counter create hit Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina 1816-1836 - Download Free eBook
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina 1816-1836

Availability: Ready to download

When William Freehling's Prelude to Civil War first appeared in 1965 it was immediately hailed as a brilliant and incisive study of the origins of the Civil War. Book Week called it "fresh, exciting, and convincing," while The Virginia Quarterly Review praised it as, quite simply, "history at its best." It was equally well-received by historical societies, garnering the Al When William Freehling's Prelude to Civil War first appeared in 1965 it was immediately hailed as a brilliant and incisive study of the origins of the Civil War. Book Week called it "fresh, exciting, and convincing," while The Virginia Quarterly Review praised it as, quite simply, "history at its best." It was equally well-received by historical societies, garnering the Allan Nevins History Prize as well as a Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious history award of all. Now once again available, Prelude to Civil War is still the definitive work on the subject, and one of the most important in ante-bellum studies. It tells the story of the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, describing how from 1816 to 1836 aristocratic planters of the Palmetto State tumbled from a contented and prosperous life of elegant balls and fine Madeira wines to a world rife with economic distress, guilt over slavery, and apprehension of slave rebellion. It shows in compelling detail how this reversal of fortune led the political leaders of South Carolina down the path to ever more radical states rights doctrines: in 1832 they were seeking to nullify federal law by refusing to obey it; four years later some of them were considering secession. As the story unfolds, we meet a colorful and skillfully drawn cast of characters, among them John C. Calhoun, who hoped nullifcation would save both his highest priority, slavery, and his next priority, union; President Andrew Jackson, who threatened to hang Calhoun and lead federal troops into South Carolina; Denmark Vesey, who organized and nearly brought off a slave conspiracy; and Martin Van Buren, the "Little Magician," who plotted craftily to replace Calhoun in Jackson's esteem. These and other important figures come to life in these pages, and help to tell a tale--often in their own words--central to an understanding of the war which eventually engulfed the United States. Demonstrating how a profound sensitivity to the still-shadowy slavery issue--not serious economic problems alone--led to the Nullification Controversy, Freehling revises many theories previously held by historians. He describes how fear of abolitionists and their lobbying power in Congress prompted South Carolina's leaders to ban virtually any public discussion of the South's "peculiar institution," and shows that while the Civil War had many beginnings, none was more significant than this single, passionate controversy. Written in a lively and eminently readable style, Prelude to Civil War is must reading for anyone trying to discover the roots of the conflict that soon would tear the Union apart.


Compare
Ads Banner

When William Freehling's Prelude to Civil War first appeared in 1965 it was immediately hailed as a brilliant and incisive study of the origins of the Civil War. Book Week called it "fresh, exciting, and convincing," while The Virginia Quarterly Review praised it as, quite simply, "history at its best." It was equally well-received by historical societies, garnering the Al When William Freehling's Prelude to Civil War first appeared in 1965 it was immediately hailed as a brilliant and incisive study of the origins of the Civil War. Book Week called it "fresh, exciting, and convincing," while The Virginia Quarterly Review praised it as, quite simply, "history at its best." It was equally well-received by historical societies, garnering the Allan Nevins History Prize as well as a Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious history award of all. Now once again available, Prelude to Civil War is still the definitive work on the subject, and one of the most important in ante-bellum studies. It tells the story of the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, describing how from 1816 to 1836 aristocratic planters of the Palmetto State tumbled from a contented and prosperous life of elegant balls and fine Madeira wines to a world rife with economic distress, guilt over slavery, and apprehension of slave rebellion. It shows in compelling detail how this reversal of fortune led the political leaders of South Carolina down the path to ever more radical states rights doctrines: in 1832 they were seeking to nullify federal law by refusing to obey it; four years later some of them were considering secession. As the story unfolds, we meet a colorful and skillfully drawn cast of characters, among them John C. Calhoun, who hoped nullifcation would save both his highest priority, slavery, and his next priority, union; President Andrew Jackson, who threatened to hang Calhoun and lead federal troops into South Carolina; Denmark Vesey, who organized and nearly brought off a slave conspiracy; and Martin Van Buren, the "Little Magician," who plotted craftily to replace Calhoun in Jackson's esteem. These and other important figures come to life in these pages, and help to tell a tale--often in their own words--central to an understanding of the war which eventually engulfed the United States. Demonstrating how a profound sensitivity to the still-shadowy slavery issue--not serious economic problems alone--led to the Nullification Controversy, Freehling revises many theories previously held by historians. He describes how fear of abolitionists and their lobbying power in Congress prompted South Carolina's leaders to ban virtually any public discussion of the South's "peculiar institution," and shows that while the Civil War had many beginnings, none was more significant than this single, passionate controversy. Written in a lively and eminently readable style, Prelude to Civil War is must reading for anyone trying to discover the roots of the conflict that soon would tear the Union apart.

30 review for Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina 1816-1836

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Tariffs! Still don’t have your attention? Nineteenth Century tariffs! I hope you weren’t holding a baby or driving a car when you read that sentence, because undoubtedly your baby is now on the floor and you are in a ditch. There is nothing in the world quite so attention grabbing as American import duties in the 1800s. Right? Right? Incidentally, people don’t like talking to me. If you’re still here, contemplating the notion of tariffs, then let me suggest a book: William Freehling’s Prelude to C Tariffs! Still don’t have your attention? Nineteenth Century tariffs! I hope you weren’t holding a baby or driving a car when you read that sentence, because undoubtedly your baby is now on the floor and you are in a ditch. There is nothing in the world quite so attention grabbing as American import duties in the 1800s. Right? Right? Incidentally, people don’t like talking to me. If you’re still here, contemplating the notion of tariffs, then let me suggest a book: William Freehling’s Prelude to Civil War: the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836. This book has it all. Tariffs and resentment over tariffs and a harebrained plot to veto Federal tariffs through a state nullification convention. I don’t want to oversell anything, but this is heady stuff. Freehling’s use of the word “prelude” in his title is very pointed and specific. The Nullification Crisis was a dry run for the Civil War in two important respects: (1) it made secession a very real possibility; and (2) at its heart the controversy was really about slavery. The tariffs at issue here were levied on imported goods – that is, goods brought into the United States from other nations. These tariffs were high, almost confiscatory. Their purpose was protectionism. The tariffs were meant to make international goods more expensive, thereby propping up American manufacturers. By every measure, these tariffs advantaged the North while disadvantaging the South. The North had most of the manufacturing facilities. The South, meanwhile, ended up paying more for staples. Furthermore, the South’s exports were turned into items which were then taxed when sent back to the United States, thereby affecting exporters’ bottom lines. South Carolina devised a simple and elegant solution to these import duties: passing a State law to ignore them. This brought South Carolina into direct conflict with President Andrew Jackson, who despite many, many (many, many, many) faults, was a unionist through and through. South Carolina’s brazen scheme threatened all sorts of mayhem, not the least of which was civil war. Hence the Nullification Crisis that undoubtedly has your heart rate skyrocketing. Freehling begins the book by helpfully laying out the background for the crisis. He takes time to describe South Carolina in great detail, focusing on the differences between the dense swamps of the low country, “filled with a luxuriant forest of cypress and gum, cotton and oak. Long festoons of gray Spanish moss, hanging from the thick, gnarled branches…”, and the upcountry piedmont, “a region of rolling hills and red clays.” Tidewater planters had shifted from rice and indigo to labor intensive long-staple luxury cotton, while the upcountry planters grew short-staple cotton, a crop that could be grown with a lower proportion of slaves, or none at all. Freehling also devotes a chapter to South Carolina’s economy, hit hard by the Panic of 1819 and marked price declines due to overproduction between 1822-1829. There were many causes to South Carolina’s depression – old mortgages, specie drain, inadequate banks – but high tariffs gave people something concrete, a very visible threat to coalesce against. In one sense, the campaign against the tariff was the most articulate expression of South Carolina’s slowly awakening desire to end the avoidable aspects of the depression of the 1820s. The nullification crusade came at a moment of transition in South Carolina’s economic history, and the fury of the campaign was in part an intriguing manifestation of the nullifiers’ doubts about whether they could achieve an aggressive, efficient capitalist system…But the deeper economic cause of the nullifiers’ crusade was the indigence which afflicted Carolinians by the thousands. Throughout the state, citizens in danger of losing land, shops, and slaves focused their frustration and anger on the protective tariff… The theory of nullification arose from strict construction of the Constitution. (Be still my beating heart!). Strict construction means that you read the words with an exceedingly literal eye, finding Federal power only where it is precisely and explicitly spelled out. Nullifiers took this strangled Constitutional view a step further, by incorporating social-contract theory and a unique conception of sovereignty. The ratification of the Constitution was a manifestation of America’s commitment to John Locke’s contractual theory. Locke’s theory, in turn, was an attempt to solve a classic conundrum in political theory: how can a government possess the coercive force necessary to enforce its laws without becoming an illegitimate tyranny? Locke assumed that governmental power became legitimate when the community consented to its exercise. Coercive force could not be considered tyrannical when it was used to enforce the will of the governed. But as contractual theorists realized, if each citizen had to consent to each law, governments could no longer enforce their edicts. Gaining political legitimacy would require surrendering the power to govern at all. To escape this difficulty, Lockeans distinguished between an initial, higher, constitution-making stage and a subsequent, more mundane, lawmaking stage. In the initial social contract, members of a community consented to a constitution, thereby establishing a particular form of government and giving it certain powers. When they ratified a constitution, contracting agents also renounced their right to consent to laws passed within the sphere of the power granted. By investing a government with certain prerogatives, the governed avoided the anarchical consequences of requiring everyone to assent to each specific law. At this stage, you probably need a drink, or a cold shower. Nullifiers believed that nullification derived from two places. One, that the Constitution created divided sovereignty, with limited Federal powers, and the balance of power residing in the States. Two, that as the contracting party who initially ratified the Constitution, they could veto Federal laws which utilized power that the people never delegated. All this torrid talk of statutory interpretation and political theory obscures the central fact of Freehling’s book: that the Nullification Crisis was a proxy fight over slavery. The antebellum South existed in perpetual fear that the Federal Government, under the direction of the majority North, would outlaw the institution. This is why the South fought so hard against Federal funding of such obvious national improvements as roads and bridges. The threat of nullifying Federal laws indirectly protected slavery, while the ability to actually do so provided a direct defense to any national effort to disrupt slavery. Nullifiers did not pretend otherwise. William Harper, George McDuffie, James Hamilton Jr., and John C. Calhoun himself all said things to that effect. In the end, though South Carolina passed a nullification ordinance declaring the tariff unconstitutional. Shortly afterwards, a Force Bill passed Congress, authorizing military force against South Carolina. A compromise tariff bill also came into law, acceptable to South Carolina. South Carolina thereupon repealed their ordinance, ending the crisis. I read this book as part of my History of Slavery in America reading project. In one sense, slavery had nothing to do with the Nullification Crisis. In a different sense, it had everything to do with it. Not to put too fine a point on things, but slavery is a big deal in American history. It’s not some distasteful wrinkle in an otherwise unblemished record. It’s not an over-exaggerated and hyperbolized footnote constantly trumpeted by liberal historians to make white people feel guilty. And it’s not simply a moral wrong. Slavery infected just about every aspect of 19th century politics and economics, from the issue of Federal power to the westward expansion of the nation to international relations. It also culminated, obviously, in the bloodiest war in American history. Freehling’s book can frankly be a bit of a slog. It’s not Freehling’s fault, per se. He cannot change the fact that tariffs are tariffs, and it’s more exciting to read about Antietam or Gettysburg than import duties. But this is an important book for understanding the insidious role of slavery, and in tracking the long road to secession and war in 1861. Here again, for your dutiful reading pleasure, is my History of Slavery in America reading project. The books that have been struck through are those that I’ve read and reviewed. 1. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in America, by Ira Berlin 2. Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits, and the Struggle for a Constitution, by Lawrence Goldstone 3. The Missouri Compromise and its Aftermath, by Robert Pierce Forbes 4. Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836, by William Freehling 5. The Impending Crisis: 1848-1861, by David M. Potter 6. The Road to Disunion Volume 1: Secessionists at Bay, by William Freehling 7. The Road to Disunion Volume 2: Secessionists Triumphant, by William Freehling 8. America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and the Compromise that Preserved the Union, by Fergus M. Bordewich 9. River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom, by Walter Johnson 10. The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward Baptist 11. Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865, by James Oakes 12. The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South, by Bruce Levine 13. Reconstruction, by Eric Foner

  2. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    Probably the best study of the Nullification Crisis of 1832. In November 1832, South Carolina was already making hints it would withdraw from the Union. The ostensible issue was tariffs (always money, always money,) but Freehling shows the importance of the slave issue in the crisis. Andrew Jackson threatened publicly to send in the troops and privately to hang John C Calhoun, the Everett Dirksen of ante-bellum. Nullification was the belief, prevalent in the south, that states could deny the cons Probably the best study of the Nullification Crisis of 1832. In November 1832, South Carolina was already making hints it would withdraw from the Union. The ostensible issue was tariffs (always money, always money,) but Freehling shows the importance of the slave issue in the crisis. Andrew Jackson threatened publicly to send in the troops and privately to hang John C Calhoun, the Everett Dirksen of ante-bellum. Nullification was the belief, prevalent in the south, that states could deny the constitutionality of federal laws and refuse to abide by them. In what has to be one of the most ironic pronouncements in American history, the S.C Congressman George McDuffie said, "We should infinitely prefer that the territory of the state should be the cemetery of freeman than the habitation of slaves." The governor marshaled an informal army and purchased weapons in the north so as to be ready to defend Charleston should Old Hickory invade the state and try to force collection of the tariffs due the federal government. South Carolina low-country aristocracy, forced by malarial swamps where they raised sea-island cotton and rice, to abandon their plantation between May and the first frost in November, created a gentile society that valued social pretensions and was quick to see insult. They despised all forms of manual labor and reopened the slave trade in the early 1800's to insure an adequate labor supply. This raised its own set of problems for during the months when they were gone the ratio of black to white, already as high as 5-1 ballooned even higher. There was always a sense of paranoia amidst the gentry. But they had lots of time on their hands and became experts at politics and brooding. Despite the difference between the lowlanders and the highlanders, one element that gave them common cause was slave ownership. It provided a political cohesion and unity that caused all other political movements to pale in comparison. Opposition to tariffs had not been exclusively South Carolinian. At one time or another all economic interests that deemed themselves to be at a disadvantage from federal tariffs had fought (if not literally) against federal interference. "A society reveals its deepest anxieties when it responds hysterically to a harmless attack." The nascent abolitionist movement struck fear in the hearts of the southern gentry. But the fear had economic roots. After all, abolition would have wiped out $80 million in property. Naturally, the debate became infused with the threat of other dire consequences: rape, murder, mayhem, etc. The Declaration of Independence and the words of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson represented a real threat to slave owners who insisted that Fourth of July celebrations be for "white" only. "The sight of a slave listening to a fourth of July oration chilled the bravest southerner." The mere idea that if man's natural rights were violated, insurrection was a legitimate tool to fix the injustice was frightening. The Vesey slave insurrection of 1822 was a recent reminder of what they might face. Vesey, a brilliant and charismatic black who had purchased his freedom, used the words of the Bible and the Declaration of Independence to form an abortive insurrection. This linkage of education and religion caused some difficult issues for the low-country gentry. Because the area was so malarial, they often left supervision of their slaves to overseers who remained unsupervised themselves. This meant cruelty was not unusual despite contracts that prohibited it. Until the Vesey rebellion, slave owners, not willing to risk possible salvation for their slaves, since the prevailing view was that eternal salvation depended on earthly conversion so it had not been uncommon for owners to permit their slaves relatively unencumbered religious education which often included instruction in reading. Until Vesey that is, when many began to worry more about their necks than their slave's redemption. So what does all this have to do with nullification? The slaveholders had become quite defensive about their "peculiar" institution and began to argue in pro-slavery tracts that it was a national good because cotton and rice were national goods and that to place a tariff on those products was detrimental to the nation. Anything that smacked of discussion or defense of slavery was to be nipped in the bud. John C Calhoun, in his bid to become president, had accepted the position of Secretary of War under Monroe. The War of 1812, despite the reasonably favorable Treaty of Ghent, had provided ample evidence of the need for a more national cohesion, robust infrastructure, and national currency through a national bank. Calhoun supported all of these and supported a national tariff to help pay for them. His provincial South Carolinians, relying on the export of staples and distrusting manufacturing as an economic base, required free trade so they had little preference for the tariff. By the mid-1820's the Vesey rebellion, northern agitation for abolition and the tariff, commerce with free black sailors in S.C. ports (they were permitted to act as free while in port and this was considered a bad influence on S. C. slaves), as well as Pinckney's agitation against the Missouri Compromise, laid the groundwork for anti-federal feeling that resulted in sectionalist fervor. All of these forces combined to create a climate of fear and doom which caused an excessive reaction to federal power, even though the problems had been self-inflicted. (Dare one see a parallel to today given our excessive fear of terrorism?) The theory behind nullification was that the states had existed before the revolution and that states should have the right to act independently and that federal law was not supreme. In the meantime, Calhoun was losing power and the Jacksonians were gaining. In fact, Jackson's response to the crisis might have prevented an early secession and his adherence to unionist principles laid the groundwork for Lincoln's response just a few decades later. One could argue that the failure of nullification made secession almost inevitable given the South's strong defense of slavery and reliance on agricultural economics susceptible to huge swings in value. On the other hand, had nullification succeeded, the union would most likely have failed to function. The question of states v federal power, I believe, has yet to be fully resolved, the pendulum swinging back and forth throughout our history. (When the governor of Texas recently threatened secession only half in jest, I fear my response was, Yes!) And now that Senate filibuster rules have virtually created a parliamentary system, well, who knows what will evolve next.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brett C

    Strictly the facts. Non-biased facts about the South Carolina controversy that helped spark the War of Northern Aggression. I really liked the beginning chapters that discussed the uniqueness of South Carolina, Charleston, and the antebellum world that existed before the Nullification. The was very detailed and full of information. Good read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Liam

    "The most revealing public reaction to the tensions slavery generated in the 1820's and early 1830's was neither the 'necessary evil' nor the 'positive good' argument but rather the attempt to repress open debate." (82) "Slavery, to recapitulate, was always a more disturbing affair at tidewater than in the piedmont. The dense slave population, the Denmark Vesey Conspiracy, the Charleston Fire Scare, the Georgetown plot, the Nat Turner uprising in Virginia -- all made the low country apprehensive "The most revealing public reaction to the tensions slavery generated in the 1820's and early 1830's was neither the 'necessary evil' nor the 'positive good' argument but rather the attempt to repress open debate." (82) "Slavery, to recapitulate, was always a more disturbing affair at tidewater than in the piedmont. The dense slave population, the Denmark Vesey Conspiracy, the Charleston Fire Scare, the Georgetown plot, the Nat Turner uprising in Virginia -- all made the low country apprehensive of slave revolt. The slaves' susceptibility to malaria, the nature of absentee ownership, and the reliance on unsupervised, sometimes incompetent overseers may have burdened the uneasy conscience which plagued sensitive slaveholders." (86) "Although the two houses of the 1824 state legislature could not agree on the tone which should be adopted, they concurred in defying Adams. ... South Carolina continued to imprison Negro seamen despite sporadic federal protest. Years later Hayne rightly claimed that the state had successfully nullified federal law in the Seamen Controversy." (115) "The South Carolina version of economic nationalism, in short, was always qualified and soon abandoned largely because it was too disinterested and too much a product of temporary military crisis. ... The great problem of the Republic before 1820 was to survive in an era of fierce European war. After 1820 American politics were increasingly dominated by conflicts over tariffs, banks, and the ominous slavery issue. To Clay and Adams, and to the economic interests which supported them, economic nationalism seemed more attractive than ever in the 1820's. The harder they pushed the doctrine, however, and the more the threat of war receded, the more South Carolina found nationalism fundamentally 'changed.'" (133) "If the tariff was not satisfactorily adjusted, 'he [Governor James Hamilton] knew that his fellow citizens would go even to the death with him for his sugar.' ... Unionists burst out with laughter rather than applause when imitators shouted out 'even to the death with Hamilton for his sugar'; thereafter the former governor was know as 'Sugar Jimmy.'" (289)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Justinmmoffitt

    The definitive account for a reason.

  6. 4 out of 5

    David Nichols

    Beautifully written and deeply researched, this book was among the first to place South Carolina's bizarre and violent political history in the larger context of economic change and race relations in the nineteenth century. My only quibble is that one of Freehling's arguments - that tariff disputes were really just a stalking-horse for slavery - downplays the importance of national trade policy to a state with an export-led economy. (Anecdotal aside: I bought my copy of this book in the gift sho Beautifully written and deeply researched, this book was among the first to place South Carolina's bizarre and violent political history in the larger context of economic change and race relations in the nineteenth century. My only quibble is that one of Freehling's arguments - that tariff disputes were really just a stalking-horse for slavery - downplays the importance of national trade policy to a state with an export-led economy. (Anecdotal aside: I bought my copy of this book in the gift shop at Fort Sumter, and it was an appropriate place to begin reading Freehling's great narrative.)

  7. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    Freehling's study of the nullification crisis is superb. He demonstrates that the response to the "Tariff of Abominations" was really about slavery, and southerners' underlying apprehensions about their peculiar institution.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Becky Snow

    Freehling did an amazing job with this book. It covers every little piece of the Nullification puzzle, and explains the mind of South Carolina during the controversy and after, leading into the Civil War.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Yet another great book by Professor Freehling. Well-researched, interesting facts....a great read so far!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Hands down the best treatment of the Nullification Crisis that I've ever read. I'd like to read it again one of these days, but unfortunately I lost my copy several years ago.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Spencer

  12. 5 out of 5

    James Bennetts

  13. 5 out of 5

    David Chikovsky

  14. 4 out of 5

    Katy

  15. 4 out of 5

    James Hill Welborn III

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark Pasewark

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lexi

  18. 5 out of 5

    Adrian Colesberry

    It's not exactly an easy read. But it's a terrific review of the issues that led to war.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Deaidra Coleman

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rich

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Gately

  22. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Lombardo

  24. 5 out of 5

    Will Damron

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Reymer

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Don (The Book Guy)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Breanna Lubkeman

  29. 4 out of 5

    Catherine Fancy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Scott

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.