Robert Young Hayne

Robert Young Hayne

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Born in St. Pauls Parish, Colleton District, South Carolina, Robert Young Hayne studied law in the office of Langdon Cheves in Charleston, South Carolina, and in November 1812 was admitted to the bar there, soon obtaining a large practice. For a short time during the War of 1812 against Great Britain, he was captain in the Third South Carolina Regiment. He was a member of the lower house of the South Carolina state legislature from 1814 to 1818, serving as Speaker of the House in the later year; was attorney general of the state from 1818 to 1822, and in 1823 was elected, as a Democrat, to the United States Senate.

Hayne was considered a conspicuously ardent free-trader and an uncompromising advocate of States' rights. He opposed the protectionist tariff bills of 1824 and 1828, and consistently upheld the doctrine that slavery was a domestic institution and should be dealt with only by the individual states. In one of his speeches opposing the sending by the United States of representatives to the Panama Congress, he 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."

In 1828, in response to the changing economic landscape in Massachusetts (there was a shift towards the manufacturing sector), Daniel Webster backed a high-tariff bill that would preserve manufacturing interest in Massachusetts. This angered Southern leaders and brought Webster into dispute with Hayne, later evolving to what would be the Webster-Hayne debate. Hayne stressed the fact that New England had not been a major participator during the War of 1812. Webster, who had been elected to Congress in 1812, opposed the war with the United Kingdom. He was re-elected in 1814, which was noted as an indication that the people of the New England opposed the war. The debate arose over the so-called "Foote's resolution," introduced on December 29, 1829 by Senator Samuel A. Foote of Connecticut, calling for the restriction of the sale of public lands to those already in the market, but was concerned primarily with the respective powers of the federal government and the individual states. Hayne contended that the Constitution was essentially a compact between the national government and the states, and that any state might, at will, nullify any federal law which it considered to be in contradiction of that compact.

The resentment that the citizens of the southern states held towards the people of New England erupted on January 19, 1830, when Senator Hayne attacked the people of New England in a speech. Senator Daniel Webster responded on the next day. Senator Hayne spoke again on the 21st, 25th, and 27th. Senator Webster spoke again on the 26th and 27th. This was the famed "Second Reply to Hayne", still often considered one of the greatest speeches in American history. The final few paragraphs are generally noted for their passion. Webster concluded with the famed "Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable!" line. Because of this debate, Hayne is generally remembered more for being the disputant with Webster, and for being on the receiving end of a famous speech, than for anything else he did while in Congress. This did bring the conflict between New England and the Southern States into the light, and served as a hard reminder of the resentment that many people in the South felt toward the residents of New England.

Hayne vigorously opposed the Tariff of 1832, was a member of the South Carolina Nullification Convention of November 1832, and reported the ordinance of nullification passed by that body on the November 24. After resigning from the Senate in 1832, he was Governor of South Carolina from December 1832 to December 1834, and while in that position took a strong stand against President Andrew Jackson, though he was more conservative than many of the nullificationists in the state. He was intendant of Charleston, South Carolina, from 1835 to 1837, and was president of the Louisville, Cincinnati & Charleston Rail Road from 1837 to 1839.

Robert Young Hayne died at Asheville, North Carolina on September 24, 1839.

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