A patriotic sectionalist: The political transformation of John C. Calhoun, 1816-1833
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Type of Work87 pages
SubjectsJohn C. Calhoun (1782-1850)
John C. Calhoun is almost exclusively remembered as the most ardent defender of the South and states' rights. His name has become a byword for sectionalism. Such associations only tell half of the story. For the first decade of his political career, Calhoun was the archetypal nationalist, promoting tariffs, internal improvements, and a national bank. He refused to abandon his nationalism in spite of a surge in radicalism in his home state of South Carolina. Ironically, it was a group of northem, not southern, radicals who ultimately drove Calhoun to embrace the doctrines of states' rights and sectionalism. Abolitionism represented a grave threat to the Union Calhoun loved so dearly by striking at the heart of the one institution the South could not do without--slavery. Thus, in the 1830s, the radical antislavery activists of the North succeeded in driving Calhoun into the arms of a group of southern radicals that had been putting pressure on him all along.