A letter from John C. Calhoun to Minneapolis, about this lake of yours

What would John C. Calhoun make of a lap around Lake Calhoun? Now we know.

What would John C. Calhoun make of a lap around Lake Calhoun? Now we know. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Dear citizens of Minneapolis,

It has come to my attention that one of your elected bodies has undertaken an effort to remove my surname from Lake Calhoun. 

I joined Congress before my third decade, served aside three presidents, orated in the U.S. Senate until the reaper’s grip stole of me my speech. And lo, I am besmirched in your city halls and your popular press, as a long-dead racist slave-driver who inspired the Civil War. A vicious lie! Racism, slavery, and defense of states’ rights to keep separate classes of men, I accept, and with pride.

But I am not dead, for my name lives on.

Should the city retain my name on its largest lake, the least it shall do is remake itself in my image. My readings of local periodicals have informed me greatly of the present state of your municipality. It possesses many gifts and virtues, though I would be evading my duties as a public servant if I did not submit propositions for improvement. They are as follows:

The Mississippi River: What a providential engine of commerce! A capitalist such as myself can only imagine the great reams of cotton that must traverse this God-gifted thoroughfare. However, my investigation of the city’s ports finds them woefully underdefensed, with nary a single fort or naval installation. This leaves its blessed waterway vulnerable to invasion from the unpredictable, warlike Canadians. At present, your city ships at her sailors’ peril.

Economy: Here again, the city does her river a great disservice, having surrounded the Mississippi with the same paved roads and risen tenements which are, in my experience, popular only in certain European cities infested with freemasons. Each inch of this amounts to spoilage of the territory’s fertile soil.

The whole of it should be destroyed and dug up, so the city could assume its place as an agrarian power unrivalled along the Mississippi. Do not turn your back on Minneapolis’ rich agricultural history; farms are the future.

Mining: I read with great concern about the depressed economic conditions in the iron-bearing region to your burg’s north. To the mine owners, I inveigh: Your business model is fundamentally flawed!

Follow the methods I employed at the gold mine I owned in Georgia. Put your slaves to work, and watch your balance sheet rebound heartily. A miner’s welfare is of no concern to the ore, and each death is but another minion’s opportunity to embrace shallow breaths, and to discover a fondness for toil, and darkness, and bats.

The Mayoralty: I read that a member of the fairer sex, one Elizabeth Hodges, puts forth herself as a prospective leader of the city. Be it muddled farce or blatant radicalism, ’tis in any event a gross mistake.

Women like my cousin and wife, Floride, should deploy what few gifts they acquire in the home, as a mother, a hostess, and a firm but gentle hand with the more refined set of slaves. (I shall not even entertain indecorous rumors of Mrs. Hodges’ alleged dalliances in race-mixing. Suffice to say, a scandal surpassing even the Petticoat Affair.)

Labor: Through all my legion decisions, legislative in nature in the halls of Congress, and of business, on my own plantations, the phrase “fair labor” remains alien. I never once pondered a concept so absurd as a “minimum wage,” and neither, Minneapolis, should you.

Now, I come to the most important, most distressing passage of this letter. The lake.

As I have become aware, the proud Calhoun title graces many structures and locales in Minneapolis, counting among them a commercial square, where townsfolk purchase homesteading supplies such as socks and bifocals, or sup meals prepared by a famed smoker of meats named David.

But it is the body of water which concerns me most. My frontier scouts visited the site, and have reported back a scene of horrors I could not have dreamt. 

On a recent sunny day, the lakeshores teemed with revelers, a throng which, my agents shuddered to report, contained numerous acts of homosexual romance. This I know to be a crime, and I fear that, as occurred with my former friend Wentworth Boisseau, they must all have contracted the behavior during a visit to the heathen West Indies.

The lake also provided refuge for Mexicans, of the “residue mixed blood” I once decried. The lake was also sullied by Indians, whom I thought we had driven back into the forests long ago, and, worst of all, escaped slaves.

Are there no government agents, no organized militia or bounty hunters, to round up these criminals and fugitives? Is not an army of patriots raised to put down such open rebellion?

Should such unseemly scenes persist unabated, I myself shall renounce the name of Lake Calhoun, and would sooner see thy reservoir filled with sand.

Even of those upstanding white citizens encountered, some number of whom said they prefer the lake to bear my title, not one was familiar with my accomplishments, my philosophy, my enormous contributions to this nation. Most were distracted by a child’s game, keeping a white ball aloft and passing it across high netting.

One spoke in a most course, uncultured tongue. “Chill, bro,” he announced into some device, waving my frontiersman away. “I’m just havin’ a hang sesh at Calhoun beach.”

Yet, so long as this man’s sun-kissed mind supports John C. Calhoun, Minneapolis, I am with you still. I wish only he knew whose name it is he defends.

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