...the cast-iron man who looks as if he had never been born, and never could be extinguished...
Retrospect of Western Travel
(London: 1838), I, 243.
[He] betrayed the secret of their [Southerners'] souls. In the abstract they admit slavery is an evil...but when probed to the quick upon it they show at the bottom of their souls' pride and vain glory in their condi- tion of masterdom.
In C.F. Adams, ed. Memoirs of
John Quincy Adams (12 vols;
Philadelphia, 1874-7), V, 434-5.
I told him candidly that such a step would be imprudent at this moment both at home and abroad, and should not be thought of at this time. At this rebuff the Vice-President hastily retreated. He agreed with me. He said his object was to throw himself entirely upon the South, if possible to be more Southern....To many of his projects I could not yield my assent, and his fine theory--if sound and republican--I fear will be found impracticable....He is much less disposed to harangue than usual. There is a listlessness about him which shows that his mind is deeply engaged and no doubt that it is on the subject of the Presidency. He is unquestionably quite feverish under the present excitement, and his hopes.
In "Letters on the Nullification Movement
in South Carolina, 1830-34": American
Historical Review VI:02, 741.
He cannot bear contradiction....He thinks any difference of opinion from him proves a man hostile, and is ready to open his batteries on him. Hence, again, his want of able friends. He drives off every man who has the ability to think for himself.... Pre-eminent as he was intellectually above all the men of this age as I believe, he was so wanting in judgment in the managing of men, was so unyielding and unpersuasive, that he could never consolidate sufficient power to accomplish anything great, of him- self and in due season...and jealousy of him--his towering genius and uncompromising temper, has had much effect in preventing the South from uniting to resist.
from Hammond's diary,
quoted in William M. Meigs, Life of John C.
Calhoun II (New York, 1917), 120ff.
Our friend Calhoun is gone, I fear, forever. Four years past he has been infatuated with his southern doctrines. In him they origin- ated....I have no doubt, he believed, that he could consolidate the South, carry Pennsylvania, and bring over the West. He will not sustain himself anywhere, not even in his own state.
In Meigs, Life I (New York, 1917), 361.
No dignity could be more supreme than Mr. Calhoun's. His voice was not musical; it was the voice of a professor of mathe- matics and suited his didactic discourse admirably. He made few gestures, but those nervous, gentlemanly hands seemed to point the way to empire. He always appealed to me rather as a moral and mental abstraction than a politician, and it was impossible, knowing him well, to associate him with mere personal ambition. His theories and his sense of duty alone dominated him.
in V.H. Davis, Jefferson Davis I
(New York: 1890), 210-11
Calhoun is now my principal associate and he is too intelligent, too industrious, too intent on the struggle of politics to suit me except as an occasional companion. There is no relaxation in him.
Lewis to Richard Cralleé, March 20, 1840.
In Publications of the Southern History
Association VII:03, 355.
[There is a] remarkable contradiction between the constant and scornful denunciation of the presidential chair for the last 20 years by him and his followers, as an object of interest and importance, and the sudden change to a policy by which we are instructed...that the Presidency is the question--the interest paramount to all others. His scheme, as propounded at the Charleston meeting, means, if anything, that the South should organize a party for itself, all other interests merging in that of slavery, to the exclusion and defi- ance of the north...a proposition which at once forces a corresponding organization upon the North --a result which leaves us in rather worse condition than before. Any man with one idea so deeply fixed as to become with him a passion, must necessarily be demented, wherever that idea becomes the object of consideration.
[Andrew Jackson's] standing prophecy to me in regard to [Clay and Calhoun] was that the former would die a sot and the latter in a mad-house.