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JOHN CALDWELL CALHOUN.
JOHN O. CALHOUN, occupies a position first in rank among the orators and statesmen of America. He was of Irish extraction, and was born in Abbeville District, South Carolina, on the eighteenth of March, 1782. His grandfather, James Calhoun, the first of his family who emigrated to America, left Ireland in 1733, and settled in Pennsylvania, from whence he removed to western Virginia. His new home being broken up on the defeat of the unfortunate Braddock, he was again obliged to remove; and he established himself in South Carolina, in a district which was afterwards known as the Calhoun Settlement. In this place he experienced the savage hostilities of the Cherokee Indians, and after a desperate struggle with them, in which his wife, his eldest son, and several other members of the family were massacred, he abandoned the settlement, and did not return to it until after the establishment of peace. Patrick Calhoun, a son of the foregoing, and the father of the subject of this sketch, displayed the most indomitable perseverance and courage, in the struggle with the Cherokees, and for his services was appointed to the command of a body of provincial rangers, raised for the defence of the frontier. He was a wan of the most resolute and active character, and not only served with credit and renown against the incursions of the savages, but, later in life, during the war of the Revolution, rendered signal service in the cause of freedom and colonial rights. For many years he followed the profession of a surveyor with skill and success. Although his life was spent in the midst of the turmoil and hardships of border life, he devoted much of his time to study, and became well versed in English literature. During the Revolution he was a member of the South Carolina provincial legislature, and after the termination of the contest, continued in the State legislature for many years. He opposed the Federal Constitution on the ground that it took away the sovereignty of the States. “We have heard his son say,” it is recorded in a recent sketch, * " that among his earliest recollections was one of a conversation when he was nine years of age, in which his father maintained that government to be the best which allowed the largest amount of individual liberty compatible with social order and tranquillity, and insisted that the improvements in political science would be found to consist in throwing off many of the retraints then imposed by law, and deemed necessary to an organized society.” It may well be supposed that his son John was an attentive and eager anditor, and that such lessons encouraged that spirit of free inquiry for which he was so distinguished during his subsequent career.
The mother of John O. Calhoun, Martha Caldwell, a native of Virginia, was the sister of John Caldwell, who was cruelly killed by the tories during the Revolution, and a niece of the Rev. James Caldwell, a popular preacher, prominent in the history of the revolutionary war, for the zeal and activity he manifested in the defence of the patriot cause. For some time he was a chaplain in the American army, and wielded a great influence over the troops, by whom he was greatly beloved and respected. This circumstance rendered him exceedingly obnoxious to the ministerialists, and many attempts were made to take him prisoner. Unsuccessful in this, the royalists burnt his church, deliberately shot his wife, afterwards burnt his house, and at a
* Sketch of the life of John C. Calhoun, by Parko Godwin, in Homes of American Statosmen ; page 899.
later period instigated a sentinel to shoot him, which was done, not fatally, however, while he was on his way to New York under the protection of a flag of truce. *
John O. Calhoun's early instruction was imparted to him at home. At the age of thirteen he was placed under the care of the Rev. Dr. Waddell, his brother-in-law, where he remained, with the exception of a short time, until his entrance upon his college life. During his course with Dr. Waddell, his attention to his studies was so ardent and unremitting, that his health became impaired, and, at one period, his mother, alarmed at his situation, decided to take his books away from him and direct his energies to agricultural pursuits. But this mode of life continued only until he regained his physical vigor: he then continued his studies, and, in the autumn of 1802, entered the junior class at Yale College. In college he was distinguished for the originality of his propositions, the brilliancy of his imagination, the correctness of bis tastes and judgment, and the depth of his intellect. His rare acquirements attracted the attention of President Dwight, with whom he held many friendly disputations, and who, on more than one occasion, predicted the future eminence of his eloquent and strong reasoning pupil. He received the honors of a large class, but was prevented from delivering his graduating oration, by a severe illness. On leaving college he commenced the study of law, in the office of Mr. H. W. Desaussure, an eminent practitioner of South Carolina, but soon after returned to Connecticut, and entered the Litchfield Law School, whence he graduated in 1806.
In 1807 he entered upon practice in the neighborhood of his birthplace, and took a position, "from the very outset, with the most eminent lawyers in his circuit.” At this time he commenced his political life. An effort he made at a meeting in his native place, which had been convened to consider the affair of the Chesapeake, gained him the confidence of his fellow: citizens, and he was elected to the State legislature. Here he remained until 1811, in the fall of which year he took his seat in the lower House of the United States Congress, and at once became prominent and active in its deliberations. Soon after he appeared in Congress he was placed on the committee of foreign affairs, and in the support of a report that was made by that committee, recommending an immediate appeal to arms, to settle the difficulties then pending between the United States and Great Britain, he made his first speech, which, for the patriotism of his sentiment and eloquent beauties, won him universal applause. He was compared to “one of the old sages of the old Congress, with the graces of youth," and the "young Carolinian" was hailed as “one of the master spirits, who stamp their name upon the age in which they live.” From this time he occupied the front rank of the war party in Congress, and, during the continuance of hostilities, m powerful efforts in defence of the war policy. It not the present purpose to enter into any detail of his services during the war. Such a recital would require the
of a volume. Of his speeches delivered at this time, many were undoubtedly lost, through the want of able and careful reporters; but those which are now before the public evince the highest order of statesmanship and eloquence, and will be read with interest, "until patriotism ceases to be a virtue." Mr. Calhoun remained in the House of Representatives until December, 1817, when he was appointed Secretary of War by President Monroe. His speeches during the latter part of his representative career: that on the United States Bank, Internal Improvement, and the Tariff, are particularly distinguished for power and constitutional learning.
As Secretary of War, Mr. Calhoun rendered signal service to the country. He found the department, in all its branches, in confusion, and, at the end of bis seven years' administration, left it in complete order. He found upwards of forty millions of dollars of unsettled accounts, says his biographer, which he reduced to less than three millions, and he completely prevented all further accumulation by the unexampled exactness of accountability which he introduced into every branch of the disbursements, and in consequence of which he was enabled to report to Congress in 1823, that “of the entire amount of money drawn from the treasury in 1822, for the military service, including pensions, amounting to four millions five hundred and seventy-one thousand nine hundred and sixty-one dollars and ninety-four cents, although it passed through the hands of two hundred and ninety-one disbursing agents, there had not been a single defalca
* Pennsylvania Packet, 1780.
tion, nor the loss of one cent to the government; and that he had reduced the expense of the army from four hundred and fifty-one dollars per man, to two hundred and eighty-seven dollars, and thereby saved to the country annually more than one million three hundred thousand dollars." This system and order was ted at the same time he was engaged in those arduous and able public documents and reports which distinguished his secretaryship.
In 1825, Mr. Calhoun was elevated to the Vice Presidency of the United States, and continued in that station until 1831, when he resigned, and was elected to the United States Senate, to fill the vacancy occasioned by the retirement of R. Y. Hayne, who had been elected to the gubernatorial chair of South Carolina. At the expiration of his senatorial term he retired to privato life. Of the numerous able speeches he made in this portion of his public life, no one attracted more general attention than that upon the Revenue Collection (Force) Bill. In this his views of State sovereignty are set forth in the usual clear, honest, and straightforward manner, which was so characteristic of both his private and public life.
After the accession of John Tyler to the Presidency, Mr. Calhoun was appointed Secretary of State, and, in 1845, returned again to the Senate, in which body he remained until his death. He died of a pulmonary complaint, at Washington, on the thirty-first of March, 1850. His loss to the nation was deeply felt and sincerely mourned. For a period of forty years he had represented the interests of his native State with fidelity, honor, and ability; his course had been distinguished by constant exertions for the welfare of his constituents, and they never found him indifferent or regardless of their interests. He was never the slave of party, never guilty of the low arts or petty cunning of the mere politician; always fearless in the discharge of his duties, and though ambitious, ever sacrificing his ambition to his clearly discerned and openly expressed principles.
Of the numerous affectionate tributes to the genius, statesmanship, and private character of Mr. Calhoun, the following offered by Mr. Webster, in the Senate of the United States, will be read with interest:-“We are of the same age," said he: “I made my first entrance into the House of Representatives in May, 1813, and there found Mr. Calhoun. He had already been in that body for two or three years. I found him then an active and efficient member of the AssEinbly to which he belonged, taking a decided part, and exercising a decided influence, in all its deliberations.
“From that day to the day of his death, amidst all the strifes of party and politics, there has subsisted between us, always, and without interruption, a great degree of personal kindness.
“Differing widely on many great questions respecting the institutions and government of the country, those differences never interrupted our personal and social intercourse. I have been present at most of the distinguished instances of the exhibition of his talents in debate. I have always heard him with pleasure, often with much instruction, not unfrequently with the highest degree of admiration.
“Mr. Calhoun was calculated to be a leader in whatsoever association of political friends he was thrown. He was a man of undoubted genius, and of commanding talent. All the country and all the world admit that. His mind was both perceptive and vigorous. It was clear, quick, and strong.
"Sir, the eloquence of Mr. Calhoun, or the manner of his exhibition of his sentiments in public bodies, was part of his intellectual character. It grew out of the qualities of his mind. It was plain, strong, terse, condensed, concise ; sometimes impassioned-still always severe. Rejecting ornament, not often seeking far for illustration, his power consisted in the plainness of his proposations, in the closeness of his logic, and in the earnestness and energy of his manner. These are the qualities, as I think, which have enabled him through such a long course of years to speak often, and yet always command attention. His demeanor as a Senator is known to us all—is appreciated, venerated by us all. No man was more respectful to others; no man carried himself with greater decorum, no man with superior dignity. I think there is not one of us but felt when he last addressed us from his seat in the Senate, his form still erect, with a voice by no means indicating such a degree of physical weakness as did, in fact, possess him, with clear tones,
and an impressive, and I may say, an imposing manner, who did not feel that he might imagine that we saw before us a Senator of Rome, when Rome survived.
“Sir, I have not in public nor in private life known a more assiduous person in the discharge of his appropriate duties. I have known no man who wasted less of life in what is called recreation, or employed less of it in any pursuits not connected with the immediate discharge of his duty. He seemed to have no recreation but the pleasure of conversation with his friends. Out of the chambers of Congress, he was either devoting himself to the acquisition of knowledge, pertaining to the immediate subject of the duty before him, or else he was indulging in those social interviews in which he so much delighted.
“My honorable friend from Kentucky has spoken in just terms of his colloquial talents. They certainly were singular and eminent. There was a charm in his corrersation not often found. He delighted, especially, in conversation and intercourse with young men. I suppose that there has been no man among us who had more winning manners, and such an intercourse and conversation, with men comparatively young, than Mr. Calhoun. I believe one great power of his character, in general, was his conversational talent. I believe it is that, as well as a conscious ness of his high integrity, and the greatest reverence for his intellect and ability, that has made him so endeared an object to the people of the State to which he belonged.
“Mr. President, he had the basis, the indispensable basis, of all high character; and that was unspotted integrity-unimpeached honor and character. If he had aspirations, they were high, and honorable, and noble. There was nothing groveling, or low, or meanly selfish, that came near the head or the heart of Mr. Calhoun. Firm in his purpose, perfectly patriotic and honest, as I am sure he was, in the principles that he espoused, and in the measures that he defended, aside from that large regard for that species of distinction that conducted him to eminent stations for the benefit of the Republic, I do not believe he had a selfish motive, or selfish feeling.
“However, sir, he may have differed from others of us in his political opinions or his politica] principles, those principles and those opinions will now descend to posterity, under the sanction of a great name. He has lived long enough, he has done enough, and he has done it so well, so successfully, so honorably, as to connect himself for all time with the records of his country. He is now a historical character. Those of us who have known him here, will find that he has left upon our minds and our hearts a strong and lasting impression of his person, his character and his public performances, which, while we live, will never be obliterated. We shall bereafter, I am sure, indulge in it as a grateful recollection, that we have lived in his age; that we bave been his contemporaries, that we have seen him, and heard him, and known him. We shall delight to speak of him to those who are rising up to fill our places. And, when the time shall come when we ourselves shall go, one after another, in succession to our graves, we shall carry with us a deep sense of his genius and character, his honor and integrity, his amiable deportment in private life, and the purity of his exalted patriotism."
To the duties of his public life, Mr. Calhoun added those of an author. His Disquisition on Government, and the Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, which form the first volume of his published works, evince the great and varied powers of his intellect, the purity of his patriotism, and the uprightness of his intentions. The chief part of his forensic and literary productions have been published since his death. No complete account of his life and services has yet appeared: such a work, however, has been contemplated, and probably will ere long be given to the world.
In personal appearance Mr. Calhoun was tall, slender, and sinewy. His countenance was strongly marked with all the features of intellect and firmness ; but in the latter portion of his life wore an expression of care and anxiety, probably produced by the disease which terminated his life. His eyes were dark, brilliant, and expressive, and were deeply indented. His manners were frank, affable, and courteous; accessible to all, and instructive and agreeable in his conversation. His manner of speaking was rapid, forcible, and very earnest.*
• Homes of American Statesmen: National Intelligencer, March, 1850: Nat. Portrait Gallery, VOL 9: Annals of Congress
INCREASE OF THE ARMY.
Mr. Calhoun delivered this speech in the convince our understandings, nor the ardor of House of Representatives of the United States, eloquence to inflame our passions. There are
many reasons why this country should never on the twelfth of December, 1811, on the second resort to war but for causes the most urgent resolution reported by the Committee of Foreign and necessary. It is sufficient that, under a Relations: *
government like ours, none but such will justify
it in the eyes of the people; and were I not Mr. SPEAKER :-I understood the opinion of satisfied that such is the present case, I certainly the Committee on Foreign Relations, differently would be no advocate of the proposition now from what the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. before the House. Randolph) has stated to be his impression. I Sir, I might prove the war, should it ensue, certainly understood that the committee recom- justifiable, by the express admission of the genmended the measures now before the House, as tleman from Virginia;—and necessary, by facts a preparation for war; and such, in fact, was undoubted, and universally admitted; such as its express resolve, agreed to, I believe, by every he did not pretend to controvert. The extent, member, except that gentleman. I do not at- duration, and character of the injuries received; tribute any wilful misstatement to him, but con- the failure of those • peaceful means heretofore sider it the effect of inadvertency or mistake. resorted to for the redress of our wrongs, are Indeed, the Report could mean nothing but war my proofs that it is necessary. Why should I or empty menace. I hope no member of this mention the impressment of our seamen ; deHouse is in favor of the latter. A bullying, predations on every branch of our commerce, menacing system, has every thing to condemn including the direct export trade, continued for and nothing to recommend it. In expense, it years, and made under laws which professedly almost rivals war. It excites contempt abroad, undertake to regulate our trade with other naand destroys confidence at home. Menaces are tions; negotiation resorted to, again and again, serious things; and ought to be resorted to with till it is become hopeless ; the restrictive system as much caution and seriousness, as war itself; persisted in to avoid war, and in the vain exand should, if not successful, be invariably fol- pectation of returning justice? The evil still lowed by it. It was not the gentleman from grows, and, in each succeeding year, swells in Tennessee (Mr. Grundy) who made this a war extent and pretension beyond the preceding. question. The resolve contemplates an addi- The question, even in the opinion and by the tional regular force; a measure confessedly im- admission of our opponents, is reduced to this proper but as a preparation for war, but un single point-Which shall we do, abandon or doubtedly necessary in that event.
defend our own commercial and maritime Sir, I am not insensible to the weighty im- rights, and the personal liberty of our citizens portance of the proposition, for the first time employed in exercising them These rights submitted to this House, to compel a redress of are vitally attacked, and war is the only means our long list of complaints against one of the of redress. The gentleman from Virginia has belligerents. According to my mode of think- suggested none, unless we consider the whole ing, the more serious the question, the stronger of his speech as recommending patient and reand more unalterable ought to be our convic- signed submission as the best remedy, Sir, tions before we give it our support. War, in which alternative this House will embrace, it is our country, ought never to be resorted to but not for me to say. I hope the decision is made when it is clearly justifiable and necessary; so already, by a higher authority than the voice of much so, as not to require the aid of logic to any man. It is not for the human tongue to
instil the sense of independence and honor. Near the end of November, 1811, the Committee on For- This is the work of nature; a generous nature eign Relations submitted a report, which after an able exam that disdains ame submission to wrongs. Ination of the causes of war with Great Britain, concluded by
This part of the subject is so imposing as to recommending to the House the adoption of a series of reso-enforce silence even on the gentleman from lutions, among which was the following: 2. Resolved, That an additional force of ten thousand wrongs, or vindicate the conduct of her enemy.
Virginia. He dared not deny his country's regular troops, ought to be immediately raised to serve for Only one part of his argument had any, the three years: and that a bounty in lands ought to be given to most remote relation to this point. He would encourage enlistments." This resolution having been amended in Committee of the
not say, we had not a good cause for war; but Whole, by omitting the word ten, was reported to the House. insisted, that it was our duty to define that An animated debate ensued: a majority of the committee
cause. If he means that this House ought, at avowed their object to be a preparation for war. The prin- this stage of its proceedings, or any other, to cipal speaker in the opposition, was John Randolph, to whom specify any particular violation of our rights to Mr. Calhoun seems to have confined his reply: -See the the exclusion of all others, he prescribes a Speech of Mr. Randolph at page 181 ante :-The resolution course, which neither good sense nor the usage was finally adopted
of nations warrants. When we contend, let us