Why was the Hayne-Webster debate important?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Hayne-Webster Debate of 1830 pitted Daniel Webster, a senator from Massachusetts who represented the tradition of the Federalist Party (which had by then morphed into the National Republicans and was later the Whigs), against Senator Robert Haynes, a Democrat from South Carolina. The debate in part focused on the nullification crisis then brewing in South Carolina over national tariffs, a crisis that would erupt into a full-fledged battle in 1832, when South Carolina would declare national tariffs void in their state.

During the debate, Webster countered the arguments of Haynes, a states' right advocate, in what has been called one of the greatest examples of oratory in American history. The debate was important because it laid out the arguments in favor of nationalism in the face of growing sectionalism. Webster also tried to assert the importance of New England in the face of its loss of power to the southern and western states. In this sense, the speech exposed the sectional conflicts that would plague the nation up to and even after the Civil War. Slavery would later become the issue that enflamed already existing tensions between the north and south.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This debate, conducted in the Senate in early 1830, was important because it laid out the arguments for and against states' rights.  This was important because the issue of states' rights was what had led to the Nullification Controversy a short time before and it was what would lead to the Civil War.

The major issue between the two Senators was whether the Constitution was a compact between states or between the people of the US.  If it was a compact made by the states, then each state had the right to interpret it.  If it was made by the people, the federal government had the right to interpret and the states had much less power.

This was an important debate because of the way that it laid out the major arguments that would help lead to the Civil War.