Appointed by President John Tyler
Democrat, serving in Whig administration
John Caldwell Calhoun was born in the Abbeville district of South Carolina on March 18,1782. Although little is known about his early childhood, the back country of his youth was undergoing rapid social and political change. His father, Patrick, settled there in 1752 and soon prospered as a farmer and surveyor. He was one of a steady influx of Scotch-Irish settlers who would bring to the back country its cotton culture, Presbyterian values, and Republican politics. Patrick eventually emerged as a prominent local leader who challenged the low-country planter elite for influence. He represented the area's interests in the colonial assemblies, revolutionary congresses, and the state legislature. At the time of his death in 1790, Patrick Calhoun owned over a thousand acres and 31 slaves. John was only 13 at the time, but his father's influence would leave an important mark on his later political thinking.
Calhoun attended a local academy at age 18 and entered Yale as a junior in 1802. He graduated with distinction in 1804 and then spent a year at Litchfield Law School. He was admitted to the South Carolina Bar in 1807 and returned to his native Abbeville to practice law. His obvious intellectual gifts and political acumen earned him his father's old seat in the state legislature, where he was instrumental in ensuring that the largely Republican back country interests were evenly represented against the low-country Federalists. His marriage to second cousin Floride Bonneau Colhoun in 1811 gave him the financial independence and social prominence to continue pursuing a career in politics.
His early career was distinguished by an intense nationalism both in foreign and domestic affairs. Calhoun was elected to Congress in 1811 as relations between the United States and Great Britain were deteriorating over the impressment of Ameri-can sailors and seizure of American ships. Although he would later gain greater notoriety as a champion of state's rights and Southern interests, his distrust of Great Britain was consistent throughout his career. Great Britain's actions were, according to Calhoun, an abuse of power, which could only be restrained by U.S. power. America's attempts at economic coercion were ineffectual, as Britain's motive was