John Caldwell Calhoun, an American statesman, born in the Calhoun settlement, district of Abbeville, S. C, March 18, 1782, died at Washington, March 31,1850. His grandfather, James Calhoun, emigrated from Donegal, Ireland, to Pennsylvania, in 1733, when his father, Patrick, was only six years old. The Calhoun family moved to the banks of the Kanawha, in what is now Wythe co., Va. The incursions of the Indians, consequent upon Braddock's defeat, compelled them to a new emigration, and again moving southward they established in 1756 the Calhoun settlement in the upper part of South Carolina,near the Savannah river, in what is now Abbeville county. They were pioneer settlers upon the Cherokee frontier, and were engaged in frequent conflicts with the Indians, in which Patrick Calhoun took a leading part. When the revolution broke out he became an active whig, and was exposed to great danger from the numerous tories of the neighborhood. In 1770 Patrick Calhoun married Martha Caldwell, born in Virginia, but the daughter of an Irish Presbyterian emigrant. John C. Calhoun, the third son of his parents, was born just at the close of the revolutionary struggle. He showed himself from early boyhood grave and thoughtful, ardent and persevering.
He was early taught to read the Bible, and his parents strove to impress upon his mind their own Calvinistic views. At the age of 13 he took to reading history and metaphysics with such application as to impair his health. His father died not long after, leaving the family in moderate circumstances. He continued to reside with his mother, laboring on the farm, and, though most anxious for an education, determined not to attempt to obtain it till sure of the means without impairing her comforts. In his 19th year he recommenced his studies with a view to the profession of the law, having arranged with his mother and brother that he should be furnished with means to pursue them for seven years. He declared his preference for the life of a plain planter over that of a half-educated professional man. In June, 1800, he entered the private academy of his brother-in-law, Dr. Waddel, a Presbyterian clergyman, and two years afterward joined the junior class of Yale college. He graduated in 1804 with the highest distinction.
Dr. Dwight, then president of the college, remarked, after a discussion with him on the origin of political power, "That young man has talent enough to be president of the United States." The next three years he devoted to the study of the law, 18 months of it in the law school at Litchfield, Conn., then the only institution of the kind in the country. In addition to the regular course of study, he cultivated his talent for extempore speaking. He returned to Abbeville to complete his studies, and being admitted to the bar established himself in the old homestead and commenced practice. The country at that time was greatly agitated by the aggressions which France and England, in their desperate struggle against each other, were led to commit on neutral commerce. The controversy with England was rendered still more bitter by her claims to visit American ships in search of British seamen. The outrage upon the American frigate Chesapeake, committed under this pretext, in June, 1807, called forth a burst of indignation. In Abbeville, as elsewhere, a public meeting was held to express the feelings of the people. Calhoun was appointed to draw up a report and resolutions. He was soon afterward chosen a member of the state legislature, and in 1811 was elected to congress.
In May, 1811, he married his second cousin, Floride Calhoun, with whom he received considerable property. Upon his marriage he removed from the old homestead to Bath, on the Savannah river, a few miles distant. He took his seat in congress Nov. 4, 1811, that body having been called together by the president's proclamation a month before the regular day of meeting. The struggle which had been going on for the three or four years previous in the ranks of the administration party, between those inclined still to promote peace and those in favor of war against Great Britain, was just approaching a crisis. In the election of members of the new congress the war party had gained a complete triumph. They had sent into the house of representatives a number of ardent young men, of whom Calhoun was one, determined to force the administration into the adoption of the war policy. The election of speaker resulted in the choice of the candidate of the war party by a very decided majority over both the peace and cabinet candidates. Calhoun was placed on the committee of foreign relations. A report from that committee, understood to have been drawn by him, distinctly indicated the policy which the majority were determined to pursue.
The time had come, as the report asserted, for choosing between tame submission and resistance. By the retirement of the chairman of the committee of foreign relations, Calhoun became its head, and introduced a bill for an embargo of 60 days, as preliminary to a declaration of war. President Madison having sent in a message recommending a declaration of war, Calhoun reechoed that recommendation in a report from his committee, and followed it up by a bill declaring war against Great Britain. In his report at the next session from the committee of foreign relations, to which had been referred the papers in reference to a suspension of hostilities, he warmly justified the administration in proceeding with the war, notwithstanding the recall of the British orders in council, on the question of impressment alone. He had joined with his colleagues, Cheves and Lowndes, both young men like himself, and the former chairman of the naval committee, in urging, among other preparations for war, an enlargement of the navy. He also took decided ground against the whole system of non-importation and non-intercourse, and assisted by his votes and speeches in getting rid of what remained of it.
The action of these young South Carolinians attracted attention in New England, and the idea presently began to be entertained there of a coalition with Sooth Carolina to put down the Virginia dynasty, and what in New England was denounced as its narrow and anti-commercial policy. This feeling was a good deal strengthened by what happened afterward in relation to a national bank. The growing financial distress of the government had led, early in 1814, to the suggestion of such an institution. It was reported against by Eppes, Mr. Jefferson's son-in-law, and chairman of the committee of ways and means, as unconstitutional. This objection Calhoun proposed to evade by limiting the charter to the District of Columbia, but it was not thought by the treasury department that such a bank would answer the purpose. At the next session Alexander J. Dallas, lately appointed secretary of the treasury, proposed a national bank with a capital of $50,000,000, $5,000,000 in specie, the rest in government stocks; the government to subscribe two fifths of the capital, and to have the appointment of the president and two thirds of the directors, with power also to authorize a suspension of specie payment; the bank to be obliged to lend the government $30,000,000, and not to be required to pay specie during the war or for three years after.
This scheme was opposed by Calhoun, who proposed to furnish the government with $45,000,000 by means of a national specie-paying bank, wholly under private control, and not obliged to lend the government anything. The capital of this bank was to consist of $5,000,000 of specie and $45,-000,000 of new treasury notes, which it was proposed to get into circulation by making them convertible into bank stock. This project prevailed in the house by a large majority. But Dallas in a labored report denied that new treasury notes to any considerable amount could thus be disposed of. He dwelt also on the injustice and political danger of a scheme which might enable those federal capitalists who had hitherto held back and refused to lend their money to the government to obtain, to the exclusion of the holders of the existing government stocks, the control of a national bank with a capital five times as large as the old bank which the administration party had refused to recharter. These considerations staggered a part of the democratic supporters of the bill, and the federalists, who had supported Calhoun's scheme as against Dallas's, now joining with Mr. Dallas, Calhoun's bill fell to the ground.
Thereupon Dallas's scheme was renewed in the senate, where a bill was speedily passed for a non-specie-paying bank on his plan. When this bill came before the house it was vehemently opposed by Calhoun, and was defeated by the casting vote of the speaker, Mr. Cheves. A compromise scheme was then adopted for a bank with $30,000,000 of capital, $5,000,000 in specie, $10,000,000 in stocks created since the war began, and $15,000,000 in new treasury notes. But the great points of Calhoun's scheme were still preserved: the bank was not obliged to lend to the government, nor permitted to suspend specie payments. The senate wished to substitute the main point of Dallas's plan by vesting a power in the president to authorize a suspension; but the house refused to agree to this, and the bill having quickly passed without any such provision, it was vetoed by President Madison as inadequate to the emergency. The peace which soon followed, attended as it was by great importations of foreign goods, paying the double duties imposed during the war, relieved the immediate wants of the treasury.
But both the government and the country were still subjected to great embarrassments by the unequal value and depreciated state of the currency, growing out of the continual suspension of specie payments by the banks south and west of New England. To remedy this evil, the project of a United States bank, which all now agreed should be specie-paying, was revived in the 14th congress, resulting in the charter of the bank of the United States. The conduct of this project through the house was intrusted to Mr. Calhoun. He was chairman of the committee by which the bill was reported, and he asserted in after years that but for his efforts the bank would not have been chartered. He also supported the tariff of 1816, designed to give to the domestic manufactures which the commercial restrictions, the war, and double duties had called into existence, some safeguard against foreign competition. - Another topic now first prominently introduced into congressional discussion was that of internal improvements. The president, in his annual message, had suggested such roads and canals as could best be executed under the national authority "as objects of a wise and enlarged patriotism." He referred, indeed, to the objection of a want of express constitutional authority, but suggested that any obstacle from that source might easily be removed.
This idea was taken up by Calhoun, and at the next session of congress he succeeded in carrying through the house, by a vote of 86 to 84, a bill appropriating a million and a half to be paid by the United States bank, also all dividends upon the seven millions of stock held by the government in that institution, as a fund for internal improvements; each state to be entitled to a share in the expenditure proportioned to its representation in congress, but to be authorized also to consent to the expenditure of its share in any other state. This bill passed the senate, 20 to 15, but was vetoed by the president, on the ground of want of constitutional power in congress to make such appropriations. This occurred just at the close of Madison's term of office (March, 1817), which also brought to a close Calhoun's very active six years' term of service in the house of representatives. Before the next congress met he was called to take a place in President Monroe's cabinet as secretary of war. He now removed his family to Washington, and resided there permanently for the next seven years.
In the first congress after Monroe's accession the house resolved, 90 to '75, that congress was empowered to appropriate money for the construction of post roads, military and other roads, and canals, and for the improvement of watercourses; and the secretaries of war and the treasury were directed to report at the next session a list of internal improvements in progress, and a plan for appropriations to aid them. The friends of the resolutions looked up to Mr. Calhoun as their champion in the cabinet against Mr. Crawford, the secretary of the treasury, who denied any constitutional authority for such appropriations of the public money. Mr. Calhoun found the war department in a greatly disorganized condition, with some $50,000,000 of outstanding and unsettled accounts, and the greatest confusion in every branch of the service. He took means for the speedy settlement of these claims, and drew up a bill, which was passed, for reorganizing the staff of the army. Shortly after his appointment as secretary of war Gen. Jackson was appointed to the command of the southern department, and was sent to take the lead of the forces operating against the Seminole Indians. The orders under which he acted were drawn by Calhoun. Jackson interpreted these orders to give him discretionary authority to do as he pleased; and acting also, as he afterward alleged, upon a private intimation of the wishes of the administration that he should take possession of Florida, he not only followed the Seminoles into Florida, but seized first upon St. Mark's, and then upon Pensacola. The Spanish minister protested against this violation of the Spanish territory.
Calhoun, considering that Jackson had violated his orders, maintained the expediency of bringing him to trial for it. This was warmly opposed by J. Q. Adams, secretary of state, whose opinion prevailed with the president. The question of the signature by the president of the Missouri compromise bill being brought before the cabinet, Mr. Calhoun held the bill to be constitutional, on the ground of a power in congress to prohibit slavery in the territories of the United States, though he was of opinion that such prohibition would remain in force only while the territorial condition lasted, and would not be binding upon any state which might be created out of such territory. - Shortly after the commencement of President Monroe's second term in 1821, the question of the successor-ship became one of leading interest. Calhoun's name was mentioned among others. He was regarded, especially in Pennsylvania, as a statesman of broad views, above mere local or narrow party influences, and disposed, on the question of internal improvements and other questions of national importance, to a liberal construction of the power of the general government. W. H. Crawford was also a candidate for the presidency, and the favorite of the Virginia politicians.
But the military exploits of Gen. Jackson, also brought forward as a candidate, made such an impression on the popular mind in Pennsylvania, that the friends of Calhoun judged it expedient for them to withdraw his name and to support Jackson instead. Thereupon Calhoun contented himself with standing for the vice-presidency. As between the presidential candidates, he assumed a position of neutrality; and as the ability with which he filled the office of secretary of war was generally admitted, he obtained nearly the whole of the Adams and Jackson votes, with some of those for Mr. Clay, and was thus elected by a large majority. Upon giving up his office as secretary of war, he removed his family to Pendleton district, now Pickens county, in the extreme northern angle of South Carolina, to an estate called Fort Hill, which had descended to Mrs. Calhoun from her mother, and which continued to be his residence for the rest of his life. Immediately after the choice of Mr. Adams by the house of representatives, through the support of Mr. Clay, a coalition was entered into between the supporters of Jackson and Crawford to oppose the administration of Adams, and, when the election drew near, to support Jackson as his successor.
Into this combination Calhoun, though he had been supposed to prefer Adams to Jackson, entered warmly and became one of its chief leaders. During the whole of Adams's term of office, Mr. Calhoun, though debarred by his position as vice president from any active part in congress, gave his countenance and support to the opposition; and in 1828 he was reelected vice president on the Jackson ticket, receiving all the votes cast for Jackson except those of Georgia. - The tariff question had for some years past been a leading topic of public interest. Upon this subject there existed a very serious difference among the supporters of Jackson. The middle states were at that time almost unanimous for a protective tariff, while the southern and especially the cotton-growing states were for free trade. Calhoun was the head of this free-trade section of the party, while Mr. Van Buren, then a member of the senate from New York, was conspicuous on the other side. It was by his management and his votes that the tariff bill of 1828 was so amended as to be carried through congress, contrary to the expectation which Calhoun and the free traders had formed, that by adhering to certain provisions desired by the middle states, but disagreeable to the shipping interest of New England, Mr. Van Buren and other middle state senators would keep the bill in a shape to be defeated by the combined vote of New England and the South. Mr. Eaton, a senator from Tennessee, supposed to represent the feelings and opinions of President Jackson, cooperated with Van Buren in this movement, which led Calhoun to doubt whether the president could be relied upon to bring the protective system to an end.
Accordingly he began to cast about for other means. He turned his attention to the sovereignty of the states, and, from being charged with being too national, soon after fell under the accusation of pushing the doctrine of state rights to extremes. Building on the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions of 1798-'9, he propounded the doctrine of nullification, that is to say, the right of each state to prevent the execution within her limits of such acts of congress as she might judge unconstitutional. This doctrine he embodied in an elaborate paper, prepared in the summer of 1828, which, being put into the hands of a committee of the South Carolina legislature, and being reported to the house with some softening modifications, was, though not adopted by it, ordered to be printed, and became known as the "South Carolina Exposition." At the next session of congress this doctrine of nullification was brought forward in the senate of the United States by Mr. Hayne of South Carolina, in the speech to which Mr. "Webster made his famous reply, and in which, though he answered Hayne, he struck through him at Calhoun, who was supposed, though not then certainly known, to be the father of the doctrine.
Meanwhile there had occurred a great struggle for influence and predominance with the president between the advocates of the tariff and of free trade. Van Buren had been appointed secretary of state. Two of Calhoun's friends had seats in the cabinet, but their influence with the president was not so predominating as they had hoped, and the idea was soon started among them of superseding Jackson at the end of his first term and electing Calhoun in his place. This idea was not agreeable to Jackson, and things tended fast toward a rupture. Personal alienation soon followed. Jackson had already sought and soon after obtained a statement from Mr. Crawford of what had occurred in Monroe's cabinet on the subject of the Seminole war. This statement he transmitted to Calhoun, who admitted its substantial correctness. Thereupon Jackson concluded, from this in conjunction with other circumstances, that Calhoun had been at the bottom of the congressional attacks upon him. The next step in this political schism was the establishment at Washington of the "Globe " newspaper, with a design to supersede the "Telegraph," which had been always under the influence of Calhoun, to whom it still adhered.
Early in 1831 Calhoun published a pamphlet, with a preliminary address to the people of the United States, containing a body of correspondence in relation to the Seminole affair. But, though sustained by the " Telegraph" and by a few members of congress and a small section of the Jackson party, he was not able materially to diminish the popularity and influence of the president, who soon proceeded to reconstruct his cabinet, Calhoun's friends being requested to follow the example of resigning set by Van Buren. The latter was appointed minister to England, but at the ensuing session of congress, by a coalition between the old opposition led by Clay and Webster and Calhoun's friends, the nomination was rejected, Calhoun presiding, and twice upon ties voting for the rejection. This rejection of Van Buren led to his nomination and election as vice president; whereupon, without waiting for the expiration of his term, Calhoun resigned, and was elected to fill the seat in the senate which Mr. Hayne had vacated to become governor of South Carolina. In the summer of 1831, shortly after the reconstruction of Jackson's cabinet, Calhoun had published an address on the relation which the states and general government bear to each other.
In this address he had maintained the right of the states to judge of infractions of the constitution, and in such cases to protect themselves. The greater part of this address was occupied in advocating the free-trade side of the tariff question, and in urging upon congress to take occasion from the paying off of the national debt to reduce the revenue to the level of expenditure, abandoning any attempt at protection beyond that which might be incidental to the collection of such a revenue. But no attention was paid to this advice. The new tariff of 1832 was as protective as the old one. On the application of Governor Hamilton of South Carolina, Calhoun now addressed to him a long and elaborate letter in defence of his doctrine of state rights, and of its practical efficiency. It was at once determined to act upon this doctrine, and the same legislature which elected Mr. Hayne governor and placed Calhoun in the senate proceeded to authorize a state convention, according to the scheme set forth in the " South Carolina Exposition." That convention had met, and had passed an ordinance, to go into effect on Feb. 1, to nullify the tariff of 1828 and 1832; and when Calhoun took his seat in the senate, December, 1832, the legislature was again in session enacting laws to carry out this nullifying ordinance.
The president had issued a proclamation entreating the people of South Carolina to reconsider their position, and announcing his intention to sustain the laws of the United States by force if necessary. He also sent to congress a special message calling for additional legislation to aid him in enforcing the collection of the revenue. This message led to a law which was stigmatized by its opponents as the " force bill," and very warmly opposed by Calhoun and his friends in the senate. He also introduced a series of resolutions on the powers of government, which he sustained in an elaborate speech, Feb. 15, 1833, in support of the right of nullification, which right, taken in connection with the power of amending the constitution by the consent of three fourths of the states, amounted, as he contended, to an appeal in contested cases from the general government to the states themselves, to be decided by a three-fourths vote. Though Calhoun and Clay were not at this time on speaking terms, Calhoun was consulted through a third party as to Clay's compromise tariff of 1833, the passage of which just at the close of the session prevented the impending collision between South Carolina and the general government. He agreed to accept it as an arrangement of the tariff controversy.
It provided in fact for a gradual reduction of the revenue, and an abandonment of the protective system at the end of ten years. He spoke and voted for it, though very unwillingly as to some of its clauses, the home valuation clause especially. He spoke and voted against Mr. Clay's bill, passed at the same session, but defeated by the president's veto, for distributing among the states the proceeds of the public lands. - The settlement of the tariff question was speedily followed by the removal, by the president's order, of the public deposits from the bank of the United States, the recharter of which had the year before been defeated by his veto. In the violent struggle in congress, as well as the country, which grew out of that removal, Calhoun joined with Clay and Webster against the administration. In a speech in support of Clay's resolutions condemnatory of the removal of the deposits, he accused the president of attempting to seize on the powers of congress, and to unite in his own hands the sword and the purse. In his view this was a struggle between a congressional bank and an executive bank, for such was the light in which he regarded the league of banks to which the deposits had been transferred.
The bank controversy led to an amalgamation of the national republican opposition, so called, the late supporters of Adams's administration and present friends of Clay, with that fragment of the Jackson party which on state rights grounds had followed Calhoun out of it, but without going the length of nullification. This combined opposition took the name of whigs, assumed by them as indicative of their opposition to executive usurpation. The South Carolina nullifiers - an appellation often reproachfully used, but which Mr. Calhoun did not hesitate to apply to himself - still continued a body by themselves, to which he served as chief; for while cooperating for the next four years with the whigs, he declined to be classed as of their number. In reference to this subject he declared, in one of his speeches, that he had voluntarily put himself in the very small minority to which he belonged to serve the gallant state of South Carolina, nor would he turn on his heel to be placed at the head of the government. He believed that corruption had taken such a hold of it, that any man who attempted reform would fail to be sustained. - The next session witnessed the commencement of the discussions on the subject of slavery.
The American anti-slavery society had sent to the southern states, through the mail, tracts and other documents denunciatory of slavery. The arrival of these documents in the south happened to be coincident with a slave insurrection in Mississippi, and also with the nomination of Van Buren to the presidency by a convention of the democratic party held at Baltimore. Complaints were at once raised against this proceeding, as tending, if not intended, to excite the slaves to revolt. Van Buren's nomination had been opposed by a large southern section of the party, which in consequence seceded and nominated as their candidate Hugh L. White of Tennessee. The existence of this northern anti-slavery agitation was strongly urged in the southern states as an objection to voting for a northern candidate for the presidency. Van Buren's political friends in the northern states, by way of relieving their candidate and themselves from any odium on this score, had joined with the mercantile interest in the northern cities in loudly denouncing the abolitionists.
It was under these circumstances that the president referred to the subject in his annual message. "While testifying to the general feeling of indignant regret which the proceedings of the abolitionists had aroused at the north (to be no doubt followed up by legislation if needed), he referred to the post office as specially under the guardianship of congress, and suggested a law to prohibit, under severe penalties, the cir-, dilation in the southern states through the mail of incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection. The subject was referred to a special committee, of which Calhoun was chairman. He soon brought in a report, and a bill subjecting to severe penalties any postmaster who should knowingly receive and put into the mail any publication or picture touching the subject of slavery, to go into any state or territory in which the circulation of such publication or picture should be forbidden by the state laws. This report, starting with the doctrine that the states were sovereign as to each other, bound together only by compact, and that the right of internal defence was one of their reserved rights, proceeded to argue that it belonged to the states respectively, and not to congress, as the president's message had assumed, to determine what publications were to be prohibited.
The objection taken in the message to the publications in question had been that they were intended to stimulate the slaves to insurrection. The report went far beyond that. It principally objected to these documents that their avowed object was the emancipation of the negroes, a measure which involved not merely a vast destruction of property, but the overthrow of the existing relation between the two races inhabiting the southern states; the only relation, as the report contended, compatible with their common happiness and prosperity, or even with their existence together in the same community. Social and political equality between the races was impossible. To change the condition of the Africans would put them in a position of looking to the other states for support and protection, making them virtually the allies and dependants of those states, and placing in the hands of those states an effectual instrument to destroy the influence of the South and control the destiny of the Union. The object aimed at by the abolitionists was the destruction of a relation essential to the peace, prosperity, and political influence of the slaveholding states.
The means employed were organized societies and a powerful press, which strove to promote the object in view by exciting the bitterest animosity and hatred among the people of the non-slaveholding states against the citizens and institutions of the slaveholding states. Such a proceeding tended to the erection of a powerful political party, the basis of which would be hatred against the slaveholding states, and of which the necessary consequence would be the dissolution of the Union. It was, therefore, not merely the right of the southern states to exclude those publications, but it was also the duty of the northern states, within which the danger originated, at once to arrest its further progress. The bill failed on the final vote, 25 to 19. With respect to petitions for the abolition of slavery in the territories and the District of Columbia, Calhoun held that they ought to be rejected altogether. He took the ground that congress had no jurisdiction over the subject of slavery, in whatever form it might be presented; no more power over it in the District of Columbia than in the states. The senate, however, decided to receive the petitions and then to reject their prayer.
On this latter proposition he refused to vote. - The victory of San Jacinto having introduced into congress the question of recognizing the independence of Texas, Calhoun declared himself not only in favor of that, but of the simultaneous reception of Texas into the Union. On the question of the admission of Michigan, he denied the power of the states to confer on aliens the right of voting, and denounced as revolutionary the action of the people of Michigan in forming for themselves a state constitution without waiting for the consent of congress. He opposed Mr. Benton's resolution to expunge from the journal of the senate the resolution censuring President Jackson for removing the deposits from the United States bank, and voted against the confirmation of Mr. Taney as chief justice of the United States. The great accumulation of public money in the deposit banks had led to extensive purchases of public land by means of money borrowed from those banks, which purchases by increasing the public money on deposit led to new loans and new purchases. The president, just after the close of the late session of congress, had attempted to check this speculation by issuing a circular order to the land offices to receive nothing but gold and silver in payment for public lands.
Calhoun denounced this circular as illegal and unconstitutional. Another administration measure was a bill to restrict the sale of the lands to actual settlers in limited quantities. Calhoun opposed this bill as really intended for the benefit of the speculators who had already overloaded themselves with lands, and whose interest it therefore was to restrict further purchases. In the course of his speech he charged that high officers of government and persons closely connected with the president had used these depositories as instruments of speculation in the public lands. President Jackson addressed a letter to Calhoun calling upon him either to retract or to bring his charge before the house of representatives as the basis of an impeachment. Calhoun read this letter in the senate, and spoke of it in very severe terms as a breach of privilege and an attempt to intimidate, and proceeded to repeat what he had said, that many in high places were among the speculators in public lands, and that even an individual connected with the president himself (one of his nephews, whose name he now gave) was a large speculator.
He soon after brought forward a plan for the cession of all the public lands to the states in which they lay, to be sold by them at graduated prices extending over a term of 35 years, the states to bear the expenses, and to pay over to the general government a third of their receipts. This proposition received only six votes. Calhoun renewed at this session his attack upon anti-slavery petitions, insisting that they must be rejected, and that the abolitionists must be silenced, and that not by letting them alone, but by prompt and efficient measures, or the Union could not continue. He refused to admit even by implication that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding states was an evil; not only was it a good morally and economically, but it formed the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free political institutions. - Before the next session of congress a great financial crisis occurred, which Calhoun had foretold as a consequence of the monetary policy pursued during Jackson's second term. Shortly after Mr. Van Buren's inauguration all the banks stopped specie payment. At the extra session which commenced in September, President Van Bu-ren recommended the policy of discontinuing the use of banks as the fiscal agents of the government.
He proposed the custody of the public money by officers specially appointed for that purpose, and the exclusive use of coin on the part of the government. Calhoun, separating from the whigs, with whom he had acted in the struggle on the bank question, gave energetic support to this new system of policy. He did the same at the ensuing regular session. This created strong feelings of personal resentment on the part of his late allies, who in the close division of parties could ill spare his vote. Mr. Clay, in replying to Calhoun's speech on the independent treasury bill, not only taunted him with desertion, but made his whole political career the subject of one of those invectives in which he so greatly excelled. Calhoun replied (March 11, 1838); Clay answered on the spot, and Calhoun rejoined. This contest abounded with exemplifications of the different kinds of oratory of which each was master: on the one side declamation, vehement invective, wit, humor, and biting sarcasm; on the other, clear statement, close reasoning, and keen retort. These speeches, apart from their rhetorical merits, are of high historical value, from the light they throw upon the secret history of the compromise of 1833. Calhoun laid great stress upon his, as being the vindication of his public life.
In one of his replies to Clay he declared that he rested his public character upon it, and desired it to be read by all who would do him justice. He did not confine him-self to defending, but retorted blow for blow. Some sharp passages also occurred between him and Mr. Webster. Previous to this debate he had been involved in another, in which he had almost the whole senate upon him. It was the policy of both political parties to keep the slavery question out of congress, as a subject upon which it was very difficult to speak or act without offending either the North or the South. With this intent both houses had adopted rules, the result of which was that all petitions and memorials on that subject were at once laid upon the table, without being read or debated. The north-. ern whigs had indeed voted against this, contending that all petitions ought to be received and referred to their appropriate committees; but still they were as well satisfied as their opponents to avoid or escape debate. Calhoun did not sympathize in this feeling.
From a letter written in 1847 it appears that he had been from the beginning in favor of forcing the slavery issue on the North, believing that delay was dangerous, and that the South was relatively stronger, both morally and politically, than she would ever be again. He now offered a series of resolutions having the same object in view. The chief debate was on the fifth, which declared that the intermeddling of any state or states, or their citizens, to abolish slavery in the territories or the District of Columbia, on the ground that it was immoral or sinful, or the passage of any measure by congress with that view, would be a direct and dangerous attack on the institutions of all the slave-holding states. Mr. Clay moved as a substitute two resolutions, one applying to the district, the other to the territories. These resolutions omitted all reference to the moral or religious character of slavery. For "intermeddling" they substituted "interference." The abolition of slavery in the district was pronounced a violation of the faith implied in the cessions by Maryland and Virginia, and its abolition in any territory a breach of good faith toward the inhabitants, and a ground of just alarm to the slaveholding states, tending to disturb and endanger the Union. Calhoun, though not favoring this amendment, perceiving that the senate would go no further, voted for it.
In the course of this debate he stated, in reference to the Missouri compromise, that when it was made he was in favor of it, but that he had since been led entirely to change his opinion, and to regard it as a dangerous measure. He also denied any connection with or knowledge of the existence of any party aiming at disunion. On the contrary, he was seeking to preserve the Union, by opposing injustice and oppression against the weakest and most exposed section of it, in which it was his lot to be cast. He had now become an advocate of the leading measures of the administration, and gave his support to Van Buren as a candidate for reelection, and induced the state of South Carolina to vote for him. To the measures brought forward by the whigs on their accession to power, consequent upon the defeat of Van Buren, he gave his decided opposition, attending, for the first time since his breach with Gen. Jackson, the private caucuses of the democratic members. In an elaborate speech he defended the veto power from the attack made upon it by Mr. Clay, in consequence of President Tyler's veto of the bills for chartering a United States bank.
He denounced the tariff of 1842 as not only a violation of the compromise agreed upon in 1833, but, in its details, exceedingly oppressive, and in the circumstances of its enactment worse even than the tariff of 1828. He voted for the Webster-Ashburton treaty with England, and defended the clauses in relation to the boundary of Maine, and those which referred to the suppression of the slave trade. He opposed the bill for the occupation of Oregon, urging that we had but to wait, and with the progress of our population Oregon would be occupied for us by adventurous settlers; or should there be a struggle, delay was for our benefit, as we were constantly growing relatively stronger. - With March 4, 1843, Mr. Calhoun's senatorial term came to an end. His two great rivals had previously withdrawn from the senate, Webster by accepting a seat in the cabinet, and Clay by resigning. Calhoun had declined a reelection, and did not appear in the next congress. He had been brought forward by his friends as a candidate for the democratic nomination for the presidency, to which party he now considered himself to belong; but he still remained an object of suspicion and dislike to a large section of the party.
Instructions having been given to a majority of the delegates to the approaching nominating convention to vote for Van Buren, Calhoun, in February, 1844, addressed a letter to his political friends, severely criticising the principles on which that convention was to be constituted, and refusing to allow his name to go before it. Meanwhile, toward the last of March, 1844, he was unexpectedly called by President Tyler to fill the place of secretary of state. From that office Webster had been ejected as preparatory to a negotiation for the annexation of Texas, and it had again become vacant by the sudden death of Mr. Upshur. The latter had already set the negotiation on foot, and in fact had nearly arranged informally the terms. The Texans had, however, insisted, as preliminary to a formal treaty, upon a pledge that if, pending its negotiation or before its ratification, they should be invaded by Mexico, with which country an armistice had been arranged, the army and navy of the United States should be employed to defend them. This pledge, given by the American minister in Texas, President Tyler had refused to ratify, on the ground that it exceeded his constitutional powers; but as the Texan commissioners positively refused to treat upon any other terms, Mr. Calhoun renewed it.
It took but a few days to put the treaty in form, and immediately upon its signature, which took place on April 12, detachments of the army and navy were sent to the frontiers of Texas and the coast of Mexico. The ground of the invitation extended to Texas to renew her application, already three times rejected, for union with the United States, was the apprehension of interference on the part of the British government to procure the abolition of slavery in Texas, as a step toward its abolition in the United States. The facts on which these apprehensions were based had first been brought to the notice of President Tyler through the agency of Calhoun, who was thus the real author of the annexation movement. Lord Aberdeen, in disclaiming the special facts alleged, or any secret plot for the abolition of slavery in Texas, or any disposition to resort to any measures which would tend to disturb the peace and tranquillity of the slaveholding states, or the prosperity of the Union, admitted however at the same time, as a thing well known both to the United States and everywhere else, that Great Britain desired and was constantly exerting herself to procure the abolition of slavery throughout the world.
Shortly after the treaty was concluded, Mr. Calhoun, in replying to this despatch, took the latter admission as an admission also that the British government was laboring to procure the abolition of slavery in Texas, and as having justified on the part of the United States, as a necessary act of self-defence, the treaty of annexation just concluded. The Mexican minister at Washington had given repeated notices that the signature of a treaty of annexation would be regarded by Mexico as an act of war. The American minister at Mexico was directed to disavow any disrespect to that country, or indifference to its honor or dignity, and to represent that the efforts of Great Britain to abolish slavery in Texas had compelled the United States to sign the treaty of annexation without stopping to obtain the previous consent of Mexico. The disposition, however, was expressed to settle all questions which might grow out of this treaty, including that of boundary, on the most liberal terms; and the minister was privately authorized to tender $10,000,000 to Mexico by way of indemnity.
The treaty was sent to the senate April 19, where it was rejected by a vote of 35 to 10. But the treaty had already had the effect to defeat the nomination of Van Buren. He as well as Clay, who was the whig candidate, were opposed to the immediate annexation of Texas, on the ground that it would be equivalent to a war with Mexico. Mr. Polk was nominated by the democrats, and went into the canvass as the advocate of immediate annexation; and having been elected, he was anxious to have the matter acted upon by congress before his accession to office. At the ensuing session joint resolutions were introduced for receiving Texas into the Union. These resolutions could be carried through the senate only by annexing an alternative provision for a negotiation to be opened on the subject with Texas and Mexico (the president to act under either provision as he might deem best), and by means of a promise from Mr. Polk that he would act under the latter provision. In this, however, he was anticipated by Calhoun. Within three days after the passage of the resolutions, and on the last day of President Tyler's term of office, he despatched a messenger to Texas to bring her in under the first provision.
Calhoun expected to retain his position as secretary of state; but he was offered instead the place of minister to England, which he declined to accept. He did not, however, retire to private life. One of the South Carolina senators resigned his seat to make room for him, and at the next session (December, 1845) he reappeared at Washington as a senator. In the violent debate at that session on the Oregon question, which threatened to involve a war with Great Britain, he announced himself the decided advocate of compromise and peace, which finally prevailed. The controversy pending with Mexico ended in war. Without waiting for the Mexican people to become reconciled to the treaty, the president ordered the American troops in Texas to take possession of the disputed territory on the north bank of the Rio Grande. When the Mexicans opposed by force this occupation, the president informed congress that our territory had been invaded and that war had been commenced by the Mexicans, and requested that body to recognize its existence and'provide for its prosecution. Calhoun spoke against the bill introduced for this purpose, but as the case was hopeless he did not record his name against it. He was, however, utterly opposed to the war thus commenced, both as unnecessary and unjust.
At the next session, the American forces having already occupied the northern provinces of Mexico, Calhoun, in his speech on the three-million bill, advocated the policy of abstaining from further invasion. He proposed to hold the country already in possession as a means of forcing the Mexicans to treat, the line of occupation which he recommended being nearly coincident with the boundary afterward obtained, except that it included the peninsula of Lower California. In this speech he declared himself very strongly against any attempt upon the independence of Mexico or the absorption of her inhabited territory. In reply to Mr. Benton's charge that it was he who had plunged the nation into the Mexican war, he accepted the imputation of being the author of the annexation of Texas, but he insisted that the responsibility for the war belonged to the president, who had violated the constitution by marching troops on his own authority into the disputed territory, and by the collision thus brought on had forced congress to recognize as a fact a war which that body could never have been induced to declare or to commence. - The Wilmot proviso (that in any territory acquired from Mexico slavery should be prohibited) having been brought forward in the house as an amendment to the three-million bill, and this proviso having been warmly urged by resolutions adopted by the united vote of both political parties in the legislatures of many of'the free states, Calhoun again stepped forward as the leader and champion of the slaveholding interest.
He introduced a series of resolutions, in which, starting from the principle that the United States are but the states united, and that the territories are the joint property of those states, he denied that congress had power to make any law which should directly or indirectly deprive any state of its full and equal right in this common territory. He supported these resolutions, not only in the senate, but in a speech delivered shortly after the adjournment, March 9, 1847, at a meeting of the citizens of Charleston. He maintained in these speeches that the slave-holding states were the conservative balance of the Union, and that it was essential to their own safety and that of the Union that they should continue to have at least an equality in the senate, an equality to be maintained at all hazards. He stated in his speech on offering these resolutions that, though he had always considered the Missouri compromise line a great error, surrendering as it did for temporary purposes the constitutional rights of the South, yet for the sake of peace he would be willing to acquiesce in the extension of that line to the Pacific. In the course of the following summer he wrote the letter in which he developed his policy of "forcing the issue with the North." In this point of view he would regret any compromise or adjustment of the proviso, or even its rejection, without a settlement at the same time of the entire question.
He complained in this letter of the recent repeal by Pennsylvania of her law allowing travellers and transient visitors in that state to retain their slaves for a limited term, and of similar repeals in other states. He insisted that the toleration at the North of societies, presses, and lectures which called in question the right of slaveholders to their slaves, and whose object was the overthrow of the institution, could not be acquiesced in without the certain destruction of the relation of master and slave and the ruin of the South. To the question, what remedy there was short of a dissolution of the Union, he replied: "Only one - retaliation." The violation of the constitution on the part of the North must be met by refusing to fulfil stipulations in their favor, of which the most efficient was the cutting off of their ships and commerce from entering into southern ports. But, to make this measure effectual, all the southern seaboard and gulf states must join in it, for which purpose a convention of the southern states was indispensable. - At the ensuing session of congress, the city of Mexico being then in the possession of Gen. Scott, Calhoun submitted (January, 1848) a resolution that to conquer Mexico and to hold it as a province, or to incorporate it with the Union, would be a departure from the settled policy of the government, in conflict with its character and genius, and subversive in the end of our free and popular institutions.
News having soon arrived that a treaty was signed, he warmly opposed the ten-million bill and all other measures looking to a continuation of hostilities. He opposed a bill, introduced on the recommendation of the president, to occupy Yucatan, both for the protection of the white population, who, in danger of extermination by the Indians, had sent to ask assistance, and in order to prevent that country from becoming the colony of some European power.
In this speech he explained the origin and objects of the so-called Monroe doctrine, which was assumed by the advocates of the bill as the settled policy of the country. That he denied. Mr. Monroe's declarations were made for a temporary purpose, and had never been acted upon. He saw no advantage to be expected from Yucatan at all commensurate with the cost of its acquisition and the burden of its defence. As to the question of protecting the white race there against the Indians, it was not clear that the war in Yucatan was a war of races, or that the whites were blameless in the matter. Moreover, there was a tendency in all the Spanish American republics to a conflict of the same kind between the whites and the Indians. " Are we to declare now by our acts that in all these wars we are to interpose, by force of arms if need be, and thereby become involved in the fate of all these countries? Ought we to set such a precedent? No. The first duty of every nation is to itself, and such is the case preeminently with the United States. They owe a high duty to themselves - to preserve a line of policy which will secure their liberty.
The success of their great political system will be of infinitely more service to mankind than the ascendancy of the white race in the southern portions of this continent, however important that may be." In his speech (June 27, 1848) on the bill to organize the Oregon territory, he warmly opposed the extension to that territory of the anti-slavery provision of the ordinance of 1787. He not only denied any power in congress to exclude slavery from the territories, but in still stronger terms any power to do it on the part of the inhabitants or legislatures of the territories. He started in this speech the suggestion that the constitution of the United States, extending into the territories acquired from Mexico, operated to repeal the Mexican laws abolishing slavery. In a second speech he insisted that if the South wished to save the Union, or save herself, she must arouse to instant action, such as would evince her fixed determination to hold no connection with any party in the North not prepared to enforce the guarantees of the constitution in favor of the South. - In the election struggle between Gen. Taylor and Mr. Cass, Calhoun does not appear to have taken much interest.
At the short session following the election of Taylor he was very busy in efforts to form a union of the slaveholding states, irrespective of all preexisting party differences, to resist the progress of abolition. For that purpose a series of meetings was held, at which none but slaveholding members were present, and attended at times by 70 or 80 members, a part of whom were, however, not favorable to the object of the meeting. At the first meeting a committee of 15, one from each state, was appointed to report resolutions. This committee appointed a sub-committee of five, at the head of which was Mr. Calhoun. He drafted and reported an address, which after some modification was adopted and signed by 48 senators and representatives. It reiterated the same ground of complaint urged by Mr. Calhoun at the previous session, and proposed the same remedy. The union of the South might bring the North to a pause, a calculation of consequences, and a change of measures; if not, the South would stand justified in resorting to any measure necessary to repel so dangerous a blow, without looking to consequences.
At the next session, pending the discussion of Clay's compromise scheme, Calhoun, who had been for some time laboring under severe pulmonary disease, to which was now added disease of the heart, prepared an elaborate written speech, which was read for him (March 4, 1849) by another senator. He declared in this speech his belief from the first that the agitation of the subject of slavery would, if not prevented by some timely and effective measure, end in disunion. It had, however, gone on till the Union was palpably in danger. The question now was, how can the Union be preserved? The agitation of the slavery question and the many aggressions to which it had given rise was, no doubt, one cause of the existing southern discontent; but back of that lay another and more potent one. The equilibrium which existed between the two sections of the Union when the constitution was framed had been destroyed, and the South was every day sinking in the scale. Thi3 had been brought about by federal legislation in excluding the South from the common territory, and overburdening her with taxes; to which was to be added a radical change in the character of the federal government, bys which it had concentrated all the powers of the system in itself, and had been transformed from a federal republic, as it originally was, into a great national consolidated democracy.
That equilibrium could only be restored by an amendment of the constitution. That amendment he did not specify in this speech, but from his posthumous treatise "On the Constitution and Government of the United States" it would appear to have been the election of two presidents, one from the free, the other from the slave states, each to approve of acts of congress before they could become laws. His speech attracted much attention, and was answered by Webster and Cass.. It was on March 13, in some parenthetical replies to the latter, that Calhoun spoke in the senate for the last time. He fell back in his seat exhausted, and was taken to his lodgings and his bed, whence he never rose again. - The following is Mr. Webster's estimate of him, delivered in the senate when his death was announced there: "The eloquence of Mr. Calhoun was a part of his intellectual character. It grew out of the qualities of his mind. It was plain, strong, wise, condensed, concise; sometimes impassioned, still always severe. Rejecting ornament, not often seeking illustration, his power consisted in the plainness of his propositions, in the closeness of his logic, and in the earnestness and energy of his manner.
No man was more respectful to others; no man carried himself with greater decorum, no man with superior dignity. I have not in public nor in private life known a more assiduous person in the discharge of his duty. He seemed to have no recreation but the pleasure of conversation with his friends. Out of the chambers of congress he was either devoting himself to the acquisition of knowledge pertaining to the immediate subject of the duty before him, or else he was indulging in those social interviews in which he so much delighted. His colloquial talents were singular and eminent. There was a charm in his conversation not often found. He delighted especially in conversation and intercourse with young men. I suppose there has been no man among us who had more winning manners in such an intercourse and such conversation with men comparatively young. I believe one great power of his character in general was his conversational talent, and that, along with confidence in his integrity and reverence for his talents, it largely, contributed to make him so endeared an object as he was to the people of his state. He had the basis, the indisputable basis of all high character, unspotted integrity and honor unimpeached.
If he had aspirations, they were high, honorable, and noble; nothing grovelling, low, or meanly selfish came near his head or his heart. Firm in his purposes, patriotic and honest as I am sure he was in the principles he espoused and in the measures he defended, I do not believe that, aside from his large regard for that species of distinction that conducted him to eminent stations for the benefit of the republic, he had a selfish motive or a selfish feeling." As a private citizen, Calhoun was highly amiable and exemplary, enjoying the devoted love of his own family and dependants, and the entire respect and sincere regard of his neighbors. He had ten children - three daughters who died in early infancy, and five sons and two daughters who survived him. His political views were often gloomy; but in private life he was uniformly cheerful. He entered into the enjoyments of those around him with a sympathy and kindness that endeared him to all. He was fond of promoting innocent mirth, and, though no jester himself, laughed heartily at the jests of others. He was fond of reading, and in his youth devoted much of his leisure to it, but neither his multifarious occupations nor his cast of mind permitted him to be a general reader. He, however, enjoyed good poetry, good novels, and able reviews.
He was not wealthy, but his pecuniary means, under his excellent management, were amply sufficient for the wants of his family. Though not musical, he was fond of Scotch and Irish songs and ballads. He rose early, and devoted his mornings to writing. He walked a great deal over his plantation, personally superintending its minutest operations. He was the first or one of the first in that region to cultivate successfully small grain and cotton for market; and he not only had the finest melons, figs, peaches, and other southern fruits, but his apples, pears, cherries, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, etc, were equally excellent. He was not only fond of agriculture, but an eminently good and successful planter. His servants were in all respects well treated. They came to him as umpire and judge. Of their private crops he purchased what he wanted at the highest market price, and gave them every facility for disposing of the rest. A rigid justice regulated his conduct toward them, which they repaid by devoted affection; and this system of management was so successful that to have been an overseer at Fort Hill was a high recommendation. He was an excellent shot, and till his eyesight failed generally carried a gun as he walked round his place, rarely missing his aim.
In person he was tall and slender. His countenance at rest was strikingly marked by decision and firmness; in conversation, or when speaking, it became highly animated and expressive. His large, dark, brilliant, penetrating eyes strongly impressed all who encountered their glances. When addressing the senate he stood firm, .erect, accompanying his delivery with an angular gesticulation. His manner of speaking was energetic, ardent, rapid, and marked by a solemn earnestness which inspired a strong belief in his sincerity and deep conviction. Upon every subject he was acute, analytical, and original, dealing almost exclusively in argument. His style was forcible, clear, and condensed. He very rarely indulged in tropes and figures, and seldom left any doubt as to his meaning. He himself noted it as a peculiarity of his mind, and one that interfered with his influence over passing events, that he was disposed to follow everything out to its ultimate results, disregarding its immediate, temporary, and accidental bearings.
His works have been collected and edited by Richard K. Cralle (6 vols. 8vo, New York, 1853-'4). The first volume contains a disquisition on government, and a discussion on the laws relative to the government of the United States, which he left behind him unfinished.