“Some” Students and Alumni Petition to Remove Calhoun’s Name from Honors College

According to local news stories, more than 200 students and Clemson alumni have petitioned to have Calhoun’s name removed from the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson University.  With an enrollment of over 23,000 students and an alumni base in the hundreds of thousands, this small number is statistically inconsequential – yet their complaint makes the news.

As the executive director of the Calhoun Institute, a proud son of the sovereign State of South Carolina and the father of a daughter enrolled in the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson, I have a proverbial dog in this fight.

Perhaps the most interesting thing one might take from the story is that there is a chapter of The Southern Poverty Law Center at Clemson. If there is a more intellectually dishonest and fraudulent group of ner-do-wells than the Southern Poverty Law Center I would be interested to know who that might be.  Such a group has no business operating in an environment where people are supposed to be learning.

Measured by modern sensibilities certainly one can find fault with things John C. Calhoun did and said.   The intelligent critical thinkers of the world seek to understand why he said those things and what it meant in the context of the world in which he lived.  Others just see a cause to attach their perceived hurt feelings without actually thinking about the matter deeply.

Using the flawed logic that is often applied to attack Calhoun and dismiss the value and coherence of his political theories and thought it is entirely possible to eliminate every politician up to and including Johnston, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Wilson and Lincoln.  Without those men, people that represent core tenents of the ideology that became the foundation of our liberal modern political and legal framework, what remains?  Shall we throw out the social programs, the expansion of the federal government and into a powerful central entity that dictates favored leftist social policies to the states, the great society and all that because one can also find words that are unacceptable today in polite speech spoken by those men?

(Personally, I would support throwing out such programs but not on spurious rationalizations of hurt feelings and failure to understand the historical context.)

Perhaps if left unchecked that is exactly where all of this revisionist history nonsense will lead.  The result, America will be a nation without a true historical narrative to bind it together.  We will be ever more balkanized.

Calhoun was one of the greatest statesmen to serve in America, he is the greatest to hail from SC.  He prevented civil war in 1850, a war the South would have likely won based upon the relative economic and industrial strength of the north versus the south at that point.  Ponder that if you will you misguided “students” and degree holders that would sign this petition.  What would have occurred without the compromise of 1850 and how different might have a subsequent history have looked?

Clemson is a public institution in South Carolina, sitting on the grounds of Calhoun’s plantation estate at Fort Mill.  His son-in-law, Thomas Greene Clemson founded the institution.  I suppose since Clemson himself served as an officer in the Confederate States Army and was a slave-owner the petition above should be expanded to exclude the name Clemson from the University as well.

That WILL NOT happen of course.  “Clempson”, in the colloquial pronunciation, is embedded in the blood of too many up that way, the orange runs deep.  Much easier to have a little ignorant petition that merely attacks Calhoun don’t you know.

I propose a much better approach for the administration is to recall the diplomas of any alumni that signed said petition and summon all current student signers and enroll them in a mandatory course of instruction in historical context and critical thinking.

As for faculty that support and encourage such ignorance?   I have recently read that Wal-Mart is laying off most of their greeters, perhaps these people should apply

About the Author

I am a Southerner, a father, husband, and Christian and retired active duty Army field grade officer; I served for just over thirty years. I spent four years of my youth at The Citadel in Charleston. I am neither a theologian nor a professional historian. I do however ask many questions and endeavor to find answers and I believe, or at least hope, that I think critically and with the understanding that God provides.

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