In his 1917 book ‘The Life of John Caldwell Calhoun,’ author and historian William Montgomery Meigs wrote of Calhoun: “(He was) a high-strung man of ultra intellectual cast.” A smart orator, Calhoun was strong-minded and apt to curry favor with those who took to his particular brand of rabble-rousing. He was persuasive and driven, rising from the House of Representatives to the Senate to posts as U.S. Secretary of War and Secretary of State. From 1825-1832, he was the seventh Vice President.
Perhaps Calhoun’s most prominent stance, the one that dogs him into legend, was his de facto leadership of the War Hawk Party. After he was elected to Congress for the first time in 1810, Calhoun immediately set out the war drums and began banging. Bulldozing the nuance of the Napoleonic situation in Europe and alienating an enormous chunk of the liberal northeast, Calhoun and his followers agitated for war with Britain.
Outrages over international slights and naval impressment fueled Calhoun’s meaty and endless rhetorical diatribes. There would be no compromise.