Portrait of John C. Calhoun

On December 19, 1828, John C. Calhoun anonymously penned an essay entitled “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,” asserting that states had the right to nullify acts of Congress that exceeded the powers expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution. [Wikimedia Commons]

John Caldwell Calhoun - Facts

March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850

Key facts about U.S. Senator, Secretary of State and Vice President John C. Calhoun.

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Full Name:

  • John Caldwell Calhoun

Birth Date:

  • March 18, 1782

Birth Location:

  • an area that would later become the Abbeville District in the Uplands of South Carolina

Parents:

  • Patrick and Martha (Caldwell) Calhoun

Education:

  • Yale University (1804)

Occupation:

  • Lawyer, politician

Career Summary:

  • U.S. Congressman
  • U. S. Senator
  • U.S. Secretary of State
  • U.S. Secretary of War
  • U.S. Vice-president

Spouse:

  • Floride Bonneau Calhoun (1811)

Nickname(s):

  • Arch Nullifier

Place of Death:

  • Washington, D.C.

Date of Death:

  • March 31, 1850

Place of Burial:

  • St. Philip’s Churchyard, Charleston, South Carolina

Significance:

  • John C. Calhoun was the fourth child of Patrick and Martha Caldwell Calhoun.
  • John C. Calhoun’s father was a prosperous planter and slaveholder who served in the South Carolina provincial legislature from 1768 to 1774.
  • As a teenager, John C. Calhoun was forced to leave school and return to help manage the family plantation after his father died in 1796.
  • John C. Calhoun graduated from Yale University in 1804, earning distinction as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society.
  • Following his graduation from Yale University, John C. Calhoun studied law under the tutelage of Tapping Reeve at the prestigious Litchfield Law School in Litchfield. Connecticut.
  • John C. Calhoun passed the South Carolina bar exam in 1807 and established a law practice in Abbeville.
  • John C. Calhoun served in the South Carolina Legislature from 1808 to 1809.
  • John C. Calhoun represented South Carolina’s 6th Congressional District in the 12th, 13th, and 14th Congresses from March 4, 1811 to November 3, 1817, when he resigned.
  • John C. Calhoun married Floride Bonneau Colhoun on January 8, 1811. Their marriage, which lasted 39 years, produced ten children, seven of whom survived to adulthood.
  • During his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, John C. Calhoun was an ardent nationalist who aligned himself with Speaker Henry Clay and other “War Hawks” who promoted war with Great Britain in 1812
  • After the War of 1812, John C. Calhoun supported protective tariffs (to protect American industry), internal improvement bills (to build canals and roads), and other legislation aimed at solidifying the nation.
  • John C. Calhoun served the Secretary of War in President James Monroe’s cabinet from November 3, 1817, until Monroe’s second term as president expired in 1825.
  • During his tenure, as secretary of war, John C. Calhoun championed a strong military to ensure the nation’s security. To that end, he reorganized the war department, paid down outstanding debts from the War of 1812, reinvigorated the United States Military Academy, supported an expanded navy, and oversaw the creation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • During the Second Seminole War, John C. Calhoun recommended that President Monroe censure General Andrew Jackson for his unauthorized invasion of Spanish Florida in 1818.
  • John C. Calhoun served as Vice-president of the United States under President John Quincy Adams from 1825 to 1829.
  • John C. Calhoun served as Vice-president of the United States under President Andrew Jackson from 1829 to 1832.
  • John C. Calhoun was one of only two men to hold the office of Vice-president of the United States under two different presidents (George Clinton was vice president under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison).
  • John C. Calhoun resigned from the vice presidency on December 28, 1832, to accept a seat in the U.S. Senate.
  • John C. Calhoun was the first, and one of only two vice presidents to resign from the office (the other was Spiro Agnew who resigned on October 10, 1973).
  • On December 19, 1828, John C. Calhoun anonymously penned an essay entitled “South Carolina Exposition and Protest,” asserting that states had the right to nullify acts of Congress that exceeded the powers expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution.
  • April 13, 1830. President Andrew Jackson rose to proclaim “Our Federal Union: it must be preserved!” Vice-president John C. Calhoun followed with his own salutation, “Our Federal Union — next to our liberties the most dear! May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union!”
  • On July 26, 1831, John C. Calhoun publicly owned up to his beliefs about the doctrine of nullification when crafted his famous “Fort Hill Address.”
  • John C. Calhoun served as a U.S. Senator from South Carolina in the 22nd through the 27th Congresses from 1832 to 1843.
  • As a U.S. Senator, John C. Calhoun was the leading spokesperson for the doctrine of nullification. Yet, he also helped diffuse the Nullification Crisis by joining forces with Henry Clay to shepherd the Tariff of 1833 through Congress.
  • As a U.S. Senator, John C. Calhoun was an unabashed opponent of abolition and a staunch defender of slavery.
  • While many Southerners considered slavery a necessary evil that would eventually expire on its own accord, John C. Calhoun made no such apologies. In fact, in a famous speech on the Senate floor on February 6, 1837, Calhoun argued that slavery was a “positive good.”
  • Still aspiring to become President of the United States, John C. Calhoun resigned his seat in the Senate on March 3, 1843, to launch an ill-fated independent campaign.
  • In March 1844, John C. Calhoun accepted an offer from President John Tyler to become secretary of state, following the death of Abel P. Upshur.
  • John C. Calhoun served as U.S. secretary of state from April 1, 1844, to March 10, 1845.
  • During his term as U.S. secretary of state, John C. Calhoun spearheaded negotiations that led to the annexation of the Texas Republic and also helped resolve territorial differences with Great Britain in the Oregon Territory.
  • On November 26, 1845, the South Carolina Legislature selected John C. Calhoun to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat caused by the resignation of Daniel E. Huger.
  • John C. Calhoun served in the 29th through 31st Congresses from November 26, 1845, until his death on March 31, 1850.
  • During his last term in the Senate, John C. Calhoun was an outspoken opponent of attempts to prohibit slavery in the territories as the nation expanded westward.
  • On March 4, 1850, Virginia Senator James Mason delivered John C. Calhoun’s final address to the Senate because the South Carolinian was wracked by tuberculosis and too feeble to speak. In the address, Calhoun made veiled threats about secession.
  • John C. Calhoun died from tuberculosis at the Old Brick Capitol boarding house in Washington, D.C. on March 31, 1850.
  • John C. Calhoun was interred at St. Philip’s Churchyard, Charleston, South Carolina.
  • During the Civil War, Southern sympathizers moved John C. Calhoun’s remains to a secret location to preclude possible desecration by Union soldiers. In 1871, Calhoun’s body was returned to its original resting place.
  • In 1910, South Carolina selected John C. Calhoun as one of two natives to represent the Palmetto State in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the nation’s capitol building (the other is Wade Hampton).
  • In 1957, a Senate committee charged with identifying outstanding former members, named John C. Calhoun as one of the nation’s five greatest senators.
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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title John Caldwell Calhoun - Facts
  • Coverage March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850
  • Author
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update November 16, 2021
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