John C. Calhoun

1782–1850

John Caldwell Calhoun was born in South Carolina in March, 1782. He studied at Yale College where in 1802 he graduated with distinction, read law, and was admitted to the bar. In 1808 he was elected to the Legislature of South Carolina, and in 1810 was chosen to Congress as a Democrat. He became a prominent leader of the war party, and soon acquired a national reputation. He favored a protective tariff and the United States Bank. In 1817 he was appointed to the Cabinet of President Monroe as Secretary of War. He was elected Vice-President of the United States in 1824, with John Quincy Adams as President, and was re-elected to the same office in 1828. The people of South Carolina believing that a protective tariff was detrimental to the interests of that State, Mr. Calhoun changed his course and became an advocate of the doctrine of free trade, and advanced the theory that a State may nullify unconstitutional laws. At that time both Calhoun and Van Buren aspired to the Presidency, but the President favored the claims of the latter, and thereby incurred the enmity of the Vice-President. He resigned in 1832, and was chosen a Senator of the United States. By the advice and under the direction of Mr. Calhoun, a convention held in South Carolina in 1832 adopted an ordinance to nullify the tariff, and prepared to resist by force the collection of the revenue; but the President soon suppressed the incipient rebellion by preparing to meet force with force, and by declaring that upon the commission of the first overt act of treason Calhoun should be arrested and tried for that crime. Mr. Calhoun afterward supported the compromise tariff of 1833 and acted with the Whig party in opposing Jackson's policy relative to the United States Bank. He was the avowed champion of slavery, which he insisted was a positive political and social good, hoping thereby to form a solid South that would aid him in his ambitious projects. Retiring from the Senate in 1833, he was the next year appointed Secretary of State by Mr. Tyler, in which position he signed the treaty for the annexation of Texas to this country. He returned to the Senate in 1845 and opposed the Mexican war and the Wilmot Proviso. Died in 1850.

Adapted from The Dictionary of Biography by Charles Morris


Key events during the life of John C. Calhoun:


Year
Event
1782
Birth of John Calhoun.
1802
Graduated from Yale.
1810
Became member of Congress.
1817
Appointed Secretary of War under President Monroe.
1824-31
Vice-president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.
1832
Ran for presidency against Martin Van Buren and lost.
1833
Retired from the Senate.
1834
Appointed Secretary of State.
1845
Returned to the Senate.
1850
Death of John Calhoun.

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
John C. Calhoun  in  America First—100 Stories from Our History  by  Lawton B. Evans
John C. Calhoun  in  Heroes of Progress in America  by  Charles Morris
Calhoun at Home  in  American History Stories, Volume III  by  Mara L. Pratt


Contemporary
Short Biography
Henry Clay Congressman and Speaker of the house of the mid-nineteenth century, associated with Webster and Calhoun.
Daniel Webster Influential Senator from New England. Promoted protective tariffs. Favored compromise on slavery.
Andrew Jackson Hero of the Battle of New Orleans, President of U.S., and founder of Democratic Party.
James Monroe Fifth president of the United States, and ally of Thomas Jefferson. Acquired Florida and promulgated the 'Monroe Doctrine.'
John Quincy Adams Diplomat who spent much time in Europe before becoming the sixth U.S. President.