John C. Calhoun

(John Caldwell Calhoun)

John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun
  • Born: March 18, 1782
  • Died: March 31, 1850
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Statesman









John Caldwell Calhoun was an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina, and the seventh vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832. He is remembered for strongly defending slavery and for advancing the concept of minority party rights in politics, which he did in the context of protecting the interests of the white South when it was outnumbered by Northerners. He began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent of a strong national government and protective tariffs. In the late 1820s, his views changed radically and he became a leading proponent of states' rights, limited government, nullification, and opposition to high tariffs—he saw Northern acceptance of these policies as the only way to keep the South in the Union. His beliefs and warnings heavily influenced the South's secession from the Union in 1860–1861.

Quote Topics Cited
… a demonstrable lie Constitution / Bills & Declaratiobns of Rights
… conquering space … Transportation
A power has arisen up in the Government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks. Power
All the calamities we have experienced, and those which are yet to come, are the result of the consolidating tendency of this government; and unless this tendency be arrested, all that has been foretold will certainly befall us,—even to the pouring out of the last vial of wrath, military despotism. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
Disunion is the only alternative that is left us Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
Government is to divide the community into two great classes: one consisting of those who, in reality, pay the taxes and, of course, bear exclusively the burden of supporting the government; and the other, of those who are the recipients of their proceeds through disbursements, and who are, in fact, supported by the government; or, in fewer words, to divide it into tax payers and tax-consumers…. The effect, then, of every increase is to enrich and strengthen the one [the net tax-consumers], and to impoverish and weaken the other [the net tax-payers. Taxes
He [Henry Clay] is a bad man, an impostor, a creator of wicked schemes. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
High duties have no pernicious effects and are consistent with the genius of the people and the institutions of the country. Foreign Trade
I cannot think in the present state of parties of entering again on the political arena. I would but waste my strength and exhaust my time, without adding to my character, or rendering service to the country, or advancing the cause for which I have so long contended…. I am content, and willing to end my publick life now. In looking back, I see nothing to regret, and little to correct. My interest in the prosperity of the country, and the success of our peculiar and sublime political system when well understood, remain without abatement, and will do so till my last breath; and I shall ever stand prepared to serve the country, whenever I shall see reasonable prospect of doing so. Political Parties & Machines
I hold concession or compromise to be fatal. If we concede an inch, concession would follow concession — compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that effectual resistance would be impossible. We must meet the enemy on the frontier, with a fixed determination of maintaining our position at every hazard. Negotiating & Negotiations
I hold them [politics] to be subject to laws as fixed as matter itself, and to be as fit a subject for the application of the highest intellectual power. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
I know of but one principle to make a nation great … Protectionism and patriotism are reciprocal. This is the road that all great nations have trod. Foreign Trade
I never know what South Carolina thinks. I never consult her. I act to the best of my judgment, and according to my conscience. If she approves, well and good. If she does not, or wishes any one to take my place, I am ready to vacate. Public Opinion & Polling
I will never consent to make our penal code the basis of our Ways and Means … Taxes
I would just as soon argue with a maniac from Bedlam, as with the Senator from New Hampshire. Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
In the policy of nations there are two extremes: one extreme, in which justice and moderation may sink in feebleness; another, in which the lofty spirit which ought to animate all nations, particularly free ones, may mount up to military violence. These extremes ought to be equally avoided; but of the two, I consider the first far more dangerous. Policy & Policy Making
It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty. Freedom & Liberty
It would be well for those interested to reflect whether there now exists, or ever has existed, a wealthy and civilized community in which one portion did not live on the labor of another.... Remember that labor is the only source of wealth, and how small a portion of it, in all old and civilized countries, even the best governed, is left to those by whose labor wealth is created. Labor Unions, Labor Relations & Strikes
Let us then bind the republic together with a perfect system of roads and canals. Transportation
Liberty Dearer Than Union Freedom & Liberty
Men cannot go straight forward, but must regard the obstacles which impede their course. Inconsistency consists in a change of conduct when there is no change in circumstances which justify it. Legislating & Legislative Process
Mexico is to us the forbidden fruit; the penalty of eating it would be to subject our institutions to political death. Expansionism, Colonialism & Imperialism
Nothing can be more unfounded and false than the opinion that all men are born free and equal; inequality is indispensable to progress; government is not the result of compact, nor is it safe to entrust the suffrage to all. Voters, Voting & Elections
Our President [James Madison], though a man of amiable manners and great talents, has not I fear those commanding talents, which are necessary to control those about him. Leaders & Leadership
Our Union cannot safely stand on the cold calculation of interest alone. Policy & Policy Making
Party organization, party discipline, party proscription, and their offspring, the spoils system, have been unknown to the state [of South Carolina]. Nothing of the kind is necessary to produce concentration. Political Parties & Machines
Sir, I here enter my solemn protest against a low and calculating avarice entering this hall of legislation. It is only fit for shops and counting houses. Budgets & Budgeting
The cohesive power of public plunder. Corruption
The contest will be between the capitalists and operatives; for into these two classes it must ultimately divide society. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised Democracies & Republics
The highest wisdom of a State is a wise and masterly inactivity … Management & Managing Government
The interval between the decay of the old and the formation and establishment of the new constitutes a period of transition which must always necessarily be one of uncertainty, confusion, error, and wild and fierce fanaticism. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
The most unquestionable right may be rendered doubtful, if once admitted to be a subject of controversy Legislating & Legislative Process ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The neighboring tribes are becoming daily less warlike, and more helpless and dependent on us … They have, in a great measure, ceased to be an object of terror, and have become that of commiseration. Minorities & Women
The South will be forced to choose between abolition and secession. Miscellaneous ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The surrender of life is nothing to sinking down into acknowledgment of inferiority.. Human Nature
The two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black. And all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals. Discrimination & Prejudice ;Slaves, Slavery & The Slave Trade
The Union, next to our liberty, most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States and by distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union States. Nations & Nationhood
The very essence of a free government consists in considering offices as public trusts, bestowed for the good of the country, and not for the benefit of an individual or party. Detriments & Qualifications ;Public Office: Benefits
There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. Labor Unions, Labor Relations & Strikes ;Capitalism
True consistency, that of the prudent and wise, is to act in conformity with circumstances, and not to act always the same way under a change of circumstances. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Two great duties which every citizen of proper age owes the republic: a wise and virtuous exercise of the right of suffrage; and a prompt and brave defense of the country in the hours of danger. Citizenship & Patriotism
We are rapidly—I was about to say, fearfully—growing. Defense & National Security
We ought to go for a uniform ad valorem duty without any discrimination. Taxes
With money we will get partisans, with partisans votes, and with votes money, is the maxim of our political pilferers. Political Parties & Machines
You may meet commercial restriction with commercial restriction, but you cannot safely confront premeditated insult and injury with commercial restrictions alone. War & Peace
A compromise is but an act of Congress. It may be overruled at any time. It gives us no security. But the Constitution is stable. It is a rock. Time
A difference must be made between a decision against the constitutionality of a law of Congress and of a State. The former acts as a restriction on the powers of this government, but the latter as an enlargement. Government
A power has risen up in the government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks. Power ;Government
A revolution in itself is not a blessing. The revolution accomplished by the French people is, indeed, a wonderful event - the most striking, in my opinion, in history; but it may lead to events which will make it a mighty evil. History
Be assured that, as certain as Congress transcends its assigned limits and usurps powers never conferred, or stretches those conferred beyond the proper limits, so surely will the fruits of its usurpation pass into the hands of the Executive. In seeking to become master, it but makes a master in the person of the President.
Beware the wrath of a patient adversary.
By nature, every individual has the right to govern himself; and governments, whether founded on majorities or minorities, must derive their right from the assent, expressed or implied, of the governed,, and be subject to such limitations as they may impose. Nature
England has not wholly escaped the curse which must ever befall a free government which holds extensive provinces in subjection; for, although she has not lost her liberty or fallen into anarchy, yet we behold the population of England crushed to the earth by the superincumbent weight of debt and taxation, which may one day terminate in revolution. Government
Every dollar of tax imposed on our exchanges in the shape of duties impairs, to that extent, our capacity to meet the severe competition to which we are exposed; and nothing but a system of high protective duties, long continued, can prevent us from meeting it successfully. It is that which we have to fear.
Every increase of protective duties is necessarily followed, in the present condition of our country, by an expansion of the currency, which must continue to increase till the increased price of production, caused by the expansion, shall be equal to the duty imposed, when a new tariff will be required.
Fanatics, as a class, have far more zeal than intellect and are fanatics only because they have. There can be no fanaticism but where there is more passion than reason; and hence, in the nature of things, movements originating in it run down in a short time by their folly and extravagance. Time ;Nature
He is blind indeed who does not see, in the signs of the times, a strong tendency to plunge the Union as deep in debt as are many of the States, and to subjugate the whole to the paper system.
How can this full, perfect, just and supreme voice of the people, embodied in the Constitution, be brought to bear, habitually and steadily, in counteracting the fatal tendency of the government to the absolute and despotic control of the numerical majority? Government
I am a planter - a cotton planter. I am a Southern man and a slaveholder - a kind and a merciful one, I trust - and none the worse for being a slaveholder. Trust
I am aware how difficult is the task to preserve free institutions over so wide a space and so immense a population, but we are blessed with a Constitution admirably calculated to accomplish it. Its elastic power is unequaled, which is to be attributed to its federal character. Power
I am impressed with the belief that our naval force ought not to cost more in proportion than the British. In some things they may have the advantage, but we will be found to have equally great in others.
I am in favor of high wages and agree that the higher the wages, the stronger the evidence of prosperity, provided (and that is the important point) they are so naturally, by the effectiveness of industry, and not in consequence of an inflated currency or any artificial regulation.
I am not one of those who believe that we are bound to vote supplies to cover a deficiency in the treasury whenever called on, without investigating the causes which occasioned it.
I am utterly opposed to all equivocation or obscure expressions in our public acts. We are bound to say plainly what we mean to say. If we mean negotiation and compromise, let us say it distinctly and plainly instead of sending to the President a resolution on which he may put whatever interpretation he pleases.
I am, on principle, opposed to war and in favor of peace because I regard peace as a positive good and war as a positive evil. War & Peace
I hold it to be the most monstrous proposition ever uttered within the Senate that conquering a country like Mexico, the President can constitute himself a despotic ruler without the slightest limitation on his power. If all this be true, war is indeed dangerous! Power ;War & Peace
I hold that there is a mysterious connection between the fate of this country and that of Mexico; so much so that her independence and capability of sustaining herself are almost as essential to our prosperity and the maintenance of our institutions as they are to hers.
I know that there is a great diversity of opinion as to who, in fact, pays the duties on imports. I do not intend to discuss that point. We of the staple and exporting States have long settled the question for ourselves, almost unanimously, from sad experience.
I saw that the incorporation of Texas into this Union would be indispensable both to her safety and ours. I saw that it was impossible she could stand as an independent power between us and Mexico without becoming the scene of intrigue of foreign powers, alike destructive of the peace and security of both Texas and ourselves. Power ;War & Peace
I want no presidency; I want to do my duty. No denunciations here, or out of this House, can deflect me a single inch from going directly at what I aim, and that is, the good of the country. I have always acted upon it, and I will always act upon it.
I will not attempt to show that it would be a great evil to increase the patronage of the Executive. It is already enormously great, as every man of every party must acknowledge, if he would candidly express his sentiments.
I will not undertake to offer an opinion on the capacity of Hindustan to produce cotton. The region is large, and the soil and climate various, the population great and wages low; but I must be permitted to doubt the success of the experiment of driving us out of the market, though backed and patronized by English capital and energy. Success
I would rather be an independent senator, governed by my own views, going for the good of the country, uncontrolled by any thing which mortal man can bring to bear upon me, than to be president of the United States, put there as presidents of the United States have been for many years past.
If not met promptly and decidedly, the two portions of the Union will gradually become thoroughly alienated, when no alternative will be left to us, as the weaker of the two, but to sever all political ties or sink down into abject submission.
In 1828 we raised the duties, on an average, to nearly fifty per cent, when the debt was on the eve of being discharged, and thereby flooded the country with a revenue, when discharged, which could not be absorbed by the most lavish expenditures.
In its exterior relations - abroad - this government is the sole and exclusive representative of the united majesty, sovereignty, and power of the States, constituting this great and glorious Union. To the rest of the world, we are one. Neither State nor State government is known beyond our borders. Within, it is different. Power ;Government
In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.
In my opinion, any navy less than that which would give us the habitual command of our own coast and seas would be little short of useless.
It has been lately urged in a very respectable quarter that it is the mission of this country to spread civil and religious liberty all over the globe, and especially over this continent - even by force, if necessary. It is a sad delusion.
It is a fundamental rule with me not to vote for a loan or tax bill till I am satisfied it is necessary for the public service, and then not if the deficiency can be avoided by lopping off unnecessary objects of expenditure or the enforcement of an exact and judicious economy in the public disbursements.
It is a remarkable fact in the political history of man that there is scarcely an instance of a free constitutional government which has been the work exclusively of foresight and wisdom. They have all been the result of a fortunate combination of circumstances. History ;Work, Workers & The Labor Force
It is a universal and fundamental political principle that the power to protect can safely be confided only to those interested in protecting, or their responsible agents - a maxim not less true in private than in public affairs. Power
It is admitted on all sides that we must equalize the revenue and expenditures. The scheme of borrowing to make up an increasing deficit must, in the end, if continued, prove ruinous.
It is but too common, of late, to condemn the acts of our predecessors and to pronounce them unjust, unwise, or unpatriotic from not adverting to the circumstances under which they acted. Thus, to judge is to do great injustice to the wise and patriotic men who preceded us.
It is no less the duty of the minority than a majority to endeavour to defend the country.
Learn from your mistakes and build on your successes.
Let a durable and firm peace be established and this government be confined rigidly to the few great objects for which it was instituted, leaving the States to contend in generous rivalry to develop, by the arts of peace, their respective resources, and a scene of prosperity and happiness would follow, heretofore unequaled on the globe. Happiness & Unhappiness ;War & Peace
Measures of policy are necessarily controlled by circumstances; and, consequently, what may be wise and expedient under certain circumstances might be eminently unwise and impolitic under different circumstances. To persist in acting in the same way under circumstances essentially different would be folly and obstinacy, and not consistency.
None but a people advanced to a high state of moral and intellectual excellence are capable in a civilized condition of forming and maintaining free governments, and among those who are so far advanced, very few indeed have had the good fortune to form constitutions capable of endurance.
Of the two, I considered it more important to avoid a war with England about Oregon than a war with Mexico, important as I thought it was to avoid that. War & Peace
Once established with Great Britain, it would not be difficult, with moderation and prudence, to establish permanent peace with the rest of the world, when our most sanguine hopes of prosperity may be realized. War & Peace
Our government is deeply disordered; its credit is impaired; its debt increasing; its expenditures extravagant and wasteful; its disbursements without efficient accountability; and its taxes (for duties are but taxes) enormous, unequal, and oppressive to the great producing classes of the country. Government
Peace is, indeed, our policy. A kind Providence has cast our lot on a portion of the globe sufficiently vast to satisfy the most grasping ambition, and abounding in resources beyond all others, which only require to be fully developed to make us the greatest and most prosperous people on earth. War & Peace
Protection and patriotism are reciprocal. This is the way which has led nations to greatness. Citizenship & Patriotism
Remember, it is a deep principle of our nature not to regard the safety of those who do not regard their own. If you are indifferent to your own safety, you must not be surprised if those less interested should become more so. Nature
Restore, without delay, the equilibrium between revenue and expenditures, which has done so much to destroy our credit and derange the whole fabric of government. If that should not be done, the government and country will be involved, ere long, in overwhelming difficulties. Government
So long as the Oregon question is left open, Mexico will calculate the chances of a rupture between us and Great Britain, in the event of which she would be prepared to make common cause against us. But when an end is put to any such hope, she will speedily settle her difference with us. Hope
The country is filled with energetic and enterprising men, rendered desperate by being reduced from affluence to poverty through the vicissitudes of the times. They will give an impulse to smuggling unknown to the country heretofore.
The danger in our system is that the general government, which represents the interests of the whole, may encroach on the states, which represent the peculiar and local interests, or that the latter may encroach on the former. Government
The day that the balance between the two sections of the country - the slaveholding States and the non-slaveholding States - is destroyed is a day that will not be far removed from political revolution, anarchy, civil war, and widespread disaster. War & Peace
The framers of our constitution had the sagacity to vest in Congress all implied powers: that is, powers necessary and proper to carry into effect all the delegated powers wherever vested.
The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised. Government
The strong should always permit the weak and aggrieved to talk, to bluster, and scold without taking offence; and if we had so acted, and exercised proper skill in the management of our affairs, Mexico and ourselves would, by this time, have quietly and peaceably settled all difficulties and been good friends. Time
The surrender of life is nothing to sinking down into acknowledgment of inferiority. Life
The two great agents of the physical world have become subject to the will of man and have been made subservient to his wants and enjoyments; I allude to steam and electricity, under whatever name the latter may be called.
The Union next to our liberties the most dear. May we all remember that it can only be preserved by respecting the rights of the States, and distributing equally the benefits and burdens of the Union.
There is a tendency in all parties, when they have been for a long time in possession of power, to augment it. Time ;Power
There is but one nation on the globe from which we have anything serious to apprehend, but that is the most powerful that now exists or ever did exist. I refer to Great Britain.
There is no direct and immediate connection between the individual citizens of a state and the general government. The relation between them is through the state. The Union is a union of states as communities and not a union of individuals. Government
There is not an example on record of any free state holding a province of the same extent and population without disastrous consequences. The nations conquered and held as a province have, in time, retaliated by destroying the liberty of their conquerors through the corrupting effect of extended patronage and irresponsible power. Time ;Power
There is often, in the affairs of government, more efficiency and wisdom in non-action than in action. Government
There was no measure that required greater caution or more severe scrutiny than one to impose taxes or raise a loan, be the form what it may. I hold that government has no right to do either, except when the public service makes it imperiously necessary, and then only to the extent that it requires. Government
To make a division of power effectual, a veto in one form or another is indispensable. The right of each to judge for itself of the extent of the power allotted to its share, and to protect itself in its exercise, is what, in reality, is meant by a division of power. Power
True consistency, that of the prudent and the wise, is to act in conformity with circumstances and not to act always the same way under a change of circumstances.
War may be made by one party, but it requires two to make peace. War & Peace
War may make us great, but let it never be forgotten that peace only can make us both great and free. War & Peace
War, in our country, ought never to be resorted to but when it is clearly justifiable and necessary; so much so as not to require the aid of logic to convince our understanding nor the ardour of eloquence to inflame our passions. There are many reasons why this country should never resort to it but for causes the most urgent and necessary. War & Peace
We are as good judges of our interest and safety, and the means of preserving them, as the non-slaveholding States are of theirs, and rather better than they can be of ours.
We make a great mistake in supposing all people are capable of self-government.
We ought not to forget that the government, through all its departments, judicial as well as others, is administered by delegated and responsible agents; and that the power which really controls, ultimately, all the movements, is not in the agents, but those who elect or appoint them. Power ;Government
Were there no contrariety of interests, nothing would be more simple and easy than to form and preserve free institutions. The right of suffrage alone would be a sufficient guarantee. It is the conflict of opposing interests which renders it the most difficult work of man. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
What is a permanent loan but a mortgage upon the wealth and industry of the country? It is the only form of indebtedness, as experience has shown, by which heavy and durable encumbrance can be laid upon the community.
What is it but a cunningly devised scheme to take from one State and to give to another - to replenish the treasury of some of the States from the pockets of the people of the others; in reality, to make them support the governments and pay the debts of other States as well as their own?
What people can excel our Northern and New England brethren in skill, invention, activity, energy, perseverance, and enterprise?
What we want, above all things on earth in our public men, is independence. It is one great defect in the character of the public men of America that there is that real want of independence; and, in this respect, a most marked contrast exists between public men in this country and in Great Britain. Respect
When the period arrives - come when it may - that this government will be compelled to resort to internal taxes for its support in time of peace, it will mark one of the most difficult and dangerous stages through which it is destined to pass. Time ;Government ;War & Peace
When we contend, let us contend for all our rights - the doubtful and the certain, the unimportant and essential. It is as easy to contend, or even more so, for the whole as for a part. At the termination of the contest, secure all that our wisdom and valour and the fortune of war will permit. War & Peace
Where wages command labor, as in the non-slaveholding States, there necessarily takes place between labor and capital a conflict, which leads, in process of time, to disorder, anarchy, and revolution if not counteracted by some appropriate and strong constitutional provision. Such is not the case in the slaveholding States. Time
With such irresistible evidence before us of the great and rapid progress of abolitionism without the slightest indication of abatement, he is blind who does not see, if the state of things which has caused it should be permitted to continue, that it will speedily be too late, if not to save ourselves, to save the Union.
Without thinking or reflecting, we plunge into war, contract heavy debts, increase vastly the patronage of the Executive, and indulge in every species of extravagance, without thinking that we expose our liberty to hazard. It is a great and fatal mistake. War & Peace