The greatest irony of the American Civil War is that it was not caused by slavery in the South so much as it was caused by years and years of efforts to avoid it, usually via appeasement. Some abolitionist from the North tried to push outright abolition. The South threatened secession (which was understood by all as the first step to civil war) and the federal government scrambled to appease the South. There was almost a civil war over a different, but nonetheless related, issue, the right of states to refuse to enforce a federal ordinance. What happened was this: In 1832 the Jackson administration imposed a new federal tariff (a tax on imported goods). South Carolina passed a law to nullify it, so that it would not apply within the state lines, and then threatened to secede if the federal government made any effort to enforce it. President Jackson offered a modified version and prepared for civil war. In the end, civil war was averted. For nearly thirty years afterward, there was probably one President who was willing to fight a civil war, and Zachary Taylor, a Tennessee slave owner, sponsored California's entry into the Union as a free state. His goal was to curb the spread of slavery further west. However, he died while the Compromise of 1850 was being hammered out, and the weaker Fillmore administration took over, and well, the South managed to get more concessions than Taylor would have permitted. As Southerners, Jackson and Taylor both understood just how weak the South really was and how the South needed the North more than vise versa. Once again, the South really did not have the means to win a civil war, and its leaders knew it.