John Caldwell Calhoun
Statesman and political philosopher, was Vice-President from 1825-32, of the United States and a leading champion of Southern rights. He was born near Abbeville, South Carolina, on March 18, 1782. The son of a slave-holding up-country farmer, Calhoun was educated at Moses Waddell's Log College in Georgia and at Yale University and studied law under Tapping Reeve at Litchfield, Connecticut. After admittance into the South Carolina bar in 1807, Calhoun served in the state legislature from 1809 to 1811 and in Congress after that. He was a dedicated War Hawk, dedicated to War with England to establish American Dignity. James Monroe appointed Calhoun secretary of War in 1817. Calhoun supported the "American System", which called for full use of federal power to assist American industry through a protective tariff and to promote commerce through a federally chartered Bank of the United States and through federally financed road, canal, and harbor construction.
In 1824, he decided to seek presidential candidation, but opted for vice-presidency under Andrew Jackson. Calhoun's hard core view of the "American System" changed, partially due to the industrial dependency of South Carolina on the cotton industry. In 1828, he secretly wrote the South Carolina Exposition and Protest, which protested that a state had the power of nullification over any federal law it deemed unconstitutional.
Serving (1842-43, 1845-50) in the Senate, Calhoun was a powerful spokesman for slavery and Southern rights until his death. He secured passage of the gag rules, that forbade discussion of slavery on the floor of Congress. Serving briefly as Secretary of State in 1844-45 under John Tyler, he engineered the controversial annexation of Texas. He spent the rest of his career advocating slavery and states rights.
Calhoun died on Mar. 31, 1850. He set a path that was followed by other southern leaders, and his stand and views were the splitting point of the war.
Bibliography: Calhoun, John C., The Papers of John C. Calhoun, 15 vols., ed. by Robert L. Meriwether and C. N. Wilson (1959-83); Capers, Gerald M., John C. Calhoun, Opportunist (1960); Coit, Margaret L., John C. Calhoun (1950; repr. 1977); Current, Richard N., John C. Calhoun (1963); Feidel, Frank, and May, Ernest, eds., The Career of John C. Calhoun (1988); Niven, John, John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (1988); Peterson, Merrill D., The Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun (1988); Thomas, John L., ed., John C. Calhoun: A Profile (1968); Wiltse, Charles M., John Calhoun, 3 vols. (1944-1951).