27 Jun 2020

1850: Eleven Years Before Lincoln, John Calhoun tells the Truth

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: American Empire, Black History, Contemporary Ethics, Politics, Race Relations, Slavery, Suffering, War -Peace
John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) Father of Southern Secessionist Doctrine

1850. More than Ten Years before Abraham Lincoln was elected, John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) was not only at the end of his long political career but his life. He was regarded as one of the greatest of Southern statesman of the day from South Carolina.

Calhoun had served as congressman, Senator and even Vice President of the United States. He was a leading architect for the notion that the South had the right to secession to protect its white supremacist “way of life.” In 1837 he had proclaimed slavery as a “positive good” (a fundamental tenant of the religion of the Lost Cause. Follow the link to read Calhoun’s “Positive Good.”)

Calhoun’s last speech read to the Senate by James Mason because he was to frail to do it himself was on the “The Cause by Which the Union is Endangered” was delivered on March 4, 1850.

Calhoun had already proclaimed as early as 1838 that “Abolition and Union” cannot co-exist. Again, for those that vainly imagine that slavery was not the primary issue of issues are simply wrong. Calhoun briefly mentions the “South” being excluded from certain territory and tax distribution. The former the South was not actually excluded rather slavery was banned from expanding into certain territory. And the taxes were mingled with the slavery issue as well (the north had more people than the south). I will quote from Calhoun and he will tell us just what the danger to the Union was … ELEVEN YEARS BEFORE ABRAHAM LINCOLN was elected.

A Navy submarine was named for this man. Statues are dedicated to him. Thankfully on June 24, 2020, South Carolina took down his idol in Charleston. See Charleston Removes a Statue of Slavery Defender and Former Vice-President John C. Calhoun. 1850 would see the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law as part of the “Compromise of 1850” which forced citizens of non-slave holding states to engage in slavery.

John C. Calhoun was never a person that should have been honored with a statue in the first place, he was so honored because he was the embodiment of the racist ideals of the society he represented. Some historians have called him “the man who started the Civil War.” He was willing to go to war for the “right” to own a human being … but Calhoun did not believe African Americans were created in the image of God.

John C. Calhoun, Senator from South Carolina to the U.S. Senate, March 4, 1850: THE CAUSES BY WHICH THE UNION IS ENDANGERED

“I have, Senators, believed from the first that the agitation of the subject of slavery would, if not prevented by some timely and effective measure, end in disunion. Entertaining this opinion, I have, on all proper occasions, endeavored to call the attention of both the two great parties which divide the country to adopt some measure to prevent so great a disaster, but without success. The agitation has been permitted to proceed, with almost no attempt to resist it, until it has reached a point when it can no longer be disguised or denied that the Union is in danger. You have thus had forced upon you the greatest and the gravest question that can ever come under your consideration — How can the Union be preserved? To give a satisfactory answer to this mighty question, it is indispensable to have an accurate and thorough knowledge of the nature and the character of the cause by which the Union is endangered. Without such knowledge it is impossible to pronounce, with any certainty, by what measure it can be saved; just as it would be impossible for a physician to pronounce, in the case of some dangerous disease, with any certainty, by what remedy the patient could be saved, without similar knowledge of the nature and character of the cause which produced it. The first question, then, presented for consideration, in the investigation I propose to make, in order to obtain such knowledge, is — What is it that has endangered the Union?

Calhoun’s statue coming down

“To this question there can be but one answer, — that the immediate cause is the almost universal discontent which pervades all the States composing the Southern section of the Union. This widely-extended discontent is not of recent origin. It commenced with the agitation of the slavery question, and has been increasing ever since. The next question, going one step further back, is — What has caused this widely diffused and almost universal discontent?

“It is a great mistake to suppose, as it is by some, that it originated with demagogues, who excited the discontent with the intention of aiding their personal advancement, or with the disappointed ambition of certain politicians, who resorted to it as the means of retrieving their fortunes. On the contrary, all the great political influences of the section were arrayed against excitement, and exerted to the utmost to keep the people quiet The great mass of the people of the South were divided, as in the other section, into Whigs and Democrats. The leaders and the presses of both parties in the South were very solicitous to prevent excitement and to preserve quiet; because it was seen that the effects of the former would necessarily tend to weaken, if not destroy, the political ties which united them with their respective parties in the other section. Those who know the strength of party ties will readily appreciate the immense force which this cause exerted against agitation, and in favor of preserving quiet. But, great as it was, it was not sufficient to prevent the wide-spread discontent which now pervades the section. No; some cause, far deeper and more powerful than the one supposed, must exist, to account for discontent so wide and deep. The question then recurs — What is the cause of this discontent? It will be found in the belief of the people of the Southern States, as prevalent as the discontent itself, that they cannot remain, as things now are, consistently with honor and safety, in the Union. The next question to be considered is — What has caused this belief? One of the causes is, undoubtedly, to be traced to the long-continued agitation of the slave question on the part of the North, and the many aggression’s which they have made on the rights of the South during the time …

Remini’s fine study of Henry Clay’s desperate attempt to save the Union in 1850

“The first of the series of acts by which the South was deprived of its due share of the territories, originated with the confederacy which preceded the existence of this Government. It is to be found in the provision of the ordinance of 1787. Its effect was to exclude the South entirely from that vast and fertile region which lies between the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, now embracing five States and one territory. The next of the series is the Missouri compromise, which excluded the South from that large portion of Louisiana which lies north of 36” 30′, excepting what is included in the State of Missouri. The last of the series excluded the South from the whole of the Oregon Territory. All these, in the slang of the day, were what are called slave territories, and not free soil; that is, territories belonging to slave holding powers and open to the emigration of masters with their slaves. By these several acts, the South was excluded from 1,238,025 square miles – an extent of country considerably exceeding the entire valley of the Mississippi …

“As, then, the North has the absolute control over the Government, it is manifest, that on all questions between it and the South, where there is a diversity of interests, the interest of the latter will be sacrificed to the former, however oppressive the effects may be; as the South possesses no means by which it can resist, through the action of the Government. But if there was no question of vital importance to the South, in reference to which there was a diversity of views between the two sections, this state of things might be endured, without the hoard of destruction to the South. But such is not the fact. There is a question of vital importance to the Southern section, in reference to which the views and feelings of the two sections are as opposite and hostile as they can possibly be.

I refer to the relation between the races in the Southern Section, which constitutes a vital portion of her social organization. Every portion of the North entertains views and feelings more or less hostile to it. Those most opposed and hostile, regard it as a sin, and consider themselves under the most sacred obligation to use every effort to destroy it. Indeed, to the extent that they conceive they have power; they regard themselves as implicated in the sin, and responsible for not suppressing it by the use of all and every means. Those less opposed and hostile, regard it as a crime – an offence against humanity, as they call it; and, although not so fanatical, feel themselves bound to use all efforts to effect the same object; while those who are least opposed and hostile, regard it as a blot and a stain on the character of what they call the Nation, and feel themselves accordingly bound to give it no countenance or support. On the contrary, the Southern situation regards the relation as one which cannot be destroyed without subjecting the two races to the greatest calamity, and the section to poverty, desolation, and wretchedness; and accordingly they feel bound, by every consideration of interest and safety, to defend it.

The “Slave Power”

This hostile feeling on the part of the North towards the social organization of South long lay dormant, but it only required some cause to act on those who felt most intensely that they were responsible for its continuance, to call it into action. The increasing power of this Government, and of the control of the Northern section over all its departments furnished the cause. It was this which made an impression on the minds of many, that there was little or no restraint to prevent the Government from doing whatever it might choose to do. This was sufficient of itself to put the most fanatical portion of the North in action, for the purpose of destroying the existing relation between the two races in the South.

The first organized movement towards it commenced in 1835. Then, for the first time, societies were organized, presses established, lecturers sent forth to excite the people of the North, and incendiary publications scattered over the whole South, through the mail. The South was thoroughly aroused. Meetings were held everywhere, and resolutions adopted, calling upon the North to apply a remedy to arrest the threatened evil, and pledging themselves to adopt measures for their own protection, if it was not arrested. At the meeting of Congress, petitions poured in from the North, calling upon Congress to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and to prohibit, what they called, the internal slave trade between the States – announcing at the same time, that their ultimate object was to abolish slavery, not only in the District, but in the States and throughout the Union. At this period, the number engaged in the agitation was small, and possessed little or no personal influence …

“As for myself, I believed at that early period, if the party who got up the petitions should succeed in getting Congress to take jurisdiction, that agitation would follow, and that it would in the end, if not arrested, destroy the Union. I then so expressed myself in debate, and called upon both parties to take grounds against assuming jurisdiction; but in vain. Had my voice been heeded, and had Congress refused to take jurisdiction, by the united votes of all parties, the agitation which followed would have been prevented, and the fanatical zeal that gives impulse to the agitation, and which has brought us to our present perilous condition, would have become extinguished, from the want of fuel to feed the flame. That was the time for the North to have shown her devotion to the Union; but, unfortunately, both of the great parties of that section were so intent on obtaining or retaining party ascendancy, that all other considerations were overlooked or forgotten.

Calhoun detested the Abolition Movement. He did not believe in freedom of speech. His vitriolic denunciations of the movement against slavery – agitators – sounds strangely contemporary.

“What has since followed are but natural consequences. With the success of their first movement, this small fanatical party began to acquire strength; and with that, to become an object of courtship to both the great parties. The necessary consequence was, a further increase of power, and a gradual tainting of the opinions of both of the other parties with their doctrines, until the infection has extended over both; and the great mass of the population of the North, who, whatever may be their opinion of the original abolition party, which still preserves its distinctive organization, hardly ever fail, when it comes to acting, to co-operate in carrying out their measures. With the increase of their influence, they extended the sphere of their action. In a short time after the commencement of their first movement, they had acquired sufficient influence to induce the legislatures of most of the Northern States to pass acts, which in effect abrogated the clause of the constitution that provides for the delivery up of fugitive slaves. Not long after, petitions followed to abolish slavery in forts, magazines, and dock-yards, and all other places where Congress had exclusive power of legislation This was followed by petitions and resolutions of legislatures of the Northern States, and popular meetings, to exclude the Southern States from all territories. acquired, or to be acquired, and to prevent the admission of any State hereafter into the Union, which, by its constitution does not prohibit slavery. And Congress is invoked to do all this, expressly with the view to the final abolition of slavery in the States. That has been avowed to be the ultimate object from the beginning of the agitation until the present time; and yet the great body of both parties of the North, with the full knowledge of the fact, although disavowing the abolitionists, have cooperated with them in almost all their measures. Such is a brief history of the agitation, as far as it has yet advanced.

“It is a great mistake to suppose that disunion can be effected by a single blow. The cords which bound these States together in one common Union, are far too numerous and powerful for that. Disunion must be the work of time. It is only through a long process, and successively, that the cords can be snapped, until the whole fabric falls asunder. Already the agitation of the slavery question has snapped some of the most important, and has greatly weakened all the others, as I shall proceed to show. … [Calhoun reviews how slavery has divided “ecclesiastical” bodies already and this is a harbinger of things to come] …

“If the agitation goes on, the same force, acting with increased intensity, as has been shown, will finally snap every cord, when nothing will be left to hold the States together except force. But, surely, that can, with no propriety of language, be called a Union, when the only means by which the weaker is held connected with the stronger portion is force. It may, indeed, keep them connected; but the connection will partake much more of the character of subjugation, on the part of the weaker to the stronger, than the union of free, independent, and sovereign States, in one confederation, as they stood in the early stages of the Government, and which only is worthy of the sacred name of Union.”

End of Speech.

John C. Calhoun, Congressman, Senator, Vice President from South Carolina in his last speech to the Senate on March 4, 1850. His thoughts are are crystal clear. They are incapable of being misunderstood. Again this is eleven years before Abraham Lincoln (who wasn’t even in Congress in 1850), eleven years before Calhoun’s speech became reality in the bloody Civil War.

Leave a Reply