John C. Calhoun

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This article is about the U.S. Vice President and Senator. For others of the same name, see John Calhoun (disambiguation).
John C. Calhoun
John C Calhoun by Mathew Brady, 1849.jpg
John Caldwell Calhoun by Mathew Brady, 1849
7th Vice President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1825 – December 28, 1832
President John Quincy Adams
Andrew Jackson
Preceded by Daniel Tompkins
Succeeded by Martin Van Buren
16th United States Secretary of State
In office
April 1, 1844 – March 10, 1845
President John Tyler
James K. Polk
Preceded by Abel Upshur
Succeeded by James Buchanan
10th United States Secretary of War
In office
December 8, 1817 – March 4, 1825
President James Monroe
Preceded by William Crawford
Succeeded by James Barbour
United States Senator
from South Carolina
In office
November 26, 1845 – March 31, 1850
Preceded by Daniel Huger
Succeeded by Franklin Elmore
In office
December 29, 1832 – March 4, 1843
Preceded by Robert Hayne
Succeeded by Daniel Huger
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th district
In office
March 4, 1811 – November 3, 1817
Preceded by Joseph Calhoun
Succeeded by Eldred Simkins
Personal details
Born John Caldwell Calhoun
(1782-03-18)March 18, 1782
Abbeville, South Carolina, United States
Died March 31, 1850(1850-03-31) (aged 68)
Washington, D.C., United States
Resting place St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
Political party Democratic (1839–1850)
Other political
Democratic-Republican (before 1825)
Nullifier (1828–1839)
Spouse(s) Floride Calhoun
Children 10
Parents Patrick Calhoun and Martha Caldwell
Alma mater Yale College
Tapping Reeve Law School
Religion Unitarianism, Calvinism
Signature Cursive signature in ink

John Caldwell Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina, who now is best remembered for his strong defense of slavery and for advancing the concept of minority rights. Calhoun began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent of a strong national government and protective tariffs. By the late 1820s, his views shifted and he became a leading proponent of states' rights, limited government, nullification and free trade, as he saw these means as the only way to preserve the Union. He is known for his strong defense of states' rights, limited government, nullification and opposition to high tariffs. He is known for his strong defense slavery, his distrust of majoritarianism, his articulation of minority rights, and for providing the ideas that led the South toward secession from the Union.

Calhoun served as a member of the House of Representatives and Senate, as the seventh Vice President of the United States, and as Secretary of War and Secretary of State. As a "war hawk", he strongly supported the War of 1812 to defend American honor against Britain. As Secretary of War under President James Monroe, he reorganized and modernized the War Department. He ran for president in 1824, but decided to run for vice-president instead early in the election, and won. He served one term under John Quincy Adams and continued under Andrew Jackson, who defeated Adams and his running-mate Richard Rush in 1828, making him the second vice-president to have served under two presidents. However, Calhoun had a difficult relationship with Jackson due primarily to disagreements concerning the Nullification Crisis and Peggy Eaton Affair. Calhoun resigned as vice president, the first of two men to do so, in 1832, and entered the Senate. He sought the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1844, but lost to surprise nominee James K. Polk. He served as Secretary of State under John Tyler from 1844 to 1845. He then returned to the Senate, where he opposed the Mexican-American War, the Wilmot Proviso, and the Compromise of 1850 before his death in 1850. Calhoun often served as a virtual party-independent who sided with Democrats and Whigs at different times.

Calhoun, nicknamed the "cast-iron man" for his ideological rigidity,[1][2] built his reputation as a political theorist. His concept of republicanism emphasized approval of slavery and minority rights, with the Southern states the minority in question. To protect minority rights against majority rule, he called for a concurrent majority whereby the minority could sometimes block proposals that it felt infringed on their liberties. To this end, Calhoun supported states' rights and nullification, through which states could declare null and void federal laws that they viewed as unconstitutional. He was a strong proponent of slavery. He owned "dozens of slaves in Fort Hill, South Carolina" and "championed slavery" as a "positive good" rather than as a "necessary evil."[3] Calhoun's positions are credited with influencing Southern secessionists.[4]

Calhoun was one of the "Great Triumvirate" or the "Immortal Trio" of Congressional leaders, along with his Congressional colleagues Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. In 1957, a Senate Committee selected Calhoun as one of the five greatest U.S. Senators of all time.[5]

Early life[edit]

John Caldwell Calhoun was born on March 18, 1782, the fourth child of Patrick Calhoun and his wife Martha Caldwell in Abbeville District, South Carolina. His father had joined the Scotch-Irish immigration from County Donegal to the backcountry of South Carolina.[6] Patrick Calhoun was a prosperous upstate planter who supported independence during the American Revolutionary War but opposed ratification of the federal Constitution on grounds of states' rights and personal liberties. These opinions helped shape Calhoun's own attitudes regarding these issues.[7]

Calhoun was enrolled in an academy in Georgia, which soon closed. He continued his studies privately. However, when his father died, 17-year-old Calhoun had to go home to work on the family farm.[8]

With his brothers' financial support, he later returned to his studies, earning a degree from Yale College in 1804.[8] He was also a noted member of the debating Society of Brothers in Unity at Yale College. After studying law at the Tapping Reeve Law School in Litchfield, Connecticut, he was admitted to the South Carolina bar in 1807.[6]

Personal life[edit]

J. C. Calhoun's wife from 1811, Floride Calhoun (1792–1866) was the daughter of South Carolina United States Senator and lawyer John E. Colhoun (1750–1802).

In January 1811, Calhoun married Floride Bonneau Colhoun, a first cousin once removed.[9] The couple had ten children over eighteen years; three died in infancy: Andrew Pickens Calhoun (1811–1865), Floride Pure Calhoun (1814–1815), Jane Calhoun (1816–1816), Anna Maria Calhoun (1817–1875), Elizabeth Calhoun (1819–1820), Patrick Calhoun (1821–1858), John Caldwell Calhoun, Jr. (1823–1850), Martha Cornelia Calhoun (1824–1857), James Edward Calhoun (1826–1861), and William Lowndes Calhoun (1829–1858).[10] Calhoun's fourth child, Anna Maria, married Thomas Green Clemson, founder of Clemson University in South Carolina.[11]

During her husband's second term as Vice President, Floride Calhoun was a central figure in the Petticoat affair, a social scandal that helped cause a rift between Calhoun and President Andrew Jackson. Mrs. Calhoun was an active Episcopalian and Calhoun sometimes accompanied her to church.[12][13] However, he was a charter member of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., in 1821 signing his name beside John Quincy Adams and remaining a member for all his life. He rarely mentioned religion; a Presbyterian in his early life, historians believe he was closest to the informal Unitarianism typified by Thomas Jefferson. In historian Clyde N. Wilson's collection of Calhoun's papers, Wilson states that his religion is known to himself alone, although he loved to discuss religion. In a letter he wrote to his daughter Anna Maria, Calhoun provided a clue to his religious thought: "Do our best, our duty for our country, and leave the rest to Providence."[14] In John C. Calhoun: American Portrait, Calhoun biographer Margaret Coit says he was raised Calvinist, briefly affiliated with Unitarianism, and for most of his life remained somewhere between the two. Before he died, he was touched by the Second Great Awakening, a Protestant revival movement during the late 1700s and early 1800s.[15]

Historian Merrill Peterson describes Calhoun thus:

Intensely serious and severe, he could never write a love poem, though he often tried, because every line began with "whereas" ...[16]

House of Representatives[edit]

War of 1812[edit]

With a base among the Irish (or Scotch Irish), Calhoun won election to the House of Representatives in 1810[17] and took office on March 4, 1811 at the young age of 28. He immediately became a leader of the "War Hawks," along with Speaker Henry Clay of Kentucky and South Carolina congressmen William Lowndes and Langdon Cheves. Brushing aside the vehement objections of New Englanders, they demanded war against Britain to preserve American honor and republican values.[18] In the spring of 1812, Calhoun was made the acting chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.[8] On June 3, 1812, Calhoun's committee called for a declaration of war in ringing phrases – the committee report followed Madison's terms point by point and went a step further; Calhoun reaped much of the credit.[19] The United States declared war on Britain on June 18, thus inaugurating the War of 1812. The opening phase involved multiple disasters for American arms, as well as a financial crisis when the Treasury could barely pay the bills. The conflict caused economic hardship for the Americans, as the Royal Navy blockaded the ports and cut off imports, exports and the coastal trade. Several attempted invasions of Canada were fiascos, but the U.S. in 1813 did seize control of western Canada and broke the power of hostile Indians in battles such as the Battle of the Thames in Canada in 1813 and the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama in 1814.[20]

Calhoun labored to raise troops, to provide funds, to speed logistics, to rescue the currency, and to regulate commerce to aid the war effort. One colleague hailed him as, "the young Hercules who carried the war on his shoulders."[21] Disasters on the battlefield made him double his legislative efforts to overcome the obstructionism of John Randolph of Roanoke and Daniel Webster and other opponents of the war. With the armies of Napoleon Bonaparte apparently defeated, and the British invasion of New York thwarted, British and American diplomats signed the Treaty of Ghent on Christmas Eve, 1814. It called for a return to the borders of 1812 with no major gains or losses. Before the treaty reached the Senate for ratification, and even before news of its signing reached New Orleans, a massive British invasion force was utterly defeated in January of 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans, making a national hero out of General Andrew Jackson.[22]

Postwar planning[edit]

The mismanagement of the Army during the war distressed Calhoun, and he resolved to strengthen and centralize the War Department.[23] Reliance on the militia had proven a major mistake during the war. Calhoun saw the need for a permanent professional military force. Historian Ulrich B. Phillips has traced Calhoun's complex plans to permanently strengthen the nation's military capabilities. In 1816 he called for building an effective navy, including steam frigates, as well as a standing army of adequate size. The British blockade of the coast had underscored the necessity of rapid means of internal transportation; Calhoun proposed a system of "great permanent roads." The blockade cut off the import of manufactured items, so he emphasize the need to encourage manufacturers, fully realizing that industry was based in the Northeast. The dependence of the old financial system on import duties was devastated when the blockade cut off imports. Calhoun called for a system of internal taxation which would pay for a future war, without depending on tariffs. The absence of the national Bank had distressed the Treasury, so Calhoun called for a new national bank. Throughout his proposals, Calhoun emphasized the national basis and downplayed sectionalism and states rights. Phillips says that at this stage of Calhoun's career, "The word nation was often on his lips, and his conscious aim was to enhance national unity which he identified with national power."[24]

Rhetorical style[edit]

An 1822 portrait of Calhoun at the age of 40

Regarding his career in the House of Representatives, an observer commented that Calhoun was:

the most elegant speaker that sits in the House.... His gestures are easy and graceful, his manner forcible, and language elegant; but above all, he confines himself closely to the subject, which he always understands, and enlightens everyone within hearing.[25]

His talent for public speaking required systematic self-discipline and practice. A later critic noted the sharp contrast between his hesitant conversations and his fluent speaking styles, adding that Calhoun "had so carefully cultivated his naturally poor voice as to make his utterance clear, full, and distinct in speaking and while not at all musical it yet fell pleasantly on the ear".[26] Calhoun was "a high-strung man of ultra intellectual cast".[27] As such, Calhoun was not known for charisma. He was often seen as harsh, and aggressive with other representatives.[28][29] But he was a brilliant intellectual and orator and strong organizer. Historian Russell Kirk says, "That zeal which flared like Greek fire in Randolph burned in Calhoun, too; but it was contained in the Cast-iron Man as in a furnace, and Calhoun's passion glowed out only through his eyes. No man was more stately, more reserved."[30]

Secretary of War and Postwar Nationalism[edit]

In 1817, President James Monroe appointed Calhoun Secretary of War. He took office on December 8 and served until 1825. Calhoun continued his role as a leading nationalist during the "Era of Good Feelings". He proposed an elaborate program of national reforms to the infrastructure that would speed economic modernization. His first priority was an effective navy, including steam frigates, and in the second place a standing army of adequate size; and as further preparation for emergency "great permanent roads", "a certain encouragement" to manufactures, and a system of internal taxation which would not be subject to collapse by a war-time shrinkage of maritime trade like customs duties. He spoke for a national bank, for internal improvements (such as harbors, canals and river navigation) and a protective tariff that would help the industrial Northeast and, especially, pay for the expensive new infrastructure.[31]

After the war ended in 1815 the "Old Republicans" in Congress, with their Jeffersonian ideology for economy in the federal government, sought to reduce the operations and finances of the War Department. In 1817, the deplorable state of the War Department led four men to turn down requests to fill the Secretary of War position before Calhoun finally accepted the task. Political rivalry, namely, Calhoun's political ambitions as well as those of William H. Crawford, the Secretary of the Treasury, over the pursuit of the 1824 presidency also complicated Calhoun's tenure as War Secretary. In addition, Calhoun opposed the invasion of Florida launched in 1818 by General Jackson during the First Seminole War, which was done without authorization from Calhoun or President Monroe.[32] The United States annexed Florida from Spain in 1819 through the Adams-Onis Treaty. The subsequent peace meant that a large army, such as the one that Calhoun preferred, was no longer necessary, and in 1821 significant cutbacks were made.[33]

As secretary, Calhoun had responsibility for management of Indian affairs. He promoted the plan to preserve the sovereignty of Eastern Indians by relocating them to western reservations they could control without interference from state governments. He convinced Monroe to adopt the policy in 1825.[34] In over seven years Calhoun supervised the negotiation and ratification of 40 treaties with Indian tribes.[35] A reform-minded modernizer, he attempted to institute centralization and efficiency in the Indian department, but Congress either failed to respond to his reforms or responded with hostility. Calhoun's frustration with congressional inaction, political rivalries, and ideological differences spurred him to create the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1824.[36]

Vice Presidency[edit]

1824 and 1828 elections[edit]

State historic marker at Fort Hill, Calhoun's home from 1825 until his death in 1850

Calhoun originally was a candidate for President of the United States in the election of 1824. After failing to win the endorsement of the South Carolina legislature, he decided to be a candidate for Vice President.[37] The Electoral College elected Calhoun vice president by a landslide. However, no presidential candidate received a majority in the Electoral College and the election was ultimately resolved by the House of Representatives, where John Quincy Adams was declared the winner over Jackson, who had won more of the popular vote than any other candidate, Crawford, and Clay. After Clay, the Speaker of the House, was appointed Secretary of State by Adams, Jackson's supporters denounced what they considered a "corrupt bargain" between Adams and Clay to give Adams the presidency in exchange for Clay receiving the office of Secretary of State. Calhoun also expressed some concerns, which caused friction between him and Adams.[38] Calhoun served four years under Adams, and then, in 1828, won re-election as Vice President running with Jackson against Adams and his running mate Richard Rush. He thus became the second of two vice presidents to serve under two different presidents, the other being George Clinton, who served as Vice President from 1805–1812 under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.[39]

However, Calhoun's presidency under Jackson also proved controversial due largely to the Nullification Crisis and the Petticoat Affair.[8]


Calhoun had begun to oppose increases in protective tariffs, as they generally benefitted Northerners more than Southerners. While Vice President in the Adams administration, Jackson's supporters devised a high tariff legislation that placed duties on imports that were also made in New England. Calhoun had been assured that the northeastern interests would reject the Tariff of 1828, exposing pro-Adams New England congressmen to charges that they selfishly opposed legislation popular among Jacksonian Democrats in the west and Mid-Atlantic States. The vote on the tariff was expected to come down to his tie-breaking vote. Calhoun claimed he would have voted against the tariff, but his vote was not necessary.[40] The southern legislators miscalculated and the so-called "Tariff of Abominations" passed. Frustrated, Calhoun returned to his South Carolina plantation to write "South Carolina Exposition and Protest," an essay rejecting the centralization philosophy.[41] The dispute led to the Nullification Crisis.

Calhoun proposed the theory of a concurrent majority through the doctrine of nullification—a concept which allows states to declare null and void certain acts of the Federal Government viewed as unconstitutional. In Calhoun's words, it is "the right of a State to interpose, in the last resort, in order to arrest an unconstitutional act of the General Government, within its limits."[42] Nullification can be traced back to arguments by Jefferson and Madison in writing the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798 against the Alien and Sedition Acts. Madison expressed the hope that the states would declare the acts unconstitutional, while Jefferson explicitly endorsed nullification.[43] Calhoun differed from Jefferson and Madison in explicitly arguing for a state's right to secede from the Union, as a last resort, in order to protect its liberty and sovereignty. Madison rebuked supporters of nullification, stating that no state had the right to nullify federal law.[44] In his 1828 essay "South Carolina Exposition and Protest", Calhoun argued that a state could veto any federal law that went beyond the enumerated powers and encroached upon the residual powers of the State.[45] President Jackson, meanwhile, generally supported states' rights, but was strongly against nullification and secession. At the 1830 Jefferson Day dinner at Jesse Brown's Indian Queen Hotel, Jackson proposed a toast and proclaimed, "Our federal Union, it must be preserved." Calhoun replied, "the Union, next to our liberty, the most dear."[46]

In May 1830, Jackson discovered that Calhoun had asked President Monroe to censure then-General Jackson for his invasion of Spanish Florida in 1818 while Calhoun was serving as Secretary of War. Jackson had invaded Florida during the First Seminole War without explicit public authorization from Calhoun or Monroe. Calhoun's and Jackson's relationship deteriorated further.[32] By February 1831, the break between Calhoun and Jackson was final. Responding to inaccurate press reports about the feud, Calhoun had published letters between him and Jackson detailing the conflict in the United States Telegraph.[8] Jackson and Calhoun began an angry correspondence which lasted until Jackson stopped it in July.[8]

Jackson sent US Navy warships to Charleston harbor, and threatened to hang Calhoun or any man who worked to support nullification or secession.[47] Tensions eased after both sides agreed to the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which was proposed by Henry Clay, now a Whig senator, to change the tariff law in a manner which satisfied Calhoun, who by then was in the Senate. On the same day, Congress passed the Force Bill, which empowered the President of the United States to use military force to ensure state compliance with Federal law. South Carolina then nullified the Force Bill.[48] In Calhoun's speech on the Force Bill, delivered on February 5, 1833, no longer as vice president, he strongly endorsed nullification, at one point saying:

Why, then, confer on the President the extensive and unlimited powers provided in this bill? Why authorize him to use military force to arrest the civil process of the State? But one answer can be given: That, in a contest between the State and the General Government, if the resistance be limited on both sides to the civil process, the State, by its inherent sovereignty, standing upon its reserved powers, will prove too powerful in such a controversy, and must triumph over the Federal Government, sustained by its delegated and unlimited authority; and in this answer we have an acknowledgment of the truth of those great principles for which the State has so firmly and nobly contended.[49]

Petticoat Affair[edit]

The Petticoat Affair further strained relations between Calhoun and Jackson. Floride Calhoun organized Cabinet wives (hence the term "petticoats") against Peggy Eaton, wife of Secretary of War John Eaton, and refused to associate with her.[50] They alleged that John and Peggy Eaton had engaged in an adulterous affair while Mrs. Eaton was still legally married to her first husband. The allegations of scandal created an intolerable situation for Jackson. Jackson was sympathetic to the Eatons. He himself had undergone similar attacks stemming from his marriage to Rachel Donelson in 1791, which occurred despite the fact that, unknown to them, Rachel's previous husband had failed to finalize their divorce.[51] He saw attacks on Eaton stemming ultimately from the political opposition of Calhoun.[52] At the suggestion of Secretary of State Martin Van Buren, who had sided with the Eatons, Jackson replaced most of the Cabinet members, therefore limiting Calhoun's influence. Van Buren had begun the process by resigning his post as Secretary of State on May 23, 1831, thereby assisting Jackson in facilitating the removal of others.[53] This allowed Van Buren, a Northerner, to grow in favor before Jackson, while increasing the rift between the President and Calhoun.[54]


As tensions over nullification escalated, South Carolina Senator Robert Hayne was seen as not as able as Calhoun to lead the Senate debates. So in late 1832 Hayne resigned to become governor. On December 28, Calhoun resigned as vice president to become a senator, with a voice in the debates.[55] Van Buren had already been elected as Jackson's new vice president, meaning that Calhoun had less than 3 months left on his term anyway. Calhoun was the first of two vice presidents to resign, the second being Spiro Agnew in 1973.[56]

First term in the U.S. Senate[edit]

A portrait of Calhoun from 1834

When Calhoun took his seat in the Senate on December 29, 1832, his chances of becoming President were considered very low due to the controversy that he involved himself in during the Nullification Crisis.[8] After the Compromise Tariff of 1833, which helped solve the Nullification Crisis, was implemented, the Nullifier Party, along with other anti-Jackson politicians, formed a coalition known as the Whig Party. Calhoun sometimes affiliated with the Whigs, but chose to remain a virtual independent due to the Whig promotion of federally subsidized "internal improvements" and a national bank, which were supported by many Whigs such as Clay and Webster. Many Southern politicians opposed these as benefiting Northern industrial interests at the expense of Southern budgets. By 1837 Calhoun generally had realigned himself with most of the Democrats' policies.[57]

To restore his national stature, Calhoun cooperated with Jackson's chosen successor, Van Buren, who became president in 1837. Democrats were very hostile to national banks, and the country's bankers had joined the Whig Party. The Democratic replacement, meant to help combat the Panic of 1837, was the "Independent Treasury" system, which Calhoun supported and which went into effect.[58] Calhoun, like Jackson and Van Buren, attacked finance capitalism, which he saw as the common enemy of the Northern laborer, the Southern planter, and the small farmer everywhere. Despite being opposed to the concept of political parties, he worked to unite these groups in the Democratic Party, and to dedicate that party to states' rights and agricultural interests as barriers against encroachment by government and big business.[41] Calhoun resigned from the Senate on March 4, 1843, four years before the expiration of his term, and returned to Fort Hill to prepare an attempt to win the Democratic nomination for the 1844 Presidential Election.[59] However, he gained little support, and decided to quit. James K. Polk, a strong Jacksonian, eventually won the nomination and the general election, in which he defeated Clay.[60]

Secretary of State[edit]

Appointment and Oregon Boundary Dispute[edit]

When Whig president William Henry Harrison died after a month in office in 1841, Vice President John Tyler took office. Tyler was a former Democrat who was expelled from the Whig Party due to conflict over the issues of a national bank and tariffs. He named Calhoun Secretary of State on April 10, 1844, following the death of previous Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur in the USS Princeton disaster. A major crisis emerged from the Oregon boundary dispute between Great Britain and the United States, which had been persisting for sometime but had recently grown in importance due to an increasing number of American migrants. The territory included most of present-day British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. American expansionists used the slogan "54-40 or fight" in reference to the Northern boundary of the Oregon territory. The United States compromised by splitting the area down the middle at the 49th parallel, ending the war threat. The British area became British Columbia; the American area became Washington and Oregon. Calhoun, along with President Polk and Secretary of State James Buchanan, continued work on the treaty while he was a senator. It was ratified by a vote of 41-14 on June 18, 1846.[61]


Tyler and Calhoun were eager to annex the independent Republic of Texas, which wanted to join the Union. Texas was slave country and anti-slavery elements in the North denounced annexation as a plot to enlarge the "Slave Power". When the Senate could not muster a two-thirds vote to pass a treaty of annexation with Texas, Calhoun devised a joint resolution of the Houses of Congress, requiring only a simple majority, and Texas joined the Union. Mexico had warned repeatedly that it would go to war if Texas joined the Union. In response to the United States presence in Texas, the Mexican–American War broke out in 1846.[41]

Second term in the Senate[edit]

Calhoun was reelected to the Senate in 1845 following the resignation of Daniel Elliott Huger. While there, he opposed the Mexican–American War. He believed, among other things, that it would distort the national character by bringing non-white persons into the country.[8] (See The evils of War and Political Parties.) He ultimately chose to abstain from voting on the war measure.[62] Calhoun also strongly opposed the Wilmot Proviso, which was an 1846 proposal by Pennsylvania Representative David Wilmot to ban slavery in all newly acquired territories.[63] The House of Representatives, through its Northern majority, passed the bill several times. However, the Senate, where non-slave and slave states had more equal representation, never passed the bill.[63] Calhoun supported Whig candidate Zachary Taylor for president in 1848 due to Taylor's status as a slaveholder and the position of Democratic candidate Lewis Cass, a Northerner, in favor of popular sovereignty to determine a new state's slaveholding status.[64]

Rejection of the Compromise of 1850[edit]

The Compromise of 1850, devised by Clay and Stephen Douglas, a first-term Democratic senator from Illinois, was designed to solve the controversy over the status of slavery in the vast new territories acquired from Mexico. Calhoun, weeks from death and too feeble to speak, wrote a blistering attack on the compromise that would become most likely his most famous speech. On March 4, a friend, Senator James Mason of Virginia, read his speech.[65] Calhoun affirmed the right of the South to leave the Union in response to Northern subjugation. He warned that the day "the balance between the two sections" was destroyed would be a day not far removed from disunion, anarchy, and civil war. Calhoun asked the question of how the Union might be preserved in light of subjugation by the "stronger" party against the "weaker" one. He stated his belief that the responsibility of solving the question lay entirely on the North—as the stronger section, to allow the Southern minority an equal share in governance and to cease the agitation. He added:

If you who represent the stronger portion, cannot agree to settle them on the broad principle of justice and duty, say so; and let the States we both represent agree to separate and part in peace. If you are unwilling we should part in peace, tell us so; and we shall know what to do, when you reduce the question to submission or resistance.[66]

Calhoun died soon after his speech. Although the compromise measures did eventually pass, Calhoun's ideas about states' rights attracted increasing attention across the South. Historian William Barney argues that Calhoun's ideas proved "appealing to Southerners concerned with preserving slavery.... Southern radicals known as "fire-eaters" pushed the doctrine of states rights to its logical extreme by whole upholding the constitutional right of the state to secede."[67]

Death and burial[edit]

George Peter Alexander Healy's 1851 painting of Calhoun on exhibit at City Hall in Charleston, South Carolina
Calhoun's grave at St. Philip's Church yard in Charleston

Calhoun died at the Old Brick Capitol boarding house in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1850, of tuberculosis, at the age of 68. He was interred at the St. Philip's Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina. During the Civil War, a group of Calhoun's friends were concerned about the possible desecration of his grave by Federal troops and, during the night, removed his coffin to a hiding place under the stairs of the church. The next night, his coffin was buried in an unmarked grave near the church, where it remained until 1871, when it was again exhumed and returned to its original place.[68]

Calhoun's widow, Floride, died in July 1866, and was buried in St. Paul's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Pendleton, South Carolina, near their children, but apart from her husband.[69]

Political philosophy[edit]

Agrarian republicanism[edit]

See also: Agrarianism

Historian Lee H. Cheek, Jr., in his 2001 work Calhoun And Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse, distinguishes between two strands of American republicanism: the puritan tradition, based in New England, and the agrarian or South Atlantic tradition. Cheek argues that Calhoun is best understood as a representative of the South Atlantic tradition of agrarian republicanism. While the New England tradition stressed a politically centralized enforcement of moral and religious norms to secure civic virtue, the South Atlantic tradition relied on a decentralized moral and religious order based on the idea of subsidiarity (or localism). Cheek locates the fundamental principles of Calhoun's republicanism in the "Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions" (1798) written by Jefferson and Madison. Calhoun emphasized the primacy of the idea of subsidiarity: popular rule is best expressed in local communities that are nearly autonomous while serving as units of a larger society.[70]


Calhoun led the pro-slavery faction in the Senate, opposing both abolitionism and attempts such as the Wilmot Proviso to limit the expansion of slavery into the western territories.[71] He was a major advocate of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which required the cooperation of local law enforcement officials in free states to return escaped slaves.[41]

Calhoun's father, Patrick Calhoun, helped shape his son's political views. He was a staunch slaveholder who taught his son that one's standing in society depended not merely on one's commitment to the ideal of popular self-government but also on the ownership of a substantial number of slaves. Flourishing in a world in which slaveholding was a badge of civilization, Calhoun saw little reason to question its morality as an adult. He believed that the spread of slavery into the back country of his own state improved public morals by ridding the countryside of the shiftless poor whites who had once held the region back.[72] He further believed that slavery instilled in the whites who remained a code of honor that blunted the disruptive potential of private gain and fostered the civic-mindedness that lay near the core of the republican creed. From such a standpoint, the expansion of slavery into the backcountry decreased the likelihood for social conflict and postponed the declension when money would become the only measure of self-worth, as had happened in New England. Calhoun was thus firmly convinced that slavery was the key to the success of the American dream.[73]

Whereas other Southern politicians had excused slavery as a "necessary evil", in a famous speech on the Senate floor on February 6, 1837, Calhoun asserted that slavery was a "positive good".[74] He rooted this claim on two grounds: white supremacy and paternalism. All societies, Calhoun claimed, are ruled by an elite group which enjoys the fruits of the labor of a less-exceptional group. Senator William Rives of Virginia earlier had referred to slavery as an evil that might become a "lesser evil" in some circumstances. Calhoun believed that conceded too much to the abolitionists:[75]

I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good ... I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe—look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse ... I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other.[76]

Calhoun rejected the belief of Southern leaders such as Henry Clay that all Americans could agree on the "opinion and feeling" that slavery was wrong, although they might disagree on the most practicable way to respond to that great wrong. Calhoun's constitutional ideas acted as a viable conservative alternative to Northern appeals to democracy, majority rule, and natural rights.[3]

In addition to providing the intellectual justification of slavery, Calhoun played a central role in devising the South's overall political strategy. Phillips explains how:

Organization and strategy were widely demanded in Southern defense, and Calhoun came to be regarded as the main source of plans, arguments, and inspiration. His devices were manifold: to suppress agitation, to praise the slaveholding system; to promote Southern prosperity and expansion; to procure a Western alliance; to frame a fresh plan of government by concurrent majorities; to form a Southern bloc; to warn the North of the dangers of Southern desperation; to appeal for Northern magnanimity as indispensable for the saving of the Union.[77]
Calhoun's home, Fort Hill, on the grounds that became part of Clemson University, in Clemson, South Carolina

The evils of war and political parties[edit]

Calhoun was consistently opposed to the War with Mexico from its very beginning, arguing that an enlarged military effort would only feed the alarming and growing lust of the public for empire regardless of its constitutional dangers, bloat executive powers and patronage, and saddle the republic with a soaring debt that would disrupt finances and encourage speculation. Calhoun feared, moreover, that Southern slave owners would be shut out of any conquered Mexican territories, as nearly happened with the Wilmot Proviso. He argued that the war would eventually lead to the annexation of all of Mexico, which he said was unwise because it would bring in Mexicans not advanced enough in moral and intellectual terms. He said, in a speech on January 4, 1848:

We make a great mistake, sir, when we suppose that all people are capable of self-government. We are anxious to force free government on all; and I see that it has been urged in a very respectable quarter, that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty over all the world, and especially over this continent. It is a great mistake. None but people advanced to a very high state of moral and intellectual improvement are capable, in a civilized state, of maintaining free government; and amongst those who are so purified, very few, indeed, have had the good fortune of forming a constitution capable of endurance.[78]

Anti-slavery Northerners denounced the war as a Southern conspiracy to expand slavery; Calhoun saw a conspiracy of Yankees to destroy the South. By 1847 he decided the Union was threatened by a totally corrupt party system. He believed that in their lust for office, patronage and spoils, politicians in the North pandered to the anti-slavery vote, especially during presidential campaigns, and politicians in the slave states sacrificed Southern rights in an effort to placate the Northern wings of their parties. Thus, the essential first step in any successful assertion of Southern rights had to be the jettisoning of all party ties. In 1848–49, Calhoun tried to give substance to his call for Southern unity. He was the driving force behind the drafting and publication of the "Address of the Southern Delegates in Congress, to Their Constituents."[79] It alleged Northern violations of the constitutional rights of the South, then warned southern voters to expect forced emancipation of slaves in the near future, followed by their complete subjugation by an unholy alliance of unprincipled Northerners and blacks, and a South forever reduced to "disorder, anarchy, poverty, misery, and wretchedness." Only the immediate and unflinching unity of Southern whites could prevent such a disaster. Such unity would either bring the North to its senses or lay the foundation for an independent South. But the spirit of union was still strong in the region and fewer than 40% of the southern congressmen signed the address, and only one Whig.[41]

Many Southerners believed his warnings and read every political news story from the North as further evidence of the planned destruction of the southern way of life. The climax came a decade after Calhoun's death with the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln in 1860, which led immediately to the secession of South Carolina, followed by six other Southern states. They formed the new Confederate States, which, in accord with Calhoun's theory, did not have any political parties.[80]

Concurrent majority[edit]

Undated photograph of John C. Calhoun

Calhoun's basic concern for protecting the diverse interests of minority interests is expressed in his chief contribution to political science—the idea of a concurrent majority across different groups as distinguished from a numerical majority.[81] According to the principle of a numerical majority, the will of the more numerous citizens should always rule, regardless of the burdens on the minority. Such a principle tends toward a consolidation of power in which the interests of the absolute majority always prevail over those of the minority. Calhoun believed that the great achievement of the American constitution was in checking the tyranny of a numerical majority through institutional procedures that required a concurrent majority, such that each important interest in the community must consent to the actions of government. To secure a concurrent majority, those interests that have a numerical majority must compromise with the interests that are in the minority. A concurrent majority requires a unanimous consent of all the major interests in a community, which is the only sure way of preventing tyranny of the majority. This idea supported Calhoun's doctrine of interposition or nullification, in which the state governments could refuse to enforce or comply with a policy of the Federal government that threatened the vital interests of the states.[82]

Historian Richard Hofstadter (1948) emphasizes that Calhoun’s conception of "minority" was very different from the minorities of a century later:

Not in the slightest was [Calhoun] concerned with minority rights as they are chiefly of interest to the modern liberal mind – the rights of dissenters to express unorthodox opinions, of the individual conscience against the State, least of all of ethnic minorities. At bottom he was not interested in any minority that was not a propertied minority. The concurrent majority itself was a device without relevance to the protection of dissent, designed to protect a vested interest of considerable power ... it was minority privileges rather than [minority] rights that he really proposed to protect.[83]

Calhoun was chiefly concerned with protecting the interests of the Southern States (which he largely identified with the interests of their slaveholding elites), as a distinct and beleaguered minority among the members of the federal Union. However the idea of a concurrent majority as a protection for minority rights has gained wide acceptance in American political thought.[84][85]

Unlike Jefferson, Calhoun rejected attempts at economic, social, or political leveling, claiming that true equality could not be achieved if all classes were given equal rights and responsibilities. Rather, to ensure true prosperity, it was necessary for a stronger group to provide protection and care for the weaker one.[4] This meant that the two groups should not be equal before the law. For Calhoun, "protection" (order) was more important than freedom. Individual rights were something to be earned, not something bestowed by nature or God.[86]

Disquisition on Government[edit]

John Caldwell Calhoun c. 1843, at about 60 years of age

The Disquisition on Government is a 100-page abstract treatise that comprises Calhoun's definitive and fully elaborated ideas on government; he worked on it intermittently for six years before it was finished in 1849.[87] It systematically presents his arguments that a numerical majority in any government will typically impose a despotism over a minority unless some way is devised to secure the assent of all classes, sections, and interests[88] and, similarly, that innate human depravity would debase government in a democracy.[89]

Calhoun offered the concurrent majority as the key to achieving consensus, a formula by which a minority interest had the option to nullify objectionable legislation passed by a majority interest.[90] The doctrine would be made effective by this tactic of nullification, a veto that would suspend the law within the boundaries of the state.[91][92]

Veto power was linked to the right of secession; with secession came the threat of anarchy and social chaos. Constituencies would call for compromise to prevent this outcome.[93] With a concurrent majority in place, the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the Federal Judiciary would no longer exert collective authority over the various states. According to the (Supremacy Clause) located in Article 6, laws made by the federal government are the "supreme law of the land" only when they are made "in pursuance" of the U.S. Constitution.[94]

The mechanisms for his system are convincing if one shares Calhoun’s conviction that a functioning concurrent majority never leads to stalemate in the legislature; rather, talented statesmen, practiced in the arts of conciliation and compromise would pursue "the common good",[95] however explosive the issue. His formula promised to produce laws satisfactory to all interests.[96] The ultimate goal of these mechanisms were to facilitate the authentic will of the white populace. Calhoun explicitly rejected the founding principles of equality in the Declaration of Independence, denying that humanity is born free and equal in shared human nature and basic needs. He regarded this precept as "the most false and dangerous of all political errors".[97] States could constitutionally take action to free themselves from an overweening government, but slaves as individuals or interest groups could not do so. Calhoun’s stance assumed that with the establishment of a concurrent majority, interest groups would influence their own representatives sufficiently to have a voice in public affairs; the representatives would perform strictly as high-minded public servants.[98] Under this scenario, the political leadership would improve and persist; corruption and demagoguery would subside; and the interests of the people would be honored.[88][99] This introduces the second theme in the Disquisition and a counterpoint to his concept of the concurrent majority: political corruption.[98]

Calhoun considered the concurrent majority essential to provide structural restraints to counter his belief that "a vast majority of mankind is entirely biased by motives of self-interest and that by this interest must be governed".[100] This innate selfishness, which he viewed as axiomatic, would inevitably emerge when government revenue became available to political parties for distribution as patronage.[101] Politicians and bureaucrats would succumb to the lure of government lucre accumulated through taxation, tariff duties and public land sales. Even a diminishment of massive revenue effected through nullification by the permanent minority would not eliminate these temptations. A robust national defense – acknowledged by all interests as essential to national security– would require significant military expenditures. These funds alone would be sufficient to entice political leaders into abandoning the interests of their constituents in favor of serving personal and party interests.[102] Calhoun predicted that electioneering, political conspiracies and outright fraud would be employed to mislead and distract a gullible public; inevitably, perfidious demagogues would come to rule the political scene. A decline in authority among the principal statesmen would follow, and, ultimately, the eclipse of the concurrent majority.[98]

Calhoun contended that however confused and misled the masses were by political opportunists, any efforts to impose majority rule upon a minority would be thwarted by a minority veto.[96] What Calhoun fails to explain, according to American historian William W. Freehling, is how a compromise would be achieved in the aftermath of a minority veto, when the ubiquitous demagogues betray their constituencies and abandon the concurrent majority altogether. Calhoun's two key concepts – the maintenance of the concurrent majority by high-minded statesmen on the one hand; and the inevitable rise of demagogues who undermine consensus on the other – are never reconciled or resolved in the Disquisition.[98]

South Carolina and other Southern states, in the three decades preceding the Civil War, had provided legislatures in which the vested interests of land and slaves dominated in the upper houses, while the popular will of the numerical majority prevailed in the lower houses. There was little opportunity for demagogues to establish themselves in this political milieu – the democratic component among the people was too weak to sustain a plebeian politician. The conservative statesmen – the slaveholding gentry – retained control over the political apparatus.[103][104] Freehling described the state's political system of the era thus:

[T]he apportionment of [state] legislative seats gave the small majority of low country aristocrats control of the senate and a disproportionate influence in the house. Political power in South Carolina was uniquely concentrated in a legislature of large property holders who set state policy and selected the men to administer it. The characteristics of South Carolina politics cemented the control of upper class planters. Elections to the state legislature – the one control the masses could exert over the government – were often uncontested and rarely allowed the "plebeian" a clear choice between two parties or policies ...[103]

The Disquisition was published shortly after his death, as was another book, Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States.[105]

John C. Calhoun on the "concurrent majority" from his Disquisition (1850)

"If the whole community had the same interests, so that the interests of each and every portion would be so affected by the action of the government, that the laws which oppressed or impoverished one portion, would necessarily oppress and impoverish all others — or the reverse — then the right of suffrage, of itself, would be all-sufficient to counteract the tendency of the government to oppression and abuse of its powers. ... But such is not the case. On the contrary, nothing is more difficult than to equalize the action of the government, in reference to the various and diversified interests of the community; and nothing more easy than to pervert its powers into instruments to aggrandize and enrich one or more interests by oppressing and impoverishing the others; and this too, under the operation of laws, couched in general terms — and which, on their face, appear fair and equal. ... Such being the case, it necessarily results, that the right of suffrage, by placing the control of the government in the community must ... lead to conflict among its different interests — each striving to obtain possession of its powers, as the means of protecting itself against the others — or of advancing its respective interests, regardless of the interests of others. For this purpose, a struggle will take place between the various interests to obtain a majority, in order to control the government. If no one interest be strong enough, of itself, to obtain it, a combination will be formed. ... [and] the community will be divided into two great parties — a major and minor — between which there will be incessant struggles on the one side to retain, and on the other to obtain the majority — and, thereby, the control of the government and the advantages it confers."[106]

State Sovereignty and the "Calhoun Doctrine"[edit]

In the 1840s three interpretations of the Constitutional powers of Congress to deal with slavery in territories emerged: the "free-soil doctrine", the "Calhoun doctrine", and "popular sovereignty". The Free Soilers said Congress had the power to outlaw slavery in the territories. The popular sovereignty position said the voters living there should decide. The Calhoun doctrine said Congress could never outlaw slavery in the territories.[107]

In what historian Robert R. Russell calls the "Calhoun Doctrine", Calhoun argued that the Federal Government's role in the territories was only that of the trustee or agent of the several sovereign states: it was obliged not to discriminate among the states and hence was incapable of forbidding the bringing into any territory of anything that was legal property in any state. Calhoun argued that citizens from every state had the right to take their property to any territory. Congress, he asserted, had no authority to place restrictions on slavery in the territories.[108] As Constitutional historian Hermann von Holst noted, "Calhoun's doctrine made it a solemn constitutional duty of the United States government and of the American people to act as if the existence or non-existence of slavery in the Territories did not concern them in the least."[109] The Calhoun Doctrine was vehemently opposed by the Free Soil forces, which merged into the new Republican Party around 1854.[110] Chief Justice Roger B. Taney based his decision in the 1857 Supreme Court case Dred Scott v. Sandford, in which he ruled that the federal government could not prohibit slavery in any of the territories, upon Calhoun's arguments.[111]

John Quincy Adams concluded in 1821 that "Calhoun is a man of fair and candid mind, of honorable principles, of clear and quick understanding, of cool self-possession, of enlarged philosophical views, and of ardent patriotism. He is above all sectional and factious prejudices more than any other statesman of this Union with whom I have ever acted."[112] Historian Charles Wiltse agrees, noting, "Though he is known today primarily for his sectionalism, Calhoun was the last of the great political leaders of his time to take a sectional position—later than Daniel Webster, later than Henry Clay, later than Adams himself."[113]

Film and TV[edit]

In the 1997 film Amistad, which depicts the controversy and legal battle surrounding the status of slaves who in 1839 rebelled against their transporters on La Amistad slave ship, Calhoun is portrayed by Arliss Howard.[114]

In the 2016 documentary The Gettysburg Address, which examines the cultural and historical significance of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Calhoun is voiced by actor Gary Busey.[114]


John C. Calhoun, CSA issue of 1862, unused
Confederate hundred-dollar banknote, bearing Calhoun's image
Confederate first issue banknote depicting both Calhoun and Andrew Jackson (Act of March 9, 1861)

Calhoun is remembered well for his defense of minority rights by use of the "concurrent majority".[115][116] However, he is also noted and criticized for his strong defense of slavery. His views played an enormous role in influencing Southern secessionist leaders.[4]

However, Calhoun's name has been memorialized in many ways.

Lake Calhoun, a lake of the Chain of Lakes in Minneapolis, was named after Calhoun by surveyors sent by Calhoun as Secretary of War to map the area around Fort Snelling in 1817.[117]

The Confederate government honored Calhoun on a one-cent postage stamp, which was printed in 1862 but was never officially released.[118]

Calhoun is the namesake of John C. Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama. Calhoun was also honored by his alma mater, Yale University, which named one of its undergraduate residential colleges "Calhoun College". A sculpture of Calhoun appears on the exterior of Harkness Tower, a prominent campus landmark. The Clemson University campus in South Carolina occupies the site of Calhoun's Fort Hill plantation, which he bequeathed to his wife and daughter. They sold it and its 50 slaves to a relative. They received $15,000 for the 1,100 acres (450 ha) and $29,000 for the slaves (they were valued at about $600 apiece). When that owner died, Thomas Green Clemson foreclosed the mortgage. He later bequeathed the property to the state for use as an agricultural college to be named after him.[119]

Many different places, streets and schools were named after Calhoun, as may be seen on the above list. The "Immortal Trio" were memorialized with streets in Uptown New Orleans. Calhoun Landing, on the Santee-Cooper River in Santee, South Carolina, was named after him. In 1887, a monument to Calhoun was erected in Marion Square in Charleston. However, it was not well-liked by the residents and was replaced in 1896 by a different monument still in existence.[120] The USS John C. Calhoun was a Fleet Ballistic Missile nuclear submarine, in commission from 1963 to 1994.[121]

In 1957, the United States Senate selected Calhoun as one of the "five greatest senators of all time."[5]

In the wake of a racially-motivated Charleston church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015, there emerged a movement to remove monuments dedicated to prominent pro-slavery and Confederate States figures. In June, the monument to Calhoun in Charleston was found vandalized, with spray-painted references to Calhoun's attitudes towards blacks and slavery.[122]

In July a group of Yale students requested in a petition that Yale rename the Calhoun College, one of the University's twelve residential colleges.[123] According to an April 2016 article in the New York Times, Yale President Peter Salovey announced that "despite decades of vigorous alumni and student protests," Calhoun's name will remain on a Yale residential dormitory.[124] In the article Calhoun was described as the United States' "most egregious racist" and "an avowed white supremacist."[124] Salovey explained as he announced the contentious decision—that it is preferable for Yale students to live in Calhoun's "shadow" so they will be "better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future." He claimed that if they removed Calhoun's name, it would "obscure" his "legacy of slavery rather than addressing it."[124]

"The whole South is the grave of Calhoun"

— Yankee Soldier (1865) from the title page of Margaret Coit's John C. Calhoun: Great Lives Observed (1970) [125]


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  99. ^ Krannawitter, pp. 170–171
  100. ^ Coit (1950), p. 149
  101. ^ Freehling, pp. 219–220
  102. ^ Freehling, pp. 221–222
  103. ^ a b Freehling, pp. 225–226
  104. ^ Varon, pp. 91–92
  105. ^ Calhoun, John Caldwell (1851). Cralle, Richard K., ed. A Disquisition on Government and A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States (1 ed.). Charleston, S.C.: Steam Power Press of Walker & James. 
  106. ^ Constance Polin and Raymond Polin, eds., Foundations of American political thought (2006) p 380
  107. ^ Fehrenbacher, Don E. (1981) Slavery, law, and politics: the Dred Scott case in historical perspective. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019502883X. pp. 64–65
  108. ^ Russell, Robert R. (1966). "Constitutional Doctrines with Regard to Slavery in Territories". Journal of Southern History 32 (4): 466–486. doi:10.2307/2204926. JSTOR 2204926. 
  109. ^ von Holst, Hermann E. (1883) John C. Calhoun. p. 312
  110. ^ Foner, Eric (1970) Free soil, free labor, free men: the ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. p. 178
  111. ^ Let Us Go Back and Stand Upon the Constitution: Federal-State Relations in Scott v. Sanford, 90 Colum. L. Rev. 192–225 (1990).
  112. ^ Adams, Diary, V, 361
  113. ^ Wiltse (1944), p. 234
  114. ^ a b "John C. Calhoun". IMBd. Retrieved February 27, 2016. 
  115. ^ Vukan Kuic, "John C. Calhoun's Theory of the Concurrent Majority." American Bar Assoc. Journal 69 (1983): 482.
  116. ^ "The decision-making process in this country resembles John Calhoun's 'concurrent majority': A large number of groups both within and outside the government must, in practice, approve any major policy." says Malcolm E. Jewell, Senatorial Politics and Foreign Policy (University Press of Kentucky, 2015) p 2.
  117. ^ Brueggemann, Gary. Perspective on the Namesake of Lake Calhoun Star Tribune. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  118. ^ Kaufmann, Patricia A. Calhoun Legacy American Stamp Dealer. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  119. ^ Fort Hill History Clemson University. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  120. ^ When a Monument To John C. Calhoun Was Torn Down Civil War Memory. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  121. ^ USS John C. Calhoun (SSBN 630) U.S. Navy Site. Retrieved May 15, 2016.
  122. ^ John C. Calhoun statue vandalized in downtown Charleston Fox Carolina. June 23, 2015. Retrieved May 11, 2016.
  123. ^ "To the Yale Administration", Yale students, 2015, retrieved April 30, 2016 
  124. ^ a b c Glenmore, Glenda Elizabeth (April 30, 2016), "At Yale, a Right That Doesn’t Outweigh a Wrong", New York Times (New Haven), retrieved April 30, 2016 
  125. ^ Coit (1970), title page



  • Bartlett, Irving H. (1994). John C. Calhoun: A Biography.  Bartlett, while hostile to slavery, portrays Calhoun as a principled, consistent, and often admirable champion of slavery and the South.
  • Capers, Gerald M. John C. Calhoun, Opportunist: A Reappraisal (1960) online edition
  • Coit, Margaret, L (1950). John C. Calhoun: American Portrait. ISBN 0877971854. 
  • Coit, Margaret L., ed., ed. (1970). John C. Calhoun: Great Lives Observed. Prentice-Hall.  , excerpts from scholars.
  • Current, Richard N. John C. Calhoun (1966), short biography by a scholar
  • Hofstadter, Richard (1948). "The Marx of the Master Class". The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. 
  • Krannawitter, Thomas L. (2008). Vindicating Lincoln: Defending the Politics of Our Greatest President. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 0742559726. 
  • Meigs, William Montgomery (1917). The Life of John Caldwell Calhoun. , "elaborate and painstaking" says U.B. Phillips.
  • Niven, John. John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union: A Biography (1993)
  • Niven, John. "Calhoun, John C."; American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
  • Peterson, Merrill D. (1988). Great Triumvirate: Webster, Clay, and Calhoun. ISBN 0195056868. 
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Smith, Henry Augustus Middleton (1911). "Calhoun, John Caldwell". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica 5 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  • Phillips, Ulrich Bonnell. "Calhoun, John Caldwell, 1782 - 1850" Dictionary of American Biography (1929) 3:411-419; 7400 words
  • Wiltse, Charles M. (1944). John C. Calhoun, Nationalist, 1782–1828. ISBN 0-8462-1041-X. 
  • Wiltse, Charles M. (1948). John C. Calhoun, Nullifier, 1829–1839. 
  • Wiltse, Charles M. (1951). John C. Calhoun, Sectionalist, 1840–1859. 

Specialized studies[edit]

  • Belko, William S. "'John C. Calhoun and the Creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs: An Essay on Political Rivalry, Ideology, and Policymaking in the Early Republic," South Carolina Historical Magazine 2004 105(3): 170–197. ISSN 0038-3082
  • Brown, Guy Story (2000). Calhoun's Philosophy of Politics: A Study of A Disquisition on Government. 
  • Capers Gerald M., "A Reconsideration of Calhoun's Transition from Nationalism to Nullification," Journal of Southern History, 14 (Feb. 1948), 34–48. JSTOR 2197709
  • Cheek, Lee H. Jr. (2004). Calhoun And Popular Rule: The Political Theory of the Disquisition and Discourse. 
  • Ford Jr., Lacy K. Origins of Southern Radicalism: The South Carolina Upcountry, 1800–1860 (1988)
  • Ford, Lacy K. Jr. (1988). "Republican Ideology in a Slave Society: The Political Economy of John C. Calhoun". Journal of Southern History 54: 405–24. JSTOR 2208996. 
  • Ford Jr., Lacy K. (1994). "Inventing the Concurrent Majority: Madison, Calhoun, and the Problem of Majoritarianism in American Political Thought". The Journal of Southern History 60 (1): 19–58. JSTOR 2210719. 
  • Freehling, William W. (1965). "Spoilsmen and Interests in the Thought and Career of John C. Calhoun". Journal of American History 52: 25–42. JSTOR 1901122. 
  • Gutzman, Kevin R. C., "Paul to Jeremiah: Calhoun's Abandonment of Nationalism," The Journal of Libertarian Studies 16 (2002), 3–33.
  • Jarvis, Douglas Edward. "The Southern Conservative Thought of John C. Calhoun and the Cultural Foundations of the Canadian Identity," American Review of Canadian Studies, 43 (Sept. 2013), 297–314
  • Krannawitter, Thomas L. "John C. Calhoun and the New Science of Race and Politics," in Ronald J. Pestritto and Thomas G. West, eds. Challenges to the American founding: slavery, historicism, and progressivism in the nineteenth century (2004) ch 2 pp 43+
  • Lerner, Ralph. "Calhoun's New Science of Politics," American Political Science Review, Vol. 57, No. 4 (Dec. 1963), pp. 918–932 JSTOR 1952609
  • Merriam, Charles E. "The Political Theory of Calhoun," American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 7, No. 5 (Mar. 1902), pp. 577–594 JSTOR 2762212
  • Miller, William Lee (1996). Arguing About Slavery. John Quincy Adams and the Great Battle in the United States Congress. New York: Vintage Books. ISBN 0-394-56922-9. 
  • Rayback Joseph G., "The Presidential Ambitions of John C. Calhoun, 1844–1848," Journal of Southern History, XIV (Aug. 1948), 331–56. JSTOR 2197879
  • Varon, Elizabeth R. (2008). Disunion! : The coming of the American Civil War, 1789–1859. University of North Carolina Press. 
  • Wilentz, Sean (2008). The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln. New York: W.W. Horton and Company. 
  • Wiltse, Charles. "Calhoun's Democracy," Journal of Politics, Vol. 3, No. 2 (May 1941), pp. 210–223 JSTOR 2125432
  • Wood, W. Kirk, “History and Recovery of the Past: John C. Calhoun and the Origins of Nullification in South Carolina, 1819–1828,” Southern Studies, 16 (Spring–Summer 2009), 46–68.

Primary sources[edit]

  • Calhoun, John C. John C. Calhoun: Selected Writings and Speeches edited by H. Lee Cheek, (2003) excerpt and text search
  • The Papers of John C. Calhoun Edited by Clyde N. Wilson; 28 volumes, University of South Carolina Press, 1959–2003. Contains all letters, pamphlets and speeches by Calhoun and most letters written to him.
  • Calhoun, John C. Slavery a Positive Good, speech on the Senate floor, February 6, 1837.
  • Calhoun, John C. (1992). Lence, Ross M., ed. Union and Liberty: The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun. ISBN 0-86597-102-1. 
  • "Correspondence Addressed to John C. Calhoun, 1837–1849," Chauncey S. Boucher and Robert P. Brooks, eds., Annual Report of the American Historical Association, 1929. 1931

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph Calhoun
Member of the House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th congressional district

Succeeded by
Eldred Simkins
Political offices
Preceded by
William Crawford
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: James Monroe

Succeeded by
James Barbour
Preceded by
Daniel Tompkins
Vice President of the United States
Succeeded by
Martin Van Buren
Preceded by
Abel Upshur
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: John Tyler

Succeeded by
James Buchanan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Daniel Tompkins
Democratic vice presidential nominee
1824, 1828
Succeeded by
Martin Van Buren
United States Senate
Preceded by
Robert Hayne
Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: Stephen Miller, William Preston, George McDuffie
Succeeded by
Daniel Huger
Preceded by
Daniel Huger
Senator (Class 2) from South Carolina
Served alongside: George McDuffie, Andrew Butler
Succeeded by
Franklin Elmore
Preceded by
Levi Woodbury
Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by
Dixon Lewis