John C. Calhoun – Biography, Facts & Significance


John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) of South Carolina was one of the most influential politicians in the United States and a leading voice for the South during the antebellum era. He served as a U.S. representative, secretary of war, vice president and secretary of state, and had a long career in the U.S. Senate, during which he emerged as an outspoken defender of states’ rights and the institution of slavery.

Early Life and Career

John Caldwell Calhoun was born into a large Scots-Irish family on a plantation in rural South Carolina on March 18, 1782. His father, Patrick Calhoun, fought in the Revolutionary War and was elected to the South Carolina legislature after it ended. Patrick died when John was 13, and his three older brothers helped pay for his education. Calhoun eventually attended Yale University in Connecticut, graduating in 1804. He studied briefly at Litchfield Law School in Connecticut before returning to South Carolina, where he settled in Abbeville.


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