John Caldwell Calhoun was born on March 18, 1782, in Abbeville, South Carolina, the son of a farmer. He received little formal education early in life, but was able to graduate with honors from Yale, in 1804. He remained in Connecticut to study law in Litchfield, but returned to his home state and was admitted to the bar in 1807. Calhoun served briefly in the state assembly from 1809 to 1811, where he helped establish a balance of power between the tidewater planters and the piedmont farmers. In 1811, his economic and social future was secured by his marriage to his wealthy cousin Floride Bonneau Calhoun. After first settling in Abbeville, they moved in 1825 to the Fort Hill plantation near Pendleton, the eventual site of Clemson University.
In 1811, John C. Calhoun was elected to Congress, and from that date until his death he served in the federal government. In Congress, he quickly aligned himself with the War Hawks. At this stage of his career he was an ardent nationalist, supporting Henry Clay's American System.
In 1817, Calhoun offered a bill to make improvement in roads and waterways through a subsidy to be derived from the Second Bank of the United States. In a speech on February 4, 1817, he said:
“What can add more to the wealth, the strength, and the political prosperity of our country? The manner in which the facility and cheapness of intercourse added to the wealth of a nation had been so often and ably discussed by writers on political economy, that he [Calhoun speaking about himself] presumed the House to be perfectly acquainted with the subject. It was sufficient to observe that every branch of national industry — agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial — was greatly stimulated and rendered by it more productive.... The bill was promptly passed by both houses of Congress but was vetoed by President Madison on his final day in office.
Calhoun served as secretary of war under James Monroe. In the Election of 1824 Calhoun was elected...
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