Calhoun, John Caldwell

Calhoun, John Caldwell (1782-1850) Vice President, Secretary of War, Secretary of State: Born in South Carolina of Irish Presbyterian parentage, Calhoun studied at Yale University and became a lawyer. Elected to the US Congress, he supported the War of 1812 (1812-15) and the protective tariff. In 1817, Calhoun became Secretary of War under President Monroe, succeeding in reorganizing the War Department. From 1825 to 1832, he served as Vice President in the administrations of John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. In 1829, Calhoun stated his belief that states had the right to nullify laws they considered unconstitutional. He presented his theory of state rights in his 1831 "Address to the People of South Carolina." When South Carolina passed the Nullification Ordinance in 1832, Calhoun resigned as Vice President and entered the US Senate. There he led the states' rights movement and supported the interests of slave-holding states. He became Secretary of State and, in 1844, signed the treaty annexing Texas. Returning to the Senate, he opposed the war with Mexico (1846-7). Along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, Calhoun was part of the "great triumvirate" of American political orators of their period.