Manuscript/Mixed Material John C. Calhoun's speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of 1850, 4 March 1850.
About this Item
- John C. Calhoun's speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of 1850, 4 March 1850.
- Created / Published
- 4 March 1850
- Subject Headings
- - Slavery
- - Abolitionism
- - Antislavery movements
- - Calhoun, John C. (John Caldwell) (1782-1850)
- - Clay, Henry (1777-1852)
- - Compromise of 1850
- - Congress
- - Legislators
- - Mason, J. M. (James Murray) (1798-1871)
- - Scoville, Joseph Alfred (1815-1864)
- - Sectionalism (U.S.)
- - Speeches
- - Webster, Daniel (1782-1852)
- - Manuscripts
- - Reproduction number: A20 (color slide; page 1)
- - The famous South Carolinian John C. Calhoun (1782-1850) made his last Senate speech during the course of the great debate over the Compromise of 1850, a complicated and controversial set of resolutions sponsored by Henry Clay (1777-1852) of Kentucky. At age sixty-eight, emaciated and spectral in appearance, Calhoun was clearly a dying man as he was assisted to his desk on the Senate floor a few minutes past noon on 4 March 1850. A black cloak, which he had pulled around him, added to the drama of the scene. The tension that had been mounting between the North and the South had now brought the Union close to the breaking point, and Calhoun was present before crowded galleries to assert that the equilibrium that had long existed between the two sections had been destroyed. The elements of Clay's compromise calling for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia and the admission of California as a free state were not negotiable to Calhoun and his followers. In his view, the sovereignty of the states was at stake, and the slavery question was moved squarely to the forefront of the debate.
- - Calhoun's speech, covering forty-two pages in manuscript, had been prepared with great care, in spite of his feeble condition. He had, however, been unable to write it out himself and dictated it over the course of two days to his secretary, Joseph Alfred Scoville (1815-1864), who would later be his biographer. Calhoun then revised the text, making corrections and emendations in his own hand that are apparent in the manuscript. He was also too weak to deliver the speech himself and had Sen. James Murray Mason (1798-1871) of Virginia read from a printed version for him. The emphasis was wholly on northern aggressions and against the trend for conciliation and compromise. Two separate nations now existed, and if the differences between them could not be settled, the two should agree to part in peace. One biographer has written that as the South Carolinian's final words were read, Calhoun "sat motionless in his chair, sweeping the chamber now and again with deeply luminous eyes."1 Calhoun would return to the Senate on 7 March to listen to the speech given by Daniel Webster (1782-1852) in favor of Clay's resolutions, and he appeared there for the final time on 13 March. He died on 31 March 1850.
- Source Collection
- John C. Calhoun Papers
- Manuscript Division
- Online Format
- IIIF Presentation Manifest
- Manifest (JSON/LD)
Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.
Chicago citation style:
John C. Calhoun's speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of , 4 March. 4 March, 1850. Manuscript/Mixed Material. https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.009/.
APA citation style:
(1850) John C. Calhoun's speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of , 4 March. 4 March. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/mcc.009/.
MLA citation style:
John C. Calhoun's speech to the United States Senate against the Compromise of , 4 March. 4 March, 1850. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/mcc.009/>.
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- Contributor: United States. National Archives and Records Service - Calhoun, John C. (John Caldwell) - Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
- Date: 1811