Was Calhoun more attuned to the ideas of Thomas Jefferson?

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geosc | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Was Calhoun attuned to the ideas of Thomas Jefferson?

The articles linked below will give some answer to your question.

One article is written by Prof. Clyde Wilson. He has great credentials and qualification for writing about both Jefferson and Calhoun. He was for long years professor of history at Univ. of South Carolina, and he edited the Calhoun papers.

The other article is by a man I had never heard of until I searched for an article about Calhoun's political philosophy, but Mr. Williamson lists good qualifications for writing the article. He has an advanced degree in history and has worked as an editor at a major publishing house.

dbello's profile pic

dbello | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Your question omits the individual with whom the comparsion is to be made, therefore this response is based upon my assumption of your intended question.

John C. Calhoun a Senator from South Carolina wrote the South Carolina Exposition and Protest denouncing the Tariff of 1828. Calhoun viewed the new tariff as nothing more than a protection of northern industry at the expense of the southern economy. Calhoun was a proponent of states' rights and thus his perspective was in direct opposition of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. He believed that a large centralized authority such as the federal government would undermine the power of the individual states. From this point of view it could be argued that Calhoun's philosophy was more in tune with Jefferson's Democratic-Republican (Anti-Federalist) philosophy rather than Jefferson's political rival Alexander Hamilton (Federalist). Jefferson's political philosophy opposed any increased power by the federal government at the expense of the state governments. Moreover, he believed that high tariffs only benefitted the wealthy merchants and manufactures located in the northern states. On the other hand, Hamilton advocated for a strong centralized government concerning the economic affairs of the new nation. His philosophy required a pro-national banknig system and high protective tariffs, everything Jefferson and later Calhoun were against.

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Agree with all of the points in the post above.  In addition, remember that Calhoun, angry about the Tariff of Abominations and what he viewed as a federal government growing in strength and threatening the institution of slavery, was a sectionalist and states' rights advocate. Jefferson adopted some federalist principles as President, imposing an embargo on European powers and limiting merchant trade, and went to war against the Barbary Pirates, not to mention using the federal treasury to purchase the Louisiana Territory.  All of these are actions I believe Calhoun would have opposed.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is really a hard question to answer unless you give us someone with whom to compare Calhoun.

You could say Calhoun was attuned to Jefferson's ideas in that they were both pretty skeptical about giving power to the national government.  Calhoun was one of the leaders of the nullification movement.  Jefferson was an anti-Federalist who wanted the federal government to have less power relative to the states.  His "Kentucky Resolutions" are often cited as justification for nullification.

On the other hand, most scholars believe Jefferson did not believe in the idea of nullification or of states seceding from the Union.

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