Hayne, Robert Y.


1825 ALS by the vocal Senate proponent of states’ rights and nullification, famed for 1829 debate with Daniel Webster, refers a man to his former law partner, later a political foe!


Type: Letter
Description: (1791-1839) South Carolina lawyer, planter and politician, US Senator 1823-32, Governor 1832-34, Mayor of Charleston 1836-37. As Senator and Governor, he was a leading figure in the Nullification Crisis, and with John C. Calhoun and James Hamilton Jr., a vocal proponent of doctrines of states’ rights, compact theory and nullification; his  1830 Senate debate with Daniel Webster is considered a defining episode in the constitutional crisis which precipitated the Civil War.

Hayne practiced law in Charleston. During the War of 1812, he was Lieutenant in the Charleston Cadet Infantry, rose to Captain in the 3rd South Carolina Regiment. He later was Quartermaster General of the state militia, and by 1836, rose to major general. Hayne served in the State House 1814-18, Speaker 1818, state Attorney General 1818-22. In 1822 South Carolina’s legislature elected him to the US Senate, served March 4, 1823-Dec.13, 1832. He was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs 1825-32. In 1832, under Governor James Hamilton Jr., he was Chairman of South Carolina’s nullification convention. Hamilton and Hayne argued that states could “nullify” federal laws with which they did not agree. 80% of the 162 delegates voted to nullify federal tariffs of 1828 and 1832, and for the Ordinance of Secession. A temporary compromise was reached between the federal government and South Carolina in 1833.

He resigned from the Senate to accept election by the legislature as governor in 1832, serving to 1834, Mayor of Charleston 1836-37. An ardent free-trader and an uncompromising advocate of states’ rights, he consistently argued that slavery was a domestic institution and should be dealt with only by individual states. Objecting to any federal effort to curtail slavery, Hayne said, “The moment the federal government shall make the unhallowed attempt to interfere with the domestic concerns of the states; those states will consider themselves driven from the Union.” He opposed protectionist federal tariff bills of 1824, 1828, & 1832. In 1828, in response to Massachusetts’ changing economic landscape (shift from farming towards mass production in factories), Daniel Webster backed a bill to increase tariffs on imported goods, a measure that southern politicians opposed. Hayne spoke in opposition to the bill, Webster responded, and the ensuing series of back-and-forth Senate speeches became known as the Webster-Hayne Debates. The “Foot Resolution,” introduced Dec. 29, 1829 by Connecticut Senator Samuel A. Foot, called for a federal government study into restricting the sale of public lands to those lands already surveyed and available for sale, which would prevent states from conducting further land sales. Whether the federal government had the authority to take this action called into question the relationship between the powers of the federal government and the individual states. Hayne contended that the US Constitution was only a compact between the US government and the states, and that any state could nullify any federal law which it considered to be in contradiction. Webster argued for supremacy of the federal government and the Constitution, and against nullification and secession. He concluded his Second Reply to Hayne with the memorable phrase: “Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”

8-3/4 x 8 ALS while South Carolina US Senator, Washington, February 15 1825, to to E. Chauncey Esq., informing him that he has relinquished his law practice and returns his papers. He notes that his “…former law partner Thomas J. Grimke Esq. is still in practice in Charleston and will no doubt attend to the business to your satisfaction.”

Thomas Smith Grimké (1786-1834) So. Carolina attorney, author, orator and social activist. Admitted to the bar 1809, practiced law in Charleston. On 17 March 1827, Thomas advocated, in an address before the Bar Association of South Carolina, the codification of the laws of that state. State Senator 1826-30, in 1828 made a speech in support of the federal government on the tariff question. He is perhaps best known for M’Cready v. Hunt, focusing on states’ rights, brought before the So. Carolina Court of Appeals in 1834. The case involved a “test oath” passed by the legislature in November 1832 which required members of the state militia to pledge “faithful and true allegiance” to the State. The law did not specifically state whether allegiance to the state was superior to allegiance to the federal government. Dispute over the oath immediately erupted. The “Nullifier” faction asserted that allegiance to states had precedence over allegiance to the federal government; “Unionists” asserted that the federal government had primacy over all states. Eventually, a case on the validity of the test oath reached the state Court of Appeals. Robert Barnwell Rhett argued for the test oath with the support of Governor Robert Y. Hayne. He was opposed by a trio of young Unionist attorneys, incl. Thomas Grimke. The June 2nd, 1834 decision fell 2 to 1 for the Unionists. “Nullifiers” immediately called for impeachment of the two jurists and called for a constitutional amendment to legalize the test oath and assert the primacy of allegiance to South Carolina. Thomas was an active advocate and donor to the temperance movement, a prominent member of the American Peace Society, and active in forming a South Carolina chapter of the American Colonization Society which endeavored to send free Blacks to Africa, to what would become Liberia. He was also an advocate and lecturer upon the reformation of education in America. He was elected to the American Antiquarian Society in 1833. His siblings included noted orators and abolitionists Sarah Moore Grimke and Angelina Grimke.

Condition: Good, folds, small piece missing at right close to signature, small nick at left side. Hayne’s name is penned at top right under place and date.

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