SAT Subject US History Practice Question 842: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 842

13. In explaining why the nullification of the 1828 Tariff of Abominations was justified, John C. Calhoun contended that

A. the people had ratified the Constitution and, therefore, could decide on the constitutionality of a federal law.
B. the states were sovereign because they had formed a compact called the Constitution.
C. the Supreme Court had declared the Tariff of Abominations unconstitutional.
D. Congress was sovereign and could decide all major questions, including slavery.
E. President Andrew Jackson had been elected by the whole people and agreed with his position.

Correct Answer: B


John C. Calhoun contended in the South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828 that the states were sovereign and had the right to rule. Since the Constitution was a compact formed by the states, the states could decide on the legality and constitutionality of federal laws. The position that the people were sovereign (A) was a pro-national government position that Calhoun had abandoned by 1828, knowing that the majority of the country would not support his sectional interest in regard to slavery and nullification. Advocates of the national government, like Daniel Webster and Henry Clay, called for the Supreme Court (C) to decide on the constitutionality of the tariff, not the state legislatures, as Calhoun had advocated. Congress (D) did not support Calhoun's ideas, because by 1820 there was a Northern majority in the House of Representatives. Calhoun called for nullification to sidestep federal control. Perhaps he thought that Andrew Jackson would allow nullification because he was a slaveholder and opposed many national programs. However, because the president is chosen as a representative of the whole people (E), he represents federal, not state, power. Andrew Jackson strongly opposed nullification.

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