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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. A DISQUISITION ON GOVERNMENT. In order to have a clear and just conception of the nature and object of government, it is indispensable to understand.

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When, then, the two parties, in governments of the numerical majority, resort to force, in their struggle for supremacy, he who commands the successful party will have the control of the government itself. Furthermore liberty and the progress that it engenders, bestows civilization with more security.

In reducing them to proper form, in applying them to practical uses, all elementary principles are liable to difficulties; but they are not, on this account, the less true, or valuable. But, plausible as it may seem at the first glance, a more deliberate view will show, that this opinion is erroneous. Trust and Political Constitutions. There is another error, not less great and dangerous, usually associated with the one which has just been considered. Much of his energy in his last years was devoted to writing what was to become the Disquisition and the Discourse.

These, however, are not the only elements of moral power. The one implies the other; and in all, the two bear the same relation to each other — and have, on the part of the governing portion, the same tendency to oppression and abuse of power. But the effect of this would be to change the government from the numerical into the concurrent majority.

Two Treatises of Government: The end of the contest would be the subversion of the constitution, either by the undermining process of construction — where its meaning would admit of possible doubt — or by substituting in practice what is called party-usage, in place of its provisions — or, finally, when no other contrivance would subserve the purpose, by openly and boldly setting them aside.

The object of the latter is, to collect the sense of the community. The assumption rests on universal experience. With these remarks, I return from this digression, to resume the thread of the discourse. In reducing them to proper form, in applying them to practical uses, all elementary principles are liable to difficulties; but they are not, on this account, the less true, or valuable. It is so much so, as to compensate for the defect of legal knowledge, and a high degree of intelligence on the part of those who usually compose juries.

These, when the occasion requires it, will, without compulsion, and from their very nature, unite and put forth the entire force of the community in the most efficient manner, without hazard to its institutions or its liberty. In asserting that our individual are stronger than our social feelings, it is not intended to deny that there are instances, growing out of peculiar relations—as that of a mother and her infant—or resulting from the force of education and habit over peculiar constitutions, in which the latter have overpowered the former; but these instances are few, and always regarded as something extraordinary.


All strife and struggle would cease as to who should be elected to make and execute them. From the very beginning, their relationship was a troubled one. But, it is no less true, that this would be a mere change in the relations of the two parties.

In another particular, governments of the concurrent majority have greatly the advantage.

The same cause, which, in governments of the numerical majority, gives to party attachments and antipathies such force, as to place party triumph and ascendency above the safety and prosperity of the community, will just as certainly give them sufficient force to overpower all regard for truth, justice, sincerity, and moral obligations of every description. I refer to the opinion, that liberty and equality ccalhoun so intimately united, that liberty cannot be perfect without perfect equality.

And hence the danger of withholding from oj the full command of the power and resources of the state; and the great difficulty of limiting its powers consistently with the protection and preservation of the community. The broader dissquisition on this is that all constitutional governments, whether of the one, few, or many, have a tendency to degenerate into their absolute forms.

It is thus the two come to be confounded, and a part made identical with the calboun. Twice, during its existence, she protected Christendom, when in great danger, by defeating the Turks under the walls of Vienna, and permanently arresting thereby the tide of their conquests westward.

Online Library of Liberty

With them, profitable employments are diminished to the same extent, and population and wealth correspondingly decreased. As in the Polish Diet, each member possessed a veto on its decision; so that nothing could be done without the united consent of all. Each sees and feels that it can best promote its own prosperity by conciliating the goodwill, and promoting the prosperity of the others.

So long as this state of things continues, exigencies will occur, disqiisition which the entire powers and resources of the community will be needed to defend its existence. In the absence of an appreciation of the work of those prodigious thinkers of the nineteenth century, no real understanding of the American constitutional tradition is possible. Those who exercise power and those subject to its exercise—the rulers and the ruled—stand in antagonistic relations to each other.

A Disquisition on Government – Wikipedia

Find it on Scholar. If no one interest be strong enough, of itself, to obtain it, a combination will be formed between those whose interests are most alike—each conceding something to the others, until a sufficient number is obtained to make a majority. But of course the existence of government is clearly dependent upon society. All selections are complete and unabridged. It is in this strict and more usual sense that I propose to use the term hereafter.


The government would gradually pass from the hands of the majority of the party into those of its leaders; as the struggle became more intense, and the honors and emoluments of the government the all-absorbing objects. In brief, every individual of every interest might trust, with confidence, its majority or appropriate organ, against that of every other interest.

Two objections may be raised to the concurrent majority.

The seeds of this doctrine were introduced by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of and The reason is obvious. Whatever amount is taken from the community, in the form of taxes, if not lost, goes to them in the shape of expenditures or disbursements.

The cause is to be found in the same constitution of our nature which makes government indispensable. The one is, that it is difficult of construction, which has already been sufficiently noticed; and the other, that it would be impracticable to obtain the concurrence of conflicting interests, where they were numerous and diversified; or, if not, that the process for this purpose, would be too tardy to meet, with sufficient promptness, the many and dangerous emergencies, to which all communities are exposed.

The deep impression they make, whenever they occur, is the strongest proof that they are regarded as exceptions to Edition: Another obstacle, difficult to be overcome, opposes the formation of popular constitutional governments.

Power can only be resisted by power — and tendency by tendency. Nor can it be done by limiting the powers of government, so as to make it too feeble to be made an instrument of abuse; for, passing by the difficulty of so limiting its powers, without creating a power higher than the government itself to enforce the observance of the limitations, it is a sufficient objection that it would, if practicable, defeat the end for which government is ordained, by making it too feeble to protect and preserve society.

Both works reveal a seasoned politician who had been an active participant in the nineteenth century politics of nationalism, sectionalism, and secession. With these remarks, I proceed to the consideration of the important and difficult question: