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Biography of John Calhoun


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JOHN CALDWELL CALHOUN, an eminent American statesman, descended from an Irish family who founded the Calhoun's settlement in South Carolina, was born at Abbeville, South Carolina, March 8th, 1782. Having gained distinction at the bar, he was sent to Congress in 181l, where he soon made himself the leader of the war party against England. Author of the tariff of 1816, so favorable to his native state, he in 1817 was named minister of war by President Monroe, and reduced the confused state of affairs in his department to order, and made a great reduction in the expenditure of the army without sacrificing its efficiency. This early part of Calhoun's career was marked by broad and patriotic views, to which his subsequent preference of southern interests presented an unfavorable contrast. The tariff of 1828 not being very favorable to the Southern States, Calhoun still adhered to the government, hoping that the president, Jackson, would veto the measure; but as this hope was disappointed, Calhoun went to South Carolina, and there (1829) carried in the legislature the notorious resolution, "that any state in the union might annul an act of the Federal government." To this decision, Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama gave in their adhesion, and threatened the dissolution of the union. President Jackson promptly used energetic measures to make this resolution of no effect. Calhoun lost popularity, and despairing of reaching the presidency, he resigned his Vice-Presidency, but soon alterwards was elected into the Senate. In 1838, he delivered his famous speech on slavery, and continued to agitate on behalf of the slave-holding interest, and for a dissolution of the union, both with voice and pen, until his death, which took place at Washington, March 1st, 1850. In his private character, Calhoun was blameless; but in his career as a statesman he implanted in the minds of his partisans those principles which culminated in the Civil War. During many years, he had been employed in writing his treatise on the Nature of Government, in which he advocotes the doctrine of State sovereignty, and which, along with other works, was posthumously published.