Hartford Convention

As a result of these movements, several amendments were proposed to be incorporated into the Constitution. Said amendments were drafted during the Hartford Convention. The nature of the discussion and the amendments submitted during this convention reflected that the convention supported the view of the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions declaring as sovereign the voice of the State over the rule of the federal government. Thus far it can be seen that indeed some states when integrating into the United States of America did not intend to fully cede governance and control over their territory to the federal government.

The nullification crisis escalated however during the Jacksonian administration wherein tariff and slavery laws were enacted. President Jackson was a strong national whose support included groups and states favoring high tariff impositions. The imposition of high tariffs was more than a simple move to strengthen his voter base however. The electoral platform Jackson had established included the imposition of high tariffs rationalized by the fact that the same would benefit small and medium scale domestic manufacturers.

There was thus no surprise that Jackson should push for the passing of legislation allowing such tariff collections. However, there was unease among plantation states as there was fear that the imposition of such tariff rates on imports would push foreign nations to impose the same payments on cotton and corn exported from the South to places such as Europe. Thus, a strong anti-tariff sentiment surfaced. A debate ensued as to what could be done about the tariff impositions. There was talk of secession.

However, the anti-tariff states concluded that indeed there was a constitutional means for them to overthrow the imposition of tariff in their state. There was talk of appeal to the Supreme Court however what ultimately won out was the suggestion of Vice President Calhoun. Vice President Calhoun was the running mate of President Jackson. He had supported a pro-tariff stance throughout the elections. However, his political standing had become uncertain. There arose a need for him to strengthen his voter base, which just so happened to be composed mainly of the anti-tariff states to which he belonged.

Thus, Calhoun shifted from a nationalist stand to one of a sectionist. He turned from holding the federal government as sovereign over all state powers and began to espouse the sovereignty of the states which comprised the federal government. Calhoun adopted the contract theory and assumed that the power which was granted by the member states to the federal government could be taken away, in whole or in part, through the same sovereignty held by the member states which had allowed them in the beginning to create the federal government.

Thus, the Constitution which brought the nation together was viewed as nothing more than a compact or contract which governed the federal system but did not relinquish state sovereignty over to the federal government. Calhoun went further to state that the primary duty of each state was to protect and provide for the rights and needs of the citizens within its boundaries. Such duty was greater than the responsibility to implement and impose prohibitive regulations enforced by the federal government.