Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina >> An Oration on the Life, Character, and Services of John Caldwell Calhoun, Delivered on the 21st November 1850, in Charleston, S.C., at the Request of the City Council >> Page 244

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Page 244

Speech | The Reprint Company; John F. Trow & Co. | 1866, 1978
Transcription 244
In reviewing Mr. Calhoun's political course up to
this period, if, with the sternness of the historian, we
brush aside the splendid halo that surrounds it, and
call to our aid the subsequent experience of a third of
a century of rapid progress above all, if we examine
it by the effulgent light which he, himself, more than
all other men, has since shed upon the Federal Con-
stitution, and judge it by those rigid and severe tests
which he has taught us, we cannot fail to perceive that
brilliant, useful, a,nd glorious, as it was, to his country
and himself, his views, in many most important par-
ticulars, were essentially erroneous ; and that he as-
sisted powerfully in giving currency to opinions, and
building up systems, that have proved seriously in-
jurious to the South, and probably to the stability of
the existing Union. These I have not hesitated to
point out. It was due to truth, to history, and to him.
It has been customary to apologize for these errors,
by saying that they were the errors of youth. But
Mr. Calhoun had no youth, to our knowledge. He
sprung into the arena like Minerva from the head of
Jove, fully grown and clothed in armor : a man every
inch himself; and able to contend with any other man.
A severe moralist would point to them as conspicuous
proofs of the fallibility of our nature, since the deep-
est devotion both to the Union and his native section,
and the most perfect purity of purpose, combined with
the subtlest intellectual acumen and the profoundest
generalization, could not save him from them. There
may be much truth and wisdom in this view. But
there are reasons why Mr. Calhoun should have fallen
at that time into the opinions that he held, which,
properly considered, would remove every shadow of