Books: Lost Cause

JOHN C. CALHOUN: AMERICAN PORTRAIT (593 pp.) — Margaret Co/V —Houghton Mifflin ($5).

John Calhoun, born to the cotton rows and the linsey-woolsey of a South Carolina frontier farm, became the greatest spokesman the slave-owning aristocracy ever had. He loved the Union with a choked, subterranean passion, but his arguments led fatefully to secession and Fort Sumter. Desperately he yearned for the presidency, but he took such an uncompromising stand on so many unpopular and often sectional issues that he seemed consciously to be disqualifying himself for the big prize.

Many historians have...

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