Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Calhoun was shaped by his own father, Patrick Calhoun, a prosperous backcountry planter who supported the Revolutionary War but opposed ratification of the federal Constitution. The father was a staunch slaveholder who taught his son that one's standing in society depended not merely on one's commitment to the ideal of popular self-government but also on the ownership of a substantial number of slaves. Flourishing in a world in which slaveholding was a badge of civilization, Calhoun saw little reason to question its morality as an adult; he never visited Europe. Calhoun had seen in his own state how the spread of slavery into the back country improved public morals by ridding the countryside of the shiftless poor whites who had once terrorized the law abiding middle class. Calhoun believed that slavery instilled in the white who remained a code of honor that blunted the disruptive potential of private gain and fostered the civic-mindedness that lay near the core of the republican creed. From such a standpoint, the expansion of slavery into the backcountry decreased the likelihood for social conflict and postponed the declension when money would become the only measure of self worth, as had happened in New England. Calhoun was thus firmly convinced that slavery was the key to the success of the American dream.