Famous Americans of Recent Times
James Parton

Part 3 out of 9

hazy with incense; and he faithfully represented, also, that larger
number who wait till the wolf is at their door before arming against
him, instead of meeting him afar off in the outskirts of the wood. Let
us own it: the North yearned for peace in 1850,--peace at almost any

One of the most intimate of Mr. Webster's friends said, in a public

"It is true that he desired the highest political position
in the country,--that he thought he had fairly earned a
claim to that position. And I solemnly believe that because
that claim was denied his days were shortened."

No enemy of the great orator ever uttered anything so severe against
him as this, and we are inclined to think it an error. It was probably
the strength of his desire for the Presidency that shortened his life,
not the mere disappointment. When President Fillmore offered him the
post of Secretary of State, in 1850, it appears to have been his
preference, much as he loved office, to decline it. He longed for his
beautiful Marshfield, on the shore of the ocean, his herds of noble
cattle, his broad, productive fields, his yachts, his fishing, his
rambles in the forests planted by his own hand, his homely chats with
neighbors and beloved dependents. "Oh!" said he, "if I could have my
own will, never, never would I leave Marshfield again!" But his
"friends," interested and disinterested, told him it was a shorter
step from the office of Secretary of State to that of President than
from the Senate-chamber. He yielded, as he always did, and spent a
long, hot summer in Washington, to the sore detriment of his health.
And again, in 1852, after he had failed to receive the nomination for
the Presidency, he was offered the place of Minister to England. His
"friends" again advised against his acceptance. His letter to the
President, declining the offer, presents him in a sorry light indeed.

"I have made up my mind to think no more about the. English
mission. My principal reason is, that I think it would be
regarded as a descent I have been accustomed to give
instructions to ministers abroad, and not to receive them."

Accustomed! Yes: for two years! It is probable enough that his
acceptance of office, and his adherence to it, hastened his death.
Four months after the words were written which we have just quoted, he
was no more.

His last days were such as his best friends could have wished them to
be,--calm, dignified, affectionate, worthy of his lineage. His burial,
too, was singularly becoming, impressive, and touching. We have been
exceedingly struck with the account of it given by Mr. George S.
Hillard, in his truly elegant and eloquent eulogy upon Mr. Webster,
delivered in Faneuil Hall. In his last will, executed a few days
before his death, Mr. Webster requested that he might be buried
"without the least show or ostentation, but in a manner respectful to
my neighbors, whose kindness has contributed so much to the happiness
of me and mine." His wishes were obeyed; and he was buried more as the
son of plain, brave Captain Ebenezer Webster, than as Secretary of
State. "No coffin," said Mr. Hillard,

"concealed that majestic frame. In the open air, clad as
when alive, he lay extended in seeming sleep, with no touch
of disfeature upon his brow,--as noble an image of reposing
strength as ever was seen upon earth. Around him was the
landscape that he had loved, and above him was nothing but
the dome of the covering heavens. The sunshine fell upon the
dead man's face, and the breeze blew over it. A lover of
Nature, he seemed to be gathered into her maternal arms, and
to lie like a child upon a mother's lap. We felt, as we
looked upon him, that death had never stricken down, at one
blow, a greater sum of life. And whose heart did not swell
when, from the honored and distinguished men there gathered
together, six plain Marshfield farmers were called forth to
carry the head of their neighbor to the grave. Slowly and
sadly the vast multitude followed, in mourning silence, and
he was laid down to rest among dear and kindred dust."

In surveying the life and works of this eminent and gifted man, we are
continually struck with the evidences of his magnitude. He was, as
we have said, a very large person. His brain was within a little of
being one third larger than the average, and it was one of the
largest three on record. His bodily frame, in all its parts, was on
a majestic scale, and his presence was immense. He liked large
things,--mountains, elms, great oaks, mighty bulls and oxen, wide
fields, the ocean, the Union, and all things of magnitude. He liked
great Rome far better than refined Greece, and revelled in the immense
things of literature, such as Paradise Lost, and the Book of Job,
Burke, Dr. Johnson, and the Sixth Book of the Aeneid. Homer he never
cared much for,--nor, indeed, anything Greek. He hated, he loathed,
the act of writing. Billiards, ten-pins, chess, draughts, whist, he
never relished, though fond to excess of out-door pleasures, like
hunting, fishing, yachting. He liked to be alone with great
Nature,--alone in the giant woods or on the shores of the resounding
sea,--alone all day with his gun, his dog, and his thoughts,---alone
in the morning, before any one was astir but himself, looking out upon
the sea and the glorious sunrise. What a delicious picture of this
large, healthy Son of Earth Mr. Lanman gives us, where he describes
him coming into his bedroom, at sunrise, and startling him out of a
deep sleep by shouting, "Awake, sluggard! and look upon this glorious
scene, for the sky and the ocean are enveloped in flames!" He was akin
to all large, slow things in nature. A herd of fine cattle gave him a
keen, an inexhaustible enjoyment; but he never "tasted" a horse: he
had no horse enthusiasm. In England he chiefly enjoyed these five
things, the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Smithfield Cattle
Market, English farming, and Sir Robert Peel. Sir Robert Peel he
thought was "head and shoulders above any other man" he had ever met.
He greatly excelled, too, in describing immense things. In speaking of
the Pyramids, once, he asked,

"Who can inform us by what now unknown machines mass was
thus aggregated, to mass, and quarry piled on quarry, till
solid granite seemed to cover the earth and reach the

His peculiar love of the Union of these States was partly due,
perhaps, to this habit of his mind of dwelling with complacency on
vastness. He felt that he wanted and required a continent to live in:
his mind would have gasped for breath in New Hampshire.

But this enormous creature was not an exception to the law which
renders giants harmless by seaming them with weakness, but for which
the giants would possess the earth. If he had been completed
throughout on the plan on which he was sketched, if he had been as
able to originate as he was powerful to state, if he had possessed
will proportioned to his strength, moral power equal to his moral
feeling, intellect on a par with his genius, and principle worthy of
his intellect, he would have subjugated mankind, and raised his
country to a point from which it would have dropped when the
tyrannizing influence was withdrawn. Every sphere of life has its
peculiar temptations, which there is only one thing that can enable a
man to resist,--a religious, i.e. a disinterested devotion to its
duties. Daniel Webster was one of those who fell before the seductions
of his place. He was not one of those who find in the happiness and
prosperity of their country, and in the esteem of their
fellow-citizens, their own sufficient and abundant reward for serving
her. He pined for something lower, smaller,--something personal and
vulgar. He had no religion,--not the least tincture of it; and he
seemed at last, in his dealings with individuals, to have no
conscience. What he called his religion had no effect whatever upon
the conduct of his life; it made him go to church, talk piously, puff
the clergy, and "patronize Providence,"--no more. He would accept
retaining fees, and never look into the bundles of papers which
accompanied them, in which were enclosed the hopes and the fortune of
anxious households. He would receive gifts of money, and toss into his
waste-paper basket the list of the givers, without having glanced at
its contents; thus defrauding them of the only recompense in his power
to grant, and the only one they wished. It shocked him if his
secretary came to the dinner-table in a frock-coat, and he would
himself appear drunk before three thousand people. And yet, such was
the power of his genius, such was the charm of his manner, such the
affectionateness of his nature, such the robust heartiness of his
enjoyment of life, that honorable men who knew his faults best loved
him to the last,--not in spite of them, but partly in consequence of
them. What in another man they would have pronounced atrocious,
appeared in him a kind of graceful rollicking helplessness to resist.

Such, as it seems to our very imperfect judgment, was Daniel Webster,
one of the largest and one of the weakest of men, of admirable genius
and deplorable character; who began life well and served his-country
well and often, but held not out faithful to the end. American
statesmen are called to a higher vocation than those of other
countries, and there is nothing in the politics of America which _can_
reward a man of eminent ability for public service. If such a person
feels that his country's happiness and greatness will not be a
satisfying recompense for anything he can do for her, let him, as he
values his peace and soul's health, cling to the safe obscurity of
private life.


There were two ways of getting to South Carolina in Colonial times.
The first immigrants, many of whom were men of capital, landed at
Charleston, and, settling in the fertile low country along the coast,
became prosperous planters of rice, indigo, and corn, before a single
white inhabitant had found his way to the more salubrious upper
country in the western part of the Province. The settlers of the upper
country were plain, poorer people, who landed at Philadelphia or
Baltimore, and travelled southward along the base of the Alleghanies
to the inviting table-lands of the Carolinas. In the lower country,
the estates were large, the slaves numerous, the white inhabitants
few, idle, and profuse. The upper country was peopled by a sturdier
race, who possessed farms of moderate extent, hewn out of the
wilderness by their own strong arms, and tilled by themselves with the
aid of few slaves. Between the upper and the lower country there was a
waste region of sandy hills and rocky acclivities, uninhabited, almost
uninhabitable, which rendered the two sections of one Province
separate communities scarcely known to one another. Down almost to the
beginning of the Revolutionary War, the farmers of the upper country
were not represented in the Legislature of South Carolina, though they
were then as numerous as the planters of the lower country. Between
the people of the two sections there was little unity of feeling. The
lordly planters of the lower country regarded their Western
fellow-citizens as provincial or plebeian; the farmers of the upper
country had some contempt for the planters as effeminate,
aristocratic, and Tory. The Revolution abased the pride, lessened the
wealth, and improved the politics of the planters; a revised
Constitution, in 1790, gave preponderance to the up-country farmers in
the popular branch of the Legislature; and thenceforth South Carolina
was a sufficiently homogeneous commonwealth.

Looking merely to the public career of Calhoun, the special pleader of
the Southern aristocracy, we should expect to find him born and reared
among the planters of the low country. The Calhouns, on the contrary,
were up-country people,--farmers, Whigs, Presbyterians, men of
moderate means, who wielded the axe and held the plough with their own
hands, until enabled to buy a few "new negroes," cheap and savage;
called new, because fresh from Africa. A family party of them
(parents, four sons, and a daughter) emigrated from the North of
Ireland early in the last century, and settled first in Pennsylvania;
then removed to Western Virginia; whence the defeat of Braddock, in
1755, drove them southward, and they found a permanent abode in the
extreme west of South Carolina, then an unbroken wilderness. Of those
four sons, Patrick Calhoun, the father of the Nullifier, was the
youngest. He was six years old when the family left Ireland;
twenty-nine, when they planted the "Calhoun Settlement" in Abbeville
District, South Carolina.

Patrick Calhoun was a strong-headed, wrong-headed, very brave, honest,
ignorant man. His whole life, almost, was a battle. When the Calhouns
had been but five years in their forest home, the Cherokees attacked
the settlement, destroyed it utterly, killed one half the men, and
drove the rest to the lower country; whence they dared not return till
the peace of 1763. Patrick Calhoun was elected to command the mounted
rangers raised to protect the frontiers, a duty heroically performed
by him. After the peace, the settlement enjoyed several years of
tranquillity, during which Patrick Calhoun was married to Martha
Caldwell, a native of Virginia, but the daughter of an Irish
Presbyterian emigrant. During this peaceful interval, all the family
prospered with the settlement which bore its name; and Patrick, who in
his childhood had only learned to read and write, availed himself of
such leisure as he had to increase his knowledge. Besides reading the
books within his reach, which were few, he learned to survey land, and
practised that vocation to advantage. He was especially fond of
reading history to gather new proofs of the soundness of his political
opinions, which were Whig to the uttermost. The war of the Revolution
broke in upon the settlement, at length, and made deadly havoc there;
for it was warred upon by three foes at once,--the British, the
Tories, and the Cherokees. The Tories murdered in cold blood a brother
of Patrick Calhoun's wife. Another of her brothers fell at Cowpens
under thirty sabre-wounds. Another was taken prisoner and remained for
nine months in close confinement at one of the British Andersonvilles
of that day. Patrick Calhoun, in many a desperate encounter with the
Indians, displayed singular coolness, courage, adroitness, and
tenacity. On one memorable occasion, thirteen of his neighbors and
himself maintained a forest fight for several hours with a force of
Cherokees ten times their number. When seven of the white men had
fallen, the rest made their escape. Returning three days after to bury
their dead, they found upon the field the bodies of twenty-three
Indian warriors. At another time, as his son used to relate, he had a
very long combat with a chief noted for the certainty of his aim,--the
Indian behind a tree, the white man behind a fallen log. Four times
the wily Calhoun drew the Indian's fire by elevating his hat upon his
ramrod. The chief, at last, could not refrain from looking to see the
effect of his shot; when one of his shoulders was slightly exposed. On
the instant, the white man's rifle sent a ball through it; the chief
fled into the forest, and Patrick Calhoun. bore off as a trophy of the
fight his own hat pierced with four bullets.

This Patrick Calhoun illustrates well the North-of-Ireland character;
one peculiarity of which is the possession of _will_ disproportioned
to intellect. Hence a man of this race frequently appears to striking
advantage in scenes which demand chiefly an exercise of will; while in
other spheres, which make larger demands upon the understanding, the
same man may be simply mischievous. We see this in the case of Andrew
Jackson, who at New Orleans was glorious; at Washington almost wholly
pernicious; and in the case of Andrew Johnson, who was eminently
useful to his country in 1861, but obstructive and perilous to it in
1866. For these Scotch-Irishmen, though they are usually very honest
men, and often right in their opinions, are an uninstructable race,
who stick to a prejudice as tenaciously as to a principle, and really
suppose they are battling for right and truth, when they are only
wreaking a private vengeance or aiming at a personal advantage.
Patrick Calhoun was the most radical of Democrats; one of your
despisers of conventionality; an enemy of lawyers, thinking the common
sense of mankind competent to decide what is right without their aid;
a particular opponent of the arrogant pretensions of the low-country
aristocrats. When the up-country people began to claim a voice in the
government, long since due to their numbers, the planters, of course,
opposed their demand. To establish their right to vote, Patrick
Calhoun and a party of his neighbors, armed with rifles, marched
across the State to within twenty-three miles of Charleston, and there
voted in defiance of the plantation lords. Events like this led to the
admission of members from the up-country; and Patrick Calhoun was the
first to represent that section in the Legislature. It was entirely
characteristic of him to vote against the adoption of the Federal
Constitution, on the ground that it authorized other people to tax
Carolinians; which he said was taxation without' representation. That
was just like a narrow, cranky, opinionative, unmanageable Calhoun.

Devoid of imagination and of humor, a hard-headed, eager politician,
he brought up his boy upon politics. This was sorry nourishment for a
child's mind, but he had little else to give him. Gambling, hunting,
whiskey, and politics were all there was to relieve the monotony of
life in a Southern back settlement; and the best men naturally threw
themselves upon politics. Calhoun told Miss Martineau that he could
remember standing between his father's knees, when he was only five
years old, and listening to political conversation. He told Duff Green
that he had a distinct recollection of hearing his father say, when he
was only nine, that that government is best which allows to each
individual the largest liberty compatible with order and tranquillity,
and that improvements in political science consist in throwing off
needless restraints. It was a strange child that could remember such a
remark. As Patrick Calhoun died in 1795, when his son was thirteen
years old, the boy must have been very young when he heard it, even if
he were mistaken as to the time. Whether Patrick Calhoun ever touched
upon the subject of slavery in his conversations with his children, is
not reported. We only know that, late in the career of Mr. Calhoun, he
used to be taunted by his opponents in South Carolina with having once
held that slavery was good and justifiable only so far as it was
preparatory to freedom. He was accused of having committed the crime
of saying, in a public speech, that slavery was like the "scaffolding"
of an edifice, which, after having served its temporary purpose, would
be taken down, of course. We presume he said this; because
_everything_ in his later speeches is flatly contradicted in those of
his earlier public life. Patrick Calhoun was a man to give a reason
for everything. He was an habitual theorizer and generalize!', without
possessing the knowledge requisite for safe generalization. It is very
probable that this apology for slavery was part of his son's slender

John Caldwell Calhoun--born in 1782, the youngest but one in a family
of five children--was eighteen years old before he had a thought of
being anything but a farmer. His father had been dead five years. His
only sister was married to that famous Mr. Waddell, clergyman and
schoolmaster, whose academy in North Carolina was for so many years a
great light in a dark place. One of his brothers was a clerk in a
mercantile house at Charleston; another was settled on a farm near by;
another was still a boy. His mother lived upon the paternal farm; and
with her lived her son John, who ploughed, hunted, fished, and rode,
in the manner of the farmers' sons in that country. At eighteen he
could read, write, and cipher; he had read Rollin, Robertson,
Voltaire's Charles XII., Brown's Essays, Captain Cook, and parts of
Locke. This, according to his own account, was the sum of his
knowledge, except that he had fully imbibed his father's decided
republican opinions. He shared to some degree his father's prejudice,
and the general prejudice of the upper country, against lawyers;
although a cousin, John Ewing Calhoun, had risen high in that
profession, had long served in the Legislature of South Carolina, and
was about to be elected United States Senator on the Jeffersonian
side. As late as May 1800, when he was past eighteen, preference and
necessity appeared to fix him In the vocation of farmer. The family
had never been rich. Indeed, the great Nullifier himself was a
comparatively poor man all his life, the number of his slaves never
much exceeding thirty; which is equivalent to a working force of
fifteen hands or less.

In May, 1800, Calhoun's elder brother came home from Charleston to
spend the summer, bringing with him his city notions. He awoke the
dormant ambition of the youth, urged him to go to school and become a
professional man. But how could he leave his mother alone on the farm?
and how could the money be raised to pay for a seven years' education?
His mother and his brother conferred upon these points, and satisfied
him upon both; and in June, 1800, he made his way to the academy of
his brother-in-law, Waddell, which was then in Columbia County,
Georgia, fifty miles from the home of the Calhouns. In two years and a
quarter from the day he first opened a Latin grammar, he entered the
Junior Class of Yale College. This was quick work. Teachers, however,
are aware that late beginners, who have spent their boyhood in
_growing_, often stride past students who have passed theirs in
stunting the growth of mind and body at school. Calhoun, late in life,
often spoke of the immense advantage which Southern boys had over
Northern in not going so early to school, and being so much on
horseback and out of doors. He said one day, about the year 1845:

"At the North you overvalue intellect; at the South we rely
upon character; and if ever there should be a collision that
shall test the strength of the two sections, you will find
that character is stronger than intellect, and will carry
the day."

The prophecy has been fulfilled.

Timothy Dwight, Calvinist and Federalist, was President of Yale
College during Calhoun's residence there, and Thomas Jefferson,
Democrat and freethinker, was President of the United States. Yale was
a stronghold of Federalism. A brother of the President of the College,
in his Fourth-of-July oration delivered at New Haven four months after
the inauguration of Jefferson and Burr, announced to the students and
citizens, that "the great object" of those gentlemen and their
adherents was "to destroy every trace of civilization in the world,
and to force mankind back into a savage state." He also used the
following language:

"We have now reached the consummation of democratic
blessedness. We have a country governed by blockheads and
knaves; the ties of marriage, with all its felicities, are
severed and destroyed; our wives and daughters are thrown
into the stews; our children are cast into the world from
the breast forgotten; filial piety is extinguished; and our
surnames, the only mark of distinction among families, are
abolished. Can the imagination paint anything more dreadful
this side hell?"

These remarkable statements, so far from surprising the virtuous
people of New Haven, were accepted by them, it appears, as facts, and
published with general approval. From what we know of President
Dwight, we may conclude that he would regard his brother's oration as
a pardonable flight of hyperbole, based on truth. He was a Federalist
of the deepest dye.

Transferred to a scene where such opinions prevailed, it cost the
young republican no great exertion either of his intellect or his
firmness or his family pride to hold his ground. Of all known men, he
had the most complete confidence in the infallibility of his own mind.
He used to relate, that in the Senior year, when he was one of very
few in a class of seventy who maintained republican opinions,
President Dwight asked him, "What is the legitimate source of power?"
"The people," answered the student. Dr. Dwight combated this opinion;
Calhoun replied; and the whole hour of recitation was consumed in the
debate. Dr. Dwight was so much struck with the ability displayed by
the student, that he remarked to a friend that Calhoun had talent
enough to be President of the United States, and that we should see
him President in due time. In those innocent days, an observation of
that nature was made of every young fellow who showed a little spirit
and a turn for debate. Fathers did not _then_ say to their promising
offspring, Beware, my son, of self-seeking and shallow speaking, lest
you should be consigned to the White House, and be devoured by
office-seekers. People then regarded the Presidency as a kind of
reward of merit, the first step toward which was to get "up head" in
the spelling-class. There is reason to believe that young Calhoun took
the prediction of the Doctor very seriously. He took everything
seriously. He never made a joke in his life, and was totally destitute
of the sense of humor. It is doubtful if he was ever capable of
unbending so far as to play a game of football.

The ardent political discussions then in vogue had one effect which
the late Mr. Buckle would have pronounced most salutary; they
prevented Dr. Dwight's severe theology from taking hold of the minds
of many students. Calhoun wholly escaped it. In his speeches we find,
of course, the stock allusions of a religious nature with which all
politicians essay to flatter their constituents; but he was never
interested in matters theological. A century earlier, he might have
been the Jonathan Edwards of the South, if there had been a South
then. His was just the mind to have revelled in theological
subtilties, and to have calmly, closely, unrelentingly argued nearly
the whole human race into endless and hopeless perdition. His was just
the nature to have contemplated his argument with complacency, and its
consequences without emotion.

Graduating with credit in 1804, he repaired to the famous Law School
at Litchfield in Connecticut, where he remained a year and a half, and
won general esteem. Tradition reports him a diligent student and an
admirable debater there. As to his moral conduct, that was always
irreproachable. That is to say, he was at every period of his life
continent, temperate, orderly, and out of debt. In 1806, being then
twenty-four years of age, he returned to South Carolina, and, after
studying a short time in a law office at Charleston, he went at last
to his native Abbeville to complete his preparation for the bar. He
was still a law student at that place when the event occurred which
called him into public life.

June 22d, 1807, at noon, the United States frigate Chesapeake,
thirty-eight guns, left her anchorage at Hampton Roads, and put to
sea, bound for the Mediterranean. The United States being at peace
with all the world, the Chesapeake was very far from being in proper
man-of-war trim. Her decks were littered with furniture, baggage,
stores, cables, and animals. The guns were loaded, but rammers,
matches, wadding, cannon-balls, were all out of place, and not
immediately accessible. The crew were merchant sailors and landsmen,
all undrilled in the duties peculiar to an armed ship. There had been
lying for some time at the same anchorage the British frigate Leopard,
fifty guns; and this ship also put to sea at noon of the same day. The
Leopard being in perfect order, and manned by a veteran crew, took the
lead of the Chesapeake, and kept it until three in the afternoon, when
she was a mile in advance. Then she wore round, came within speaking
distance, lowered a boat, and sent a lieutenant on board the American
ship. This officer bore a despatch from the admiral of the station,
ordering any captain who should fall in with the Chesapeake to search
her for deserters. The American commander replied that he knew of no
deserters on board his ship, and could not permit a search to be made,
his orders not authorizing the same. The lieutenant returned. As soon
as he had got on board, and his boat was stowed away, the Leopard
fired a full broadside into the American frigate. The American
commodore, being totally unprepared for such an event, could not
return the fire; and therefore, when his ship had received twenty-one
shot in her hull, when her rigging was much cut up, when three of her
crew were killed and eighteen wounded, the commodore himself among the
latter, he had no choice but to lower his flag. Then the search was
made, and four men, claimed as deserters, were taken; after which the
Leopard continued her course, and the crippled Chesapeake returned to
Hampton Roads. The American commander was sentenced by a court-martial
to five years' suspension for going to sea in such a condition. The
English government recalled the admiral who ordered, and deprived of
his ship the captain who committed, this unparalleled outrage, but
made no other reparation.

No words of ours could convey any adequate idea of the rage which this
event excited in the people of the United States. For a time, the
Federalists themselves were ready for war. There were meetings
everywhere to denounce it, and especially in the Southern States,
always more disposed than the Northern to begin the shedding of blood,
and already the main reliance of the Republican party. Remote and
rustic Abbeville, a very Republican district, was not silent on this
occasion; and who so proper to draw and support the denunciatory
resolutions as young Calhoun, the son of valiant Patrick, fresh from
college, though now in his twenty-sixth year? The student performed
this duty, as requested, and spoke so well that his neighbors at once
concluded that he was the very man, lawyer as he was, to represent
them in the Legislature, where for nearly thirty years his father had
served them. At the next election, in a district noted for its
aversion to lawyers, wherein no lawyer had ever been chosen to the
Legislature, though many had been candidates, he was elected at the
head of his ticket. His triumph was doubtless owing in a great degree
to the paramount influence of his family. Still, even we, who knew him
only in his gaunt and sad decline, can easily imagine that at
twenty-six he must have been an engaging, attractive man. Like most of
his race, he was rather slender, but very erect, with a good deal of
dignity and some grace in his carriage and demeanor. His eyes were
always remarkably fine and brilliant. He had a well-developed and
strongly set nose, cheek-bones high, and cheeks rather sunken. His
mouth was large, and could never have been a comely feature. His early
portraits show his hair erect on his forehead, as we all remember it,
unlike Jackson, whose hair at forty still fell low over his forehead.
His voice could never have been melodious, but it was always powerful.
At every period of his life, his manners, when in company with his
inferiors in age or standing, were extremely agreeable, even
fascinating. We have heard a well-known editor, who began life as a
"page" in the Senate-chamber, say that there was no Senator whom the
pages took such delight in serving as Mr. Calhoun. "Why?"--"Because he
was so democratic."--"How democratic?"--"He was as polite to a page as
to the President of the Senate, and as considerate of his feelings."
We have heard another member of the press, whose first employment was
to report the speeches of Clay, Webster, and Calhoun, bear similar
testimony to the frank, engaging courtesy of his intercourse with the
corps of reporters. It is fair, therefore, to conclude that his early
popularity at home was due as much to his character and manners as to
his father's name and the influence of his relatives.

He served two years in the Legislature, and in the intervals between
the sessions practised law at Abbeville. At once he took a leading
position in the Legislature. He had been in his seat but a few days
when the Republican members, as the custom then was, met in caucus to
nominate a President and Vice-President of the United States. For Mr.
Madison the caucus was unanimous, but there was a difference with
regard to the Vice-Presidency, then filled by the aged George Clinton
of New York, who represented the anti-Virginian wing of the party in
power. Mr. Calhoun, in a set speech, opposed the renomination of
Governor Clinton, on the ground that in the imminency of a war with
England the Republican party ought to present an unbroken front. He
suggested the nomination of John Langdon of New Hampshire for the
second office. At this late day we cannot determine whether this
suggestion was original with Mr. Calhoun. We only know that the caucus
affirmed it, and that the nomination was afterwards tendered to Mr.
Langdon by the Republican party, and declined by him. Mr. Calhoun's
speech on this occasion was the expression of Southern opinions as to
the foreign policy of the country. The South was then nearly ready for
war with England, while Northern Republicans still favored Mr.
Jefferson's non-intercourse policy. In this instance, as in so many
others, we find the Slave States, which used to plume themselves upon
being the conservative element in an else unrestrainable democracy,
ready for war first, though far from being the worst sufferers from
England's piracy's. We should have had _no_ war from 1782 to 1865, but
for them. We also find Mr. Calhoun, in this his first utterance as a
public man, the mouthpiece of his "section." He has been styled the
most inconsistent of our statesmen; but beneath the palpable
contradictions of his speeches, there is to be noticed a deeper
consistency. Whatever opinion, whatever policy, he may have advocated,
he always spoke the sense of what Mr. Sumner used to call the Southern
oligarchy. If _it_ changed, _he_ changed. If he appeared sometimes to
lead it, it was by leading it in the direction in which it wanted to
go. He was doubtless as sincere in this as any great special pleader
is in a cause in which all his powers are enlisted. Calhoun's mind was
narrow and provincial. He could not have been the citizen of a large
place. As a statesman he was naturally the advocate of something
special and sectional, something not the whole.

Distinguished in the Legislature, he was elected, late in 1810, by a
very great majority, to represent his district in Congress. In May,
1811, he was married to a second-cousin, Floride Calhoun, who brought
a considerable accession to his slender estate. November 4, 1811, he
took his seat in the House of Representatives. Thus, at the early age
of twenty-nine, he was fairly launched into public life, with the
advantage, usually enjoyed then by Southern members, of being
independent in his circumstances. Though unknown to the country, his
fame had preceded him to Washington; and the Speaker, Mr. Clay, gave
him a place on the Committee on Foreign Relations. This Committee,
considering that Congress had been summoned a month earlier than usual
for the express purpose of dealing with foreign relations, was at once
the most important and the most conspicuous committee of the House.

Mr. Calhoun's first session gave him national reputation, and made him
a leader of the war party in Congress. We could perhaps say _the_
leader, since Mr. Clay was not upon the floor. After surveying the
novel scene around him for six weeks, he delivered his maiden
speech,--a plain, forcible, not extraordinary argument in favor of
preparing for war. It was prodigiously successful, so far as the
reputation of the speaker was concerned. Members gathered round to
congratulate the young orator; and Father Ritchie (if he was a father
then) "hailed this young Carolinian as one of the master spirits who
stamp their names upon the age in which they live." This speech
contains one passage which savors of the "chivalric" taint, and
indicates the provincial mind. In replying to the objection founded on
the expenses of a war, he said:

"I enter my solemn protest against this low and 'calculating
avarice' entering this hall of legislation. It is _only fit
for shops and counting-houses_, and ought not to disgrace
the seat of power by its squalid aspect. Whenever it touches
sovereign power, the nation is ruined. It is too
short-sighted to defend itself. It is a compromising spirit,
always ready to yield a part to save the residue. It is too
timid to have in itself the laws of self-preservation.
Sovereign power is never safe but under the shield of

This was thought very fine talk in those simple days among the simple
Southern country members.

As the session progressed, Mr. Calhoun spoke frequently, and with
greater effect. Wisely he never spoke. In his best efforts we see that
something which we know not what to name, unless we call it
_Southernism_. If it were allowable to use a slang expression, we
should style the passages to which we refer effective bosh. The most
telling passage in the most telling speech which he delivered at this
session may serve to illustrate our meaning. Imagine these short,
vigorous sentences uttered with great rapidity, in a loud, harsh
voice, and with energy the most intense:--

"Tie down a hero, and he feels the puncture of a pin; throw
him into battle, and he is almost insensible to vital
gashes. So in war. Impelled alternately by hope and fear,
stimulated by revenge, depressed by shame, or elevated by
victory, the people become invincible. No privation can
shake their fortitude; no calamity break their spirit. Even
when equally successful, the contrast between the two
systems is striking. War and restriction may leave the
country equally exhausted; but the latter not only leaves
you poor, but, even when successful, dispirited, divided,
discontented, with diminished patriotism, and the morals of
a considerable portion of your people corrupted. Not so in
war. In that state, the common danger unites all,
strengthens the bonds of society, and feeds the flame of
patriotism. The national character mounts to energy. In
exchange for the expenses and privations of war, you obtain
military and naval skill, and a more perfect organization of
such parts of your administration as are connected with the
science of national defence. Sir, are these advantages to be
counted as trifles in the present state of the world? Can
they be measured by moneyed valuation? I would prefer a
single victory over the enemy, by sea or land, to all the
good we shall ever derive from the continuation of the
Non-importation act. I know not that a victory would produce
an equal pressure on the enemy; but I am certain of what is
of greater consequence, it would be accompanied by more
salutary effects to ourselves. The memory of Saratoga,
Princeton, and Eutaw is immortal. It is there you will find
the country's boast and pride,--the inexhaustible source of
great and heroic sentiments. But what will history say of
restriction? What examples worthy of imitation will it
furnish to posterity? What pride, what pleasure will our
children find in the events of such times? Let me not be
considered romantic. This nation ought to be taught to rely
on its courage, its fortitude, its skill and virtue, for
protection. These are the only safeguards in the hour of
danger. Man was endued with these great qualities for his
defence. There is nothing about him that indicates that he
is to conquer by endurance. He is not incrusted in a shell;
he is not taught to rely upon his insensibility, his passive
suffering, for defence. No, sir; it is on the invincible
mind, on a magnanimous nature, he ought to rely. Here is the
superiority of our kind; it is these that render man the
lord of the world. Nations rise above nations, as they are
endued in a greater degree with these brilliant qualities."

This passage is perfectly characteristic of Calhoun, whose speeches
present hundreds of such inextricable blendings of truth and

We have the written testimony of an honorable man, still living,
Commodore Charles Stewart, U. S. N., that John C. Calhoun was a
conscious traitor to the Union as early as 1812. In December of that
year, Captain Stewart's ship, the Constitution, was refitting at the
Washington Navy Yard, and the Captain was boarding at Mrs. Bushby's,
with Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun, and many other Republican members.
Conversing one evening with the new member from South Carolina, he
told him that he was "puzzled" to account for the close alliance which
existed between the Southern planters and the Northern Democracy.

"You," said Captain Stewart,

"in the South and Southwest, are decidedly the aristocratic
portion of this Union; you are so in holding persons in
perpetuity in slavery; you are so in every domestic quality,
so in every habit in your lives, living, and actions, so in
habits, customs, intercourse, and manners; you neither work
with your hands, heads, nor any machinery, but live and have
your living, not in accordance with the will of your
Creator, but by the sweat of slavery, and yet you assume all
the attributes, professions, and advantages of democracy."

Mr. Calhoun, aged thirty, replied thus to Captain Stewart, aged

"I see you speak through the head of a young statesman, and
from the heart of a patriot, but you lose sight of the
politician and the sectional policy of the people. I admit
your conclusions in respect to us Southrons. That we are
essentially aristocratic, I cannot deny; but we can and do
yield much to democracy. This is our sectional policy; we
are from necessity thrown upon and solemnly wedded to that
party, however it may occasionally clash with our feelings,
for the conservation of our interests. It is through our
affiliation with that party in the Middle and Western States
that we hold power; but when we cease thus to control this
nation through a disjointed democracy, or any material
obstacle in that party which shall tend to throw us out of
that rule and control, we shall then resort to the
dissolution of the Union. The compromises in the
Constitution, under the circumstances, were sufficient for
our fathers, but, under the altered condition of our country
from that period, leave to the South no resource but
dissolution; for no amendments to the Constitution could be
reached through a convention of the people under their
three-fourths rule."

Probably all of our readers have seen this conversation in print
before. But it is well for us to consider it again and again. It is
the key to all the seeming inconsistencies of Mr. Calhoun's career. He
came up to Congress, and took the oath to support the Constitution,
secretly resolved to break up the country just as soon as the Southern
planters ceased to control it for the maintenance of their peculiar
interest. The reader will note, too, the distinction made by this
young man, who was never youthful, between the "statesman" and the
"politician," and between the "heart of a patriot" and "the sectional
policy of the people."

Turning from his loathsome and despicable exposition to the
Congressional career of Mr. Calhoun, we find no indication there of
the latent traitor. He was merely a very active, energetic member of
the Republican party; supporting the war by assiduous labors in
committee, and by intense declamation of the kind of which we have
given a specimen. In all his speeches there is not a touch of
greatness. He declared that Demosthenes was his model,--an orator who
was a master of all the arts? all the artifices, and all the tricks by
which a mass of ignorant and turbulent hearers can be kept attentive,
but who has nothing to impart to a member of Congress who honestly
desires to convince his equals. Mr. Calhoun's harangues in the
supposed Demosthenean style gave him, however, great reputation out of
doors, while his diligence, his dignified and courteous manners,
gained him warm admirers on the floor. He was a messmate of Mr. Clay
at this time. Besides agreeing in politics, they were on terms of
cordial personal intimacy. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House, was but
five years older than Calhoun, and in everything but years much
younger. Honest patriots pointed to these young men with pride and
hope, congratulating each other that, though the Revolutionary
statesmen were growing old and passing away, the high places of the
Republic would be filled, in due time, by men worthy to succeed them.

When the war was over, a strange thing was to be noted in the politics
of the United States: the Federal party was dead, but the Republican
party had adopted its opinions. The disasters of the war had convinced
almost every man of the necessity of investing the government with the
power to wield the resources of the country more readily; and,
accordingly, we find leading Republicans, like Judge Story, John
Quincy Adams, and Mr. Clay, favoring the measures which had formerly
been the special rallying-cries of the Federalists. Judge Story spoke
the feeling of his party when he wrote, in 1815:

"Let us extend the national authority over the whole extent
of power given by the Constitution. Let us have great
military and naval schools, an adequate regular army, the
broad foundations laid of a permanent navy, a national bank,
a national bankrupt act,"

etc., etc. The strict-constructionists were almost silenced in the
general cry, "Let us be a Nation." In the support of _all_ the
measures to which this feeling gave rise, especially the national
bank, internal improvements, and a protective tariff, Mr. Calhoun went
as far as any man, and farther than most; for such at that time was
the humor of the planters.

To the principle of a protective tariff he was peculiarly committed.
It had not been his intention to take part in the debates on the
Tariff Bill of 1816. On the 6th of April, while he was busy writing in
a committee-room, Mr. Samuel D. Ingham of Pennsylvania, his particular
friend and political ally, came to him and said that the House had
fallen into some confusion while discussing the tariff bill, and
added, that, as it was "difficult to rally so large a body when once
broken on a tax bill," he wished Mr. Calhoun would speak on the
question in order to keep the House together. "What can I say?"
replied the member from South Carolina. Mr. Ingham, however,
persisted, and Mr. Calhoun addressed the House. An amendment had just
been introduced to leave cotton goods unprotected, a proposition which
had been urged on the ground that Congress had no authority to impose
any duty except for revenue. On rising to speak, Mr. Calhoun at once,
and most unequivocally, committed himself to the protective principle.
He began by saying, that, _if the right to protect had not been called
in question, he would not have spoken at all_. It was solely to assist
in establishing _that_ right that he had been induced, without
previous preparation, to take part in the debate. He then proceeded to
deliver an ordinary protectionist speech; without, however, entering
upon the questioner constitutional right. He merely dwelt upon the
great benefits to be derived from affording to our infant manufactures
"immediate and ample protection." That the Constitution interposed no
obstacle, was assumed by him throughout. He concluded by observing,
that a flourishing manufacturing interest would "bind together more
closely our widely-spread republic," since

"it will greatly increase our mutual dependence and
intercourse, and excite an increased attention to internal
improvements,--a subject every way so intimately connected
with the ultimate attainment of national strength and the
perfection of our political institutions."

He further observed, that "the liberty and union of this country are
inseparable," and that the destruction of either would involve the
destruction of the other. He concluded his speech with these words:
"Disunion,--this single word comprehends almost the sum of our
political dangers, and against it we ought to be perpetually guarded."

The time has passed for any public man to claim credit for
"consistency." A person who, after forty years of public life, can
truly say that he has never changed an opinion, must be either a
demigod or a fool. We do not blame Mr. Calhoun for ceasing to be a
protectionist and becoming a free-trader; for half the thinking world
has changed sides on that question during the last thirty years. A
growing mind must necessarily change its opinions. But there _is_ a
consistency from which no man, public or private, can ever be
absolved,--the consistency of his statements with fact. In the year
1833, in his speech on the Force Bill, Mr. Calhoun referred to his
tariff speech of 1816 in a manner which excludes him from the ranks of
men of honor. He had the astonishing audacity to say:

"I am constrained in candor to acknowledge, for I wish to
disguise nothing, that the protective principle was
recognized by the Act of 1816. How this was overlooked at
the time, it is not in my power to say. _It escaped my
observation_, which I can account for only on the ground
that the principle was new, and that my attention was
engaged by another important subject."

The charitable reader may interpose here, and say that Mr. Calhoun may
have forgotten his speech of 1816. Alas! no. He had that speech before
him at the time. Vigilant opponents had unearthed it, and kindly
presented a copy to the author. We do not believe that, in all the
debates of the American Congress, there is another instance of flat
falsehood as bad as this. It happens that the speech of 1816 and that
of 1833 are both published in the same volume of the Works of Mr.
Calhoun (Vol. II. pp. 163 and 197). We advise our readers who have the
time and opportunity to read both, if they wish to see how a false
position necessitates a false tongue. Those who take our advice will
also discover why it was that Mr. Calhoun dared to utter such an
impudent falsehood: his speeches are such appallingly dull reading,
that there was very little risk of a busy people's comparing the
interpretation with the text.

It was John C. Calhoun who, later in the same session, introduced the
bill for setting apart the dividends and bonus of the United States
Bank as a permanent fund for internal improvements. His speech on this
bill, besides going all lengths in favor of the internal improvement
system, presents some amusing contrasts with his later speeches on the
same subject. His hearers of 1835 to 1850 must have smiled on reading
in the speech of 1817 such sentences as these:--

"I am no advocate for _refined arguments_ on the
Constitution. The instrument was not intended as a thesis
for the logician to exercise his ingenuity on. It ought to
be construed with plain good-sense." "If we are restricted
in the use of our money to the enumerated powers, on what
principle can the purchase of Louisiana be justified?" "The
uniform sense of Congress and the country furnishes better
evidence of the true interpretation of the Constitution than
the most refined and subtle arguments."

Mark this, too:--

"In a country so extensive and so various in its interests,
what is necessary for the common interest may apparently be
opposed to the interest of particular sections. _It must be
submitted to as the condition of our greatness_."

Well might he say, in the same speech:--

"We may reasonably raise our eyes to a most splendid future,
if we only act in a manner worthy of our advantages. If,
however, neglecting them, we permit a low, sordid, selfish,
_sectional_ spirit to take possession of this House, this
happy scene will vanish. We will divide; and, in its
consequences, will follow misery and despotism."

With this speech before him and before the country, Mr. Calhoun had
not the candor to avow, in later years, a complete change of opinion.
He could only go so far as to say, when opposing the purchase of the
Madison Papers in 1837, that, "at his entrance upon public life, he
had _inclined_ to that interpretation of the Constitution which
favored a latitude of powers." Inclined! He was a most enthusiastic
and thorough-going champion of that interpretation. His scheme of
internal improvements embraced a network of post-roads and canals from
"Maine to Louisiana," and a system of harbors for lake and ocean. He
kindled, he glowed, at the spectacle which his imagination conjured
up, of the whole country rendered accessible, and of the distant
farmer selling his produce at a price not seriously less than that
which it brought on the coast. On this subject he became animated,
interesting, almost eloquent. And, so far from this advocacy being
confined to the period of his "entrance upon political life," he
continued to be its very warmest exponent as late as 1819, when he had
been ten years in public life. In that year, having to report upon the
condition of military roads and fortifications, his flaming zeal for a
grand and general system of roads and canals frequently bursts the
bounds of the subject he had to treat. He tells Congress that the
internal improvements which are best for peace are best for war also;
and expatiates again upon his dazzling dream of "connecting Louisiana
by a durable and well-finished road with Maine, and Boston with
Savannah by a well-established line of internal navigation." The
United States, he said, with its vast systems of lakes, rivers, and
mountains, its treble line of sea-coast, its valleys large enough for
empires, was "a world of itself," and needed nothing but to be
rendered accessible. From what we know of the way things are managed
in Congress, we should guess that he was invited to make this report
for the very purpose of affording to the foremost champion of internal
improvements an opportunity of lending a helping hand to pending

Mr. Calhoun served six years in the House of Representatives, and grew
in the esteem of Congress and the country at every session. As it is
pleasing to see an old man at the theatre entering into the merriment
of the play, since it shows that his heart has triumphed over the
cares of life, and he has preserved a little of his youth, so is it
eminently graceful in a young man to have something of the seriousness
of age, especially when his conduct is even more austere than his
demeanor. Mr. Clay at this time was addicted to gaming, like most of
the Western and Southern members, and he was not averse to the bottle.
Mr. Webster was reckless in expenditure, fond of his ease, and loved a
joke better than an argument. In the seclusion of Washington, many
members lived a very gay, rollicking life. Mr. Calhoun never gambled,
never drank to excess, never jested, never quarrelled, cared nothing
for his ease, and tempered the gravity of his demeanor by an admirable
and winning courtesy. A deep and serious ambition impelled and
restrained him. Like boys at school, Clay and Webster were eager
enough to get to the head of the class, but they did not brood over it
all the time, and never feel comfortable unless they were conning
their spelling-book; while little Calhoun expended all his soul in the
business, and had no time or heart left for play. Consequently he
advanced rapidly for one of his size, and was universally pointed at
as the model scholar. Accidents, too, generally favor a rising man.
Mr. Calhoun made an extremely lucky hit in 1815, which gave members
the highest opinion of his sagacity. In opposing an ill-digested
scheme for a national bank, he told the House that the bill was so
obviously defective and unwise, that, if news of peace should arrive
that day, it would not receive fifteen votes. News of peace, which was
totally unexpected, did arrive that very hour, and the bill was
rejected the next day by about the majority which he had predicted. At
the next session, he won an immense reputation for firmness. An act
was passed changing the mode of compensating members of Congress from
six dollars a day to fifteen hundred dollars a year. We were a nation
of rustics then; and this harmless measure excited a disgust in the
popular mind so intense and general, that most of the members who had
voted for it declined to present themselves for re-election. Calhoun
was one of the guilty ones. Popular as he was in his district,
supported by two powerful family connections,--his own and his
wife's,--admired throughout the State as one who had done honor to it
upon the conspicuous scene of Congressional debate,--even he was
threatened with defeat. Formidable candidates presented themselves. In
these circumstances he mounted the stump, boldly justified his vote,
and defended the odious bill. He was handsomely re-elected, and when
the bill was up for repeal in the House he again supported it with all
his former energy. At the conclusion of his speech, a member from New
York, Mr. Grosvenor, a political opponent, with whom Calhoun had not
been on speaking terms for two years, sprang to his feet, enraptured,
and began to express his approval of the speech in ordinary
parliamentary language. But his feelings could not be relieved in that
manner. He paused a moment, and then said:--

"Mr. Speaker, I will not be restrained. No barrier shall
exist which I will not leap over for the purpose of offering
to that gentleman my thanks for the judicious, independent,
and national course which he has pursued in this House for
the last two years, and particularly upon the subject now
before us. Let the honorable gentleman continue with the
same manly independence, aloof from party views and local
prejudices, to pursue the great interests of his country,
and fulfil the high destiny for which it is manifest he was
born. The buzz of popular applause may not cheer him on his
way, but he will inevitably arrive at a high and happy
elevation in the view of his country and the world."

Such scenes as this enhance the prestige of a rising man. Members weak
at home envied at once and admired a man who was strong enough to
bring over his constituents to his opinion. He was fortunate, too, in
this, that a triumph so striking occurred just before he left the
House for another sphere of public life. He had what the actors call a
splendid exit.

The inauguration of Mr. Monroe on the 4th of March, 1817, ushered in
the era of good feeling, and gave to Henry Clay the first of his long
series of disappointments. As Secretaries of State had usually
succeeded their chiefs in the Presidency, the appointment of Mr. Adams
to that office by Mr. Monroe was regarded almost in the light of a
nomination to the succession. To add to Mr. Clay's mortification, be
was tendered the post of Secretary of War, which he had declined a
year before, and now again declined. The President next selected
General Jackson, then in the undimmed lustre of his military renown,
and still holding his Major-General's commission. He received,
however, a private notification that General Jackson would not accept
a place in the Cabinet. The President then offered the post to the
aged Governor Isaac Shelby of Kentucky, who had the good sense to
decline it. There appear to have been negotiations with other
individuals, but at length, in October, 1817, the place was offered to
Mr. Calhoun, who, after much hesitation, accepted it, and entered upon
the discharge of its duties in December. His friends, we are told,
unanimously disapproved his going into office, as they believed him
formed to shine in debate rather than in the transaction of business.

Fortune favored him again. Entering the office after a long vacancy,
and when it was filled with the unfinished business of the war,--fifty
million dollars of deferred claims, for one item,--he had the same
easy opportunity for distinction which a steward has who takes charge
of an estate just out of chancery, and under a new proprietor who has
plenty of money. The sweeping up of the dead leaves, the gathering of
the fallen branches, and the weeding out of the paths, changes the
aspect of the place, and gives the passer-by a prodigious idea of the
efficiency of the new broom. The country was alive, too, to the
necessity of coast and frontier defences, and there was much building
of forts during the seven years of Mr. Calhoun's tenure of place.
Respecting the manner in which he discharged the multifarious and
unusual duties of his office, we have never heard anything but
commendation. He was prompt, punctual, diligent, courteous, and firm.
The rules which he drew up for the regulation of the War Department
remained in force, little changed, until the magnitude of the late
contest abolished or suspended all ancient methods. The claims of the
soldiers were rapidly examined and passed upon. It was Mr. Calhoun who
first endeavored to collect considerable bodies of troops for
instruction at one post. He had but six thousand men in all, but he
contrived to get together several companies of artillery at Fortress
Monroe for drill. He appeared to take much interest in the expenditure
of the ten thousand dollars a year which Congress voted for the
education of the Indians. He reduced the expenses of his office, which
was a very popular thing at that day. He never appointed nor removed a
clerk for opinion's sake. In seven years he only removed two clerks,
both for cause, and to both were given in writing the reasons of their
removal. There was no special merit in this, for at that day to do
otherwise would have been deemed infamous.

Mr. Calhoun, as a member of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet, still played the
part of a national man, and supported the measures of his party
without exception. Scarcely a trace of the sectional champion yet
appears. In 1819, he gave a written opinion favoring the cession of
Texas in exchange for Florida; the motive of which was to avoid
alarming the North by the prospective increase of Slave States. In
later years, Mr. Calhoun, of course, wished to deny this; and the
written opinions of Mr. Monroe's Cabinet on that question mysteriously
disappeared from the archives of the State Department. We have the
positive testimony of Mr. John Quincy Adams, that Calhoun, in common
with most Southern men of that day, approved the Missouri Compromise
of 1820, and gave a written opinion that it was a constitutional
measure. That he was still an enthusiast for internal improvements, we
have already mentioned.

The real difficulty of the War Department, however, as of the State
Department, during the Monroe administration, was a certain
Major-General Andrew Jackson, commanding the Military Department of
the South. The popularity of the man who had restored the nation's
self-love by ending a disastrous war with a dazzling and most
unexpected victory, was something different from the respect which we
all now feel for the generals distinguished in the late war. The first
honors of the late war are divided among four chieftains, each of whom
contributed to the final success at least one victory that was
essential to it. But in 1815, among the military heroes of the war
that had just closed General Jackson stood peerless and alone. His
success in defending the Southwest, ending in a blaze of glory below
New Orleans, utterly eclipsed all the other achievements of the war,
excepting alone the darling triumphs on the ocean and the lakes. The
deferential spirit of Mr. Monroe's letters to the General, and the
readiness of every one everywhere to comply with his wishes, show that
his popularity, even then, constituted him a power in the Republic. It
was said in later times, that "General Jackson's popularity could
stand anything," and in one sense this was true: it could stand
anything that General Jackson was likely to do. Andrew Jackson could
never have done a cowardly act, or betrayed a friend, or knowingly
violated a trust, or broken his word, or forgotten a debt. He was
always so entirely certain that he, Andrew Jackson, was in the right,
his conviction on this point was so free from the least quaver of
doubt, that he could always convince other men that he was right, and
carry the multitude with him. His honesty, courage, and inflexible
resolution, joined to his ignorance, narrowness, intensity, and
liability to prejudice, rendered him at once the idol of his
countrymen and the plague of all men with whom he had official
connection. Drop an Andrew Jackson from the clouds upon any spot of
earth inhabited by men, and he will have half a dozen deadly feuds
upon his hands in thirty days.

Mr. Calhoun inherited a quarrel with Jackson from George Graham, his
_pro tempore_ predecessor in the War Department, This Mr. Graham was
the gentleman ("spy," Jackson termed him) despatched by President
Jefferson in 1806 to the Western country to look into the mysterious
proceedings of Aaron Burr, which led to the explosion of Burr's
scheme. This was enough to secure the bitterest enmity of Jackson, who
wholly and always favored Burr's design of annihilating the Spanish
power in North America, and who, as President of the United States,
rewarded Burr's followers, and covertly assisted Houston to carry out
part of Burr's project. Graham had sent orders to Jackson's
subordinates directly, instead of sending them through the chief of
the Department. Jackson, after due remonstrance, ordered his officers
not to obey any orders but such as were communicated by or through
himself. This was a high-handed measure; but Mr. Calhoun, on coming
into power, passed it by without notice, and conceded the substance of
Jackson's demand,--as he ought. This was so exquisitely pleasing to
General Jackson, that he was well affected by it for many years
towards Mr. Calhoun. Among the younger public men of that day, there
was no one who stood so high in Jackson's regard as the Secretary of

The Florida war followed in 1818. When the report of General Jackson's
invasion of Florida, and of the execution of Arbuthnot and Armbrister
reached Washington, Mr. Calhoun was the only man in the Cabinet who
expressed the opinion that General Jackson had transcended his powers,
and ought to be brought before a court of inquiry. This opinion he
supported with ardor, until it was overruled by the President, who was
chiefly influenced by Mr. Adams, the Secretary of State. How keenly
General Jackson resented the course of Mr. Calhoun on this occasion,
when, eleven years afterwards, he discovered it, is sufficiently well
known. We believe, however, that the facts justify Calhoun and condemn
Jackson. Just before going to the seat of war, the General wrote
privately to the President, strongly recommending the seizure of
Florida, and added these words:

"This can be done without implicating the government. Let it
be signified to me through any channel (say, Mr. J. Rhea)
that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to
the United States, and in sixty days it will be

General Jackson dwells, in his "Exposition" of this matter, upon the
fact that Mr. Calhoun was the first man in Washington who read this
letter. But he does not say that Mr. Calhoun was aware that Mr. Rhea
had been commissioned to answer the letter, and had answered it in
accordance with General Jackson's wishes. And if the Rhea
correspondence justified the seizure of Florida, it did not justify
the execution of the harmless Scottish trader Arbuthnot, who, so far
from "instigating" the war, had exerted the whole of his influence to
prevent it. It is an honor to Mr. Calhoun to have been the only man in
the Cabinet to call for an inquiry into proceedings which disgraced
the United States and came near involving the country in war. We have
always felt it to be a blot upon the memory of John Quincy Adams, that
he did not join Mr. Calhoun in demanding the trial of General Jackson;
and we have not been able to attribute his conduct to anything but the
supposed necessities of his position as a candidate for the

Readers versed in political history need not be reminded that nearly
every individual in the Cabinet of Mr. Monroe had hopes of succeeding
him. Mr. Adams had, of course; for he was the premier. Mr. Crawford,
of course; for it had been "arranged" at the last caucus that he was
to follow Mr. Monroe, to whose claims he had deferred on that express
condition. Henry Clay, the Speaker of the House of Representatives,
and De Witt Clinton of New York, had expectations. All these gentlemen
had "claims" which both their party and the public could recognize.
Mr. Calhoun, too, who was forty-two years of age in Mr. Monroe's last
year of service, boldly entered the lists; relying upon the united
support of the South and the support of the manufacturing States of
the North, led by Pennsylvania. That against such competitors he had
any ground at all to hope for success, shows how rapid and how real
had been his progress toward a first-rate national position. If our
readers will turn to the letters of Webster, Story, Wirt, Adams,
Jackson, and others of that circle of distinguished men, they will see
many evidences of the extravagant estimation in which he was held in
1824. They appear to have all seen in him the material for a
President, though not yet quite mature for the position. They all
deemed him a man of unsullied honor, of devoted patriotism, of perfect
sincerity, and of immense ability,--so assiduously had he played the
part of the good boy.

How the great popularity of General Jackson was adroitly used by two
or three invisible wire-pullers to defeat the aspirations of these too
eager candidates, and how from the general wreck of their hopes Mr.
Calhoun had the dexterity to emerge Vice-President of the United
States, has been related with the amplest detail, and need not be
repeated here. Mr. Calhoun's position seemed then to combine all the
advantages which a politician of forty-three could desire or imagine.
By withdrawing his name from the list of candidates in such a way as
to lead General Jackson to suppose that he had done so in _his_ favor,
he seemed to place the General under obligations to him. By secretly
manifesting a preference for Mr. Adams (which he really felt) when the
election devolved upon the House of Representatives, he had gained
friends among the adherents of the successful candidate. His
withdrawal was accepted by the public as an evidence of modesty
becoming the youngest candidate. Finally he was actually
Vice-President, as John Adams had been, as Jefferson had been, before
their elevation to the highest place. True, Henry Clay, as Secretary
of State, was in the established line of succession; but, as time wore
on, it became very manifest that the re-election of Mr. Adams, upon
which Mr. Clay's hopes depended, was itself exceedingly doubtful; and
we accordingly find Mr. Calhoun numbered in the ranks of the
opposition. Toward the close of Mr. Adams's Presidency, the question
of real interest in the inner circle of politicians was, not who
should succeed John Quincy Adams in 1829, but who should succeed
Andrew Jackson in 1833; and already the choice was narrowing to two
men,--Martin Van Buren and John C. Calhoun.

During Mr. Calhoun's first term in the Vice-Presidency,--1825 to
1829,--a most important change took place in his political position,
which controlled all his future career. While he was Secretary of
War,--1817 to 1824,--he resided with his family in Washington, and
shared in the nationalizing influences of the place. When he was
elected Vice-President, he removed to a plantation called Fort Hill,
in the western part of South Carolina, where he was once more
subjected to the intense and narrow provincialism of the planting
States. And there was nothing in the character or in the acquirements
of his mind to counteract that influence. Mr. Calhoun was not a
student; he probed nothing to the bottom; his information on all
subjects was small in quantity, and second-hand in quality. Nor was he
a patient thinker. Any stray fact or notion that he met with in his
hasty desultory reading, which chanced to give apparent support to a
favorite theory or paradox of his own, he seized upon eagerly, paraded
it in triumph, but pondered it little; while the weightiest facts
which controverted his opinion he brushed aside without the slightest
consideration. His mind was as arrogant as his manners were courteous.
Every one who ever conversed with him must remember his positive,
peremptory, unanswerable "_Not at all, not at all_" whenever one of
his favorite positions was assailed. He was wholly a special pleader;
he never summed up the testimony. We find in his works no evidence
that he had read the masters in political economy; not even Adam
Smith, whose reputation was at its height during the' first half of
his public life. In history he was the merest smatterer, though it was
his favorite reading, and he was always talking about Sparta, Athens,
and Rome. The slenderness of his far tune prevented his travelling. He
never saw Europe; and if he ever visited the Northern States, after
leaving college, his stay was short. The little that he knew of life
was gathered in three places, all of which were of an exceptional and
artificial character,--the city of Washington, the up-country of South
Carolina, and the luxurious, reactionary city of Charleston. His mind,
naturally narrow and intense, became, by revolving always in this
narrow sphere and breathing a close and tainted atmosphere, more and
more fixed in its narrowness and more intense in its operations.

This man, moreover, was consumed by a poor ambition: he lusted after
the Presidency. The rapidity of his progress in public life, the high
offices he had held, the extravagant eulogiums he had received from
colleagues and the press, deceived him as to the real nature of his
position before the country, and blinded him to the superior chances
of other men. Five times in his life he made a distinct clutch at the
bawble, but never with such prospect of success that any man could
discern it but himself and those who used his eyes. It is a
satisfaction to know that, of the Presidency seekers,--Clay, Webster,
Calhoun, Douglas, Wise, Breckenridge, Tyler, Fillmore, Clinton, Burr,
Cass, Buchanan, and Van Buren,--only two won the prize, and those two
only by a series of accidents which had little, to do with their own
exertions. We can almost lay it down as a law of this Republic, that
no man who makes the Presidency the principal object of his public
life will ever be President. The Presidency is an accident, and such
it will probably remain.

Mr. Vice-President Calhoun found his Carolina discontented in 1824,
when he took up his abode at Fort Hill. Since the Revolution, South
Carolina had never been satisfied, and had never had reason to be. The
cotton-gin had appeased her for a while, but had not suspended the
operation of the causes which produced the stagnation of the South.
Profuse expenditure, unskilful agriculture, the costliest system of
labor in the world, and no immigration, still kept _Irelandizing_ the
Southern States; while the North was advancing and improving to such a
degree as to attract emigrants from all lands. The contrast was
painful to Southern men, and to most of them it was mysterious.
Southern politicians came to the conclusion that the cause at once of
Northern prosperity and Southern poverty was the protective tariff and
the appropriations for internal improvements, but chiefly the tariff.
In 1824, when Mr. Calhoun went home, the tariff on some leading
articles had been increased, and the South was in a ferment of
opposition to the protective system. If Mr. Calhoun had been a wise
and honest man, he would have reminded his friends that the decline of
the South had been a subject of remark from the peace of 1783, and
therefore could not have been caused by the tariff of 1816, or 1820,
or 1824. He would have told them that slavery, as known in the
Southern States, demands virgin lands,--must have, every few years,
its cotton-gin, its Louisiana, its Cherokee country, its _something_,
to give new value to its products or new scope for its operations. He
might have added that the tariff of 1824 was a grievance, did tend to
give premature development to a manufacturing system, and was a fair
ground for a national issue between parties. The thing which he did
was this: he adopted the view of the matter which was predominant in
the extreme South, and accepted the leadership of the extreme
Southern, anti-tariff, strict-constructionist wing of the Democratic
party. He echoed the prevailing opinion, that the tariff and the
internal improvement system, to both of which he was fully committed,
were the _sole_ causes of Southern stagnation; since by the one their
money was taken from them, and by the other it was mostly spent where
it did them no good.

He was, of course, soon involved in a snarl of contradictions, from
which he never could disentangle himself. Let us pass to the year
1828, a most important one in the history of the country and of Mr.
Calhoun; for then occurred the first of the long series of events
which terminated with the surrender of the last Rebel army in 1865.
The first act directly tending to a war between the South and the
United States bears date December 6, 1828; and it was the act of John
C. Calhoun.

It was the year of that Presidential election which placed Andrew
Jackson in the White House, and re-elected Mr. Calhoun to the
Vice-Presidency. It was the year that terminated the honorable part of
Mr. Calhoun's career and began the dishonorable. His political
position in the canvass was utterly false, as he himself afterwards
confessed. On the one hand, he was supporting for the Presidency a man
committed to the policy of protection; and on the other, he became the
organ and mouthpiece of the Southern party, whose opposition to the
protective principle was tending to the point of armed resistance to
it. The tariff bill of 1828, which they termed the bill of
abominations, had excited the most heated opposition in the cotton
States, and especially in South Carolina. This act was passed in the
spring of the very year in which those States voted for a man who had
publicly endorsed the principle involved in it; and we see Mr. Calhoun
heading the party who were electioneering for Jackson, and the party
who were considering the policy of nullifying the act which he had
approved. His Presidential aspirations bound him to the support of
General Jackson; but the first, the fundamental necessity of his
position was to hold possession of South Carolina.

The burden of Mr. Calhoun's later speeches was the reconciliation of
the last part of his public life with the first. The task was
difficult, for there is not a leading proposition in his speeches
after 1830 which is not refuted by arguments to be found in his public
utterances before 1828. In his speech on the Force Bill, in 1834, he
volunteered an explanation of the apparent inconsistency between his
support of General Jackson in 1828, and his authorship of the "South
Carolina Exposition" in the same year. Falsehood and truth are
strangely interwoven in almost every sentence of his later writings;
and there is also that vagueness in them which comes of a superfluity
of words. He says, that for the strict-constructionist party to have
presented a candidate openly and fully identified with their opinions
would have been to court defeat; and thus they were obliged either to
abandon the contest, or to select a candidate "whose opinions were
intermediate or doubtful on the subject which divided the two
sections,"--a candidate "who, at best, was but a choice of evils."
Besides, General Jackson was a Southern man, and it was hoped that,
notwithstanding his want of experience, knowledge, and self-control,
the advisers whom he would invite to assist him would compensate for
those defects. Then Mr. Calhoun proceeds to state, that the contest
turned chiefly upon the question of protection or free trade; and the
strife was, which of the two parties should go farthest in the
advocacy of protection. The result was, he says, that the tariff bill
of 1828 was passed,--"that disastrous measure which has brought so
many calamities upon us, and put in peril the liberty and union of the
country," and "poured millions into the treasury beyond the most
extravagant wants of the country."

The passage of this tariff bill was accomplished by the tact of Martin
Van Buren, aided by Major Eaton, Senator from Tennessee. Mr. Van Buren
was the predestined chief of General Jackson's Cabinet, and Major
Eaton was the confidant, agent, and travelling manager of the
Jacksonian wire-pullers, besides being the General's own intimate
friend. The events of that session notified Mr. Calhoun that, however
manageable General Jackson might be, he was not likely to fall into
the custody of the Vice-President. General Jackson's election being
considered certain, the question was alone interesting, who should
possess him for the purposes of the succession. The prospect, as
surveyed that winter from the Vice-President's chair, was not assuring
to the occupant of that lofty seat. If General Jackson could not be
used as a fulcrum for the further elevation of Mr. Calhoun, would it
not be advisable to begin to cast about for another?

The tariff bill of 1828 was passed before the Presidential canvass had
set in with its last severity. There was time for Mr. Calhoun to
withdraw from the support of the man whose nearest friends had carried
it through the Senate under his eyes. He did not do so. He went home,
after the adjournment of Congress, to labor with all his might for the
election of a protectionist, and to employ his leisure hours in the
composition of that once famous paper called the "South Carolina
Exposition," in which protection was declared to be an evil so
intolerable as to justify the nullification of an act founded upon it.
This Exposition was the beginning of our woe,--the baleful egg from
which were hatched nullification, treason, civil war, and the
desolation of the Southern States. Here is Mr. Calhoun's own account
of the manner in which what he correctly styles "_the double
operation_" was "pushed on" in the summer of 1828:--

"This disastrous event [the passage of the tariff bill of
1828] opened our eyes (I mean myself and those immediately
connected with me) as to the full extent of the danger and
oppression of the protective system, and the hazard of
failing to effect the reform intended through the election
of General Jackson. With these disclosures, it became
necessary to seek some other ultimate, but more certain
measure of protection. We turned to the Constitution to find
this remedy. We directed a more diligent and careful
scrutiny into its provisions, in order to understand fully
the nature and character of our political system. We found a
certain and effectual remedy in that great fundamental
division of the powers of the system between this government
and its independent co-ordinates, the separate governments
of the States,--to be called into action to arrest the
unconstitutional acts of this government by the
interposition of the States,--the paramount source from
which both governments derive their power. But in relying on
this our ultimate remedy, we did not abate our zeal in the
Presidential canvass; we still hoped that General Jackson,
if elected, would effect the necessary reform, and thereby
supersede the necessity for calling into action the
sovereign authority of the State, which we were anxious to
avoid. With these views the two were pushed with equal zeal
at the same time; which double operation commenced in the
fall of 1828, but a few months after the passage of the
tariff act of that year; and at the meeting of the
Legislature of the State, at the same period, a paper known
as the South Carolina Exposition was reported to that body,
containing a full development, as well on the constitutional
point as on the operation of the protective system,
preparatory to a state of things which might eventually
render the action of the State necessary in order to protect
her rights and interest, and to stay a course of policy
which we believed would, if not arrested, prove destructive
of liberty and the Constitution."--_Works_, II. 396.

Mr. Calhoun omits, however, to mention that the Exposition was not
presented to the Legislature of South Carolina until after the
Presidential election had been decided. Nor did he inform his hearers
that the author of the paper was Mr. Vice-President Calhoun. Either
there was a great dearth of literary ability in that body, or else Mr.
Calhoun had little confidence in it; for nearly all the ponderous
documents on nullification given to the world in its name were penned
by Mr. Calhoun, and appear in his collected works. If the Legislature
addressed its constituents or the people of the United States on
_this_ subject, it was he who prepared the draft. The South Carolina
Exposition was found among his papers in his own handwriting, and it
was adopted by the Legislature with only a few alterations and
suppressions. There never was a piece of mischief more completely the
work of one man than the nullification troubles of 1833-34.

The South Carolina Exposition, when Mr. Calhoun had completed it, was
brought before the public by one of the usual methods. The Legislature
of South Carolina passed the following resolutions:--

"_Resolved_, That it is expedient to protest against the
unconstitutional and oppressive operation of the system of
protective duties, and to have such protest entered on the
journals of the Senate of the United States. Also, to make a
public exposition of our wrongs, and of the remedies within
our power, to be communicated to our sister States, with a
request that they will co-operate with this State in
procuring a repeal of the tariff for protection, and an
abandonment of the principle; and if the repeal be not
procured, that they will co-operate in such measures as may
be necessary for averting the evil.

"_Resolved_, That a committee of seven be raised to carry
the foregoing resolution into effect."

The resolution having been carried, the following gentlemen were
appointed to father Mr. Calhoun's paper: James Gregg, D.L. Wardlaw,
Hugh S. Legare, Arthur P. Hayne, William C. Preston, William Elliott,
and R. Barnwell Smith. The duty of this committee consisted in causing
a copy of Mr. Calhoun's paper to be made and presenting it to the
Legislature. This was promptly done; and the Exposition was adopted by
the Legislature on the 6th of December, 1828. Whether any protest was
forwarded to the Secretary of the United States Senate for insertion
in the journal does not appear. We only know that five thousand copies
of this wearisome and stupid Exposition were ordered to be printed,
and that in the hubbub of the incoming of a new administration it
attracted scarcely any attention beyond the little knot of original
nullifiers. Indeed, Mr. Calhoun's writings on this subject were
"protected" by their own length and dulness. No creature ever read one
of them quite through, except for a special purpose.

The leading assertions of this Exposition are these:--1. Every duty
imposed for protection is a violation of the Constitution, which
empowers Congress to impose taxes for revenue only. 2. The _whole_
burden of the protective system is borne by agriculture and commerce.
3. The _whole_ of the advantages of protection accrue to the
manufacturing States. 4. In other words, the South, the Southwest, and
two or three commercial cities, support the government, and pour a
stream of treasure into the coffers of manufacturers. 5. The result
must soon be, that the people of South Carolina will have either to
abandon the culture of rice and cotton, and remove to some other
country, or else to become a manufacturing community, which would only
be ruin in another form.

Lest the reader should find it impossible to believe that any man out
of a lunatic asylum could publish such propositions as this last, we
will give the passage. Mr. Calhoun is endeavoring to show that Europe
will at length retaliate by placing high duties upon American cotton
and rice. At least that appears to be what he is aiming at.

"We already see indications of a commercial warfare, the
termination of which no one can conjecture, though our fate
may easily be. The last remains of our great and once
flourishing agriculture must be annihilated in the conflict.
In the first instance we will[1] be thrown on the home
market, which cannot consume a fourth of our products; and,
instead of supplying the world, as we would with free trade,
we would be compelled to abandon the cultivation of three
fourths of what we now raise, and receive for the residue
whatever the manufacturers, who would then have their policy
consummated by the entire possession of our market, might
choose to give. Forced to abandon our ancient and favorite
pursuit, to which our soil, climate, habits, and peculiar
labor are adapted, at an immense sacrifice of property, we
would be compelled, without capital, experience, or skill,
and with a population untried in such pursuits, to attempt
to become the rivals, instead of the customers, of the
manufacturing States. The result is not doubtful. If they,
by superior capital and skill, should keep down successful
competition on our part, we would be doomed to toil at our
unprofitable agriculture,--selling at the prices which a
single and very limited market might give. But, on the
contrary, if our necessity should triumph over their capital
and skill, if, instead of raw cotton we should ship to the
manufacturing States cotton yarn and cotton goods, the
thoughtful must see that it would inevitably bring about a
state of things which could not long continue. _Those who
now make war on our gains would then make it on our labor_.
They would not tolerate that those who now cultivate our
plantations, and furnish them with the material and the
market for the product of their arts, should, by becoming
their rivals, take bread from the mouths of their wives and
children. The committee will not pursue this painful
subject; but as they clearly see that the system if not
arrested, must bring the country to this hazardous
extremity, neither prudence nor patriotism would permit them
to pass it by without raising a warning voice against an
evil of so menacing a character."--_Works_, VI. 12.

The only question which arises in the mind of present readers of such
passages (which abound in the writings of Mr. Calhoun) is this: Were
they the chimeras of a morbid, or the utterances of a false mind?
Those who knew him differ in opinion on this point. For our part, we
believe such passages to have been inserted for the sole purpose of
alarming the people of South Carolina, so as to render them the more
subservient to his will. It is the stale trick of the demagogue, as
well as of the false priest, to subjugate the mind by terrifying it.

Mr. Calhoun concludes his Exposition by bringing forward his remedy
for the frightful evils which he had conjured up. That remedy, of
course, was nullification. The State of South Carolina, after giving
due warning, must declare the protective acts "null and void" in the
State of South Carolina after a certain date; and then, unless
Congress repealed them in time, refuse obedience to them. Whether this
should be done by the Legislature or by a convention called for the
purpose, Mr. Calhoun would not say; but he evidently preferred a
convention. He advised, however, that nothing be done hastily; that
time should be afforded to the dominant majority for further
reflection. Delay, he remarked, was the more to be recommended,
because of

"the great political revolution which will displace from
power, on the 4th of March next, those who have acquired
authority by setting the will of the people at defiance, and
which will bring in an eminent citizen, distinguished for
his services to his country and his justice and patriotism";

under whom, it was hoped, there would be "a complete restoration, of
the pure principles of our government." This passage Mr. Calhoun could
write _after_ witnessing the manoeuvres of Mr. Van Buren and Mr.
Eaton! If the friends of Mr. Adams had set the will of the people at
defiance on the tariff question, what had the supporters of General
Jackson done? In truth, this menace of nullification was the second
string to the bow of the Vice-President. It was not yet ascertained
which was going to possess and use General Jackson,--the placid and
flexible Van Buren, or the headstrong, short-sighted, and
uncomfortable Calhoun. Nullification, as he used daily to declare, was
a "reserved power."

At the time of General Jackson's inauguration, it would have puzzled
an acute politician to decide which of the two aspirants had the best
chance of succeeding the General. The President seemed equally well
affected toward both. One was Secretary of State, the other
Vice-President. Van Buren, inheriting the political tactics of Burr,
was lord paramount in the great State of New York, and Calhoun was
all-powerful in his own State and very influential in all the region
of cotton and rice. In the Cabinet Calhoun had two friends, and one
tried and devoted ally (Ingham), while Van Buren could only boast of
Major Eaton, Secretary of War; and the tie that bound them together
was political far more than personal. In the public mind, Calhoun
towered above his rival, for he had been longer in the national
councils, had held offices that drew upon him the attention of the
whole country, and had formerly been distinguished as an orator. If
any one had been rash enough in 1829 to intimate to Mr. Calhoun that
Martin Van Buren stood before the country on a par with himself, he
would have pitied the ignorance of that rash man.

Under despotic governments, like those of Louis XIV. and Andrew
Jackson, no calculation can be made as to the future of any public
man, because his future depends upon the caprice of the despot, which
cannot be foretold. Six short weeks--nay, not so much, not
six--sufficed to estrange the mind of the President from Calhoun, and
implant within him a passion to promote the interests of Van Buren.
Our readers, we presume, all know how this was brought to pass. It was
simply that Mr. Calhoun would _not_, and Mr. Van Buren _would_ call
upon Mrs. Eaton. All the other influences that were brought to bear
upon the President's singular mind were nothing in comparison with
this. Daniel Webster uttered only the truth when he wrote, at the
time, to his friend Dutton, that the "Aaron's serpent among the
President's desires was a settled purpose of making out the lady, of
whom so much has been said, a person of reputation"; and that this
ridiculous affair would "probably determine who should be the
successor to the present chief magistrate." It had precisely that
effect. We have shown elsewhere the successive manoeuvres by which
this was effected, and how vigorously but unskillfully Calhoun
struggled to avert his fate. We cannot and need not repeat the story;
nor can we go over again the history of the Nullification imbroglio,
which began with the South Carolina Exposition in 1828, and ended very
soon after Calhoun had received a private notification that the
instant news reached Washington of an overt act of treason in South
Carolina, the author and fomenter of that treason would be arrested
and held for trial as a traitor.

One fact alone suffices to prove that, in bringing on the
Nullification troubles, Calhoun's motive was factious. When General
Jackson saw the coming storm, he did two things. First, he prepared to
maintain the authority of the United States by force. Secondly, he
used all his influence with Congress to have the cause of Southern
discontent removed. General Jackson felt that the argument of the
anti-tariff men, in view of the speedy extinction of the national
debt, was unanswerable. He believed it was absurd to go on raising ten
or twelve millions a year more than the government could spend, merely
for the sake of protecting Northern manufactures. Accordingly, a bill
was introduced which aimed to do just what the nullifiers had been
clamoring for, that is, to reduce the revenue to the amount required
by the government. If Mr. Calhoun had supported this measure, he could
have carried it. He gave it no support; but exerted all his influence
in favor of the Clay Compromise, which was expressly intended to save
as much of the protective system as could be saved, and which reduced
duties gradually, instead of suddenly. Rather than permit the abhorred
administration to have the glory of pacificating the country, this
lofty Roman stooped to a coalition with his personal enemy, Henry
Clay, the champion and the soul of the protectionist party.

No words can depict the bitterness of Calhoun's disappointment and
mortification at being distanced by a man whom he despised so
cordially as he did Van Buren. To comprehend it, his whole subsequent
career must be studied. The numerous covert allusions to the subject
in his speeches and writings are surcharged with rancor; and it was
observed that, whenever his mind reverted to it, his manner, the tone
of his voice, and every gesture testified to the intensity of his
feelings. "Every Southern man," said he on one occasion,

"who is true to the interests of his section, and faithful
to the duties which Providence has allotted him, will be
forever excluded from the honors and emoluments of this
government, which will be reserved only for those who have
qualified themselves by political prostitution for admission
into the Magdalen Asylum."

His face, too, from this time, assumed that haggard, cast-iron,
intense, introverted aspect which struck every beholder.

Miss Martineau, in her Retrospect of Western Travel, has given us some
striking and valuable glimpses of the eminent men of that period,
particularly of the three most eminent, who frequently visited her
during her stay in Washington. This passage, for example, is highly

"Mr. Clay sitting upright on the sofa, with his snuffbox
ever in his hand, would discourse for many an hour in his
even, soft, deliberate tone, on any one of the great
subjects of American policy which we might happen to start,
always amazing us with the moderation of estimate and speech
which so impetuous a nature has been able to attain. Mr.
Webster, leaning back at his ease, telling stories, cracking
jokes, shaking the sofa with burst after burst of laughter,
or smoothly discoursing to the perfect felicity of the
logical part of one's constitution, would illuminate an
evening now and then. Mr. Calhoun, the cast-iron man, who
looks as if he had never been born and could never be
extinguished, would come in sometimes to keep our
understandings on a painful stretch for a short while, and
leave us to take to pieces his close, rapid, theoretical,
illustrated talk, and see what we could make of it. We found
it usually more worth retaining as a curiosity, than as
either very just or useful. His speech abounds in figures,
truly illustrative, if that which they illustrate were true
also. But his theories of government (almost the only
subject upon which his thoughts are employed), the squarest
and compactest that ever were made, are composed out of
limited elements, and are not, therefore, likely to stand
service very well. It is at first extremely interesting to
hear Mr. Calhoun talk; and there is a never-failing evidence
of power in all that he says and does, which commands
intellectual reverence; but the admiration is too soon
turned into regret, into absolute melancholy. It is
impossible to resist the conviction, that all this force can
be at best but useless, and is but too likely to be very
mischievous. _His mind has long lost all power of
communicating with any other_. I know of no man who lives in
such utter intellectual solitude. He meets men and harangues
by the fireside as in the Senate; he is wrought like a piece
of machinery, set going vehemently by a weight, and stops
while you answer; he either passes by what you say, or
twists it into a suitability with what is in his head, and
begins to lecture again. Of course, a mind like this can
have little influence in the Senate, except by virtue,
perpetually wearing out, of what it did in its less
eccentric days; but its influence at home is to be dreaded.
There is no hope that an intellect so cast in narrow
theories will accommodate itself to varying circumstances;
and there is every danger that it will break up all that it
can in order to remould the materials in its own way. Mr.
Calhoun is as full as ever of his Nullification doctrines;
and those who know the force that is in him, and his utter
incapacity of modification by other minds, (after having
gone through as remarkable a revolution of political opinion
as perhaps any man ever experienced,) will no more expect
repose and self-retention from him than from a volcano in
full force. Relaxation is no longer in the power of his
will. I never saw any one who so completely gave me the idea
of possession. Half an hour's conversation with him is
enough to make a necessitarian of anybody. Accordingly, he
is more complained of than blamed by his enemies. His
moments of softness by his family, and when recurring to old
college days, are hailed by all as a relief to the vehement
working of the intellectual machine,--a relief equally to
himself and others. These moments are as touching to the
observer as tears on the face of a soldier."

Of his appearance in the Senate, and of his manner of speaking, Miss
Martineau records her impressions also:--

"Mr. Calhoun's countenance first fixed my attention; the
splendid eye, the straight forehead, surmounted by a load of
stiff, upright, dark hair, the stern brow, the inflexible
mouth,--it is one of the most remarkable heads in the

"Mr. Calhoun followed, and impressed me very strongly. While
he kept to the question, what he said was close, good, and
moderate, though delivered in rapid speech, and with a voice
not sufficiently modulated. But when he began to reply to a
taunt of Colonel Benton's, that he wanted to be President,
the force of his speaking became painful. He made
protestations which it seemed to strangers had better have
been spared, 'that he would not turn on his heel to be
President,' and that 'he had given up all for his own brave,
magnanimous little State of South Carolina.' While thus
protesting, his eyes flashed, his brow seemed charged with
thunder, his voice became almost a bark, and his sentences
were abrupt, intense, producing in the auditory a sort of
laugh which is squeezed out of people by the application of
a very sudden mental force. I believe he knew not what a
revelation he made in a few sentences. _They were to us
strangers the key, not only to all that was said and done by
the South Carolina party during the remainder of the
session, but to many things at Charleston and Columbia which
would otherwise have passed unobserved and unexplained_."

This intelligent observer saw the chieftain on his native heath:--

"During my stay in Charleston, Mr. Calhoun and his family
arrived from Congress, and there was something very striking
in the welcome he received, like that of a chief returned to
the bosom of his clan. He stalked about like a monarch of
the little domain, and there was certainly an air of
mysterious understanding between him and his followers."

What Miss Martineau says of the impossibility of Calhoun's mind
communicating with another mind, is confirmed by an anecdote which we
have heard related by Dr. Francis Lieber, who, as Professor in the
College of South Carolina, was for several years the neighbor and
intimate acquaintance of Mr. Calhoun. The learned Professor, upon his
return from a visit to Europe, called upon him, and in the course of
the interview Mr. Calhoun declared, in his positive manner, that the
slaves in the Southern States were better lodged, fed, and cared for
than the mechanics of Europe. Dr. Lieber, being fresh from that
continent, assured the Secretary of State that such was not the fact,
as he could testify from having resided in both lands. "Not at all,
not at all," cried Calhoun dogmatically, and repeated his wild
assertion. The Doctor saw that the poor man had reached the condition
of absolute unteachableness, and dropped the subject. There could not
well be a more competent witness on the point in dispute than Dr.
Lieber; for, besides having long resided in both continents, it was
the habit and business of his life to observe and ponder the effect of
institutions upon the welfare of those who live under them. Calhoun
pushed him out of the witness-box, as though he were an idiot.

A survey of the last fifteen years of Calhoun's life discloses nothing
upon which the mind can dwell with complacency. On the approach of
every Presidential election, we see him making what we can only call a
_grab_ at a nomination, by springing upon the country some unexpected
issue designed to make the South a unit in his support. From 1830 to
1836, he exhausted all the petty arts of the politician to defeat
General Jackson's resolve to bring in Mr. Van Buren as his successor;
and when all had failed, he made an abortive attempt to precipitate
the question of the annexation of Texas. This, too, being foiled, Mr.
Van Buren was elected President. Then Mr. Calhoun, who had for ten
years never spoken of Van Buren except with contempt, formed the
notable scheme of winning over the President so far as to secure his
support for the succession. He advocated all the test measures of Mr.
Van Buren's administration, and finished by courting a personal
reconciliation with the man whom he had a hundred times styled a fox
and a political prostitute. This design coming to naught, through the
failure of Mr. Van Buren to reach a second term, he made a wild rush
for the prize by again thrusting forward the Texas question. Colonel
Benton, who was the predetermined heir of Van Buren, has detailed the
manner in which this was done in a very curious chapter of his "Thirty
Years." The plot was successful, so far as plunging the country into a
needless war was concerned; but it was Polk and Taylor, not Calhoun,
who obtained the Presidency through it. Mr. Calhoun's struggles for a
nomination in 1844 were truly pitiable, but they were not known to the
public, who saw him, at a certain stage of the campaign, affecting to
decline a nomination which there was not the slightest danger of his

We regret that we have not space to show how much the agitation of the
slavery question, from 1835 to 1850, was the work of this one man. The
labors of Mr. Garrison and Mr. Wendell Phillips might have borne no
fruit during their lifetime, if Calhoun had not made it his business
to supply them with material. "I mean to _force_ the issue upon the
North," he once wrote; and he did force it. On his return to South
Carolina after the termination of the Nullification troubles, he said
to his friends there, (so avers Colonel Benton, "Thirty Years," Vol.
II. p. 786,)

"that the South could never be united against the North on
the tariff question; that the sugar interest of Louisiana
would keep her out; and that the basis of Southern union
must be shifted to the slave question."

Here we have the key to the mysteries of all his subsequent career.
The denial of the right of petition, the annexation of Texas, the
forcing of slavery into the Territories,--these were among the issues
upon which he hoped to unite the South in his favor, while retaining
enough strength at the North to secure his election. Failing in all
his schemes of personal advancement, he died in 1850, still protesting
that slavery is divine, and that it must rule this country or ruin it.
This is really the sum and substance of that last speech to the
Senate, which he had not strength enough left to deliver.

We have run rapidly over Mr. Calhoun's career as a public man. It
remains for us to notice his claims as a teacher of political
philosophy, a character in which he influenced his countrymen more
powerfully after he was in his grave than he did while living among

The work upon which his reputation as a thinker will rest with
posterity is his Treatise on the Nature of Government. Written in the
last year of his life, when at length all hope of further personal
advancement must have died within him, it may be taken as the
deliberate record or summary of his political opinions. He did not
live to revise it, and the concluding portion he evidently meant to
enlarge and illustrate, as was ascertained from notes and memoranda in
pencil upon the manuscript. After the death of the author in 1850, the
work was published in a substantial and elegant form by the
Legislature of South Carolina, who ordered copies to be presented to
individuals of note in science and literature, and to public
libraries. We are, therefore, to regard this volume, not merely as a
legacy of Mr. Calhoun to his countrymen, but as conveying to us the
sentiments of South Carolina with regard to her rights and duties as a
member of the Union. Events since its publication have shown us that
it is more even than this. The assemblage of troublesome communities
which we have been accustomed to style "the South," adopted this work
as their political gospel. From this source the politicians of the
Southern States have drawn all they have chosen to present to the
world in justification of their course which bears the semblance of
argument; for, in truth, Mr. Calhoun, since Jefferson and Madison
passed from the stage, is almost the only thinking being the South has
had. His was a very narrow, intense, and untrustworthy mind, but he
was an angel of light compared with the men who have been recently
conspicuous in the Southern States.

This treatise on government belongs to the same class of works as
Louis Napoleon's Life of Caesar, having for its principal object one
that lies below the surface, and the effect of both is damaged by the
name on the title-page. The moment we learn that Louis Napoleon wrote
that Life of Caesar, the mind is intent upon discovering allusions to
recent history, which the author has an interest in misrepresenting.
The common conscience of mankind condemns him as a perjured usurper,
and the murderer of many of his unoffending fellow-citizens. No man,
whatever the power and splendor of his position, can rest content
under the scorn of mankind, unless his own conscience gives him a
clear acquittal, and assures him that one day the verdict of his
fellow-men will be reversed; and even in that case, it is not every
man that can possess his soul in patience. Every page of the Life of
Caesar was composed with a secret, perhaps half-unconscious reference
to that view of Louis Napoleon's conduct which is expressed with such
deadly power in Mr. Kinglake's History of the Crimean War, and which
is so remarkably confirmed by an American eyewitness, the late Mr.
Goodrich, who was Consul at Paris in 1848. Published anonymously, the
Life of Caesar might have had some effect. Given to the world by
Napoleon III., every one reads it as he would a defence by an
ingenious criminal of his own cause. The highest praise that can be
bestowed upon it is, that it is very well done, considering the object
the author had in view.

So, in reading Mr. Calhoun's disquisition upon government, we are
constantly reminded that the author was a man who had only escaped
trial and execution for treason by suddenly arresting the treasonable
measures which he had caused to be set on foot. Though it contains but
one allusion to events in South Carolina in 1833, the work is nothing
but a labored, refined justification of those events. It has been even
coupled with Edwards on the Will, as the two best examples of subtle
reasoning which American literature contains. Admit his premises, and
you are borne along, at a steady pace, in a straight path, to the
final inferences: that the sovereign State of South Carolina
possesses, by the Constitution of the United States, an absolute veto
upon every act of Congress, and may secede from the Union whenever she
likes; and that these rights of veto and secession do not merely
constitute the strength of the Constitution, but _are_ the
Constitution,--and do not merely tend to perpetuate the Union, but are
the Union's self,--the thing that binds the States together.

Mr. Calhoun begins his treatise by assuming that government is
necessary. He then explains why it is necessary. It is necessary
because man is more selfish than sympathetic, feeling more intensely
what affects himself than what affects others. Hence he will encroach
on the rights of others; and to prevent this, government is

But government, since it must be administered by selfish men will feel
more intensely what affects itself than what affects the people
governed. It is, therefore, the tendency of all governments to
encroach on the rights of the people; and they certainly will do so,
if they can. The same instinct of self-preservation, the same love of
accumulation, which tempts individuals to over-reach their neighbors,
inclines government to preserve, increase, and consolidate its powers.
Therefore, as individual selfishness requires to be held in check by
government, so government must be restrained by _something_.

This something is the constitution, written or unwritten. A
constitution is to the government what government is to the people: it
is the restraint upon its selfishness. Mr. Calhoun assumes here that
the relation between government and governed is naturally and
inevitably "antagonistic." He does not perceive that government is the
expression of man's love of justice, and the means by which the people
cause justice to be done.

Government, he continues, must be powerful; must have at command the
resources of the country; must be so strong that it can, if it will,
disregard the limitations of the constitution. The question is, How to
compel a government, holding such powers, having an army, a navy, and
a national treasury at command, to obey the requirements of a mere
piece of printed paper?

Power, says Mr. Calhoun, can only be resisted by power. Therefore, a
proper constitution must leave to the governed the _power_ to resist
encroachments. This is done in free countries by universal suffrage
and the election of rulers at frequent and fixed periods. This gives
to rulers the strongest possible motive to please the people, which
can only be done by executing their will.

So far, most readers will follow the author without serious
difficulty. But now we come to passages which no one could understand
who was not acquainted with the Nullification imbroglio of 1833. A
philosophic Frenchman or German, who should read this work with a view
to enlightening his mind upon the nature of government, would be much
puzzled after passing the thirteenth page; for at that point the
hidden loadstone begins to operate upon the needle of Mr. Calhoun's
compass, and he is as Louis Napoleon writing the Life of Caesar.

Universal suffrage, he continues, and the frequent election of rulers,
are indeed the primary and fundamental principles of a constitutional
government; and they are sufficient to give the people an effective
control over those whom they have elected. But this is all they can
do. They cannot make rulers good, or just, or obedient to the
constitution, but only faithful representatives of the majority of the
people and executors of the will of that majority. The right of
suffrage transfers the supreme authority from the rulers to the body
of the community, and the more perfectly it does this, the more
perfectly it accomplishes its object. Majority is king. But this king,
too, like all others, is selfish, and will abuse his power if he can.

So, we have been arguing in a circle, and have come back to the
starting-point. Government keeps within bounds the selfishness of the
people; the constitution restrains the selfishness of the government;
but, in doing so, it has only created a despot as much to be dreaded
as the power it displaced. We are still, therefore, confronted by the
original difficulty. How are we to limit the sway of tyrant Majority?

If, says Mr. Calhoun, all the people had the same interests, so that a
law which oppressed one interest would oppress all interests, then the
right of suffrage would itself be sufficient; and the only question
would be as to the fitness of different candidates. But this is not
the case. Taxation, for example: no system of taxation can be arranged
that will not bear oppressively upon some interests or section.
Disbursements, also: some portions of the country must receive back,
in the form of governmental disbursements, more money than they pay in
taxes, and others less; and this may be carried so far, that one
region may be utterly impoverished, while others are enriched. King
Majority may have his favorites. He may now choose to favor
agriculture; now, commerce; now, manufactures; and so arrange the
imports as to crush one for the sake of promoting the others. "Crush"
is Mr. Calhoun's word. "One portion of the community," he says,

"may be crushed, and another elevated on its ruins, by
systematically perverting the power of taxation and
disbursement, for the purpose of aggrandizing or building up
one portion of the community at the expense of the other."

_May_ be. But has not the most relentless despot an interest in the
prosperity of his subjects? And can one interest be crushed without
manifest and immediate injury to all the others? Mr. Calhoun says:
That this fell power to crush important interests _will_ be used, is
exactly as certain as that it _can_ be.

All this would be unintelligible to our foreign philosopher, but
American citizens know very well what it means. Through this fine
lattice-work fence they discern the shining countenance of the colored

But now, what remedy? Mr. Calhoun approaches this part of the subject
with the due acknowledgment of its difficulty. The remedy, of course,
is Nullification; but he is far from using a word so familiar. There
is but one mode, he remarks, by which the majority of the whole people
can be prevented from oppressing the minority, or portions of the
minority, and that is this:

"By taking the sense of each interest or portion of the
community, which may be unequally and injuriously affected
by the action of the government, separately, through its own
majority, or in some other way by which its voice can be
expressed; and to require the consent of each interest,
either to put or to keep the government in motion."

And this can only be done by such an "organism" as will "give to each
division or interest either a concurrent voice in making and executing
the laws or _a veto on their execution_."


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