John C. Calhoun Biography & Quotes
John Caldwell Calhoun was born on March 18, 1782 as the son of a Scots-Irish immigrant, Patrick Calhoun. When John was just 14 his father became ill. He quit school to help manage the family farm, but soon returned to his studies and earned a degree from Yale College in 1804. Shortly after, John was admitted into the South Carolina bar in 1807.
On January 8, 1811, Calhoun married Floride Bonneau Calhoun, his first cousin once-removed. The couple had ten children during an eighteen-year period, three dying in infancy. During Calhoun's second term as Vice President, Floride Calhoun was a central part of the Petticoat Affair.
In 1810, Calhoun was elected to Congress and became part of the War Hawks, who led the effort leading to the War of 1812. After the war, Calhoun proposed a Bonus Bill for public works. In 1817, President James Monroe appointed him to Secretary of War, after Isaac Shelby declined the seat. During the disputed election of 1824, Calhoun allied with John Quincy Adams, making him vice president if elected, however, the two broke once he found Adams as favoring Northern interests.
During the election of 1828, Calhoun once again ran as vice president, this time with Andrew Jackson. However, his southern views once again led to the downfall of his vice presidency.
Calhoun supported the theory of concurrent majority, individual states could override federal legislation if they deemed them unconstitutional. And on December 28, 1832, Calhoun was elected to the US Senate by his native South Carolina. To accept the honor, Calhoun became the first Vice President to resign from office.
Calhoun went on to lead the pro-slavery faction in the Senate during the 1830s and 1840s, opposing abolitionism and opposing attempts to limit expansion of slavery. Calhoun said slavery was a "positive good". He went on to saying unlike Northern states and Europe, the South slaves were cared for when they are no longer useful and slaves were better off than the poor. His theories on minority rights became a legacy during the 20th century for minority groups who demanded for protection against offending majorities.
Calhoun's theories and defense of slavery deepened the divide between the North and South. He was a major advocate of the Fugitive Slave Law and wielded the threat of Southern secession to back slave-state demands.
After a one year break as Secretary of State, John C. Calhoun returned to the Senate in 1845, participating in the struggle of slavery which led to the compromise of 1850. However, his health deteriorated and he died on March 31, 1850 of tuberculoses in Washington, DC, at the age of 68 and was buried in St. Phillips Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina.
Calhoun's legacy lasted far beyond his years. During the Civil War, the Confederate government honored Calhoun on a one-cent postage stamp, but was never released. His alma mater, Yale, named one of their residence halls "Calhoun College". Yale also erected a statue of Calhoun in Harkness Tower. Clemson University also became part of Calhoun's legacy. The campus sits on Calhoun's Fort Hill plantation, which he left to his son-in-law, Thomas Green Clemson. After his death, Clemson bequethed the estate to be used for an agricultural university to be named "Clemson". A nearby town was also named after John C. Calhoun, but was renamed in the 1930s as "Clemson".
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