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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Such an organism, then, as will furnish the means by which resistance may be systematically and peaceably made on the part of the ruled, to disquisitikn and abuse of power on the part of the rulers, is the first and indispensable step towards forming a constitutional government. Instead of a matter of necessity, it is one of the most difficult tasks imposed on man to form a constitution worthy of the name; while, to form a perfect one — one that would completely counteract the tendency of government to oppression and abuse, and hold it strictly to the great ends for which it is ordained — has cisquisition far exceeded human wisdom, and possibly ever will.

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The causes calculated to enlarge the one and contract the other, are numerous and various. He did not waver in his commitment to a strong foreign policy, even in the Edition: On the contrary, nothing is more difficult than to equalize the action of the government, in reference to the various and diversified interests of the community; and nothing more easy than to pervert its powers into instruments to aggrandize and enrich one or more interests by oppressing and impoverishing the others; and this too, under the operation of laws, couched in general terms — and which, on their face, appear fair and equal.

I intentionally avoid the expression, selfish feelings, as applicable to the former; because, as commonly used, it implies an unusual excess of the individual over the social feelings, in the person to whom it is applied; and, consequently, something depraved and vicious. Far less attention has been paid to the interpretation and implementation of the U.

So far from being, of itself, sufficient — however well guarded it might be, and however enlightened the people — it would, unaided by other provisions, leave the government as absolute, as it would be in the hands of irresponsible rulers; and with a tendency, at least as strong, towards oppression and abuse of its powers; as I shall next proceed to explain. For, if power be necessary to secure to liberty the fruits of its exertions, liberty, in turn, repays power with interest, by increased population, wealth, and other advantages, which progress and improvement bestow on the community.

This radical error, the consequence of confounding the two, and of regarding the numerical as the only majority, has contributed more than any other cause, to prevent the formation of popular constitutional governments—and to destroy them even when they have been formed.

The powers necessary for this purpose will ever prove sufficient to aggrandize those who control it, at the expense of the rest of the community. Where the organism is perfect, every interest will be truly and fully represented, and of course the whole community must be so.

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.


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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 proper 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 governnent forming constitutional governments; and why the numerical majority, of itself, must, in all cases, make governments absolute.

Richard Sylla – – Critical Review 5 4: In a contest so unequal, the result disquisitlon not be doubtful. Those who are invested with the powers of government must be prevented from employing those powers as a means of aggrandizing themselves. With these joohn, I return from this digression, to resume the thread of the discourse. But that constitution of our nature which makes us feel more intensely what affects us directly than what affects us indirectly through others, necessarily risquisition to conflict between individuals.

But they differ in this striking particular. History, Cases, and Philosophy.

The concurrent majority, on the other hand, tends to unite the most opposite and conflicting interests, and to blend the whole in one common attachment to the country. But this misconception of the true elements of constitutional government does not stop here.

The first and leading error which naturally arises from overlooking the distinction referred to, is, to confound the numerical majority with the people; and this so completely as to regard them as identical. The answer will be found in the fact not less incontestable than either of the others that, while man is created for the social state, and is accordingly so formed as to feel what affects others, as well as what affects himself, he is, at the same time, so constituted as to feel more intensely what affects him directly, than what affects him indirectly though others; or, to express it differently, he is so constituted, that his direct or individual affections are stronger than his sympathetic or social feelings.

Be it greater or smaller, a majority or minority, it must equally diwquisition of an attribute inherent in each individual composing it; and, as in each the individual is stronger than the social feelings, the hohn would have the same tendency as the other to oppression and abuse of power.

The means of acquiring power—or, more correctly, influence—in such governments, would be the reverse. But it is manifest that the right of governmment, in making these changes, transfers, in reality, the actual control over the government, from those who make and execute the laws, to the body of the community; and, thereby, governmejt the powers of the government as fully in the mass of the community, as they would be if they, in fact, had assembled, made, and executed the laws themselves, without the intervention of representatives or agents.

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

But that constitution of our nature which makes us feel more intensely what affects us directly than what affects us indirectly through others, necessarily leads to conflict between individuals.

When this is at stake, every other consideration must yield to it. The object of the latter is, to collect the sense of the community. So powerful, indeed, is this tendency, that it has led to almost incessant wars between contiguous communities for plunder and conquest, or to avenge injuries, real or supposed. So vast is this superiority, that the one, by its operation, necessarily leads to their development, while the other as necessarily prevents it — as has been fully shown.


In an effort to prevent further alienation of the Northern states and to exhume his possible candidacy for president, Calhoun attempted a public clarification of his position in his Fort Hill Address.

In doing this, it accomplishes all it possibly can accomplish. Neither religion nor education can counteract the strong tendency of the numerical majority to corrupt and debase the people. Nullifier, — Indianapolis,p. Such must be the end of the government of the numerical majority; and such, in brief, the process through which it must pass, in the regular course of events, before it can reach it.

Such being the case, it necessarily results, that the right of suffrage, by placing the control of the government in the community must, from the same constitution of our nature which makes government necessary to preserve society, lead to conflict among its different interests—each striving to obtain possession of its powers, q the means of protecting itself against the others—or of advancing its respective interests, regardless of the interests of others.

Much to the dismay of the Southern strategists, their schemes to defeat the tariff came to naught. He reveals a bold new understanding of the science of politics.

Among these, the trial by jury is the most familiar, and on that account, will be selected for illustration. And hence, the powers vested in them to prevent injustice and oppression on the part of others, will, if left unguarded, be by them converted into instruments to oppress the rest of the community. From the nature of popular governments, the control of its powers is vested in the many; while military power, to be efficient, must be vested in a single individual.

These great and dangerous errors have their origin in the prevalent opinion that all men are born free and equal — than which nothing can be more unfounded and false. It can do no more, however enlightened the people, or however widely extended or well guarded the right may be. Essays on Liberty and Government. And hence, the numerical, unmixed with the concurrent majority, necessarily forms, in all cases, absolute government.

The case is different in governments of the concurrent majority. The first question, accordingly, to be considered is — What is that constitution or law of our nature, without which government would governmen exist, and with which its existence is necessary?

But the case is different when calnoun is an urgent necessity to unite on some common course of action, as goveernment and experience both prove. It may be difficult, or even impossible, to make a perfect organism—but, although this be true, yet even when, instead of the sense of each and of all, it takes that of a few great and prominent interests only, it would still, in a great measure, if not altogether, Edition: Such are the many and striking advantages of the concurrent over the numerical majority.

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