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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Jojn it cannot be necessary, after what has been stated, to enter into any further explanation or argument in order to establish the superiority of governments risquisition the concurrent majority over the numerical, in developing the great elements of moral power. Essays on Liberty and Government. Those who exercise power and those subject to its exercise — the rulers and the ruled — stand in antagonistic relations to each other.

And, hence, the great and broad distinction between governments is — not that of the one, the few, or the many — but of the constitutional and the absolute.

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Instead of being the natural state of man, it govrrnment, of all conceivable states, the most opposed to his nature — most repugnant to his feelings, and most incompatible with his wants.

It is true, that, when there is no urgent necessity, it is difficult to bring those who differ, to agree on any one line of action. On the contrary, those of the numerical, instead of opposing and counteracting this tendency, add to it increased strength, in consequence of the violent party struggles incident to them, calhooun has been fully explained.

The system, if continued, must end, not only in subjecting the industry and property of the weaker section to the control of the stronger, but in proscription and political disfranchisement.

It is, indeed, the negative power which makes the constitution—and the positive which makes the government. But, it jkhn no less true, that this would be a mere change in the relations of the two parties. Man is left to perfect what the wisdom johb the Infinite ordained, as necessary to preserve the race. This would be but to change the seat of authority, vovernment to make this bigger power, in calhoum, the government; with the same tendency, on the part of those who might control its powers, to pervert them into instruments of aggrandizement.

Having now explained the reasons why it is so difficult to form and preserve popular constitutional government, so long as the distinction between the two majorities is overlooked, and the opinion prevails that a written constitution, with suitable restrictions and a goverment division of its powers, is sufficient to counteract the tendency of the numerical majority to the abuse of its power—I shall next proceed to explain, more fully, why the concurrent majority is an indispensable element in forming constitutional governments; and why the numerical majority, of itself, must, in all cases, make governments absolute.


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. He was more concerned about national strength and unity than about curbing majorities to protect intense minority interests.

With the increase of this difference, the tendency to conflict between them will become stronger; and, as the poor and dependent become more numerous in proportion, there will be, in oh of the numerical majority, no want of leaders among the wealthy and ambitious, to excite and direct them in their efforts to obtain the control.

The means of acquiring power—or, more correctly, influence—in such governments, would be the reverse.

John C. Calhoun: Disquisition on Government

His systematic theory about the nature of man and government, as well as his rigorous analysis of the presumptions and convictions of The Federalist Papers, deserves careful attention for his part in the ongoing discussion of the uneasy, but critical, relationship between liberty and union.

Nor would the good effects resulting thence be confined to those who lake an active part in political affairs. If the numerical majority were really the people; and if, to take its sense truly, were to take the sense of the people truly, a government so constituted would be a true and perfect model of a popular constitutional government; and every departure from it would detract from its excellence.

In short, the Discourse offers a critique of the major presumptions and convictions upon which the American political order was founded, including consent of the governed, equality, liberty, community, public virtue and private vice, reflection and choice, accident and force. The ultimate goal of these mechanisms were to facilitate the authentic will of the white populace. As to whether the monarchical form will retain its advantages remains to be seen.

The conservative statesmen — the slaveholding gentry — retained control over the political apparatus. The two are the opposites of each other.

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 whatever measure may seem best calculated to effect this purpose.


The proposed tariff was seen by many as a political maneuver by opponents intended to turn popular sentiment against Adams and the tariff. I have said — if it were possible for man to be so constituted, as to feel what affects others more strongly than what affects himself, or even as strongly — because, it may be well doubted, whether the stronger feeling or affection of individuals for themselves, combined with a feebler and subordinate feeling or affection for others, is not, in beings of limited reason and faculties, a constitution necessary to their preservation and existence.

But the difference in their operation, in this respect, would not end here. Disquisitiion and its method for electing kings furnishes an example of the concurrent majority in action. Between these there is the same tendency to conflict—and from the same constitution of our nature—as between men individually; and even stronger—because the sympathetic or social feelings are not so strong between different communities, as between individuals of the same community.

It is not even a matter of choice, whether Edition: But where there are no means by which they could compel the major party to observe the restrictions, the only resort left them would be, a strict construction of the constitution, that is, a construction which would confine these powers to the narrowest limits which the meaning of the words used in the grant would admit. If it fail in either, it would fail in the primary end of government, and would not deserve the name.

He remained firm in his commitment to a national union of states and continued to worry that Southern states would become a minority in the Congress. The sum total, then, of its effects, when most successful, is, to make those elected, the true and faithful representatives of those who elected them—instead of irresponsible rulers—as they would be without it; and thus, by converting it into an agency, and the rulers into agents, to divest government of all claims to sovereignty, and to retain it unimpaired to the community.