John C. Calhoun

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John Caldwell Calhoun (pronounced /kælˈhuːn/; March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was the seventh Vice President of the United States and a leading Southern politician from South Carolina during the first half of the 19th century. Calhoun, a talented orator and writer, began his political career as a nationalist and proponent of protective tariffs; later, he was a proponent of free trade, states' rights, limited government, and nullification. Calhoun built his reputation as a political theorist by his redefinition of republicanism to include approval of slavery and minority rights. His redefinition was widely accepted in the South and rejected in the North at the time. His defense of slavery became defunct, but his concept of concurrent majority, whereby a minority has the right to object to or perhaps even veto hostile legislation directed against it, has been incorporated into the American value system.[1]

A representative leader of the Scotch-Irish in South Carolina, he served as Vice President under John Quincy Adams and under Andrew Jackson, was the first Vice President to have been born after the American Revolution, and was the first Vice President to resign from office. Calhoun briefly served in the South Carolina legislature. There he wrote legislation making South Carolina the first state to adopt universal suffrage for white men. As a "war hawk" he agitated in Congress for the War of 1812, and as Secretary of War under President James Monroe he reorganized and modernized the War Department, building powerful permanent bureaucracies that ran the department, as opposed to patronage appointees.

Although Calhoun died nearly 10 years before the start of the American Civil War, he was an inspiration to the secessionists of 1860–61. Nicknamed the "cast-iron man" for his determination to defend the causes in which he believed, Calhoun supported states' rights and nullification, under which states could declare null and void federal laws which they deemed to be unconstitutional. He was an outspoken proponent of the institution of slavery, which he famously defended as a "positive good" rather than as a "necessary evil".[2] His rhetorical defense of slavery was partially responsible for escalating Southern threats of secession in the face of mounting abolitionist sentiment in the North.

Calhoun was one of the "Great Triumvirate" or the "Immortal Trio" of Congressional leaders, along with his Congressional colleagues Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Calhoun served in the House of Representatives (1810–1817) and the United States Senate (1832–1843; 1845–1850). He was appointed Secretary of War (1817–1824) under James Monroe and Secretary of State (1844–1845) under John Tyler. In 1957, a Senate committee chaired by John F. Kennedy named Calhoun (along with Clay and Webster) as one of the five greatest senators in U.S. history.[3]

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