John C. Calhoun:
The Other side of the American Dream
Slavery was the foundation of the antebellum South. More than any other characteristic, it defined Southern political, cultural, and social life. It also united the South as a section different from the rest of the country. John Caldwell Calhoun of South Carolina was committed to both state’s rights and slavery as seen as the South’s only protection from destruction by the industrious North. John C. Calhoun, the South's recognized intellectual and political leader from the 1820s until his death in 1850, devoted much of his remarkable intellectual energy to defending his two-part political philosophy. One side of his theory was devoted to the rights of the minority sections, more importantly the South needed particular defense in the federal union. The second part was an incongruity that offered slavery as an institution that promoted everyone involved. Calhoun's commitment to his two-part defense and his efforts to expand them to the fullest would give him an exceptional role in American history as the political, spiritual, and moral voice for Southern autonomy. The fact was, he never wished the Southern states to sever themselves from the Union as they would eleven years after his death. Calhoun’s experience and life’s career as a public servant gave him the understanding he needed to redefine the theory of secession. Due to his impassioned writings on the interpretation of the constitution and state’s rights, his speeches identified the federal government as encroaching in the very livelihood of the South; Calhoun, with great commitment augmented and molded the catalyst to the American Civil War. To understand the man, it is important to begin with a brief history of the era in which he lived and how the resulting constitutional issues divided a nation. The judgment for slavery had been constructed into the colony of South Carolina with the first settlements. The British mandated the colonists to plant and export staples, but without the necessary labor, they could plant little. As necessity is the mother of invention, the necessity of workers prompted the importation of laborers. When rice became the big crop, the use of African slaves, who were already populating Virginia and the West Indies, became omnipotent, and Charleston, South Carolina was transformed into the slave center of the Western world. Black African slaves at one point represented twenty-percent of the total population, and in some areas up to sixty-percent. Charleston, South Carolina had the deepest complexion in comparison to other southern cities, where the slave presence was colorful and crucial. The West Coast of Africa served as a supplier for most of the slaves, having been brought directly in middle passage to America. More than 40,000 had been transported from 1742 to 1764, resulting in a more powerful African presence than in most other slave states. Slavery became the most important institution, second only by the government to ensure the prosperity of the Southern states where the peculiar institution was so entrenched. John Caldwell Calhoun’s personal history nurtured his fierce commitment to his beliefs; he was born to strong parents and began life on the frontier on March 14, 1782. His family was part of the Scots-Irish immigration to Pennsylvania in the early years of the 1700s. Before long they were on the move west to the Abbeville district of South Carolina, in a little haven named Long Cane Creek. The patriarch Patrick Calhoun participated in the political debate over ratification of the Constitution and served as representative for his district. In upcountry South Carolina during the cotton boom, his family, and many others experienced economic prosperity. The son of a thriving farmer who served as a public official, Calhoun was chosen and expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. He was chosen early in life by his father who saw something great in him. In...
Cited: Bartlett, Irving H. John C. Calhoun, A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1993.
Davis, David Brion. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
John C. Calhoun, Edited by Ross M. Lence. Union and Liberty, The Political Philosophy of John C. Calhoun. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1992.
[ 8 ]. Coit, Margaret L., John C. Calhoun, American Portrait. Houghton-Mifflin Company, South Carolina, 1950, p28
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