John C. Calhoun Papers

South Caroliniana Library, South Caroliniana Library

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John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850), born in Abbeville, South Carolina, rose to prominence as a politician and statesman. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1810, and quickly became instrumental in pushing the United States to declare war on Britain, launching the War of 1812. In 1817, President Monroe named Calhoun as Secretary of War. As Secretary of War, Calhoun promoted early plans to relocate indigenous peoples to reservations, and created the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1824.

Calhoun was elected Vice President in 1825, where he used his influence to advocate for the rights of states to nullify federal laws and secede from the Union. With less than three months left in his Vice Presidency, Calhoun resigned in 1832, and took a seat in the Senate. He would serve as Secretary of State from 1844-1845, and then return to the Senate, where he served until his death. Calhoun was a staunch supporter of slavery, defending the practice on the grounds of both white supremacy and paternalism. His rhetoric was used widely to both justify slavery, and defend the eventual secession of southern states which prompted the Civil War.

The digitized papers consist of the original correspondence written and received by Calhoun during his tenure as Vice President. His writings have also been collected and transcribed in numerous published volumes.

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