Sample Essay

John C. Calhoun is an interesting figure to consider when looking at this issue because he changed sides in the course of his long political career. In 1816 he was a vigorous supporter of “The Bonus Bill” designed to use profits from the Bank of the United States for funding road and canal construction to the interior. The Louisiana Purchase had practically doubled the size of the nation, and had intensified transportation challenges that were already a real difficulty. The bill found favor in Congress, and was passed.

However, President James Madison vetoed the bill on the premise that it gave the national government powers in excess of those granted to it by the Constitution, and held that such projects should be undertaken and funded by the States. This is directly in keeping with his conception of America as a federal republic as expounded in the Federalist Papers. Calhoun later changed to the later view, and it is common to point to “protection of slavery” as the motivation for his and others’ support for States Rights, although the concept originates before America in the writings of Montesquieu, and was included in the ideology of the revolution as a sure check upon centralized tyranny (which Calhoun and many others would later refer to as a “consolidated national government.”

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