John C. Calhoun

(March 18, 1782- March 30, 1850)


Nicknamed the "cast-iron man," John C. Calhoun was a leading American politician from South Carolina. He was a Representative, state Senator, Secretary of War under James Madison, and the 7th Vice President of the United States. Although he quit school at seventeen in order to work on his family farm, he returned to focusing on his studies and graduated from Yale College in 1804. He was a man who spoke his mind on political issues of his day, yet changed positions often. He began as a nationalist, and switched to a supporter of a limited government and protectie tariffs. Calhoun can be considered a Democrat, but he was involved with the Whig Party also. The list of accomplishments goes on, also including his title of powerful “War Hawk” and chairman for the committee of foreign affairs. He can be considered very successful man of his time.

After originally running for President in 1824, Calhoun failed to win the endorsement of South Carolina and chose to be a candidate for Vice President instead. Winning by a landslide, Calhoun served under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. However, his vice presidency with Andrew Jackson was highly controversial. Calhoun opposed
Jackson's increase in protective tariff, a viewpoint he formerly supported, and wrote an essay "South Carolina Exposition and Protest" expressing his thoughts on it. Calhoun and Jackson disagreed on states' rights and nullification and their relationship weakened immensely due to the two men's opposite opinions on various topics. The break between the two was final in February of 1831, but hostility rose further. John C Calhoun was the first American vice president in history to resign from office, which occurred on December 28, 1832.

Opinions on Slavery:
John Calhoun, being born in South Carolina, was pro slavery, and is something he is best known for. He opposed abolitionism, attempts to limit the western expansion of slavery, and the Wilmot Proviso. Calhoun was firmly convinced that slavery was the key to the success of the American dream, and did not often question his morality as an adult. He believed there must always be a working and an aristocratic class and without slavery, whites would be forced into the lower class with low pay. In a famous speech he referred to slavery as a "positive good" and advocated white supremacy and paternalism. He participated in the political struggle of Western expansion, which concluded in the Compromise of 1850. The five laws passed involving slavery kept the nation united, but only temporarily.

Nationalism/Sectionalism: Calhoun's views and involvement in the Civil War are perfect examples of nationalism and sectionalism. He intended on building up industry through protective tariffs, a national bank, canals and ports. Assembling a strong nation to fight future wars was his motive. He continued his role as a leading nationalist during the Era of Good Feelings when he suggested an intricate program of national reforms of infrastructure to speed renovation. An expression of nationalism was his act of advising President Monroe to approve the Missouri Compromise because distress over slavery issues affected the position of the Union. Yet on the other hand, the Missouri Compromise was a sectionalist act, separating Missouri into anti-slavery and pro-slavery territories. His encouragement of this in theory made him a supporter of a region's interest, rather than his country's. Slavery is an obvious sectionalist act, however, his philosophy on it relates to the social aspects of the nation. The idea of uniting as one country and identifying with your nation is what Calhoun stood for and his main goals, yet sometimes contradictory, all included the promotion of liberty of his state or section.