Since the outbreak of the Civil War and continuing to the present day, the role of slavery in splitting America has been hotly debated. One may wonder whether there was merely a correlation between slavery and the Civil War or whether slavery was the cause. Investigating the nuances of the issue of slavery reveals that the Civil War resulted from sectionalism and slavery, which were practically synonymous.
The United States Congress was not above adopting its own rules that would silence abolitionist views. While mass mailings to southerners became a regular occurrence for abolitionists, creating significant tension between proslavery and anti-slavery factions, those had occurred outside the purview of government. The House of Representatives, when it used a gag rule to prevent discussion of petitions relating to abolition, was striking a blow to abolitionists all over the country.
John Calhoun and his like-minded supporters hoped that nullification would become a legitimate alternative to secession for the South. Nullification was the doctrine that Calhoun believed meant that states could nullify a federal law, on the basis that states had their own sovereignty and the federal government could not infringe on that sovereignty. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 402. This approach was designed to primarily perpetuate the institution of slavery, without the conflict culminating in secession, or worse, civil war.
John Calhoun, by 1831, had alienated himself from President Andrew Jackson, and he wanted to “head off talk of secession,” and on July 26, 1831, he published his “Fort Hill Address” in a South Carolina newspaper. Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 399.