Quotable Quotes

... from Calhoun ...

... Nationalist,

We are charged by Providence, not only 
with the happiness of this great rising 
people, but, in a considerable degree, 
with that of the human race.  We have a 
government of a new order, perfectly 
distinct from all others which have 
preceded it--a government founded on the 
rights of man; resting, not on authority, 
not on prejudice, not on superstitution, 
but reason.  If it shall succeed, as 
fondly hoped by its founders, it will be
the commencement of a new era in human 
affairs.  All civilized governments must,
in the course of time, conform to its 

in Richard K. Cralle, ed.,

The Works of John C. Calhoun II
(New York: 1854-7), 191.

... Nullifier,

I consider the Tariff, but as the 
occasion, rather than the real cause of 
the present unhappy state of things.  
The truth can no longer be disguised, 
that the peculiar domestick institutions 
of the Southern States, and the consequent 
direction which that and her soil and 
climate have given to her industry, has 
placed them in regard to taxation and 
appropriation in opposite relation to the 
majority of the Union; against the danger 
of which, if there be no protective power 
in the reserved rights of the states, 
they must in the end be forced to rebel, 
or submit to have... their domestick 
institutions exhausted by Colonization 
and other schemes, and themselves & 
children reduced to wretchedness.  Thus 
situatied, the denial of the right of the 
state to interfere constitutionally in the 
last resort, more alarms the thinking 
than all other causes.

Letter to Virgil Maxcy on looming nullification crisis:
September 11, 1830. Galloway-Maxcy- Markoe Papers.

... Slave Owner,

I hold that in the present state of 
civilization, where two races of different 
origin, and distinguished by color, and 
other physical differences, as well as 
intellectual, are brought together, the 
relation now existing in the slave-holding 
States between the two, is, instead 
of an evil, a good--a positive good....There 
has never yet existed a wealthy and civilized 
society in which one portion of the community 
did not, in the point of fact, live on the labor 
of the other....I fearlessly assert that the 
existing relation between the two races in the 
South, against which these blind fanatics 
are waging war, forms the most solid and durable 
foundation on which to rear free and stable 
political institutions.

From 1836 debates over South's demands for restrictions on abolitionist newspapers and petitions
Works II, 488.

... Presidential aspirant,

...if left to your own popularity,--
without the active and direct influence 
of the President and the power and pa-
tronage of the Government, acting through 
a mock convention of the people,--instead 
of the highest, you would, in all proba-
bility, have been the lowest of the 

To Martin Van Buren after his presidential victory, but before he took office (Calhoun still presided over Senate as Vice President)
Congressional Debates, XII, Part I, 555

...if your letter would fall into the 
hands of those who are to come after us, they 
would infer from the topicks you urge on me t
o adopt, the course you recommend, and the 
remarks with which you accompany them, that 
I was a vain, light headed, ill judging and 
ambitious man, ignorant alike of the nature 
of the times, and my own strength, and constantly 
leading myself and those who follow me, into 
false positions, and aiming constantly at the 
Presidency, and destined constantly to be 
defeated.  I know you do not and connot so 
think of me. No one knows better than yourself, 
that in the heat of youthful years, I never 
sought, or desidered the Presidency, but through 
a faithful dischange of my duty, and as an 
instrument of high usefulness and distinguished 

Letter to Duff Green, editor of the pro-Calhoun,
pro-states rights United States Telegraph:
July 27, 1837

... and Sectionalist.

The Union is doomed to dissolution, there 
is no mistaking the signs.  I am satisfied 
in my judgment even were the questions which 
now agitate Congress settled to the  satis-
faction and the concurrence of the Southern 
States, it would not aver, or materially 
delay, the catastrophe.  I fix its probable 
occurrence within twelve years or three 
Presidential terms.  You and others of your 
age, will probably live to see it; I shall not.  
The mode by which it will be is not so clear; 
it may be brought about in a manner that none 
now foresee.  But the probability is it will 
explode in a Presidential election.

Letter to James M. Mason of Virginia shortly before his death on March 31, reflecting on the Compromise of 1850:
The Public Life and Diplomatic
Correspondence of James Murray Mason
Roanoke, VA: 1903, 72-73

Calhoun on Calhoun

The great ends in his system of life, 
whether public or private, he has ever 
held to be fixed by reason and general 
rules; but the time and the mode of ob-
taining them he regarded as questions of 
expediency, to be determined by the circum-
stances under which he is called to act.... Seeing clearly his own ends, which have been long fixed by observation and reflection, he judges, with a rare sagacity, of the nearest practicable approach which can be made to them under the cicumstances, and advances forward to the boundaries assigned by prudence without fear of the enemy, and halts when he has taken as much ground as he can occupy, with- out regard to the remonstrances of his followers, who take their counsels merely from zeal, and do not properly ascertain the limits upon human power, and the controlling force of events.... He uses time to control circumstances, and directs them both to his great oject, which he is ever on the the march sooner or later to attain. This it is which makes him the master-statesman of his age, and thus he has been able to accomplish so much with such inconsiderable means.

From an anonymous biography which some
historians believe to have been authored
by Calhoun:
The Life of John C. Calhoun
(New York: Harper, 1843), 52-3.