Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Alice Pike Barney (American, 1857-1931)
United States: District of Columbia: Washington
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 34 in x 29 in; 86.36 cm x 73.66 cm
This portrait of John C. Calhoun, which is a copy, was purchased by the Department of State from Mrs. Barney on July 30, 1892.
Signed "Alice Barney"
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


John Caldwell Calhoun (1782–1850) was born in Abbeville County, South Carolina, to a prosperous farming family. He graduated from Yale College and practiced law before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1810. In 1817 President James Monroe appointed Calhoun secretary of war. He served as vice president to both President John Quincy Adams and President Andrew Jackson. Calhoun resigned in 1832 and was elected to the U.S. Senate from South Carolina, serving 11 years. Following Secretary Upshur’s unexpected death, Calhoun became the next secretary of state, a position he held for just a year.

As secretary, Calhoun supported Tyler’s efforts to annex Texas. He submitted the treaty crafted by President Tyler and former Secretary Upshur to the U.S. Senate, but it was defeated by those who were opposed to adding another slave state to the Union. President Tyler lost his bid for reelection in 1844, but, just days before he left office in 1845, Congress approved Texas annexation by means of a joint resolution, which required only a majority vote of both houses instead of a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Calhoun also continued Secretary Upshur’s efforts to resolve the dispute with the British over the Oregon Territory. During Calhoun’s tenure the United States signed the Treaty of Wanghia, its first commercial treaty with China.

In 1845 Calhoun returned to South Carolina, which returned him to the U.S. Senate, where he served until his death.