Publication Date



College of Arts and Sciences




Nationalism, Nullification, John C. Calhoun, States' Rights


Intellectual History | Other Political Science | Political History | United States History


Despite the common defamation of the states’ rights theories acted upon in the Nullification Crisis of 1832, there exists a great deal of historical support for the nullifiers’ positions. Nullifiers believed in a decentralized constitutional system, while nationalists believed in a centralized constitutional system. This tension between central and decentralized positions had been at issue in the American struggle for independence though the exact manner in which these problems manifested themselves was different in the two events. The states’ rights ideas championed primarily by John C. Calhoun were consistent with American political tradition. At the most basic level, the Nullification Crisis was over a disparity between constitutional interpretations. However, a demonstration of the existence of such issues in the American Revolution and the implications of those forces on the early republic demonstrate that the Nullifiers’ positions were consistent with history and traditional American resistance to centralized power.