Little Bits of History

Ex-Vice President

Posted in History by patriciahysell on December 28, 2014
John C. Calhoun

John C. Calhoun

December 28, 1832: John C. Calhoun resigns. The South Carolina politician was the first US Vice President to resign. He was born in 1782 and when his father died, 17-year-old John quit school to work the family farm with his brothers. He was a highly intellectual man and his brothers managed to support his return to his studies. John graduated from Yale College in 1804 and Tapping Reeve Law School in Connecticut in 1807 and was then admitted to the South Carolina bar. In 1811 he married his first cousin once removed, Floride Bonneau Colhoun. They had ten children in the next 18 years, three of them dying in infancy.

Calhoun was noted for his brilliance and not for his charisma or charm. He was a respected orator and great organizer. He won his first election to Congress in 1810 and immediately became a leader of the “War Hawks”. The group was intent on going to war with Britain to maintain American honor and republican values. After the war, Calhoun worked toward gaining protective tariffs as well as internal improvements like canals and ports. He was a proponent of a national bank. In 1817, President James Monroe appointed Calhoun as Secretary of War, a position he held until 1825.

Calhoun wished to run for President of the US in the 1824 election. He failed to win the endorsement of the South Carolina legislature and opted instead for the position of Vice President. During that election, no candidate received a majority of the Electoral College and the election had to be resolved by the House of Representatives. In that arena, Calhoun won his position by a landslide and served under John Quincy Adams. In the next election, Andrew Jackson became President and once again Calhoun took the second seat, one of two men who served under two different presidents.

His position was controversial and he and President Jackson did not see eye to eye. He and the President were often ideologically in conflict. By this time, Calhoun had become a proponent of states’ rights rather than the nationalistic views he held before. To make matters worse, his wife got involved in a squabble with Peggy Eaton, wife of the Secretary of War, John Eaton. The scandal became known as the Petticoat affair and ripped apart the Cabinet, making it difficult for the Administration to function. In order to gain control over his own advisory board, Jackson forced Calhoun to resign and he did so on this date. He remained active in politics and died in Washington, D.C. in 1850 at the age of 68.

In looking back, I see nothing to regret and little to correct.

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.

It is harder to preserve than to obtain liberty.

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. – all from John C. Calhoun

Also on this day: Child’s Play – In 1973, Akron, Ohio stops their association with Box Car Derby after cheating becomes rampant.
Neptune – In 1612, Galileo observed the planet Neptune.
Poor Ben – In 1732, an ad for Poor Richard’s Almanack was run in Ben Franklin’s newspaper.
San Francisco Muni – In 1912, the Municipal Railroad in San Francisco opened.