Today In Charleston History: May 19

1828-Nullification Crisis-“Tariff of Abominations”

The Tariff of 1828 was passed by Congress, designed to protect industry in the northern United States. It was signed by President John Quincy Adams. It became known as the Tariff of Abominations in the South due to the negative effects it had on the antebellum Southern economy.It so enraged South Carolina that the state legislature denounced it by formal resolution and published an “Expositon and Protest,” secretly written by Vice-President John C. Calhoun. The “Exposition” claimed that: 

  • Congress cannot extend its constitutional authority;
  • Congress cannot enact tariffs that are not justified by public necessity
  • The tariff is therefore unconstitutional
  • The tariff to protect domestic manufacture goes against a “simple, consolidated government”
  • The tariff actually was not enacted to regulate commerce, a Constitutional power of Congress, but to prohibit foreign trade
  • The power to protect manufacture is not a Constitutional power
  • Even if the tariff does regulate commerce, as it is too oppressive, it is an abuse of power


Reuben Roberts, a Negro cook aboard a British schooner, the Clyde, was arrested by Charleston sheriff Jeremiah D. Yates and confined to jail, citing the 1835 Seaman’s Act. 

1856-Road to Secession  

Sen. Charles Sumner

Sen. Charles Sumner

On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Sen. Charles Sumner (Mass), gave his “Crime Against Kansas” speech. Sumner spoke out against slavery, and specifically called out South Carolina senator Andrew Butler, one of the authors of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. 

The senator from South Carolina has read many books of chivalry, and believes himself a chivalrous knight with sentiments of honor and courage. Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight — I mean the harlot, slavery. For her his tongue is always profuse in words. Let her be impeached in character, or any proposition made to shut her out from the extension of her wantonness, and no extravagance of manner or hardihood of assertion is then too great for this senator.

Sen. Andrew Pickens Butler

Sen. Andrew Pickens Butler

Today In Charleston History: April 22

Anne Bonny exposing her breast before killing another pirate.

Anne Bonny exposing her breast before killing another pirate, as a mean of humilation. 

Anne Cormac Bonny Burleigh, former pirate, died at the age of eighty-two. Known as Anne Bonny, she was one of the most infamous pirates during the Golden Age.  

Bonny ran away from Charles Town as a teenager to the Bahamas where she hooked up with Calico Jack Rackham and  later another female pirate, Mary Read. They were one of the most unusual pirate crews in the Caribbean.


The Charleston Courier noted:

A Jury of Inquest was held yesterday, on the body of an African woman, found floating at Craft’s north wharf. The jury brought in a verdict that she came to her death by the visitation of God and supposed her to belong to some of the slave ships in the harbor, and thrown into the river, to save expence (sic) of burial.          

1853 – Slavery

Reuben Roberts, the British Negro sailor, imprisoned in May 1852 sued the sheriff of Charleston, Jeremiah D. Yates, for “for assault, battery, and false imprisonment, the damages being laid at four thousand dollars.” It was a direct challenge of the 1835 Seaman’s Act.

James Petigru

James Petigru

Roberts was represented by the firm Petigru and King, and the sheriff was defended by Attorney General Issac Hayne, with Christopher Memminger and Edward McCready as special counsel.  The Charleston Courier reported:

Although in form an ordinary private action for damages, it is known to all that the case involves and depends upon the constitutionality and validity of the several laws of South Carolina relating to the colored seamen and immigrants …

Ultimately, Petigru won a decision in which British Negro sailors were allowed to stay on board their ships while in port and not arrested.