The position of Mississippi in the controversy over the protective tariff is especially interesting because, in the long and bitter struggle over slavery, Mississippi came to accept the doctrine of complete State sovereignty and the consequent rights of nullification and secession laid down by South Carolina in this crisis, and was hardly second to that State in the final movement that carried the doctrine of State sovereignty to its logical conlusion,--secession.
In 1828, at the time of the passage of "the tariff of abominations ," Mississippi was a young frontier community, the experiences and interests of which had made it national in sentiment and a supporter of the party in control of the general government. George Poindexter, delegate of the Mississippi Territory in congress, voiced the sentiments of his constituents, in 1811, when he interrupted the disunion speech of Josiah Quincy, in the house of representatives, on the admission of Louisiana into the Union, and appealed to the speaker "Whether it be competent in any member of this house to invite any portion of the people to insurrection, and of course to dissolution of the Union."' In the second war with Great Britain, the territory gave its aid valiantly to protect the Southwest from both the Indians and the British, in testimony of which Jackson, afterwards, in speaking before the governor and the legislature of the State, praised the exhaustless energy and patriotism with which Mississippi had poured out her resources and sent forth her sons to the conflict.
Perhaps the factors that had been most effective in creating this national sentiment in Mississippi were those that were, at this period, binding the people of the State most firmly to the support of the national government: the land and the Indian questions. June 30, 1828, of the 31,074,234 acres of land in Mississippi, 11,514,517 acres were in the possession of the United States, and 16,885,760 in the possession of the Indians. There fore, the most important political and economic questions facing the State were the removal of the Indians and the adoption of a land policy by the government of the United States that would be most favorable to the promotion of the speedy settlement and development of the State. On both of these questions, the people of Mississippi and Andrew Jackson were heartily in accord, and they rallied enthusiastically to the support of the national government under the control of the "old Hero," whom they had followed in battle and who embodied their frontier ideals of government and had at heart the furtherance of their main economic interests.
But there were factors already at work that would operate long after the land and the Indian questions were finally settled, and ultimately completely reverse the attitude of the State towards the Union and the Federal government. The rich, virgin soil, especially adapted to the cultivation of cotton, invited the slave owner and the would-be slave owner from other States. in the decade from 1820 to 1830, the number of slaves in the State increased from 32,814 to 65,659, and Mississippi became a purely agricultural community dependent on slave labor for its prosperity. By 1828, though the governor might condemn slavery as an "evil at best," the economic, social, and political systems of Mississippi were organized on that institution and the State was definitely committed to it and to the policies that its presence demanded.
Among the national policies at this time, the one that aroused most feeling and on which the sections divided because of their economic interests was the tariff. In 1816, when Clay and Calhoun, working together to restore prosperity to the country after the War of 1812, sought to carry through a tariff that would furnish protection to the industries established during the struggle with England and contribute to the economic independence of the United States, John Randolph, true to his beloved Virginia and his section, and understanding clearly the impossibility of building up manufactories with slave labor, opposed the measure because it bore "on poor men and on slave holders." His section did not see with his vision and was divided in its opposition to the bill. But with the growth of slavery, the conscious acceptance of it as the basis of the economic organization of the South, and the assumption that this committed the section to an exclusively agricultural regime; and with the growth of the demands of the manufacturing interests for increased protection, the sentiment in the South against the tariff grew to such an extent that, with the exception of Kentucky, it was almost unanimously opposed to the tariff of 1824 and bitterly hostile to that of 1828, which marks the high-water mark of protection before the War of Secession.
A protective tariff in the United States involves two fundamental questions, i. e., whether protection is for the social and economic good of the country, and whether it is constitutional. The tariff of 1816 was considered from the point of view of expediency and had been passed because it was thought to be for the good of all. When the South was faced with the tariff of 1828, it well knew that to attack it with economic arguments was useless for its adherents of the manufacturing States of the East and the wool and hemp growing States of the West and Southwest were too firmly persuaded of its advantages. There fore the arguments against the tariff during this period are based on its constitutionality. As early as 1825, the legislature of South Carolina had declared that "to lay duties to protect domestic manufactures" was "an unconstitutional exercise of power on the part of Congress." The passage of the "tariff of abominations" aroused the agricultural South to a high pitch of indignation, and governors and legislatures of the Southern States condemned the act as unconstitutional and unjust. South Carolina, already the acknowledged leader of her section in its opposition to a protective tariff, protested through her legislature against it as destructive to the interests of South Carolina and "unconstitutional, oppressive, and unjust," and adopted as a report "The South Carolina Exposition" written by John C. Calhoun. The constitutional arguments in "The Exposition" are those of the Kentucky and the Virginia resolutions and Madison's report to the Virginia legislature in 1800; but Calhoun goes farther than Jefferson and Madison and definitely sets forth the "modes and measures of redress" by which a State may "interpose" to protect its rights against the encroachments of the Federal government. It belongs to a State in convention assembled, according to "The Exposition," "to determine, authoritatively, whether the acts of which we complain be unconstitutional ; and, if so, whether they constitute a violation so deliberate, palpable, and dangerous, as to justify the interposition of the State to protect its rights. If this question be decided in the affirmative, the convention will then determine in what manner they ought to be declared null and void within the limits of the State; which solemn declaration, based on her rights as a member of the Union, would be obligatory, not only on her own citizens, but on the general government itself; and thus place the violated rights of the State under the shield of the Constitution." The only recourse of the Federal government, in such a case, is an appeal to all the States. If three-fourths of these sustain the contention of the Federal government, the powers in dispute becomes a granted power, and the State must submit or secede. But the legislature of South Carolina was "restrained from the assertion of the sovereign rights of the State by the hope that the magnanimity and justice of the good people of the Union will effect the abandonment of a system, partial in its nature, unjust in its operation, and not within the powers delegated to Congress"; and, to ascertain the opinion of the other States and to invite their co-operation, sent copies of its resolution to the governors of the other States, to be laid before the several legislatures.
The protests of South Carolina were followed by resolutions of the legislatures of Georgia and Virginia declaring the tariff unconstitutional, partial in its operation, impolitic, and oppressive to a large portion of the people of the Union, and urging its repeal.
The interests of Mississippi identified her with South Carolina in opposing a protective system, but restrained her from accepting the "modes and measures of redress" proposed by Calhoun. Governor Brandon, reflecting these interests, in his message to the legislature at the beginning of 1829, questioned the policy of encouraging industry by tariffs; but noted with satisfaction that the threats "of determined and hostile resistance" to the tariff law of 1828 among the sister Southern State had "happily settled in a resolution to resist the policy alone by constitutional means." The legislature of Mississippi, acting in accord with this sentiment, passed resolutions declaring "that the tariff of 1828 is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the United States; impolitic and oppressive in its operation in the Southern States, and ought to be resisted by all constitutional means," and "instructed" their senators in congress and "requested" their representatives "to use their best exertions to effect a revision or repeal of the present Tariff." A year later, February 5, 1830, the legislature again expressed the opposition of the State to the policy of protection, by passing a resolution concurring with the States of Georgia, South Carolina, and Virginia in the soundness of me policy expressed in the different resolutions on the tariff, the colonization society, and internal improvements.
However opposed Mississippi might be to the policy of protection, the devotion of its people to Andrew Jackson was sufficient to insure the support of the State to the national government while it was under his direction. Partly because of his influence and partly because of interests and inclinations attaching her to the Union, Mississippi was unwilling to break with the Federal government, and only a small minority of the people of the State actually supported South Carolina in the assertion of the right to nullify an act of congress and the defiance of the president in the exercise of that right. Many were in this small minority not primarily because they favored nullification, but rather because they were hostile to Jackson. For the constitutionality and the expediency of the tariff and nullification became confused with the great personal antagonism between Jackson and Calhoun and the lesser antagonisms between Jackson and those who had dared oppose him. Among the leaders of this minority in Mississippi were John A. Quitman and George Poindexter.
Quitman, the most consistent of States Rights men, was an ardent opponent of the tariff. July 31, 1831, he wrote to J. F, H. Claiborne. from his old home in New York, that he hoped Calhoun or some anti-tariff man would become a candidate for the presidency in 1832, and that, if Van Buren were a decided tariff and internal improvement man, he had no notion of smoothing his road to the presidency by a compromising course of policy. On his return to Mississippi, Quitman entered into opposition to the administration; advised against the nomination of Van Buren for the presidency, chiefly because of his alleged support of the tariff; and declared himself for Calhoun. He organized a State Rights association in Adams County and through his influence similar associations were formed in Amite, Hinds, Wilkinson, and two or three other counties. J. F. H. Claibome declares, however, that these associations accomplished very little, as the State rights movement had little sympathy in Mississippi and the supporters of Calhoun were "few and far between."
Poindexter had been an admirer and able supporter of Jackson, and in 1819 had made a famous speech in the house of representatives in defense of Jackson's course in the Seminole War. In 1830 he was elected to the senate by the legislature of Mississippi as a follower of Jackson, but he soon drifted from the support of the administration" and became a supporter of Calhoun. The position of Poindexter and the remarkable influence of Jackson in Mississippi are clearly brought out in the correspondence between J. F. H. daibome and Poindexter. Claiborne, in a letter dated March 7, 1832, tells Poindexter plainly, that if he has endeavored to impede the course of the administration and has denounced General Jackson as an officer entirely incompetent and declared himself a "Nullifier" in such a sense of the word, as would "justly a dissolution of the Union to get rid of an unpopular law," then he, Claiborne, can no longer adhere to his political fortunes in spite of all former ties of friendship and admiration. He also warns Poindexter "that the people of Mississippi, in spite of faction, in spite of all cabals that exist among them, never will doubt the patriotism of General Jackson. The man who opposes him risks much--and if it be, that you have deserted his administration--that you have lifted up your voice against him and in league with that party, which is against us in everything--then I shall live to see, what you know I will regret from the bottom of my heart--the sudden prostration of all your popularity.
Poindexter, although indignant that one so young and inexperienced as Claiborne should presume to question his course in political affairs, replied in a letter that set forth fearlessly his relation to the administration, his opinion on the right of nullification and the relation of the States to the Federal government, and his attitude towards Van Buren, Calhoun and Clay. He asserts that he has uniformly given his vote to measures recommended to congress by the president if they did not, in his honest opinion, conflict with the constitution or the interests of the American people; that he does not think that the chief executive, like the king, is infallible, and does not agree with the president on the constitutionality of a protective tariff and his scheme of distributing the surplus revenues, and thinks many of the president's recommendations, if carried into effect, would be ruinous to the agricultural States. However, he does not complain of the president for his opinions; for no doubt they are honestly entertained, and so are his. He had advocated the election of Jackson in opposition to Adams, and therefore he was, in a measure, identified in the success of his administration, and would never oppose him from factious considerations. As for his being in league with the party of opposition. Clay would as soon calculate on Jackson's support as his.
"You wish to know," he continues, "whether I have declared myself a 'nullifier.'" "To dissolve the Union," he declares, " 'to get rid of an unpopular law' would involve a political depravity too monstrous to be tolerated," and the suggestion from one so young and inexperienced as Claiborne that he is "liable to such an imputation" excites feelings that it would be better for him not to express.
As to his views on the Federal government, Poindexter asserts that he considers "this government in its character federative, and the rights of the States who are parties to it, as extending to every power, not conceded to the Federal head by the constitution. A usurpation by congress of powers not granted in the compact of Union without limitation or check, would amount to consolidation and practical despotism." For a further exposition of his views of the structure of the government, he refers Claiborne to the political creed of Thomas Jefferson and the able report of Mr. Madison in the Virginia legislature of 1799.
He finally tells Claiborne: "If you believe that powers usurped by Congress to favor one portion of the Union and depress another can receive no check by the interposition of the sovereign power of the States, whose rights are invaded, and that such usurpation may be enforced at the point of the bayonet, your republicanism and mine do not belong to the same school and the sooner we are both undeceived on the subject, the better. I go for the constitution as it is written on the strict observance of which, the very existence and vital interests of the Southern States depend, and if you enlist on the side of the supremacy of Federal power in all cases, and the infallibility of the chief magistrate, whose will connot be resisted with impunity, I shall not either expect, or desire, your support."
He declares, in unmeasured terms, his opposition to that "corrupt, intriguing, and gambling political" Martin Van Buren, and his determination not to sacrifice every principle of honor to the blind devotion of a feeble and dependent old man whose popularity has been staked to elevate to the presidency a court favorite who is the deadly enemy of the whole country south of the Potomac.
As for Calhoun, Poindexter declares: "Mr. Calhoun is not and will not be before the people for any office at the expiration of his present term. He is the only man now in the political theatre, who ever had pretension to the presidency, who is the fnend of Southern interest, and when he retires we shall find it difficult to replace him. He is powerless, therefore, any opinion in his favor ought at least to be considered disinterested."
In Mississippi the question of nullification was sufficiently important in the summer of 1832 to enter into other questions of the day. Quitman announced himself as a candidate to represent Adams County in the convention called to frame a new State constitution. His opposition to the election of judges by popular vote and his general conservatism made him acceptable to his constituents; but his well known support of Calhoun and his views on State and Federal relations aroused opposition to his candidacy. A meeting was called of the citizens of Adams County adverse to the election of judges by the people and opposed to nullification, either to produce a reconciliation of all those opposed to the election of judges by the people, or to bring out another candidate in place of Quitman.
It was asserted in the call: "It is believed by a large body of those of Judge Quitman*s friends who sustained his nomination and who intended by their votes to have contributed to his election, that he is a Nullifier in principle! That his opinions, frequently of late expressed upon the subject of Nullification, are the same as Mr. Calhoun's and Mr. Hayne's; the one its author, the other its first public propagator. Judge Quitman's friends in this country believe that nullification is unsound in theory, and contrary to the constitution; that its tendency is anarchy, and that the effect of its practical application to any given case is disunion! They look to the indications in South Carolina, and despair of its permanency, while she asserts her right and intention to nullify a law of the United States. They look to the threat of her governor that before the year is out, her citizens will be in arms; to the declarations of a portion of her delegation in congress, who wish to go home and prepare for war. They are also well aware of the disposition of the leaders of the party to form a great Southern league to crusade against the Union. Under these circumstances, and at such a crisis, a large portion of Judge Quitman's friends can not sustain him, without sustaining; nullification, and putting at issue in this state the question of union or disunion."
Judge Quitman appeared at the meeting on the 15th of July, as he had been invited to do in the call for it, and stated his views on the respective rights of the general and the State governments, with the result that a resolution was adopted setting forth the opposition of the meeting to nullification and declaring that its propagation would endanger their dearest and best interests, but that the views of Quitman as set forth in the meeting by himself did not "amount to nullification, according to the usual acceptation of the term," and that he should be supported for the convention. It is hardly probable, from the character of the man, that Quitman modified his views in his address before this meeting; but it is probable that his views with reference to the State constitution were such and his popularity in the community so great that his nomination was confirmed in spite of his views on nullification.
In the meantime, national events were moving forward. July 14, 1832, a new tariff emerged, which was in many respects an improvement on that of 1828, but which embodied no important modification of the protective principle. The vote in the South was equally divided, the measure receiving strong support from Virginia and North Carolina and encountering equally strong opposition from South Carolina and Georgia. The one representative from Mississippi voted for the passage of the bill, but both the senators voted against it. Poindexter had protested against it as leaving all the offensive features of the tariff untouched, and urged that congress "in a mutual spirit of compromise and concession do justice to all and restore tranquility to this distracted country." He refused to vote for the bill because he thought by doing so he would concede the right of congress to lay taxes for other purposes than revenues, and because he considered the bill from the inequality of its operation worse than that of 1828.
The spirit of nullification was keyed to a higher pitch by the passage of the new tariff act. The "magnanimity and justice of the good people of the Union" had not effected the abandonment of the odious protective system, and South Carolina prepared to act. November 24th, a convention of that State passed an act declaring that the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832 "are null, void and no law nor binding upon this State, its officers, or citizens," and that no collection of the duties enjoined by that law should be permitted in the State of South Carolina after February I, 1833.
But Andrew Jackson was not disposed to sit quietly by while South Carolina, under the leadership of his dearest foe, annulled an act of congress. December 9th, he wrote Joel Poinsett, a leader of the Union party in South Carolina, that in forty days "from the date of my orders," if force shall have become necessary, "I will have forty thousand men in the State of South Carolina" to put down resistance and enforce the law." On the following day, December 10, 1832, he issued his "Nullification Proclamation," in which he denied the doctrine of State sovereignty and the theory of the Federal government enunciated by South Carolina and the consequent rights of nullifications and secession; and appealed to the people of South Carolina to beware of the danger into which they were running, and to the people of the United States for their undivided support in preserving the integrity of the Union.
South Carolina did not weaken. The legislature replied to Jackson's proclamation in a series of resolutions condemning the course of the president, asserting the right of a State to secede peaceably from the Union, and expressing the determination to repel force with force. Governor Hayne put forth a counter proclamation, and the legislature issued a call for a convention of the States "to determine and consider such questions of disputed power as have arisen between the States of the Confederacy and the General Government."
January 16, 1833, in a special message, the president reviewed the course of South Carolina, pointed out that duties could not be collected in that State, and asked for additional legislation to enforce the revenue laws. On the twenty-first of January a bill to enforce the collection of the revenue, destined to become famous as the "force bill," was reported to the senate.
In the meantime, the attitude of the other States toward the course of South Carolina could not be reassuring to that State. Governor Scott, of Mississippi, was more sympathetic towards South Carolina than the legislature he addressed. January 8, 1833, in his message to the legislature, he asserts that a large majority of the people of the State think the tariff "contrary to the spirit of the constitution of the United States, impolitic, and oppressive in its operation upon the Southern States, and should be resisted by all constitutional means," and that there is little difference of opinion on this subject among the people of the South generally. "Yet, strange as it may appear," he continues, "the general government has persisted in this most unjust and oppressive system until one of the States, affording the purest patriots and most talented statesmen, has been induced to believe that no relief was to be expected, and has entered upon a course which seems to threaten a dissolution of the Union." He hopes, however, "that Congress will at their present session so modify the obnoxious law as to restore harmony and good feeling once more, between the different sections of our beloved country."
This part of the governor's message, and the resolutions from the States of Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania on the same subject, were referred to a select committee of the house of representatives of which Adam L. Bingaman, an influential Whig, of Natchez, was chairman. This committee, in its report, declared their belief that the sentiments of the majority of the people of the States towards a protective tariff were still in accord with those expressed by the general assembly in 1829. But the committee expressed themselves as opposed to nullification and as regarding it as a heresy fatal to the existence of the Union, and expressed the opinion that the State of South Carolina had acted with a reckless precipitancy. The committee deplored the alarming crisis in national affairs and regretted it the more as proceeding from the unwarrantable attitude assumed by a sister of the South whose best interests were identical with those of their own State. In the spirit of members of the same family, they invoked the people of South Carolina to pause and hearken attentively "to the paternal, yet ominous warning of the Executive of the Union" and conjured them to await patiently the gradual progress of public opinion, and to rely, with patriotic confidence, on the ultimate decision of congress.
The committee also proclaimed that Mississippi owed a duty to the Union above all minor considerations and that she prized the Union less than liberty alone; and asserted that they were heartily in accord with the general political sentiments of the president of the United States as expressed in his recent proclamation, and that they stood firmly resolved, "at whatever sacrifice of feeling, in all events, and at every hazard to sustain him in enforcing the paramount laws of the land and preserving the integrity of the Union--that Union, whose value we wilt never stop to calculate--holding it, as our fathers held it, precious above all price."
The committee reported for adoption three resolutions. The first condemned secession by declaring "that, in the language of the father of his country, we will indignantly frown upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the ties which link together its various parts'" The doctrine of nullification was condemned in the second resolution as "contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and in direct conflict with the welfare, safety and independence of every State in the Union." "To no one of them," it was added, "would its consequences be more deeply disastrous, more ruinous, than to the State of Mississippi." In the last resolution, the legislature declared that, "We will, with heart and hand, sustain the president of the United States in the full exercise of his legitimate powers, to restore peace and harmony to oyr distracted country, and to maintain, unsullied and unimpaired, the honor, the independence and integrity of the Union." These resolutions passed the house by a vote of 30 to 3 and were in due time passed by the senate and transmitted to the other States. .
The replies of the other co-States to the call of South Carolina for a convention were as little reasuring as that of Mississippi. All condemned the course of South Carolina, and a large majority also expressed their approval of the proclamation of the president. But Georgia and Alabama joined with South Carolina in recommending a general convention of all the States.
The legislature of Mississippi refused to concur in the resolutions of Georgia calling a convention of the States to amend the constitution. The committee of the House to which the resolutions of Georgia had been referred gave, in its report, as a reason for this refusal that such a convention would be productive of results wholly foreign to the wishes of those who were most anxious for the call. For a convention, assembled at that time, they had every reason to believe, would affirm those very powers which were so obnoxious to a majority of the citizens of the Southern section of the Union, since the constitutionality of a tariff of protection had been affirmed by eighteen of the twenty four States, the larger States all being in favor of the affirmation, In addition, the committee pointed out that the passion and excitement that would be engendered by the struggle in the convention would endanger the peace of the country.
In the meantime, the forces of compromise were at work to avert the threatened dash between the Federal government and South Carolina. The president, in his message December 4, 1832, urged the revision of the tariff. In addition, the general assembly of Virginia, in its reply to South Carolina, earnestly and affectionately requested and entreated that State to rescind its nullification ordinance or at least, to suspend its operation and await the result of a combined and strenuous effort of the friends of union and peace, to effect an adjustment and reconciliation of all public difference then unhappily existing, and sent a com missioner to South Carolina to assure that State of the good faith of Virginia and to offer its friendly mediation. In response to these "indications of beneficial modification of the tariff," a public meeting, in Charleston, January 21st, suspended the ordinance of nullification; and the president of the convention issued a proclamation, on February 13th, calling the convention together again on March nth, seven days after the adjournment of congress.
At the beginning of 1833, the "force bill" and the reduction of the tariff were both before congress. Calhoun, who had returned to the senate, led the struggle against the former and in favor of the latter. The Mississippi delegates in both houses, opposing the all-powerful Jackson, lent their support to the South Carolina statesman. Poindexter, as early as December 17, 1832, introduced a resolution concerning the reduction of the tariff. On February lath he expressed his approval of Clay's compromise tariff bill and severely arraigned those senators who decried the tariff as ruinous and oppressive and who yet voted for fleets and armies to carry it into effect and opposed conciliation, when it was proposed, as something which ought to be averted. He characterized the tariff as "accursed" and declared that the bill reported by the judiciary committee "ought to have been kicked out" of the senate as soon as it was introduced and expressed surprise that the "measure which looks to the peace and tranquility of the country, did not meet with as much favor" as that which "would bring out the whole of the country to carry the tariff laws into effect."
Though John Black, the other senator from Mississippi, disapproved of Calhoun's position on nullification," he was in accord with him on the modification of the tariff and opposition to the "force bill." He and Poindexter both voted for the passage of the tariff bill of 1833 and refused to vote on the question of the passage of the "force bill." Plummer, the representative of Mississippi in the house, voted for the former, and against the latter.
The tariff was passed in both houses of Congress, February 26, 1833, and the "force bill." March 1, 1833. Thus Congress offered South Carolina the olive branch with one hand and the rod with the other. South Carolina accepted the olive branch and defied the rod. The convention reassembled at the appointed time and March 15th, by a vote of 153 to 4, rescinded the ordinance of November 24. 1832, and acts of the legislature passed in pursuance thereof. But, far from giving up the doctrines it had announced in the struggle, on March 18th, by a vote of 132 to 19, the convention passed an ordinance nullifying the "force bill" itself, and called upon the legislature to pass laws to prevent its enforcement within the State. The convention then adjourned and the crisis over nullification was over.
In Mississippi, the question of Poindexter's open and pronounced hostility to the administration on the "force bill" was taken up in the legislature. Tilghman Tucker, of Lowndes County, introduced resolutions in the house declaring that, in the eminently difficult and perilous state of national affairs, the measures proposed by the bill recently reported by the judiciary committee of the senate were necessary to the preservation of the Union and eminently fitted to restore amity between the different sections and prevent civil strife. Poindexter's opposition to it was characterized as "injudicious, illiberal, and violent" ; and it was resolved that his speech, so far as it gave sanction to "the absurd doctrines of nullification and secession" was deemed "worthy of the strongest reprobation as being notoriously repugnant to the feeling and opinion of the people of this State. The legislature, however, was not ready to go to this length in approving the "force bill" and condemning its senator, and so the resolutions were postponed by a vote of three to two to the 3d of the following November. On March 2d, the Senate, also, refused to pass a resolution censuring the conduct of Poindexter.
Governor Lynch, in his message to the legislature in November, 1833, condemned the course of nullification in South Carolina and rejoiced at its outcome. He wrote:
"The prompt action of the chief magistrate and the expression of an overwhelming majority of the American people, have met and denounced the doctrine of nullification in a voice so decided as to blast the hopes of the enemy of free governments; and affords to us and to the world the highest evidence of the intelligence, virtue, and fidelity of the people, with the cheering assurance that our Union and liberty shall live forever."
But not all of those who were high in authority in the State thought as the governor did. In Jackson, June 11, 1834, during the session of the chancery court and the high court of errors and appeals, a meeting of the friends of the "State rights and State remedies" was held in the senate chamber. Those present,were judges and members of the bar and a few citizens brought together "on the spur of the occasion without notice or previous concert." The object of the meeting was the "adopting of some principle of general concert in the action of the State Rights party" of the State.
The meeting was organized on motion of Chancellor Quitman by calling Chief Justice Sharkey to the chair. A resolution was introduced by Quitman and unanimously adopted:
"That in the opinion of the meeting it is expedient to organize the friends of State rights in the State of Mississippi for the purpose of defending the rights of the States, and maintaining the Federal constitution"
Resolutions were next unanimously adopted calling a general convention of the State Rights party to be held at Jackson on the third Monday of May, and recommending the citizens of each county in the State who were opposed to the principles of the proclamation and the "force bill" to hold meetings in their respective counties for the purpose of appointing one or more delegates to the convention. A committee, of which John A. Quitman was chairman, was selected to prepare and send to the friends of State Rights in the several counties an address requesting their co-operation in the objects of the meeting and enjoining upon them the importance of sending delegates to the convention. The meeting then adjourned until January 20th, on which date the address drawn up by the committee was to be reported.
The adjourned meeting was called to order by Chief Justice Sharkey at the appointed time, and the report of the committee on address, made by Judge Winchester, was unanimously received. This address is interesting as an early statement of the creed of the State Rights party in Mississippi. In it, the object of the party is explained, the doctrine of State sovereignty enunciated, and all opposed to the proclamation and the "force bill" invited to unite to arrest the progress of the dangerous principles and still more dangerous acts of the administration.
The object of the State Rights party, according to the address, was to, draw the attention of the people to the preservation of the State governments. The principles of the proclamation and the "force bill" were declared to be an open and direct attack upon the separate existence and independence of the States; and it was asserted that. if these principles should prevail and the State governments be destroyed, the annihilation of the union of the States, the Federal constitution, and the United States government would necessarily follow, and an unlimited consolidated despotism would be established on their ruin.
The doctrine of State sovereignty was set forth in contrasting what the committee on address believed to be the true democratic republican principles of government with the principles of the proclamation and the "force bill." The history of the States from the Revolution through the adoption of the constitution was first traced to prove that each State acted as an independent unit in the forming of the Union. By the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence, it was declared, each of the thirteen colonies for itself threw off the British government and assumed all the powers of government within its own limits, and by the Declaration of Independence, the colonies united together as free and independent States and pledged themselves, in the face of the world, mutually to sustain each other in that character. Thus the States confederated for mutual defense and protection, but they did not thereby constitute the citizens of all the colonies an union of one people. Afterwards the States, each for itself, ratified and adopted the constitution of the United States, thereby creating a more perfect union of the States, and, since their ratification and adoption of the constitution, each of the United States has had within its limits two governments, a United States government and a State government.
The questions of sovereignty over these governments and the nature of the constitution adopted by these independent units, were not left in doubt. The people of each State, it was declared, is the true and only source of all power delegated to either government and is the sovereign or supreme power over both governments within its limits. However, it is asserted that the constitution that created the United States government, being a compact to which all the States are parties, the people of the State cannot alter or annul it as it can its own State constitution without a violation of the compact. But in contradiction to Jackson's proclamation, it is declared that such a violation of the compact by a sovereign State is not revolution, because revolution is the act of subjects overthrowing their sovereign, and one State is not the subject of the other States, and much less is it the subject of the United States government; and that the officers and people of a State, in obeying the ordinances and laws of a State made to defend its reserved rights against encroachments by national usurpation, are not guilty of treason and rebellion to the United States government because treason and rebellion are unsuccessful revolution.
The doctrine of State sovereignty having been asserted, the consequent right of nullification was very naturally unheld and the right of the general government to coerce a State denied. The right to judge finally of the extent of the powers delegated to the United States and the extent of those reserved to the States or to the people, was declared to be a sovereign right reserved to the people of the States, since it was no where in the constitution delegated to the United States government or prohibited to the States. Furthermore, it was asserted that, while the constitution and laws and treaties made pursuant thereto are the supreme law of the land, the laws and treaties made by the general government that are not pursuant to the constitution are not the supreme law of the land, nor are they binding as such upon the people of a State, or upon either of its governments. Consequently to declare such acts null and void and to arrest their operation within the limits of a State by ordinances and laws, is neither revolution on the part of State conventions and governments, nor treason or rebellion on the part of the officers or the citizens of a State. Ours being a civil, and not a military government, it was declared, all disputes between the United States government and the State government are to be reconciled by the civil authorities. The land and naval forces, and the treasury officers were not entrusted to the national government for the purpose of overthrowing State governments, or punishing the officers and citizens of a State for their obedience to State ordinances and State laws and the civil tribunals of a State.
In conclusion, it was stated that, while candor and sincerity had rendered proper the expression of what was deemed to be the true democratic-republican principles of one constitution, yet the meeting did not invite an association for the purpose of establishing these principles as a political creed. It was recognized that there were many citizens who might not concur in all the sentiments expressed in the address, but yet who would cordially unite in opposition to the principle of the proclamation and the "force bill." Therefore the address was closed with an invitation to "all citizens in the State who are opposed to the Proclamation and the Force Bill to united in the county meetings and send delegates to the proposed convention, to organize an association, not for the purpose of inculcating the principles of this meeting, but to arrest the progress of dangerous principles and still more dangerous acts."
The State Rights convention met as appointed, May 19, 1834, with between fifty and fifty-five delegates present from the western and middle western counties of the State. Quitman was the dominating personality of the convention as he had been of the whole State Rights movement. On his motion, a resolution was unanimously adopted declaring that:
"The report of a select committee on the resolutions of Maine, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, and the second and third resolutions thereto appended) and adopted by a majority of the legislature of this State, at the session in January, 1833, in denouncing and insulting a gallant and a persecuted sister State--a State which has been foremost in expending her blood and treasure in the cause of freedom; in their approval of the bold and daring attempt of the Executive, the agent of one department of the Federal Government, to overawe a sovereign state; in their pledge to sustain 'with heart and hand' his threat to enforce with the bayonet a law which a majority of the people of Mississippi considered, and which their Legislature had pronounced 'Contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the United States, impolitic,, and oppresive in its operation in the Southern States,' did not in the opinion of this Conventon, convey the true sentiments and feelings of the generous and brave people of this our beloved States; that on the contrary, had the President dared to lead on his mercenaries to invade that gallant State, and to butcher its citizens before their own alters, before their wives and their children, the cry from the Leaf to the Mississippi, from Yazoo to the Homochitto, would have been 'to the rescue! to the rescue!'"
Another resolution was also passed commending the "bold and manly stand" of John I. Guion, senator from Warren, and Richardson, Pemble, McRae, and Vick, representatives of Wilkinson, Amite, Green, and Warren, respectively, in opposition to this report and these resolutions.
On the second day of its session, the convention adopted a constitution for the State Rights Association of Mississippi. The first article of this declares that: "The object of this association shall be to maintain and preserve the Constitution of the United States in its purity, and by every legal and proper means to support and defend the separate sovereignty of the States."
Other articles provide for the organization of county associations and a central association to meet, serni-annually, in Jackson.
In the State Rights Banner,'the organ of the State Rights party in Jackson, it was asserted that the sentiment of the mass of the free people sustained the principles of the State Rights party; but that the moment they were told that such sentiments constituted nullification, many would deny it and insist that nullification was something else. The party had not made greater progress because its doctrines had been so abundantly misrepresented by some who knew better and by others who honestly did not understand them.
The full significance of the State Rights movement in Mississippi and its connection with the practical politics of the moment is revealed by the toasts at a State Rights dinner in Jackson, during the convention. These toasts are given by the Vicksburg Register of June 5, 1834, as follows:
"By Thomas Armatt: Nullification--A word coined by our immortal Jefferson; may it remain pure and imperishable in the political dictionary of a liberty-loving democracy, may its principles be forever a shield for our country and our country's Constitution--a foe to despotism, and a fierce and inexorable ally of our Union.
"By John L. Perkins: The Union of the States and the Rights of the States--May the indignation and odium of the free people fall upon him who advocates the one and denies the other.
"By R. J. Fitz: Our Federal Government--A constitutional union of sovereign states, and not a consolidated union of the people.
"By T. Robertson: John C. Calhoun--The inspired apostle of State Rights and State Remedies--in the dark hour of federal usurpation, he stood forth as the eagle of the rock of Norway--daring with equal composure the storm that rent the atmosphere above, and the mountain billows that tossed and darkened and roared beneath.
"By Andrew Trumbull: The Hon. George Poindexter who through good and evil report stood forth, the able and fearless defender of the rights of the states and of the Constitution,
"By Thomas J. Coffee: George Poindexter, John Black, and Harry Cage--In their opposition to Executive usurpation, they have represented the interests of the people of Mississippi. They deserve the approbation of the friends of Liberty."
These toasts show that the movement was not simply for the upholding of certain principles with reference to sovereignty in that United States and the nature of the Federal government, but that it was also for the preservation of the political fortunes of those who had dared oppose Jackson. How much of its strength was due to the former motive and how much to the latter, it would be difficult to say.
When the report of the convention reached John Black, he was alarmed lest the course of the State Rights party might prevent a coalition between that party and the Whigs, in opposition to Jackson. He wrote to Quitman:
"What do you mean by your convention? It will not surely do to run candidates in each county on your own particular notion of state remedies. Why create a split among the great party who agree on the subject of State rights--as to their extent--their importance--and as to the necessity of preserving them inviolable but who may not all agree that a certain particular course can be constitutionally taken in vindication of them. I tell you there is a necessity of strict union of all those who are in favor of State rights and it will not do for you to insist that those rights shall be defended in your own peculiar notions or not at all. I consider the question of remedy a mere secondary question-- merely incidental--we had better first see whether any rights at all are to be preserved before [we] go to disputing about the proper manner of defending them. The late assumptions of power--by the President leave in my judgment no rights either to the States or to Congress. If these opinions arc acquiesced in substantially all belong to the executive. In your raising the subordinate question now you appear to me to act like those who would insist on defending the outwork of a fortress after it has been passed [and] carried and a violent assault [is] going on against the main fortress itself. * * * I think all minor differences of opinion should be laid aside, all subordinate distractions merged and a war of opposition should be urged against executive encroachments (for they are the only encroachments at present) on the broad Whig principle of opposition to assumed power. * * *"
He declares that he knows the members of the State Rights party well and gives them credit for talent and public spirit; but, at the same time, he knows that most of them are most imprudent men, whose zeal at best doubles their information and who, he fears, will permit no other issue to be made than nullification or no nullification. This he would, at the present aspect of affairs, lament as a most unhappy result.
In conclusion, Black definitely states his opinion on State rights and nullification. He writes:
"As to myself, you are aware that I do not assent to some of the opinions held by the party to which you are attached as to the length a state may go constitutionally in remedying what all may choose [to] consider an encroachment on its rights by the general government but as to the main question--what are those rights ? We could not materially differ now as to the necessity of continual vigilance about them and I think you will believe me when I say that none would resist more fearlessly and uncompromisingly every attempt to assail them, let it come from what quarter it may."
Disregarding the arguments of Senator Black, the committee appointed by the State Rights convention, of which Quitman was chairman, drew up an address in harmony with the address that had been accepted by the public meeting of the State Rights party on January 20, again asserting the doctrine of State sovereignty and the right of nullification, and condemning the principles of the proclamation and the "force bill." The same historical arguments are used to prove that the Federal constitution is not a social, but a Federal compact, to which each State is a party and its co-States the other party. It is asserted that the idea of a national existence antecedent to the adoption of the constitution was distinctly avowed by no one until 1830, when Webster assumed the fact in order to support the tariff system; that the doctrine was sustained next by John Quincy Adams in a speech delivered by him in Massachusetts in the same year; and that it was on the authority of these great names, no doubt, that President Jackson reiterated it in his proclamation in 1832.
The principles of Jackson are refuted by contrasting the proclamation and the force bill with the Virginia and the Kentucky resolutions. The proclamation, it is declared, denies that the several States are, or ever were, sovereign and independent. It labors to prove that there existed between them some essential political connection previous to the adoption of the constitution; that the constitution, instead of being a compact between sovereign States, is a "social compact" or, in other words, a compact between individuals. It denies the sovereignty of the States and consequently the right of secession, and asserts the Federal doctrine that sovereignty resides alone in the United States. It assumes the principle, which has since been carried out to an arbitrary extent, that the executive is the representative of the whole people of the United States. It declares, as the necessary result of these principles, that the government of the United States is supreme in its several departments. The only conclusion to be drawn from these principles, according to the address, is that the States possess their power and hold their rights at the mercy of the Federal government.
But more alarming to the State Rights party than the assertion of these views by the president was the fact that the "force bill" purported to carry these pretenses into practical operation. By its provisions, it was asserted, the Federal government may treat a sovereign State as a subject, menace her with the sword and bayonet for presuming to exercise her reserved rights, and annihilate her judical power by declaring the sentence of her courts null and void.
These principles are declared to be utterly at variance with the principles of Jefferson and the Democratic party as set forth in the resolutions of '98 and '99. The position taken in those resolutions is, as stated in the address, that the constitution is a compact; that the parties to this compact are States, not individuals; that the Federal government possesses no powers but what are enunciated in the grant; and that, in the case of deliberate, palpable, and dangerous exercise of other powers not granted, the States have the right, and are in duty bound, to interpose.
The contention of the proclamation that the general government is the exclusive judge of the extent of the power delegated to it, is refuted by the declaration that Jefferson, in his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions, declares that this doctrine "was nothing short of despotism, since the construction by those who administer the government, and not the constitution, would be the measure of their power"
The creed of the States Rights party of Mississippi is dedared to be the same as that of the Republican party of Jefferson's day, and is set forth at length:
"They believe that the framers of the Constitution, acting upon the maxim that 'force is the resort of tyrants, not of free governments,' took care to form a government, which should not have power to coerce by force, the sovereign parties from whom alone it was to derive its vitality. They believe that the States in their sovereign character, adopted the constitution ; that their obligation to one. another constituted a compact in the nature of a league between sovereign powers, to the terms of which each is bound by the strongest obligations of morality, and, we may add, of interest; that by this compact, they delegated the exercise of certain important powers to a common agent, for their joint benefit: but expressly reserved the mass of unenumerated powers to be exercised by themselves in such manner, as their own free will should declare, over the powers and rights thus reserved, they retained their absolute and unqualified sovereignty; over those powers not delegated, the Federal government has no more authority than any foreign government, either to restrict them or to dictate the mode of their exercises; that the States, each one for itself, are the judges of their reserved powers, and in case of an invasion of these rights, from any and every quarter, have the undoubted right to judge of the mode and manner of opposing such invasion, and the power of preserving these rights unimpaired, by the free use of all the organs of State governments for the simple reason that they possess sovereign power over the subject matter not delegated as full and complete as if they had never entered the Union."
The address further declares that:
"We acknowledge no sovereignty but that of the people of the several States. The Constitution owes its authority in each State to no other cause, than the assent of each sovereign. Those who administer the Federal government, as well as those who exercise the power of State governments, are mere agents, clothed with trust power. When they dispute as to the extent of their several powers, both have equal authority to use all lawful means to enforce their construction; but neither is authorized to resort to open force to compel obedience on the part of the other. When the contest assumes sufficient importance, the sovereignty itself must interpose and define the powers delegated to each. Without such interposition, the more powerful agent would soon absorb all the powers of the weaker and the latter fall a prey to the former."
The means and measures with which a State may interpose are clearly stated and defended. The address continues:
"Can argument be necessary to prove that a right appertaining to a State is a political right; and is to be protected and exercised by the use of her political organs, the legislative, the judicial, and the executive departments of her system? Those who admit that the States have rights, but leave them to be measured out or withheld by the opposing power, and admit no remedy but revolution, surely do not reflect that revolution is the act of individuals resisting the law, not of States enforcing it for the protection of their political rights. It is a confusion of terms to apply the express of 'State Rights' to absolute or moral rights of individuals. The rights or powers of a State, mean its political powers-- such as can be exercised through her political machinery, and for the preservation of which she must in all cases have an adequate remedy. Those others who deny the remedy, speak absurdities when they admit the right. It seems to us strange that these plain principles should be objected to. This may arise, and we believe in part, does arise, from fear, sincere in some, but pretended in others, that the right of State interposition may be abused. * * * It seems to us that the check of State interposition, if universally admitted, would never be resorted to, except where powers of at least a doubtful character and extremely oppressive should be used--of this there is an ample guarantee in the attachment of the States and of their citizens to the union which they formed, in the difficulty of arousing men to action upon slight cause, and more than all, in the slow, difficult, and deliberate proceedings by which alone State interposition can be effected: for it must be recollected that its practical exercise requires that a majority of the people of a State should solemnly declare, both in their legislature and afterwards in a convention assembled for that purpose, that the act complained of, is unconstitutional and oppressive"
Prescient of the future, the address doses with a warning against the establishing of the principle of the absolute supremacy of the general government, not because it would irrevocably fasten on the South the unconstitutional and unjust commercial system in opposition to which the State Rights movement under the leadership of South Carolina had developed; but because, if such principles were established, "How long will it be before the South will be compelled to yield up her peculiar domestic institutions so obnoxious to the other portion" of the Union, "or incur the deep hazard of resistance to law?"
The majority of people in Mississippi, however, did not apprehend the fatal seriousness of the opening sectional struggle over slavery and the importance State Rights would assume to the weaker side in the contest, and rallied to the support of the national government under Jackson. The resolutions passed June 9, 1834, by the convention of the Democratic party of Mississippi forms a striking contrast to principles set forth by later conventions of the same party. These resolutions unequivo' cally denied the right of nullification and secession by declaring that:
"The doctrines of nullification, as declared in South Carolina, and industriously attempted to be propagated in this and other States, arc repugnant to the vital principles of our political system, equally absurd in theory and dangerous in practice; the extension, adoption and enforcement of which must inevitably terminate in anarchy or civil war; * * * that the constitutional right of secession from the Union, on the part of a single State, as asserted by the nullifying leaders in South Carolina, is utterly unsanctioned by the federal constitution, which was framed to 'establish,' and not to destroy the Union of the States; and that no secession can in fact take place without a subversion of the Union established, and which will not virtually amount in the effects and consequences, to a civil revolution."
But the resolutions were not so definite on the question of sovereignty. 'The people of the United States," they declared, "are the sole depositories of the sovereign authority of the Republic" and "all government, whether State or Federal, is a mere emanation therefrom."
But the Democratic party in Mississippi did not sanction the assumption of undelegated power by the Federal government. It held in these resolutions that it was the duty of the Federal government to refrain from the exercise of authority, the right to exercise which could be reasonably questioned; that the constitution should be at all times strictly construed, so as to limit the action of the general government to the powers expressly given, together with such as may be indispensably necessary to carry these express powers into effect; and that it was the duty of the legislatures of the States, respectively, to interpose in all proper and constitutional modes to arrest the progress of any measure of encroachment on the part of the Federal government upon the rights of the States or the people. However, the mode of "interposition" proposed was not that proposed by the State Rights party, but the mode that, according to these resolutions, procured the repeal of the Alien and Sedition Acts, i. e., "by securing the co-operation of the sister States, the concentrating of so powerful a moral influence against such unjust and unauthorized enactments as shall, at any time, be adopted as may secure their annulment by the national Legislature."
The convention, in succeeding resolutions, proclaimed its confidence in Jackson and its sanction of his administration; declared that Poindexter and Black, in supporting the resolution in the senate against Jackson, and in co-operation with the faction in opposition to him, misrepresented a large majority of the people of the State, and called upon them to resign; and expressed the dissatisfaction of his constituents with Harry Cage, and their approval of the course of Plummer with reference to the United States Bank.
The fears of Senator Black and others that the assertion of extreme, principles by the State Rights party would prevent a coalition of that party and the Whigs in opposition to the administration, were not realized. The Whig convention of the State, December 25, 1834, selected John A. Quitman, the extreme exponent of these principles, as a delegate to the National Whig convention; and the Whig and the State Rights parties united in the State elections of 1835, the first real test of the strength of the opposition in the State to Jackson. The struggle was doubly interesting as it was thought that it would have a decisive influence on the presidential election in the State the next year. There were two tickets in the field, the Union Democratic and the White-Whig-State Rights ticket. The Democrats nominated Hiram G. Runnels for governor and the coalition, Charles Lynch; but the chief interest of the election was in the contest over the re-election of George Poindexter to the senate. Under the management of George Adams, United States district judge for Mississippi, and William M. Gwin, United States marshall, Robert J. Walker was selected by the Democratic party to oppose Poindexter; and he and Henry S. Foote ably defended the cause of Jackson on the stump. Poindexter, supported by the Whig orators, Adam L. Bingaman and the eloquent S. S, Prentiss, canvassed the State from end to end. The main issue, with the exception of the danger to the Federal system of Jackson's indifference to constitutional restraints, was the bank. The fact that Poindexter, Black, and Cage, all elected to Congress as supporters of Jackson, had come to regard his course as dangerous to the country, and that Plummer, from the eastern, or piney woods, section of the State, Jackson's special stronghold, went over to the bank during this campaign had weight with many. The elections resulted, however, in the selection of an anti-Poindexter majority of members of the legislature. The Whigs got some crumbs of comfort in the election of Lynch as governor by a majority of 426, and of David Dickson as representative in Congress; but the "nullifiers" could take no comfort to themselves, for Lynch was known as an opponent of nullification and Dickson had made no speeches and refused to "squabble about politics."
Undismayed by the outcome of the State elections, the supporters of State rights kept up the agitation in favor of their doctrines, and the Whig-State Rights coalition continued the presidential campaign already begun. It supported Hugh L. White, of Tennessee, for president and John Tyler, of Virginia, for vice-president; while the Democrats supported Van Buren and Richard M. Johnson, of Kentucky. In the same elections, Quitman opposed Samuel J. Gholson for Congress, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Dickson.
In this campaign, the doctrine of nullification was used both against Quitman and the coalition presidential ticket. The Mississippi Free Trader, published in Natchez, Quitman's home, reprinted both the report and the resolutions introduced in the legislature by Bingaman in January, 1833, and the resolution adopted by the convention of the State Rights party, on motion of Quitman, May 19, 1834; and appealed to the people of Adams County if they were "now willing to sustain a doctrine which your representatives pronounced 'fatal to the existence of the Union' and can you, will you sustain this doctrine and its advocates." It continued the appeal, as follows:
"In voting for the White-Harrison ticket, you vote for Tyler, an avowed nullifier for Vice-President, and according to your own avowal, strike at the 'existence of the Union.' In voting for Quitman for Congress and Winchester for the State Senate, both, as the record proves, ultranullifiers, you strike another blow at 'the existence of the Union.' Are Judges Winchester and Quitman, and the Tyler electoral ticket dearer to you than the existence of the Union?--Your vote on the first Monday of November next will answer the question, and we cannot, we will not doubt the result, for upon it mainly depends whether Mississippi will be for or against the Union."
A meeting in Natchez on November 5, called by the Free Trader a "Glorious Union Meeting," voiced the same sentiments in resolutions declaring "that Tyler, the candidate on the White- Harrison electoral ticket, is an avowed nullifier, and of course opposed to the existence of the Union"; and "that we are determined to adhere to the Union and to support it in war and in peace, against all its enemies, in war upon the field of battle beneath the glorious Star Spangled banner of America, and in peace by voting against all who would nullify the blessed Union."
The State Rights party again seized upon the issue that was most vital to the South, and the papers supporting White insisted on contrasting the words of Van Buren to the effect that he would not, from the lights before him, feel himself safe in pronouncing that Congress did not possess the power of interfering with or abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia, -with the declaration of White that he did not believe that Congress had the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and if that body did possess the power, he thought the exercise of it would be the very worst policy.81 The Vicksburg Register declared there was a short question easily answered by any really Southern man.
"Martin Van Buren--Congress has the constitutional power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and of course in the Territories.
"Judge White--Congress has no such power.
"Question--Which of the two will the slave holders select for the Presidency?"
When the election returns came in, it was found that Van Buren had received 9,889 votes and White, 9,666. Each county was divided between the candidates; but Van Buren's strength was in the east and White's in the west, while the middle counties were divided between them.
In the congressional race, Gholson received 9,676 votes and Quitman, 8,897. Claiborne explains Quitman's defeat by saying that the Whig party and many Democrats regarded his late States Rights doctrines as disorganizing and destructive, and that there were certain absurd sectional prejudices in his way.
With this election, the agitation in Mississippi over State rights came to an end for a time. The members of the State Rights party did not continue to co-operate with the Whigs; but soon transferred their support to the Democratic party since the principles and policies of that party were more in line with theirs.
The movement in Mississippi in support of State sovereignty and nullification, while insignificant in itself and owing much of its strength to hostility to Jackson, is, nevertheless, of interest and some importance in the light of the future history of the State. During its progress, the doctrine of State sovereignty and the consequent rights of nullification and secession were accepted by some within the State and made familiar to all, and a group of leaders was developed to which the State could turn when its interests inclined it toward these principles and policies. In this contest, Quitman came to realize, with Calhoun, the vital importance of State sovereignty to the Southern States in the defence of their peculiar domestic institution. Later, when the question arose over slavery in the territory acquired from Mexico, and Mississippi saw the institution, which she had ceased to regard as an evil and with which her interests were irrevocably bound, threatened by a hostile majority in control of the Federal government, the State began to comprehend the underlying purpose of Calhoun in the assertion of the doctrine of State sovereignty, and turned to the leaders and principles it had rejected in the controversy over nullification. In 1849, a State Rights convention was assembled in Jackson, over which presided Chief Justice Sharkey, the chairman of the first informal meetings in 1834 to organize a State Rights party in Mississippi; John A. Quitman, the dominant leader in the nullification movement, was elected governor; and Mississippi entered upon the struggle in defence of slavery in which it was to accept, almost without division, the doctrine promulgated by the State Rights party in the struggle over the tariff, and resort to the final measure sanctioned by those doctrines for the preservation of its rights, secession from the Union.