Langdon Cheves

From Academic Kids

Langdon Cheves (pronounced chivis), (September 17, 1776June 25, 1857), was an American politician and a president of the Second Bank of the United States.

Cheves was born at Rocky River, South Carolina and died in Columbia, South Carolina. His father, Alexander, was a native of Scotland; his mother, Mary Langdon, was from Virginia. At the age of ten he went to Charleston to earn a living, and at sixteen had become confidential clerk in a large mercantile house.

In spite of the advice of his friends, who thought him "born to be a merchant," he began studying law at age 18. In 1797 he was admitted to the bar, and soon became eminent in his profession. Before 1808 his yearly income from his practice exceeded $20,000, making him wealthy for his time.

In 1806 he married Miss Mary Elizabeth Dulles, of Charleston. In 1810 he was elected to congress, along with William Lowndes and John C. Calhoun, and soon distinguished himself. His speech on the merchants' bonds in 1811 was especially remarkable for its learning and eloquence. Washington Irving, who was present, said it gave him for the first time an idea of the manner in which the great Greek and Roman orators must have spoken.

Cheves was a zealous supporter of the War of 1812 (a "War Hawk"); he was chairman of the naval committee in 1812, and of the committee of ways and means in 1813. On January 19, 1814, Cheves succeeded Henry Clay, who was sent as commissioner to Ghent, to become the ninth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, defeating Felix Grundy.

His most memorable act as speaker was the defeat of the re-charter of the Bank of the United States. After peace was declared in 1815, he declined re-election, and returned to the Charleston bar. In the following year he was made a judge of the superior court of South Carolina.

In 1816 the national bank was rechartered, but within three years had been nearly ruined by mismanagement. In 1819 Cheves was elected president of its board of directors, and during the next three years succeeded in restoring its credit. In 1822 he resigned this post and was succeeded by Nicholas Biddle. Cheves became chief commissioner of claims under the treaty of Ghent.

After living for a time in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and afterward in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in 1829 returned to South Carolina, and lived in retirement on his plantation for the remaining twenty-eight years of his life. He wrote occasional essays and reviews.

Cheves was an early supporter of the idea of the Southern states seceding from the United States. In the excitement of 1832 he condemned the scheme of nullification as not sufficiently thoroughgoing. He considered it folly for South Carolina to act alone; but he was strongly in favor of secession, and in 1850, as a delegate to the Nashville convention, he declared himself friendly to the scheme, then first agitated, of a separate southern confederacy. South Carolina would secede from the union eleven years later, in 1861.


Preceded by:
Henry Clay
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 19, 1814March 3, 1815
Succeeded by:
Henry Clay

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