Calhoun studied law under Tapping Reeve at Litchfield, Conn., and began (1808) his public career in the South Carolina legislature. Frontier born, he acquired a large plantation by marrying (1811) his cousin, Floride Calhoun. (Calhoun's plantation, with his house, Fort Hill, is now the campus of Clemson Univ.) Later he came to represent the interests of the Southern planter aristocracy.
A Congressman (1811–17) and acting chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Calhoun was one of the leading "war hawks," who whipped up enthusiasm for the War of 1812. He remained a nationalist for some time after the war, speaking for a strong army and navy, for encouragement of manufacturing, for internal improvements, and for a national bank; many of these causes he later opposed. Calhoun was an efficient Secretary of War (1817–25) under President Monroe.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.