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John C. Calhoun
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John C. Calhoun

John Caldwell Calhoun (March 18, 1782March 31, 1850), was a prominent United States politician in the first half of the 19th century. His staunch determination earned him the nickname the "cast-iron man". Calhoun served South Carolina in the United States Senate, and as Secretary of State, Secretary of War, and the seventh Vice President. His party affiliation was Democratic-Republican.

John Calhoun attended Yale in 1802. In 1810 he was elected to Congress, and allied with the war hawks, including Henry Clay, agitating for what became the War of 1812. After the war, he proposed a Bonus Bill for public works. In 1817 he was appointed Secretary of War under James Monroe.

After the odd Election of 1824, Calhoun became Vice President under John Quincy Adams. He soon broke with Adams and the National Republicans, who seemed to favor northern interests. He developed his theory of nullification that states (or minorities) could nullify federal (or majority) actions.

He also became Andrew Jackson's running mate in the Election of 1828, and again was Vice President. Jackson opposed the idea of nullification and said in a famous toast, "Our federal Union—it must and shall be preserved." In Calhoun's toast, he replied, "Our Union; next to our liberties most dear." A rift soon developed between Calhoun and Jackson, exacerbated by the Eaton Affair.

On December 28, 1832 he became the first Vice President to resign from office, having accepted election to the United States Senate from his native South Carolina. The Force Bill was proposed by Congress prohibiting states from nullifying federal laws. The Compromise of 1833 settled the matter for a number of years.

Calhoun tried to gag abolitionist press in the U.S. South, which became federal law in 1841 as the 21st Rule. In 1844 he was reappointed Secretary of State by John Tyler. Calhoun returned to the Senate in 1848 and died in 1850 in Washington, DC. He was buried in St. Phillips Churchyard in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1957, United States Senators honored Calhoun as one of the "five greatest senators of all time".

He penned Disquisition on Government and Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States.

Calhoun's son-in-law was Thomas Green Clemson, another prominent South Carolinian who became the founder of Clemson University. Today, the campus rests upon the Fort Hill estate that Calhoun once called home.

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Preceded by:
Daniel D. Tompkins
Vice President of the United States
1825-1832
Succeeded by:
Martin Van Buren
Preceded by:
Abel P. Upshur
United States Secretary of State
1844-1845
Succeeded by:
James Buchanan
Preceded by:
William H. Crawford
United States Secretary of War
1817-1825
Succeeded by:
James Barbour