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John C. Calhoun Papers

Identifier: Mss-0200

Scope and Contents Note

The papers consist of correspondence and other materials documenting the career of Calhoun, the Calhoun and Clemson families, and United States politics during the early to mid-nineteenth century. Included are agreements, articles, clippings, correspondence, lists, notes, maps, microfilm, photographs, poems, receipts, speeches, statements, a survey book, an autograph draft and a photocopy of the South Carolina Exposition and other material.

Most of the correspondence between Calhoun and others, but other family letters are included. Some letters have been transcribed. In addition to information on the life of the Calhoun and Clemson families, topics covered by the correspondence include the condition of crops, the sale of rice, mining, the annexation of Texas, banking, construction of railroads, the Mexican-American War, nullification, presidential elections and candidates, political parties, transportation, the slavery question, state rights, and protective tariffs. The miscellaneous items in Calhoun's papers include clippings pertaining mainly to political events; handwritten copies of material relating to the slave trade in the 1790s such as an "Account of American Vessels trading for Slaves to Ye Coast of Africa"; and handwritten copies of foreign relations documents, including a summary of negotiations with Spain for the period 1816-1829, and a settlement of claims of United States citizens against Peru in the 1840s.

After Calhoun's death, correspondence and items relating to Calhoun and the papers were added to the collection. They include letters of condolence to family members following the death of John C. Calhoun; there is also correspondence pertaining to the editing of Calhoun's manuscripts pertaining to his views on government as well as letters of who should write a biography of Calhoun. The "Posthumous Miscellaneous" material includes such items as lists and indexes of Calhoun letters at Clemson by William Pinckney Starke and others; Carl L. Epting's correspondence regarding John C. Calhoun; information about Dumbarton Oaks and Fort Hill; a photograph of Fort Hill c. 1880; writings of A. G. Holmes on John C. Calhoun; and an "Order of Procession for escorting the remains of the Honorable John C. Calhoun." The "Related Material" consists of small collections of papers of other Calhoun family members kept with the Papers and includes a survey book (1784-1792) of John Calhoun's father, Patrick Calhoun; a list of John Ewing Colhoun's lands, 1789; correspondence to Floride Colhoun, 1790-1791; and the A. Ransom Calhoun papers, 1853-1862.

The maps are photostatic copies made by the South Carolina Department of Archives and History in 1976 of five maps located in Calhoun's office at Fort Hill and include a copy of a rare 1822 map of South Carolina by John Wilson. The microfilm consists of six reels of "John C. Calhoun Papers in the Library of Congress: Papers from Manuscript Groups" (Washington, DC: National Archives, 1954) and four rolls of "U.S. War Department: Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, Letters Sent, Military Affairs" for the period May 2, 1816-August 10, 1830 (File Microcopies of Records in the National Archives, no. 6, rolls 9-12. Washington, DC: National Archives, 1942).

Correspondents in the Papers include James M. Buchanan, Armistead Burt, Andrew Pickens Calhoun, Cornelia Calhoun, Floride Calhoun, James Edward Calhoun, Anna Calhoun Clemson, Thomas Green Clemson, Floride Colhoun, John E. Colhoun, Richard K. Cralle, Jefferson Davis, Carl L. Epting, James Gadsden, Duff Green, James Hamilton, J. H. Hammond, Alester Garden Holmes, Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, Henry William de Saussure, W. Gilmore Simms, William Pinkney Starke, Alexis de Tocqueville, John Tyler and Daniel Webster. There is a card file index to the correspondence in Special Collections.


  • 1784 - 1980
  • 1802 - 1850


Biographical Note

John Caldwell Calhoun was born on March 18, 1782 near Abbeville, South Carolina, to Patrick and Martha Caldwell Calhoun. He graduated from Yale University in 1804 and studied law in Litchfield, Connecticut and in Charleston, South Carolina, being admitted to the bar and opening a law office in Abbeville, South Carolina in 1807. Circa1832 Calhoun purchased the O'Bar gold mine in Georgia. He married his cousin, Floride Bonneau Colhoun, on January 8, 1811 and they had nine children: Andrew Pickens (October 15, 1811-March 16, 1865), Floride (1814-1815), Anna Maria (February 13, 1817-September 22, 1875), Patrick (February 9, 1821-June 1, 1858), Elizabeth (lived just five months), John Caldwell (May 17, 1823-July 31, 1855), Martha Cornelia (April 22, 1824-May 2, 1857), James Edward (April 4, 1826-November 29, 1861) and William Lowndes (August 13, 1829-September 19, 1858).

Calhoun was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1808. He was elected a member of the United States House of Representatives and served there from 1811 to 1817 representing the congressional district made up of Abbeville, Newberry and Laurens counties of South Carolina. He was appointed Secretary of War on October 8, 1817 and served two terms during the presidency of James Monroe. Calhoun believed in a strong defense system; during his years as Secretary of War he reorganized the War Department and placed it on a firm fiscal foundation. Calhoun was also an adviser to President Monroe on the drafting of the 1823 Monroe Doctrine. In 1824 he was elected Vice President of the United States and served under President John Quincy Adams. He was again elected Vice President of the United States in 1828, serving under President Andrew Jackson. Calhoun resigned from the Vice Presidency in 1832 to become a United States Senator from South Carolina, as he felt he could best serve his state in that manner. He served as Senator from 1832-1843 and from 1845 until his death in 1850. President Tyler appointed him Secretary of State on March 6, 1844 and during his brief term he strongly advocated the annexation of Texas.

Calhoun was a proponent of nullification and states' rights. He strongly expressed his views on that issue when in 1828 he drafted the South Carolina Exposition for the South Carolina State Legislature. Calhoun supported slavery and its extension to the territories; therefore, he favored the establishment of rights by the United States to the Oregon and Washington Territories; however, he opposed the Mexican-American War in 1846. He proposed internal improvements in transportation in order to open up the interior of the country and was in favor of a national bank.

Although Calhoun was in Washington when his presence was required for national duties, he and his family established their permanent residence about 1825 at Fort Hill in the Pendleton, South Carolina area. The land is now the location of Clemson University. In 1838 his daughter, Anna Maria, married Thomas Green Clemson, the founder of Clemson University. Calhoun died March 31, 1850 in Washington, D.C. and was buried in St. Philip's Episcopal Churchyard, Charleston, South Carolina on April 26, 1850.


5.5 Cubic Feet (including oversize items, maps and 10 rolls of 35 mm microfilm)

Language of Materials



The Papers are arranged alphabetically by folder title and fall into five general areas: correspondence, miscellaneous, posthumous correspondence, posthumous miscellaneous papers and related material. The correspondence is arranged chronologically, with undated correspondence at the end. This correspondence is arranged alphabetically by the name of the correspondent or, if the correspondence is unsigned, it is placed alphabetically in the correspondents file by the name of the recipient. Fragments of correspondence are placed in their own folder following the undated correspondence. The posthumous correspondence is arranged chronologically.


The papers were donated or transferred to Clemson University Libraries over a period of time and accessioned as 68-9, 76-1, 84-82, 89-80, 89-203, 89-224, 91-5, 92-61, 94-23 and 97-112. Letters from J.C. Calhoun to P. Noble and a letter from Floride Calhoun to Mrs. Patrick Noble were donated by Sarah Noble Carnes in 1961. The 16mm film was donated by Lawrence Gering in 1961. The portrait print was donated in 1948 by Mrs. Shuford of Anderson, South Carolina.

Existence and Location of Originals

The original maps are located at Fort Hill (the Calhoun Mansion), Clemson, SC.

Related Materials

The letters to and from Calhoun have been published in The Papers of John C. Calhoun. Related material can be found in the Thomas Green Clemson Papers, Mss 2.

Materials Specific Details

Four letters - Anna Maria Calhoun Clemson to John C. Calhoun June 1, 1844 December 5, 1844 April 18, 1848 August 12, 1849 - Are located on row/shelf 8:42

Processing Information

Nancy Ogden Keller processed the papers and prepared the register in 1998.These papers were processed with a grant from the South Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board.

The conversion of this finding aid to Encoded Archival Description format was made possible with a grant from the South Carolina State Historical Records Advisory Board in 2009-2010. The finding aid was prepared for encoding by Jen Bingham.


John C. Calhoun Papers
2010 April 22
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Repository Details

Part of the Clemson University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Repository

230 Kappa St.
Clemson SC 29634 U.S.A. US