Nullification and States' Rights

Nullification is a term that means that states could reject or nullify a law passed by Congress if they do not like the law. The first time nullification was threatened was in 1832. Southern states were angry about tariffs (taxes on imported goods) imposed by Congress. Southerners worried that tariffs would hurt cotton sales to other countries. These southern states based their claims of nullification on states' rights. States' rights supporters based their argument on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Southern states threatened to secede, or withdraw from the United States if the national government tried to enforce the tariff laws, which they felt were unconstitutional.

When the South seceded from the Union during the Civil War, they based their claims secession on states' rights. They claimed that they joined the United States voluntarily, they could leave voluntarily.