James S. Calhoun (1802 - 1852)

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Death: Died
Cause of death: scurvy
Managed by: Doug Robinson
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About James S. Calhoun


James S. Calhoun (1802–1852) was best known as the Governor of New Mexico Territory from 1851 to 1852. He had many careers, though, including time as a Georgian politician, military colonel, and bureaucrat in the United States government.

While in his thirties and forties, Calhoun served in a variety of political roles in his home state of Georgia. First, he was elected as a member of Georgia state legislature in 1830. Later, Calhoun became mayor of Columbus, Georgia from 1838 to 1839. Finally, he served in the Georgia state senate from 1838 to 1840 and again in 1845. In between his terms in the state senate, he also acted as the U.S. Consul in Havana, Cuba from 1841 to 1842.

Calhoun held the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army during the Mexican War. Following the war, Calhoun remained in the border region and held key positions with the U.S. government. First, the President appointed Calhoun the federal Indian Agent for the newly acquired territory of New Mexico. During his two-year tenure in that position, Calhoun used various tactics to convince or coerce Pueblo Native Americans to renounce their rights under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo as former Mexican citizens. Calhoun claimed that he only sought to "protect" the Pueblos from their Mexican-American neighbors by excluding them from territorial affairs. The end result, though, was the disenfranchisement of thousands of Pueblo individuals. It would take decades of legal action by Pueblo communities to reverse that position.

President Millard Fillmore later appointed Calhoun as Governor of New Mexico Territory in 1851. One of his first acts as Governor was to propose laws restricting the movement of "free Negroes" into New Mexico. He garnered the support of wealthy Mexicans who feared for their own racial status in the U.S. Prior to the end of his term as governor of the territory, Calhoun died of scurvy near Independence, Missouri, carrying his own coffin, while enroute to Washington D.C. and eventually for his home in Georgia. He was buried on the plains.

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Colonel James S. Calhoun, Governor of New Mexico Territory's Timeline

Age 24
Age 50