Warm Southern Breeze

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Honoring John C. Calhoun Community College, Decatur, Alabama

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, July 2, 2020

John C. Calhoun…

The very name brings chills to those who hear it mentioned.

And it should.

Calhoun was not merely a segregationist, but an open and unashamed advocate of slavery.

On Monday, February 6, 1837, on the floor of the United States Senate, John C. Calhoun of South Carolina delivered a speech in which he characterized slavery as “a positive good.”

However, Senator Calhoun’s speech before the Senate is largely absent from the official record, even though there are some extant authenticating sources.

That is, the official record of the proceedings in that era was called “Congressional Globe” and as the predecessor to the modern “Congressional Record” (a verbatim document which succeeded the Globe) it is substantially different, insofar as the Globe’s contents are NOT a verbatim source (like the Record is today), and instead, are the characterizations of a recorder(s), and read much like the minutes of a meeting.

Today, in the Congressional Record, one can read the exact words spoken by any person from the floor of either chamber – House, or Senate.

For that era however, the debates of Congress are found in the Congressional Globe, and for the date in question, the record of the debate may be found here: https://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llcg&fileName=003/llcg003.db&recNum=172.

24th Congress 2nd Session, Congressional Globe Appendix, Monday, February 6, 1837

However again, fortunately there is a source which does contain the speech. That source is the 1843 book “Speeches of John C. Calhoun: Delivered in the Congress of the United States from 1811 to the present time” which may be found in its entirety on the Internet Archive website here: https://archive.org/details/speechesofjohncc00incalh/page/222/mode/2up?q=a+good-a+positive+good.

Recently, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, which for years had a statue erected to Calhoun’s memory, decided to remove the edifice which was located in the town’s Marion Square.

A statue of former longtime unrepentant slavery advocate and South Carolina native, Vice President, U.S. Senator, Secretary of War, Secretary of Sate, and U.S. Representative John C. Calhoun is removed from Marion Square, in Charleston, SC.

Mayor John Tecklenburg hosted a a press conference announcing the decision to remove and relocate the statue to a location in which it would be better preserved and understood in a more historical and better improved interpretive context such as museum or educational institution. He noted also that South Carolina’s law known as the “Heritage Act” which prohibits removal of war memorials did not cover the statue, since it was not such a memorial.

Mayor Tecklenburg identified John C. Calhoun as “South Carolina’s most prominent national statesman,” and “its most consequential defender of slavery and white supremacy,” and stated further that “we are taking this action only after careful consideration of the facts of Mr. Calhoun’s life.”

Before the vote, Mayor Tecklenburg said that, “I believe that we are setting a new chapter, a more equitable chapter, in our city’s history. We are making the right step. It’s just simply the right thing for us to do.”

Dozens of residents opposing and favoring the statue’s removal addressed the City Council and the Mayor.

Councilman Karl L. Brady Jr. acknowledged that he was aware his support for its removal could cost him votes, but said that he would be voting his conscience which he said shows that, at least in Charleston, “we place white supremacy and white supremacist thought back where it belongs – on the ash heap of history.”

Calhoun’s bigotry was notorious. It would only be natural for him to own slaves, and he owned dozens in the Fort Hill, South Carolina area.

While it’s beyond the scope of this column to consider all “of the facts of Mr. Calhoun’s life,” suffice to to say that, in addition to his unashamed and vigorous proponency of slavery – for which he may be most well known – he was first a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina‘s 6th Congressional District, the 10th Secretary of War in the James Monroe administration, the 16th Secretary of State during the John Tyler and James K. Polk administrations, United States Senator from South Carolina 1845-1850, and then the 7th United States Vice President in the John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson administrations.

Regardless of what one’s thoughts may be about what is arguably his most onerous position, slavery, having served in such offices at the highest levels is a note-worthy accomplishment. It’s an illustrious political record spoiled by the unrepentant presence of slavery.

But given that the United Daughters of the Confederacy and other such onerous organizations which pay homage to treason against the United States – including the terrorist organization Ku Klux Klan, etc. – by erecting statues and creating memorials to the memory of men who were not only defeated in war, but mercifully spared prosecution for treason, it does seem most quizzical that such hoopla surrounds the removal of their presence from the public square.

There is no substantial discussion, and it is therefore granted, that slavery is a wretchedly abhorrent evil, and though the United States played an integral role in its eventual global abolition, France and England had earlier outlawed indentured servitude before the argument over its existence ever erupted in the United States. In fact, the United Kingdom outlawed slavery in 1833 through the Slavery Abolition Act, while France outlawed it even earlier, on February 4, 1794.

And though the institution of slavery was largely thought eliminated, it wasn’t totally eliminated, and the 13th Amendment states in substantial part that “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted” thereby creating the entire prison-slave labor exception.

So while some make mention of the existence of slavery in every culture in every society globally in the history of humanity, as if to minimize the still-lingering effects of its separatist and maliciously violent evil in the United States, or elsewhere, it should be noted that societies change, and things that are now unacceptable, were once acceptable, and things presently acceptable, were once unacceptable. It is such the nature of humanity, that we progress. A ride in a horse-and-buggy is rarely anything but an antiquated and amusing pastime in a park nowadays. It is certainly no means of modern transportation.

But now, we have moved to the more modern era, one which acknowledges the often myriad complexities through which we traveled to reach abolition. It is the self-evidence of social and cultural evolution. The very basis of “we hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” is contradicted by slavery.

Consequently, as a result of the stinking, seething subterranean social hatred by onerous elements still fueled by racism and segregationism, bigotry was blessed, and separatism was sanctified. One only need look at churches of the day to see the plain evidence.

And to be unequivocally certain, slavery has plagued this nation for over 400 years – since August 1619 “when a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans” whose  “arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery that would last for the next 250 years” and was this “country’s very origin” – and the results of the disease have plagued this nation even after it was “officially” outlawed… at least at the Federal level.

“Out of slavery — and the anti-black racism it required — grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day.”

While slavery was “officially” outlawed by the 13th Amendment, “Jim Crow” laws of myriad type emerged shortly afterward in the nation, most notably in the rebel Southern Confederate slave states, and to a lesser degree in the Northern Union slave states, thereby proliferating, fueling and strengthening the divisive hatred which thereby weakened our nation. Those laws were by no means enacted and enforced “…in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Those despicable laws, which ranged from denial of Voting Rights, to “separate but equal” (which were in no way equal) everything – were enacted precisely to perpetuate the deliberate separation, disenfranchisement, and unequal treatment of imported African slaves, their children, their children’s children, and their children’s children children, even into into perpetuity – to essentially deny them the rights afforded them as American citizens.

The perpetual, seemingly innocuous displays of Confederate statuary over the years placed by secessionist rebel Confederate sympathizer groups – notably by the United Daughters of the Confederacy – rather than slave sympathizers is practically ubiquitously absent, while opponents are vocal. The White Supremacist interests remain represented, whereas Blacks, and other and other non-White races were purposefully excluded, and difference between them capitalized upon and exploited unjustly.

His racist views were not expressed exclusively toward Blacks, but also excluded Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, or any of a number of individuals, even of European descent. Racism in most, if not all, cases is now resoundingly condemned by the United Nations at the behest of the United States of America, and in conjunction with other supportive nations – primary and secondary.

There are counties and other institutions named in honor and recognition of him. But again, much of the support for Jim Crow laws came during the 1940’s and be thought to have reached its zenith in the 1980’s. Calhoun could have also been considered the architect of the infamous “Trail of Tears” because of his opposition to – which Representative Davy Crockett of Tennessee also opposed – was the forced removal at gunpoint by the United States Army of Native Americans from their verdant fertile native lands in the SouthEast, to remote, arid, and inhospital climes in the desert SouthWest.

Now, to be absolutely certain, and utterly without the slightest hint of ambiguity, statues honor and commemorate events (things) or people, and naming events, buildings, or institutions after people or events is an exclusive honorific meant to dignify, honor, or commemorate that for which it is named. 

Turns out, Frederick Douglass (1818-1895), had something to say about that.

Douglass, you see, was the renown abolitionist, and was present for the dedication of the Emancipation Memorial in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1876. Present also was President Ulysses S. Grant.

Douglass delivered the keynote address.

Later, however, Douglass wrote a Letter to the Editor and suggested that a statue of Ulysses S. Grant should be added to the mix, because his was the one whose “act by which the negro was made a citizen of the United States and invested with the elective franchise.”

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/what-frederick-douglass-had-say-about-monuments-180975225/

John C. Calhoun Community College in Decatur, Alabama is a two-year community/junior college in NORTH CENTRAL Alabama, and is the most populous such institution of its kind in the state. Their website is: https://Calhoun.edu/.

This is Alabama we’re talking about.

The state that can ALWAYS be counted upon to do the right thing… only after it’s exhausted every other possibility.

Alabama, the state that gave us George C. Wallace.

Alabama, the state that gave us the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.

Alabama, the state that gave us Bull Connor.

Alabama, the state that gave us KKK church bombings that killed children.

Alabama, the state that gave us HB-56 discrimination against legal migrant Hispanic farm workers.

Alabama, the state with some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.

Alabama, the state with some of the lowest education achievements in the nation.

Alabama, the state with some of the worst health conditions in the nation.

Alabama.

In the opening paragraph about the man, History.com writes this about John C. Calhoun (1782-1850):

“was a prominent U.S. statesman and spokesman for the slave-plantation system of the antebellum South. As a young congressman from South Carolina, he helped steer the United States into war with Great Britain and established the Second Bank of the United States. Calhoun went on to serve as U.S. secretary of war, vice president and briefly as secretary of state. As a longtime South Carolina senator, he opposed the Mexican-American War and the admission of California as a free state, and was renowned as a leading voice for those seeking to secure the institution of slavery.”

Encyclopaedia Britannica writes this about the man:

John C. Calhoun, in full John Caldwell Calhoun, (born March 18, 1782, Abbeville district, South Carolina, U.S.—died March 31, 1850, Washington, D.C.), American political leader who was a congressman, the secretary of war, the seventh vice president (1825–32), a senator, and the secretary of state of the United States. He championed states’ rights and slavery and was a symbol of the Old South.

HistoryNet.com wrote this about John C. Calhoun in October 2002:

Slavery was the foundation of the antebellum South. More than any other characteristic, it defined Southern social, political, and cultural life. It also unified the South as a section distinct from the rest of the nation.

John C. Calhoun, the South’s recognized intellectual and political leader from the 1820s until his death in 1850, devoted much of his remarkable intellectual energy to defending slavery. He developed a two-point defense. One was a political theory that the rights of a minority section—in particular, the South—needed special protecting in the federal union. The second was an argument that presented slavery as an institution that benefited all involved.

Calhoun’s commitment to those two points and his efforts to develop them to the fullest would assign him a unique role in American history as the moral, political, and spiritual voice of Southern separatism. Despite the fact that he never wanted the South to break away from the United States as it would a decade after his death, his words and life’s work made him the father of secession. In a very real way, he started the American Civil War.

The United States Senate website largely sanitizes their biography of John C. Calhoun by writing in part, that:

“John Caldwell Calhoun was born on March 18, 1782, near Long Canes Creek, an area later known as the Abbeville District, located in present-day McCormick County, South Carolina. His parents, Patrick and Martha Caldwell Calhoun, were of Scotch-Irish ancestry. The Calhouns had immigrated to Pennsylvania during the 1730s and moved steadily southward until 1756, when Patrick reached the South Carolina back country. One of the most prosperous planters (and one of the largest owners of enslaved people) in his district, Patrick Calhoun was a leader in local politics; he served in the South Carolina legislature from 1768 to 1774.

“At the formation of the Government,” Calhoun observed in his inaugural remarks, “the members of the Senate were, probably, too small to attract the full confidence of the people, and thereby give to it that weight in the system which the Constitution intended. This defect has, however, been happily removed by an extraordinary growth”—11new states, and 22 senators, in a 36-year period. The 1819-1820 debate over the extension of slavery into the Missouri territory signaled that an era of increasingly virulent sectional discord had arrived.

“Calhoun declared himself a candidate for the presidency in December 1821, much to the surprise of Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, widely considered to be Monroe’s heir apparent by virtue of his office. Calhoun and Adams were friends; both avid nationalists, they had also been political allies until the Missouri crisis in 1820 exposed their profound disagreement over slavery.

“Calhoun saw United States participation in the Panama Congress as a perilous first step toward extending diplomatic recognition to Haiti, a nation of former slaves.

“Calhoun returned to the Senate in November 1845 and remained there for the rest of his life. Increasingly defensive about the institution of slavery as the abolition movement gained momentum, and agitated at the growing discord between the slaveholding and free states, he spoke, as he informed the Senate in 1847, as “a Southern man and a slaveholder.”

Three of the last four paragraphs in the Senate’s sanitized biography of him mention the word most frequently, but largely serve to isolate him from the horrors of that inhuman practice.

And then, there’s Wikipedia, “the free encylopedia anyone can edit” (and usually does) which opens its article on the man with the following:

“John Caldwell Calhoun (March 18, 1782 – March 31, 1850) was an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who served as the seventh vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832. He is remembered for strongly defending slavery and for advancing the concept of minority states’ rights in politics.”

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