Get Your Free Audiobook

Non-member price: $42.90

After 2 months, Audible is $16.45/mo. Cancel anytime.

Publisher's Summary

A new biography of the intellectual father of Southern secession - the man who set the scene for the Civil War, and whose political legacy still shapes America today.

John C. Calhoun is among the most notorious and enigmatic figures in American political history. First elected to Congress in 1810, Calhoun went on to serve as secretary of war and vice president. But he is perhaps most known for arguing in favor of slavery as a "positive good" and for his famous doctrine of "state interposition", which laid the groundwork for the South to secede from the Union - and arguably set the nation on course for civil war. 

Calhoun has catapulted back into the public eye in recent years, as the strain of radical politics he developed has found expression once again in the tactics and extremism of the modern Far Right. In this revelatory biographical study, historian Robert Elder shows that Calhoun is crucial for understanding the political climate in which we find ourselves today. By excising him from the mainstream of American history, we have been left with a distorted understanding of our past and no way to explain our present.

©2021 Robert Elder (P)2021 Hachette Audio

More from the same

Narrator

What listeners say about Calhoun

Average Customer Ratings

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

No Reviews are Available
Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for steve thomas
  • steve thomas
  • 03-04-2021

Good Bio

Glad to find this new bio on Audible as the Coit one is outdated. After a slow start (apparently not much is known about his early life), I found this to be quite good. Calhoun began as a nationalist who supported the 2nd Bank of US, internal improvements and even tariffs. When SC politics took a hard turn against tariffs in the 1820's, Calhoun nimbly shifted gears and became pro States-rights and the foremost advocate of nullification. In the 1830's as a strong abolitionist movement emerged Calhoun led the shift from defending slavery as a necessary evil to embracing slavery as a positive good. The rest of his career was devoted to the pro-south, pro-slavery cause including his short stint as Secretary of State where he took on the British empire for it's anti-slavery tilt.

The narration is choppy and there's lots of misplaced emphasis like "war making-powers" instead of "war-making powers" but I gave it 4 stars because the narrator has a nice soothing voice which goes a long way.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Christopher
  • Christopher
  • 16-03-2021

A Complicated Figure

This is an excellent biography of Calhoun, one that offers an even-handed treatment of a very problematic historical figure. Elder casts Calhoun as neither an untouchable giant nor as a villain to be cast away; instead, he presents us with a richly complicated human picture of someone who, at his best, grew the institutions that would one day blossom into fixtures of America, and who, at his worst, represented a toxic form of white supremacy whose poisonous effects are still felt in the present day.

The narrator in this recording has a great voice, but his readings feel oddly unnatural at times, offering weird pauses and inflection points that break the rhythm of the sentence. It didn’t deter me from listening, but it was noticeable.

Overall, I’d recommend this book to anyone trying to understand a complicated figure from America’s past and the long shadow he casts on its present.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Robert N. Driscoll
  • Robert N. Driscoll
  • 10-03-2021

Loved it. Thorough and I learned a great deal.

Calhoun is a tough subject to tackle because it is tempting to let the awfulness of the cause he served be the only thing that matters. I found the treatment of him complete and nuanced without obscuring or avoiding his connection to slavery. I'm glad I took the time with this. I did think the narration was a touch uneven, as though someone went back and dropped in sentences or paragraphs occasionally.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Bookworm
  • Bookworm
  • 04-06-2021

Excellent

If you are interested in the early political and constitutional development of America, this is a book for you. If you are interested in understanding Calhoun and how he formed his beliefs, this is also a book for you. I found it very enlightening and worthy of my time. Well structured and excellent narration.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Dan Kremer
  • Dan Kremer
  • 20-05-2021

A good biography spoiled (almost)

Excellent biography, terrible narration. Inappropriate pauses, pronunciation and emphasis throughout. A computer reading would have been better.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Nana Landgraf
  • Nana Landgraf
  • 26-04-2021

Excellent book and performance

I’m trying to give it five stars in all categories but phone not cooperating. I got this book because of review in The Economist. Otherwise never would have touched it. Dislike his ideas and his effect on US and our history. But he’s a complex man. And the reading was good too, straightforward, fitting to the subject and my tastes.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-04-2021

Excellent book ruined by poor narration

The book is important, erudite and analytical. Unfortunately the reading by Rick Perez is very poor, strained and mechanical, communicating a lack of comprehension and appreciation of the book. Difficult to understand the choice of this reader by Audible.

In the spirit of reconciliation, Audible Australia acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.