States Rights vs. the National Government

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, the Hartford Convention, the Webster-Hayne Debate, and the South Carolina Exposition and Protest all debated how much power should be given to the states versus how much power should be given to the national government. All of these debates wanted to give more power to the states government. In the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson argued that the states had the power to decide whether or not they would accept a law based on whether or not it was constitutional. In opposition, the Hartford Convention was a meeting of New England Federalists, where they felt that they were being overpowered by states. Carrying on the theme of states rights versus the federal government, the Webster-Hayne Debate was a debate between whether or not a state should be able to control their lands and set aside certain federal laws. In the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, South Carolina argued that the tariff set up by the government was unconstitutional and thought the national government was overreaching their applied powers given by the Constitution. All four of these political acts, led to the questioning of the national governments power, and how much of it the states should have.

The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions were a result of the opposition to the Alien and Sedition acts. Kentucky and Virginia claimed that those acts violated the constitution- due to this violation of their rights, they were driven to propose the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, in which it was claimed that states have the power to nullify any laws passed by congress that are found to be unconstitutional.

Primary Source

"I never use the word 'nation' in speaking of the United States. I always use the word 'union' or 'confederacy.' We are not a nation, but a union, a confederacy of equal and sovereign states."(John C. Calhoun) (The American Pageant page. 265)

John C. Calhoun and his followers tried to nullify the Tariff of 1828. This quote shows us that South Carolina/John C. Calhoun believed that they had the right to nullify a federal law that they didn't agree with, because the US was a union and each sate could look out for itself. The US government lowered the tariff over a period of time, but they didn't loose the power to impose a tariff.

The South Carolina Exposition and Protest was written by John C Calhoun to protest the Tariff of 1828, a tariff that would raise the price of manufactured goods in the North. This political act also favored more power to the states. John C Calhoun thought that this tariff was unconstitutional because it would only help manufactures in the north and would severely hurt the south. John C Calhoun was the Vice President at this time, which led to a spurred outlook/opinion.

The issue of states rights is common theme throughout American history. Eventually it would be one the issues that the eleven seceding states had. They believed that they had the right to own slaves, and because the national government said no they seceded from the the United States.

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