In 1822, the Congress of the United States passed the Tariff of Abominations, and the nullification idea, which had long been developing in he South, suddenly came o a crisis. South Carolina, with John C. Calhoun as leader, took the field as the champion of the principles of nullifications. War was barely averted by a compromised on the tariff offered by Henry Clay.
Right to Nullify
The right to nullify was not decided. It continued to develop until it embraced the idea of secession. And although a great war followed, the rights of the state under the constitution are still undetermined unless we admit that such issues can be settled by military force.
In South Carolina there was a tremendous excitement from 1828 to 1834. At that time, there were two political parties in the state. The Union party and the States-rights party. The States-rights party practically controlled the lower part of the state, but in the mountain districts there were many Unionists. The Pendleton neighborhood was strong for nullification. Greenville was rather a unionist stronghold. Pickens District was generally a States-rights section, but the Unionists were persistent in their efforts to control the district.
In November, 1832, a mass meeting at Pickens court house declared for States-rights. But in August, 1832, a conflict came at Pickensville. At a meeting called by A.M. Hamilton, a hot debate on the tariff developed between Major Waddy Thompson and Col. Grisham. Thompson stated that he was there only to look after his plantation but we can see the real object of his presence. He turned the crowd to a Sates-rights view, and Col. Grisham of Falls, on little River, withdrew with his union men.
On the 21st another Nullification meeting was held at Pickens. Waddy Thompson, Warren R. Davis and Judge Harper spoke for State-rights, and Judge Huger opposed. Resolutions supporting Calhoun were adopted, but with two dissenting votes.
Pumpkintown gave Davis a barbecue on Oct. 16.
Then followed the 1832 elections. The States rights men swept Pickens and Anderson Districts. The seven elected to the legislature were all for Nullification: E.R. Benson, John Maxwell, T.M. Sloan, L. Goode, Samuel Cherry, Benjamin Hagood and A. Rice. Col Grisham and his friends, S.A. Maverick, H. Cobb and John Sitton were completely defeated.
Politics then remained quiet until the fourth of July, 1833. That was the date of a great celebration at Slabtown, at which 1,500 persons were present. A military drill was held and then a barbecue. Gen. J.B. Earle presided and speeches were made by Solicitor Waddy Thompson and Congressman Warren R. Davis.
In 1834, the Union party began a reorganization. They managed to gain control of the militia companies, then important in politics. The even contemplated a local war in Pickens. A crowd of Unionists was discovered trying to carry a cannon to Col Grisham’s stronghold on Little River. The Pendleton Messenger asks, “Has Jackson’s army actually commenced hostilities?”
A general idea of the growth of the Union party in Pickens District may be gathered from an editorial in the Messenger for Feb. 2, 1834: “We observe the mania has crossed the Saluda (Greenvlle was considered lost to the Unionists) and that some of the Union men as they have had meetings, one at Big Creek and one at Dacusville and adopted resolutions in imitation to those adopted at Greenville. At Big Creek, “after Greenville fashion,” they denounced the legislature and praised President Jackson.” The Dacusville people are still more belligerent. They say the Nullifiers “have clibed out tree of liberty” and “we have used words and grass long enough. It is time to try what virtue there is in bullets.”
“We will never muster under any officer who will wear a palmetto badge or anything like it.”
Those who figured in this meeting were J.S. Edwars, Richard Burdine, Edmund Singleton, John Sitton, Jesse Stansell and Moses Smith.
At Pickensville in July, B.F. Perry was nominated as candidate for Congress on the Union ticket. Warren R. Davis stood for re-election by the Nullifiers.
In the 1823 election, Davis won by a majority of only 70 votes. The Greenville vote nearly elected Perry, the Union leader. Even Pickens Court House went for Perry, 117 to 104. Pickensville went 181 for Perry and 93 for Davis; Eastatoe 63 for Perry, 33 for Davis. Davis was strongest at Hagood’s getting 115 votes to Perry’s 17.