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Notes on John C. Calhoun, A Disquisition on Government, () But “this [ social] state cannot exist without government”, and “In no age or country has any . A Disquisition on Government [John C. Calhoun, H. Lee Cheek Jr.] on Amazon. com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. This volume provides the most. Written between and , John C. Calhoun’s A Disquisition on Government addresses such diverse issues as states’ rights and.

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Here lies the evil: So great is the difference, politically speaking, between the two majorities, that they cannot be confounded, without leading to great and fatal errors; and yet the distinction between them has been so entirely overlooked, that when the term majority is used in political discussions, it is applied exclusively to designate the numerical—as if there were no other.

But to create such employments, by disbursements, disquiition to bestow on the portion of the community to whose lot the disbursements may fall, a far more durable and lasting benefit — one that would add much more to its wealth and population — than would the bestowal of an equal sum gratuitously: The right of suffrage, of itself, can do no more than give complete control to those who elect, over the conduct of those they have elected.

Such a division may do much to facilitate its operations, and to secure to its administration Edition: The powers necessary for this purpose will ever prove sufficient to aggrandize aclhoun who control it, at the expense of the rest of the community.

But in estimating the power of calhkun community, moral, as well as physical causes, must be taken into the calculation; and in estimating the effects of liberty calhiun power, it must not be overlooked, that it is, in itself, an important agent in augmenting the force of moral, as well as of physical power.

In order to have a just conception of their force, it must be taken into consideration, that the object to be won or lost appeals to the strongest passions of the human heart — avarice, ambition, and rivalry.

For this purpose, a struggle will take place between the various interests to obtain a majority, in order to control the government. The two — disbursement and taxation — constitute the fiscal action of the government. Along with many diquisition his contemporaries, north and south, he realized the fragility of the American experiment and the importance of his own agency in the development of constitutional government.

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And as this can only be effected by or through the right of suffrage— the right on the part of the ruled to choose their rulers at proper intervals, and to hold them thereby responsible for their conduct —the responsibility of the rulers to the ruled, through the right of suffrage, is the indispensable and primary principle in the foundation of a givernment government. It would, perhaps, be more strictly correct to trace the conservative principle of constitutional governments to the necessity which compels the different interests, or portions, or orders, to compromise — as the only way to promote their respective prosperity, and to avoid anarchy — rather than to the compromise itself.


The Nonobviousness of Majority Rule. This structure, or organism, is what is meant by constitution, in its strict and more usual disquisiition and it is this which distinguishes, what are called, constitutional governments from absolute.

US Political Thought, Notes on Calhoun’s A Disquisition on Government

And hence, the numerical, unmixed with the concurrent majority, necessarily forms, in all cases, absolute government. What I propose is far more limited—to explain on what principles government must be formed, in order to resist, by its own interior structure—or, to use a single term, organism —the tendency to abuse of power.

No people, indeed, can long enjoy more liberty than that to which their situation and advanced intelligence and morals fairly entitle them. But the tendency is much stronger in constitutional governments of the democratic form to degenerate into their respective absolute forms, than in either of the others; because, among other reasons, the distinction between the constitutional and absolute forms of aristocratical and monarchical governments, is far more strongly marked than in democratic governments.

He devoted his time and energy to gvoernment writing of A Disquisition on Government and A Discourse on the Constitution and Government of the United States, which were completed just before his death.

It has led, not only to mistakes in the attempts to form such governments, but to their overthrow, when they have, by some good fortune, been correctly formed. The conflict between the two parties, in the government of the numerical majority, tends necessarily to settle down into a struggle for the honors and emoluments of the government; and each, in order to obtain an object so ardently desired, will, in the process of the struggle, resort to disquisitino measure may seem best calculated to effect this purpose.

Added to this uncertainty was the momentous question of defining the nature johhn the American Union, a seemingly unresolved conundrum exacerbated by repeated congressional failures Edition: The reason is obvious.

There, mere numbers have not the absolute control; and the wealthy and intelligent being identified in interest with the poor and ignorant of their respective portions or interests of the community, become ojhn leaders and protectors. governnment

But the case is different when there is an urgent necessity to unite on some common course of action, as reason and experience both prove.

Constitution is the contrivance of man, while government is of Divine ordination.

Constitutional governments, of whatever form, are, indeed, diswuisition more similar to each other, in their structure and character, than they are, respectively, to the absolute governments, even of their own class. To the extent that either may be defective, to the same extent the government would fall short of fulfilling its end. Each will naturally insist on taking the course he may think best — and, from pride of opinion, will be unwilling to yield to others.


For of all the causes which contribute to form the character of a people, those by which power, influence, and standing in the government are most certainly and readily obtained, are, by far, the most powerful. It cannot be done by instituting a higher power to control the government, and those who administer it. Despite his exposure to these ideas, during his tenure in the House of Representatives from to as a representative of South Carolina, Calhoun was an ardent nationalist: Not now a matter of doubt.

The Disquisition explicitly rejects several of the fundamental maxims advanced by Publius, including the presumption that governmental institutions can be a product of reflection and choice, rather than accident and force Federalist ;ns1the theory of the extended, compound republic Federalist ;ns10the doctrine of the numerical majority Federalist ;ns22disqusition the theory of limiting governmental power through the separation of powers Federalist ;ns It is only by such an organism, that the assent of each can be made necessary to put the government Edition: That collection, entitled The Papers of John C.

Nor is it less certain, from the operation of all these causes, that the dominant majority, for the time, would have the same tendency to oppression Edition: Continual controversy over such constitutional issues as executive prerogative, the extent of federal, or state, power, the proper disposition of suffrage, and the need to protect minority rights against the dangers of johj tyranny did little to assuage their apprehension.

They indicate that the author designed to have elaborated more fully this part of the subject—and, as far as I can gather the meaning, to have shown that the State courts, in taking cognizance of cases in which the constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States are drawn in question, act, not in virtue of any provision of the constitution or laws of the United States, but by an authority independent of both.

Calhoun hardly ever reviewed or revised his disqusiition owing to the press of daily business, and he had almost no concern for questions of style per se. The limited reason and faculties of man, the great diversity of language, customs, pursuits, situation and complexion, and the difficulty of intercourse, with various other causes, diswuisition, by their operation, formed a great many separate communities, acting independently of each other.