The Tariff of Abominations was one of the trickiest incidents of the American
presidency of John Quincy Adams
. When he took office in 1824, Congress
had just passed a bill extending the federal tariff
on importated goods from about 23% to 37%. Infant industries
had been whining piteously about the crushing burden of cheaper English imports for years, bitching, moaning, and generally making a fantastic nuisance
of themselves. The Federalist
(not in party
, but in idealogy
) congress finally obliged, and though the industries still bleated for higher-barriers as if the country would fall to ruin without them, it looked to be smooth sailing from there on.
The devil was in the details, however. Supporters of Andrew Jackson, who rightly felt their candidate had been denied office despite a popular victory by corrupt bargain-making, jumped on the bill as a chance to play politics and ruin Adams' presidency. They packed it with odious duties on manufactured goods necessary for moneyed Yankee production mills, making the bill as unreasonable as possible in hopes there would be mutiny and the tariff would be shot down. The ruse backfired, however, and New Englanders swallowed down the good with the bad, so desperate they were for further protection.
Things got worse from there. The South cried foul, seeing an extremely discriminatory tariff that forced them to sell their cotton and farm products in an unprotected world market, yet had to buy their manufactured goods at extremely marked up tariff-controlled prices. New England manufacturers were reaping the profits while they were left with the consequences. These protests intertwined with growing fear that the North was becoming powerful enough to ban slavery. The combination of the two insults led southerners to hotly issue formal reproofs of the tariff, with South Carolina leading the way. Tempers grew so strained that John C. Calhoun published the famous "South Carolina Exposition" that suggested complete nullification of the law in South Carolina. This was the beginning of the Nullification Crisis, an foreshadowing of the bloody conflict between North and South that was slowly gathering at the horizon.
The Tariff of Abominations, despite its somewhat unfair terms, certainly aided the increasing production of New England factories. It also contributed further support to the candidacy of Andrew Jackson in the next election (even though Jacksonites had technically arranged the tariff).