Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume III by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt

Calhoun at Home

Although Calhoun and Webster were always bitterly opposed in political life, they did not fail to appreciate each other's talent and real honest worth. We aren't all of us always so fair as the little boy who said of a rival classmate, "I hate Jimmie Waters 'cause he gets ahead of me; but just the same I know he's a heap smarter than I am."

To hold a fair, honest judgment of an enemy, to judge him without petty personal prejudice, is a thing that many a grown-up boy and girl fails to do.

Webster was big and broad enough to do this. While hating Calhoun as a politician and an enemy, no one more thoroughly appreciated his talent and respected his manhood than he did. On Calhoun's death it was Webster who pronounced his eulogy and gloried in the opportunity to do the dead man justice.

Webster's famous eulogy was a noble compliment; but nobler still was the love and reverence of Calhoun's own household. To remain a hero for a lifetime in one's own family, to be still respected and reverenced by those who have for years known one's daily life, is a greater proof of real nobility than any public eulogy can ever be.

The great man's family loved him even more than they admired him; and yet they exulted in his career. "Come soon again," said a younger brother to the eldest son, as he was leaving the homestead for his home in Alabama. "Come soon again and see us, for do you not see that father is growing old? and he is the dearest and best old man in the world!"

His own daughter in speaking of him, to a gentleman with whom she was conversing, said, "I wish you had known my father;" "You would have loved him. People admired him, but those who knew him in his family reverenced him. We all worshipped him."

She often went with her father to Washington during the Congressional session. Great and self-reliant as was the statesman, he took pleasure in talking with his gifted child, and often made her his confidant in perplexing cases.

"Of course," she said, referring to the high compliment he paid her, "I do not understand as he does, for I am comparatively a stranger to the world; yet he likes my opinion, and I frankly tell him my views on any subject about which he inquires of me."

His tenderness and consideration for his children was remarkable in so busy and perplexed a life as his.

A younger daughter, being an invalid, found her favorite occupation in reading. She was allowed to go to the letter-bag when it came from the office, and select the papers she wished to read. Once, two papers concerning news of importance which her father was anxious to see, were taken by her to her own room. But he would allow no one to disturb her until she had finished reading them.

Our public men are often tempted to sacrifice their families to official life. If Mr. Calhoun was thus tempted, he never yielded to it. His cheerful home was more attractive to him than the Senate Chamber.

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