1836 | Washington, DC

Antebellum Kapital

John C. Calhoun calls out the hypocrisy of the North.

The sober and considerate portions of citizens of the nonslaveholding states, who have a deep stake in the existing institutions of the country, would have little forecast not to see that the assaults which are now directed against the institutions which sustain the property and security of the South would make them equally effectual against the institutions of the North, including banking, in which so vast an amount of its property and capital is invested. It would be well for those interested to reflect whether there now exists, or ever has existed, a wealthy and civilized community in which one portion did not live on the labor of another; and whether the form in which slavery exists in the South is not but one modification of this universal condition; and, finally, whether any other, under all circumstances of the case, is more defensible or stands on stronger ground of necessity. It is time to look these questions in the face. Let those who are interested remember that labor is the only source of wealth, and how small a portion of it, in all old and civilized countries, even the best governed, is left to those by whose labor wealth is created. Let them also reflect how little volition or agency the operatives in any country have in the question of its distribution—as little, with a few exceptions, as the African of the slaveholding states has in the distribution of the proceeds of his labor. Nor is it the less oppressive, that, in the one case, it is effected by the stern and powerful will of the government, and in the other, by the more feeble and flexible will of a master. If one be an evil, so is the other. The only difference is the amount and mode of the exaction and distribution, and the agency by which they are effected.


John C. Calhoun

From “A Report on the Circulation of Abolition Petitions.” Calhoun served as vice president in the administrations of both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. When he was elected senator from South Carolina in 1832, he shifted his principles to Capitol Hill.