John C. Calhoun, Vice President for Opposing Presidents and Powerful Advocate of State’s Rights, Slavery

John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) of South Carolina was a master politician on the national stage for 40 years, serving as vice president to bitter enemies –President John Quincy Adams, from 1825 to 1829 — and to President Andrew Jackson from 1829 to 1833. He started out his political career in 1810 as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a believer in a strong central government, a nationalist, a unifier, a modernizer, an advocate of protective tariffs. He served as Secretary of War in the cabinet of James Monroe, ran for president in 1824, lost to both Adams and Jackson, and agreed to serve as vice president to both. But he fought bitterly with Jackson and did not run for a third term in 1832. He became a vociferous advocate of slavery and of white supremacy and the white plantation-owner class, and reversed himself on such issues as states’ rights, the right of states to nullify federal law and to ultimately secede. More.

While serving as senator in the 1840s, attending a state dinner at the White House of President Martin Van Buren, he is portrayed in the movie “Amistad” as predicting the civil war as inevitable.

Calhoun “summed up the unfortunate future of the United States at a formal White House dinner held in honor of Ambassador Calderon of Spain in 1841.” — Gene Hoyas.

‘Amistad’: Classic Movie, Essential Viewing.

South Carolina ETV: “5-minute biography of the life of American politician and political theorist, John C. Calhoun. Through the use of archival material, scholar interviews, and historical illustrations this program details Calhoun’s life and how his notion of states’ rights and limited government influenced the path of American History.”

Robert Elder, PhD, a Clemson Alum and Assistant Professor of History at Valparaiso University, is the author of Calhoun: American Heretic, biography of the intellectual father of Southern secession—the man who set the scene for the Civil War, and whose political legacy still shapes America today. Publication: February 2021. Elder spoke at the Wichita Pachyderm Club on the topic, Recasting the Cast-Iron Man: John C. Calhoun and American Democracy. The luncheon was held January 26, 2018.

Quotes from John C. Calhoun:

“The Union next to our liberties the most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.”

“The day that the balance between the two sections of the country – the slaveholding States and the non-slaveholding States – is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster.”



H.W. Brands on ‘Heirs of the Founders’ and US Senate’s Golden Age

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