John C. Calhoun: the Starter of the Civil War
It also unified the South as a section distinct from the rest of the nation. John C. Calhoun, the South’s recognized intellectual and political leader from the asses until his death in 1850, devoted much of his remarkable Intellectual energy to defending slavery. He developed a two-point defense. One was a political theory that the rights of a minority section in particular, the South needed special protecting in the federal union.
The second was an argument that presented slavery as an institution that benefited all involved. John C.Calhoun commitment to those two points and his efforts to develop them to the fullest would assign him a unique role in American history as the moral, lattice, and spiritual voice of Southern separatism. Born in 1782 in upcountry South Carolina, Calhoun grew up during the boom in the area’s cotton economy. The son of a successful farmer who served in public office, Calhoun went to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1801 to attend Yale College.
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After graduating, he attended the Litchis Law School, also in Connecticut, and studied under Tapping Reeve, an outspoken supporter of a strong federal government.Seven years after Calhoun initial departure from South Carolina, he returned home, where he soon inherited his father’s substantial land and slave holdings and won election to the IS.
S. Congress in 1810. Ironically, when Calhoun, the future champion of states’ rights and secession, arrived in Washington, he was an ardent federalist like his former law professor. He aligned himself with the federalist faction of the Republican Party led by Speaker of the House Henry Clay of Kentucky.He also became a prominent member of the party’s War Hawk faction, which pushed President James Madison administration to fight the War of 181 2, the nation’s second war with Great Britain. When the fighting ended in 181 5, Calhoun championed a protective national tariff on imports; a measure he hoped loud foster both Southern and Northern industrial development. After the War of 1 812, Congress began to consider improving the young republic’s infrastructure.
Calhoun enthusiastically supported plans to spend federal money, urging Congress to “bind the Republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals….Let us conquer space…
. We are under the most imperious obligation to counteract every tendency to disunion. ” Calhoun left the legislature in 1817 to become President James Monomer’s secretary of war and dedicated himself to strengthening the nation’s military. He succeeded, purring revitalization of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point under the leadership of Superintendent Sylvan Thayer and improving the army’s administrative structure with reforms that endured into the 20th century. If ever there was perfection carried into any branch of the public service,” one federal official wrote, “it was that which Mr.
. Calhoun carried into the War Department. ” Calhoun success in improving the county’s war-making capabilities came at the price of a stronger, less frugal federal government. Not everyone was pleased. “His schemes are too grand and magnificent. A detractor in Congress wrote. “If we had revenue of a hundred million, he would be at no loss how to spend it.
” (Wilts 1,944 Volvo. 1) Calhoun hoped to use his accomplishments as war secretary as a springboard to the presidency.That dream fell through, however, Calhoun had no problem accepting the vice presidency under staunch federalist John Quince Adams in 1824. Adams was glad to have Calhoun in his administration, having held him in high esteem since their days together in Monomer’s cabinet. Adams Was particularly impressed by Calhoun “ardent patriotism,” believing Calhoun was “above all, well rounded. This was an image Calhoun cultivated during the 1824 election campaign. It turned out that Calhoun was late in publicly promoting his commitment to federalism.
By this time, Southerners were increasingly taking an anti-federal-government stance. In the North, industry and the economy it created grew in influence and power every day. Meanwhile, the rapidly expanding cultivation of cotton and other cash crops were committing the South to an agrarian economy and culture, which depended on slavery. The country was dividing into two increasingly self-conscious sections with different priorities. Because of the South’s investment in large-scale agriculture, any attack on slavery was an attack on the Southern economy itself.In the 1 sass, Southerners grew increasingly anxious about the North controlling the federal government and about how that situation threatened the South and its distinctive institutions. They looked to leaders who would limit federal power.
Calhoun unexpectedly found himself the target of sharp criticism from leading South Carolina figures, including Thomas Cooper, the president of the state college. In 1824, Cooper published a widely circulated pamphlet attacking Calhoun. He spends the money of the South to buy up influence in the North”.If Calhoun wanted to maintain his status as a Southern leader and reach his political goals, he could not ignore the changing political landscape. He recognized it would be a mistake to maintain his association with Adams, whose ideas to expand the use of federal power to promote national economic, intellectual, and cultural development drew a cold reception in South Carolina. So when Andrew Jackson began preparing to challenge Adams in the 1828 presidential election, Calhoun switched sides. The Democrats rewarded Calhoun by making him their candidate for vice resident, and the ticket won.
That same year, Congress passed a highly protective tariff that Southerners bitterly opposed, viewing the measure as sacrificing Southern agrarian interests to benefit Northern industry. The protest against the so-called Tariff of Abominations grew particularly strong in South Carolina, and in response to a request from the state legislature, Calhoun secretly wrote an essay titled “South Carolina Exposition and Protest. ” In it, he asserted that states had a constitutional right to nullify any federal government actions they considered unconstitutional. Calhoun had become the chosen mouthpiece for Southern rights.Confirmation of his new status came when Congress adopted another high tariff in 1832 and South Carolina legislators used the principles Calhoun had voiced in his “Exposition and Protest” to declare the tariff “null and void. ” To no one’s surprise, Jackson refused to accept South Carolina’s defiant stance, and the Nullification Crisis of 1 832 was born. By now, relations between Jackson and Calhoun were crumbling fast.
Problems had been brewing well beforehand, but now, personal conflicts and Jackson’s commitment to the supremacy of he national government made it impossible for the two men to work together.When it became clear that Calhoun chief cabinet rival, Martin Van Burner, was Jackson’s choice to succeed him as president, Calhoun quit the administration. Calhoun protested he was an overextension of federal power. Jackson was no fan of the high tariff, either. But he was furious with Calhoun and considered his behavior treasonous. He loudly threatened to march down to South Carolina and personally hang Calhoun and his fellow nullifiers. Congress responded to the nullification by drafting the Force Bill, which authorized the president to use military power to compel South Carolina to comply with the tariff.