John Caldwell Calhoun

CALHOUN came from a prominent and prosperous southern family. He was born on March 18, 1782, in the Calhoun Settlement located near Savannah River in South Carolina. In addition to land, the family owned quite a few slaves, and after his father's death John, at that time merely fourteen, had to help manage the property.

After attending a local academy, John went to Yale College from which he graduated in 1804. He studied law and, on his return home, was admitted to the bar. He opened an office in Abbeville ( 1807), not far from his birth place. His practice grew fast, and before long he extended his family's land holdings and established his new home in the plantation called Fort Hill (now the campus of Clemson College).

Practically at once he entered politics. In 1808 he was elected to S.C. legislature, and two years later to the U.S. Congress, a mere youth of twenty-eight. Soon afterwards he became chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and in one of his acts, in 1812, recommended a declaration of war against England. He was chosen by Monroe to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of War. In 1824, he became vice-president under Adams and four years later was re-elected to the same post under Jackson.

All these honors came to him in quick succession, before he reached the age of fifty. But they were well deserved. For he was a man of great inrelliqence and many abilities, outspoken in his convictions, thoroughly honest, of kindly disposition, a calm and lucid speaker and tireless worker. His prestige was high in all political parties and his labors for the unity of the nation were generally applauded. He seemed to be destined for presidency.

In the meantime, however, a different current of public opinion was forming: the abolitionist movement was on the rise. And Calhoun was a southerner, himself an owner of slaves. This issue alone could have been responsible for the fact that, though repeatedly nominated for presidency -- for seven terms -- he was defeated every time in elections, and had to be satisfied with remaining a senator from South Carolina.


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American Philosophy
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