A boy of Scotch-Irish descent, whose ancestors had settled in Pennsylvania before travelling through mountains to resettle in southern territory, he was born in 1782 in the Abbeville district of South Carolina on March 18. His family was not rich, nor were they poor; they owned slaves and were regarded not as a part of the ostentation associated with slave-holding at the time but rather as a simple, farm family. His father had an interest in politics and participated locally, something that ultimately catapulted this boy into his future profession.
Sent at the age of 12 to live with a Presbyterian minister for a basic education, he was eventually trained at Yale beginning his junior year and graduated with "distinction," a prerequisite to the next few years in which he would study law in Charlestown. In 1807 he became a certified lawyer and began practice in his home district of Abbeville. Thereafter, he entered politics: 1808, 1809 he was a member of the S.C. legislature; 1811 to 1817 he was a House Representative of his state.
In 1811, the year he began in Congress, he married a rich cousin whose assets included vast plantations and large populations of black slaves. This marriage marked his entrance into the Charlestown southern elite, a position that would act to catalyst his pro-slavery sentiments for which he is now renown. Amicable relations developed between this person, and Clay when he entered Congress; Clay placed him on his foreign affairs committee because, like Clay, he advocated war with England. The two are considered the most powerful members of Congress who pushed these measures toward war at this time; the House eventually accepted their arguments.
As a politician, he advocated protection of American markets when European competition was at its best, internal improvements, though he strongly opposed nationalism and would later champion both the rise of sectionalism and slavery. In 1817, he was appointed Secretary of War to Monroe; in 1824 and again in 1828, he was the vice-president of the U.S, but in 1832 resigned over a controversy concerning nullification. He switched gears, and gained a seat in the Senate where he was a constant advocate of "State’s Rights" to slave-holding southern states that banked on the perpetuation of their tradition. He attempted to gain the presidency at least three times, each ending in defeat and a mysterious
"Slavery is, instead of an evil, a good, a positive good," he said. Despite his creditable and amazing cerebral facilities and his knowledge of the fundamental principles of American government, its structure and uses, he remained strangely convinced that the "peculiar institution" (his own words) of slavery was, according to him, the best relationship between blacks and whites.
"The Government of the absolute majority instead of the Government of the people is but the Government of the strongest interests; and when not efficiently checked, it is the most tyrannical and oppressive that can be devised." It is believed that his opinions regarding state’s rights and his attachment to the pursuit of the perpetuation of slavery was a result of his denied domination in the presidency (his few losses). He became a moving force of integrity, intensity- he championed the sectionalism of the south to achieve something to dominate.