John C. Calhoun: Electric Person Essay

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John C. Calhoun; An Electric Person

AP US History

John C. Calhoun John C. Calhoun, one of the most renown war hawks in American history, had an appearance that echoed his personality quite well. From black and white pictures his deep set eyes, prominent cheekbones and thin mouth give off an aura of constant indignant wrath, while his eyebrow and head hair closely resembles that of a victim of electrocution. Like the description would suggest, he was a forcefully untamed politician. His birth on March 18th, 1782 in South Carolina would have a great and lasting effect upon him; he was a solid supporter of his states' rights and slavery. Though his early education was desultory, he schooled himself and in 1802 qualified for admission to Yale College, where he graduated from two years later. However, it was in 1807 that John C. Calhoun found his lifework. He made a speech concerning the British attack on America's craft, the Chesapeake. In it he endorsed an embargo and augmented defense position. This earned him a spot on the South Carolina legislature for two terms, which in turn lead to his winning of a seat in the House of Representatives. In his time in the House of Representatives, he took a strong militaristic stance for America. He went against any cutback of troops, and supported the installation of two new service academies. It was rather fitting that he resigned from the House of Representatives in order to receive the appointment of Secretary of War in the cabinet of President James Monroe. There, he pushed for the development of sound military roads, the creation of two forts, and strengthened industry. In order to produce the necessary cash reserve for the projects he supported protective tariffs, internal taxes, and the American System. He moved on to be elected twice as vice president under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. It was then that he brazenly professed his belief in nullification. The reason for this stance was because he was thinking ahead to a time when the South's “peculiar institution” of slavery could possibly be abrogated by Northern majority. However, his doctrine of nullification was not accepted by most Southerners. After a disagreement with Andrew Jackson, Calhoun resigned from the vice presidency in 1832 and was elected into the Senate. He did not relinquish his fervor for nullification, though, and fought Daniel Webster tooth and nail for it. Along with Webster, he also went up against abolitionists. He felt they were unjustly encroaching upon the Southern way of life. He went against the admittance of California and Oregon to the Union as free states. His works did not further his cause as he wished they would, however. In fact, they lit a fire under the anti- Southerners and fueled their distaste for what Calhoun called the “positive good” of slavery. Most of John C. Calhoun's focus was on the welfare of the South. He had little interest in preserving any other group, and therefore did not work towards compromise of any sort (as shown by his condemnation of the Compromise of 1850). This stubbornness was one of the main reasons he was not as successful as he conceivably could have been. A good example of this is the “gag rule” that he had a great part in obtaining. It prevented even the talk of any commination of slavery. Calhoun was not a meek man, and had no problem speaking out about his convictions. A question that he may have asked the entire “meeting” may be this: “What can add more to the wealth, the strength, and the political prosperity of our country?” (Calhoun, February 4, 1817)
This question greatly reflects his nationalistic thoughts and ways. It can be said that nationalism was his claim to fame, and gave him his first political start with big potential; a place in his hometown's legislature. He felt very passionately that the American people must be unified, which was one of the reasons he was so vehemently