other Southern states that depended on cheap imports.

In addition, the Tariff of 1833 had some other notable impacts. First, it allowed many raw materials used by American industry to be admitted completely free of duty. In addition, it stated that all duties must be paid in cash, with no credit allowed the importing merchant. Some claimed that this was equivalent to an additional 5 percent on tariff rates.

Ultimately, South Carolina and the rest of the United States would accept the Tariff of 1833, and warfare between the South Carolina army and the Union was avoided. Both sides received some benefit from the deal. South Carolina now had a much more agreeable tariff and did not have to risk lives to protect its economy, and the United States government, through the Force Act, was given the power to use force to enforce tariffs.

Many believe that were it not for the Force Act, South Carolina may have continued its Nullification policies because the Force Act gave the United States government the ability to use military force to enforce tariffs and other economic policies, which posed a clear threat to South Carolina. Though the exact impact of the Force Act on South Carolina's decision to accept the Tariff of 1833 cannot be measured, there is no doubt that it made fighting for nullification a potentially devastating choice. Ultimately, the House passed the Tariff of 1833 by a vote of 119–85 and the Senate passed it by a vote of 29–16.

The Tariff of 1833 was ultimately abandoned in favor of the Black Tariff of 1842, and protectionism was reinstated. Average tariff rates nearly doubled from the initial 20% target for 1842 to about 40%, and the percentage of dutiable goods jumped from about 50% of all imports to over 85% of all imports. For some goods, such as those made with iron, the import tax constituted about two thirds of the overall price of the good. Unsurprisingly, the impact of the Black Tariff of 1842 was immediate: as the cost of imports jumped, there was a sharp decline in international trade in 1843. Once again the South and South Carolina in particular felt the burden of unfair taxation to benefit the North and talk of secession was proposed. Finally around seventeen years later 13 Southern States decided to withdraw from the Union." -- WIKIPEDIA

Randy Simpson, Contributor

Randy is a graduate of Clemson University and veteran of the U.S. Airforce. He is a 10th generation South Carolinian and history buff. He also plays bass for Loaded Toad. Randy will be covering Upstate history for Upstate Exposures. You may contact him directly at


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