12 The Second War for Independence and, the Upsurge of Nationalism, 1812–1824 Chapter Themes Theme

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John C. Calhoun (1782–1850)

Calhoun was Monroe’s secretary of war, senatorial spokesman for the South, and a brilliant political theorist and defender of slavery.

He was among Clay’s young “war hawks” who advocated the War of 1812 and an ardent nationalist in the years following the war. After seeking the presidency in 1824, he settled for the vice presidency under Adams and then under Jackson.

His extended feud with Jackson began when Jackson learned that Calhoun had opposed Jackson’s invasion of Florida in cabinet discussions. It reached fever pitch when Calhoun’s socially conscious wife snubbed Peggy Eaton, forcing Calhoun’s resignation from the vice presidency.

Once he became a purely sectional figure, Calhoun spent much time writing political theory, including his doctrine of the “concurrent majority.” He also proposed the creation of a dual presidency, with a northern president and a southern president each having mutual veto power.

He died shortly after his last speech was read for him in the Senate during the debate over the Compromise of 1850. His last words were, “The South, the poor South.”
Quote: “Our fate as a people is bound up in the question of preserving slavery. If we yield, we will be extirpated; but if we successfully resist we will be the greatest and most flourishing people of modern time. It is the best substratum of population in the world; and one on which great and flourishing commonwealths may be most easily and safely reared.” (Speech, 1838)
reference: John Niven, John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union (1988).

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