JOHN C. CALHOUN: AMERICAN PORTRAIT by Margaret L. Colt
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JOHN C. CALHOUN: AMERICAN PORTRAIT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An exciting biography of a figure that grows in stature as the reader explores, with the biographer, the multiple facets of an extraordinary personality. Our childhood history books identified him so completely with the cause of state sovereignty in the South, with defense of the status of slave-holding, that many readers will read these absorbing pages with a lively sense of discovery, of revitalized history, of a new understanding of Calhoun as a great American, seeking to preserve ""the union-next to our liberties most dear"", seeking to avoid the war between brothers, while staunchly fighting for the right of the South to hold what he felt the necessities of survival -- sovereign rights and agricultural supremacy of which slavery was a needful part. Calhoun's biographer has stripped some of the legend away; she has given us the man, with his faults and foibles; the statesman, who measured swords verbally with Clay and Webster and Randolph and other ""greats"" of his day; the patriot, who served his country under eight presidents. His was a wilderness heritage; from his father he inherited prejudices against things he later accepted. His was a tough-fibred mind, and his mother won for him the education- Yale of Timothy Dwight, law school -- his neighbors demanded. He chose a career of public service, as patriot and political philosopher. Early he saw the roots of disunion- and sought through every means to avoid the irreparable split. In his stand on the tariff- on slavery- on territorial expansion- on extension of transportation and communication- on strengthening the agricultural South so it would not fall slave to the industrial North -- and in his desperate fight for the doctrine of nullification as- he felt- a Constitutional bulwark for the South, always his goal was to strengthen the South within the Union. As congressman, senator, Secretary of War and Secretary of State, Calhoun fought in the political arena to sustain the life he loved, the life which is interwoven throughout the story of his public life- in his marriage, in his relations with his children, in his beloved home at Fort Hill, in Pendleton, South Carolina. Almost unaided, he averted war by compromise in 1833; and again in successive years, until -- at his death- he know it inevitable. A superb segment of history in the making; an impressive portrait of a great man.

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 1949
Publisher: Houghton, Mifflin