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Senator John C. Calhoun’s Speech to the Senate, March 4, 1850

Calhoun asked for a constitutional amendment to protect the South’s sovereignty and sought a way to keep the Southern states in the Union “consistent with their honor and safety.” Calhoun, who died within the month, was too ill to deliver the speech. It was read by Senator James M. Mason.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

Senator John C. Calhoun’s Speech to the Senate

Preserving the Union - 2

The Missouri Compromise of 1820, which admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, temporarily solved the divisive issue of slavery’s spread to the western territories. The issue continued, however, to flare up in Congress until the Civil War. In 1850, Senator Henry Clay sought another compromise to preserve the Union and avoid war. The most famous debate in the history of the Senate ensued between Senators John C. Calhoun and Daniel Webster over Clay’s proposals. It was the last debate among these three giants of the Senate.