On this date in 1828, proto-secessionists presented the South Carolina Exposition and Protest to the state’s House of Representatives. John C. Calhoun, working anonymously, drafted the document, arguing that individual states had the right to “nullify” federal laws on a case-by-case basis.

The offending law in 1828 was the Tariff of Abominations (click here for the kind of Wikipedia article that makes professors cringe in horror), which, in fairness, was offensive, if not altogether abominable, to South Carolinians. Southerners generally viewed the Tariff as a plot hatched by Yankee manufacturers to destroy Dixie’s economy. In fact, the Tariff was a plot nurtured* by Yankee manufacturers who viewed higher taxes on European imports as an effective way to prop up New England’s economy. If the South suffered, so much the better.

Calhoun avoided credit for articulating the theory of nullification because at the time he served as vice president. It would have seemed odd for him to argue that his home state didn’t have to obey the laws passed by his federal government. Just a few years later, as the sectional crisis deepened, such niceties would fall away, replaced by naked contempt. That’s why the South Carolina Exposition was an important mile marker on the road to the Civil War.

Warning: Do not, under any circumstances, watch this while under the influence of mind-altering substances. Really, I’m looking out for you.

* Andrew Jackson’s supporters actually birthed the horrid thing. They hoped their man would win the presidential election in 1828 after having come so close in 1824. The Tariff, then, was a crass way of improving Old Hickory’s standing in the North, which is one of the reasons why Jackson, in 1832, ended up so infuriated by the idea of nullification, despite his typical support for states’ rights.

Update: Also on this day in history (1998), the House impeached Bill Clinton.