... and Contemporaries ...

Harriet Martineau,

19th century British diarist,

...the cast-iron man who looks as if 
he had never been born, and never could be 

Retrospect of Western Travel
(London: 1838), I, 243.

John Quincy Adams
after an informal chat in which Calhoun
confided that slavery "was the best guarantee
of equality among the whites."

[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.

James Hammond

Governor of South Carolina and Calhoun
confidant, after the vice president has hinted
at his hopes for a presidential run despite the
looming nullification crisis

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.
II (New York, 1917), 120ff.

Judge John McLean

after Calhoun reveals his pro- nullification stance

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.

Varina Howell Davis

wife of Jefferson Davis

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

Sen. Dixon H. Lewis of Alabama

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
VII:03, 355.

William Gilmore Simms

novelist and essayist, in a letter to Hammond after an
1847 speech in which Calhoun calls on the South
to rally behind a Southern candidate for president

[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.

Martin Van Buren
president of the United States

[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.