As a member of the House of Representatives he had borne a conspicuous part in the declaration and prosecution of the war of 1812 against Great Britain
He had been Secretary of War
during nearly the whole eight years of Mr. Monroe
's Presidency, and had displayed great administrative ability in organizing and conducting his Department.
He was elected in 1824, and afterwards reelected in 1828, Vice-President
of the United States
, and still held this high office.
He possessed eminent reasoning powers, but, in the opinion of many, was deficient in sound practical judgment.
He was terse and astute in argument; but his views were not sufficiently broad and expanded to embrace at the same time all the great interests of the country, and to measure them according to their relative importance.
It was his nature to concentrate all his powers on a single subject; and this, for the time being, almost to the exclusion of all others.
Although not eloquent in debate, he was rapid, earnest, and persuasive.
His powers of conversation were of the highest order; and it was his delight to exert them in making proselytes, especially of the young and promising.
It is but just to add that his private life was a model of purity.
Under his auspices, the State Convention of South Carolina
, in November, 1832, passed the well-known Nullification Ordinance.
By this they declared that all the tariff acts then in force had been passed in violation of the Constitution of the United States
; and that they were ‘null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, its officers or citizens.’
They also ordained that should the Federal Government
attempt to carry these acts into effect within the limits of South Carolina
, ‘the people of this State will thenceforth hold themselves absolved from all further obligation to maintain or preserve their political connection with the people of the other States, and will forthwith proceed to organize a separate Government, and to do all other acts and things which sovereign and independent States of right do.’1
This declaration was the germ of Southern secession.
It asserted the right and the duty of South Carolina
to secede from the Union
and establish an independent Government,