Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
It was the nullification crisis that gave fuel to the “affronted southern-rights extremists” that could be found in South Carolina and beyond. (1) Since the birth of America, many decisions came down to a North versus South mentality as each section had its own special interests. Any economic decision that would help one region seemed to endanger the other region. As the South saw the protective tariff as a move to ruin the region, the hint of what was to come raised its head. Southern states wanted the decisions from the government to be sensitive to the needs of the individual states. Andrew Jackson, a fellow Southerner, “thought it unpatriotic, even treasonable, to rank state interests above the welfare of the country as a whole.” (2) As we know the result of a few decades earlier, it is easy to see how the hint of what was to come with the Civil War was glaring everyone in the face during the early 1800s. The states still saw themselves as individual entities as they had since they first joined forces to fight the British. They were one nation, but the desires and interests were still too individualized. In a way, that made perfect sense as each colony that later became a state and all the new states were very individualized. They were made up of different kinds of people and developed unique cultures. It was hard to see themselves as one with a state so far away that was as different to them as night was to day. The nation had yet to pull itself together. The Civil War was not fought over slavery but over the rights of the states to govern themselves. They wanted to eat their cake and have it, too which is not at all possible. If the political leaders of the Jacksonian era had been listening with wisdom, they might have noticed the ripple of horror that South Carolina sent forth. It was a foreshadowing of what that same state would do at Fort Sumter as it led the nation down a dark hole where not only state fought state but brothers fought brothers and spilled tons of blood into the very ground they called home.
(1) Daniel Feller, The Jacksonian Promise: America, 1815-1840, (Baltimore: John Hopkins University, 1995), 186.
(2) Ibid, 163.