Calhoun’s Long Goodbye (Part Three)

Calhoun's Statue at the Capitol

Calhoun’s Statue at the Capitol

(Previous Parts: One and Two.)

When I said “tomorrow” in Friday’s post, I meant “Monday”. Sorry about that. Let’s call this a special Sunday post to split the difference.

When last we left the ailing Calhoun, he informed the Senate that the sectional balance he insisted ratification of the Constitution depended upon already stood on thin ice with barely-enslaved Delaware no longer properly loyal to slavery. Thus the slave states numbered twelve and twenty-four senators to the free states’ thirteen and twenty-six, with Delaware as a neutral party. A free California just amounted to pounding that ice with a sledgehammer.

The Senate alone did not tell the whole story:

According to the apportionment under the census of 1840, there were two hundred and twenty-three members of the House of Representatives, of which the Northern States had one hundred and thirty-five, and the Southern States (considering Delaware as neutral) eighty-seven, making a difference in favor of the former in the House of Representatives of forty-eight. The difference in the Senate of two members, added to this, gives to the North, in the electoral college, a majority of fifty. Since the census of 1840, four States have been added to the Union — Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida, and Texas. They leave the difference in the Senate as it stood when the census was taken; but add two to the side of the North in the House, making the present majority in the House in its favor fifty, and in the electoral college fifty-two.

The result of the whole is to give the Northern section a predominance in every department of the Government, and thereby concentrate in it the two elements which constitute the Federal Government, — majority of States, and a majority of their population, estimated in federal numbers. Whatever section concentrates the two in itself possesses the control of the entire Government.

The North outnumbered the South. It had control in the House, in the Electoral College, and threatened to solidify its control in the Senate. Remaining in the Union left the South at the North’s. In a sense, the North’s numbers besieged the South. Calhoun had a lot of experience at being outnumbered. His native South Carolina had a slave majority of 51.53% according to the 1820 census, thirty years before Calhoun gave his final speech. Its lowcountry black belts counties could reach 85% slave, higher when the planters retired to Charleston for the season. Even ten years later, the Deep South averaged only 47.28% slave and only Mississippi had joined South Carolina in the majority-slave club.

But didn’t Calhoun’s complaint amount to demographics? He might as well command the tide to stop. Calhoun disagreed. No natural trend made the South a minority section. That story tomorrow. (I’m sure this time.)

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