Perhaps the three most influential men in the pre-Civil War era were Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. These men all died nearly a decade before the civil war began, but they didn't know how much they would effect it. States' rights was a very controversial issue, and one which had strong opposition and radical proposals coming from both sides. John C. Calhoun was in favor of giving states the power to nullify laws that they saw unconstitutional, and he presented this theory in his "Doctrine of Nullification". Daniel Webster strongly disagreed with this proposal and showed this by giving powerful support to President Jackson in resisting the attempt by South Carolina to nullify the tariff of abominations', as they called it; a shipping tax passed in 1828 that they saw as unfairly favoring the industrial North. Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, didn't seem to be partisan either way, and, although he was a Whig, always came up with a way to please both sides of any argument.
John C. Calhoun proposed the states' right theory and attempted to enact nullification twice, after each of two tariffs that South Carolinians saw as one sided and unconstitutional was passed, first in 1828 and the second in 1832. Calhoun felt that his beloved South Carolina, and the south in general, were being exploited by the tariffs. These pieces of legislature, Calhoun argued, favored the manufacturing interests in New England and protected them from foreign competition. Calhoun wrote the South Carolina Exposition for his state's legislature in 1828. It declared that no state was bound by a federal law which it believed was unconstitutional. The secession of South Carolina from the Union was the most extreme way that the South argued for states' rights. John C. Calhoun was, perhaps, best remembered for his part in inspiring the South's effort to achieve national independence in the Civil War, even though it took place nearly twelve years after his death.
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