After the War of 1812, a series of tariffs—taxes on imported goods—was enacted. The purpose of these tariffs was to protect American manufacturing from low-priced British manufactured goods. Because the domestic manufacturing industry was still in its infancy, it could not compete with the low prices of British manufactures. The first protective tariff was passed in 1816, followed by an increase in tariff rates in 1824. In 1828, during the presidency of John Quincy Adams, Congress passed legislation that included an even higher tariff designed to shelter the burgeoning American manufacturing industry from British competition.
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The tariff became known to its Southern opponents as the Tariff of Abominations. Tariffs heightened sectional tensions because they raised prices on manufactured goods, which benefited the domestic manufacturing industry in the North but was bad for Southern slaveholders who had to pay higher prices for goods. Southerners also feared that foreign countries would enact higher tariffs on raw materials produced in the South. Moreover, because the British reduced their exports to the United States in response to the tariff, they had less money to pay for US imports, especially cotton from the South. As a result, the British imported less cotton, which further depressed the Southern economy.
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John C. Calhoun and the theory of nullification
Andrew Jackson was elected president in 1828, partly due to the South’s belief that he would pursue policies more in line with the interests of Southern planters and slaveholders. Indeed, Jackson had chosen John C. Calhoun, a native of South Carolina, as his vice president.
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Many Southerners expected that Jackson would repeal or at least reduce the so-called Tariff of Abominations and protect their interests better than John Quincy Adams had.